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What Gets You In The Game?

What Gets You In the Game?

Brett Klika C.S.C.S.

I was having a conversation with a very successful local basketball coach the other day.   He was sharing insight he had learned from an NBA scout in regards to assessing talent.  When a scout assesses a player, it is not merely a matter of “they’re good” or “they’re bad.”  The scout has to identify what specific skills, talents, or other aspects of an individual enable them to “stand out” compared to their peers.  These specific things are “what gets them in the game.”  In order to play at the professional level, an individual is going to be above average in every aspect of the game.  However, when compared to others, what makes them “stand out?”  Great players know what gets them in the game, and they put their heart and soul into further honing these skills.  Not everyone can be a leading scorer.  You could be a world-class defender, an unmatched ball distributor, or a tremendous rebounder.  There are many things that will get you in the game and make you a success.  A good coach is able to help his players take ownership and hone these skills.

After reflecting on our conversation, I couldn’t help but see the parallel between this professional scouting concept and our role as educators, coaches, mentors, and parents to our children.  The process of athletics, education, and mentorship is to help kids identify “what gets them in the game”.  The game may be on the field, in the classroom, or in life.  It’s a continuum.   When it comes to the skills that set a foundation for success in sports or in life, you need to be good at quite a few of them.  To stand out, you need to be great.  If we can help youth identify, cultivate, and pursue what they’re great at, we will create the next generation of successful leaders.

As mentors, we mistakenly decide what we value at the most superficial level and judge talent accordingly.  For example, as a sports coach, we value winning.  Getting points is how we win, so we often value our highest scorer and judge other’s abilities accordingly.  In education, getting good grades is the criteria for success, so we focus our adoration on the kids with the highest grades.  This is logical and normal.  We think that if we were to just get more players to score more points and get more kids to get good grades, we’d be creating success.  While there is some degree of validity to this thought process, it does not manifest this way in the real world.  Not all students or players can have the same talents.  Success is arrived differently for everyone.  For example, a player may not score many points, but has another unique, valuable skill that contributes to winning.  A student may not do well in math, but they are exceptional at writing or speaking.  These skills are what are going to get them in the game.  These are the skills they need to take ownership of and be great

In coaching and teaching, I think we spend too much time on people’s weaknesses.  Now, as I said before, you do need to be good at quite a few aspects of an endeavor in order to be successful.  You don’t have to get straight A’s, but you shouldn’t be getting D’s either.  You don’t have to be the leading scorer, but you shouldn’t be incapable of scoring.  As coaches and teachers, we do need to identify areas where kids need help and provide an opportunity for improvement.  Being well rounded allows for a greater number of opportunities for success.  However, if all we do is address weaknesses and don’t provide an environment to hone strengths, we are not getting anyone in the game.  We are merely lining them up on the bench to be at the same level as everyone else.

As I said, being well rounded does allow for more opportunities for success.  The process of becoming well rounded allows kids the opportunity to find what they are great at.   However, some of the most successful people in the world are not well-rounded at all!!   The most successful people in the world identified what they were great at and went for it!  What if Bill Gates were to have diverted his time away from computers to bring his English grades from B‘s to A’s?   What if John Stockton were to have spent his practice time trying to become a leading scorer?  While Bill Gates was capable of getting good marks in school, and John Stockton was competent at scoring, these are not what got them in the game.  Only when they identified what they did great and put their heart and soul into it did they excel above all others.

Let’s challenge ourselves as coaches, parents, and mentors to look for opportunities for greatness in all of the kids we work with.  Look past the superficial criteria of success and help each child find “what gets them in the game”.  Provide opportunities to further develop these strengths.  In this way, we can help create a generation of happy, healthy, pain free leaders of tomorrow!

Coach Brett Klika is the Director of Athletic Performance at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA. He specializes in youth fitness and athletic performance, overseeing a staff of 8 strength coaches developing programs for over 300 youth per week, both athletes and non-athletes. He presents around the world to both trainers and corporations with Todd Durkin Enterprises on a variety of health, wellness, and athletic performance topics. Brett contributes monthly to the award-winning “TD Times” newsletter.  If you would like to sign up, you can do so by visiting or

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