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Athletic Support: Coach tells player not to shoot

Dear Athletic Support: My son’s seventh grade basketball season is underway. He’s one of the starting five and was really having fun until his coach told him not to shoot the basketball anymore. Yes, I’m serious. His coach pulled him aside a few games ago and told him he wasn’t a “scorer.” This coach urged my son to focus on defense and rebounds. Needless to say, this didn’t go over too well with my son. He loves scoring baskets. Honestly, I’m at a loss for words. Why on earth would this coach have told my son such a thing? — Bewildered Mother.

Dear Bewildered: Let me start by saying, seventh grade basketball seems like too young an age for any coach to be revoking a player’s shooting privileges. However, I must also remind you that basketball is a team sport. This means not every kid can be the star. Not every player on the team is going to be a designated “scorer,” either.

That being said, there are many different ways to score points in basketball. Steph Curry makes his mark behind the three-point arch. LeBron James is devastating when driving to the basket. But there are other players — the less heralded stars, the defensive specialists and rebound kings — that mean just as much to their teams as the superstars.

Take Kawhi Leonard for example. He’s a soft-spoken, out-of-the-spotlight kind of player, who also happens to be the 2019 NBA Finals MVP. In college, Leonard played ball for the San Diego State Aztecs. His college career was less than spectacular, but he had a mantra that served him well as he transitioned to the NBA: “The board man gets paid.”

When asked about this strange refrain during the Raptors title run last season, Leonard said, “I used to say that back when I was in high school and college, just wanting to get to (the NBA). It’s about working hard, outworking an opponent. Rebounds help you win games, big rebounds, offensive rebounds, limiting the team to one shot.”

In other words, even as a budding basketball superstar, Kawhi Leonard knew the importance of hard work. He knew the game wasn’t about him; it was about the team. Mr. Leonard is one of my absolute favorite athletes. He rarely shows emotion. He never argues with the refs. And he’s a beast when it comes to defense and rebounds.

Modern-day basketball is definitely an offensively orientated game. Maybe that’s why your son’s coach is so focused on his “scorers.”

Regardless, I would turn your son’s attention in the direction of Kawhi Leonard. Let him watch a few Clippers’ (Leonard was traded in the offseason) games on television. He’s an unselfish player who does all the little things right.

If your son hones his skills on the defensive side of the ball and outworks other players under the rim, maybe he’ll finally get his chance to take a few shots. In the end, a team must outscore its opponent to win the game, but don’t forget Kawhi’s sage advice: “The board man gets paid.”

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