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Here are some of my favorite quotes that pertain to character in a basketball player:

“Basketball doesn’t build character; it reveals it.” ~ Heywood Hale Broun

“Ability may take you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” ~ John Wooden

“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” ~ John Wooden

There are plenty of other quotes that pertain to a player’s character, and they all inspire. What is more inspiring, though, is when players use their actions to show their character. A few weeks ago the boys 5th and 6th grade Centred Basketball Gray teams entered the CYC Slam Fest in Wilkes Barre, PA. There were two incidents that stuck out to me that indicated our players are understanding that impeccable character matters. 

During the 6th grade game, there was a coach that was attempting to manipulate the score keepers (two high school girls volunteering their time to help at the tournament). To our coaches’ credit, they simply let the referees know what was transpiring. The other coach persisted in complaining and attempted manipulation of the game. Our players, meanwhile, simply looked to our coaches for direction. As the game went on, the score was close and both teams were playing hard. Eventually, though, the other coach made an illegal substitution with a player from one of their older teams. Again, out coaches handled this with class and simply pointed it out. Due to the other coach’s attempts in manipulation  and illegal player, the coordinator of the tournament eventually through him out. This was quite a scene. He was yelling, using foul language, and embarrassing his players. Our players reacted with class and high character. They did not taunt, laugh, or heckle. They simply waited to play. As a result of all of the antics, the other team had to forfeit that game. 

Our 5th graders made it to the championship where they fought hard to get the game well in hand and in their favor. During the end of the game, and when their coach knew there was no way his team could come back, he called a time out in order to allow some of his lesser players to get a chance to play. In walked this tiny and cute as a button kid. He couldn’t have been more than in second grade. It was clear he only got playing time when his team was either winning or losing by a lot.  I quickly called timeout and gathered my team. In the huddle I explained to the kids that we had the game won. We were up twenty with three minutes to go. I told them that I wanted them to let the little guy get some shots off. I thought that I may get some resistance, as they are all competitive and want to win, but I was mistaken. They all volunteered to guard him so they could allow him to score. What happened next was magical. When they went back in the game, they all took turns guarding him and allowing him to “beat” them to the hoop. This little guy scored three baskets, each receive in a rousing applause from the audience...the audience from both teams. With five seconds to go, the little guy drove in and hit a shot from the foul line as the buzzer went off. They lost by 22, but you would have thought he just won the NBA finals. His team rushed him as he fell down on the floor. The audience was in hysterics, cheering, and kids and parents alike were all smiles. 

I gathered the team at our next practice and explained that their outstanding character created a magical moment in those last three minutes. They made an entire gym feel happiness and joy because of their unselfish act and ability to understand the bigger picture. 

At Centred Basketball we teach our players about character. We tell them that physical traits do not make a complete player and that a high character takes them to another level. In order to have them remember what having a high character is, we ask them this question: What do people say about you when you aren’t around? If those things are positive, then they very likely have a high character. If not, then they have some work to do. 

Our teams' character at that tournament was more inspiring than any quote I have come across. They resisted the urge to engage in poor behavior, they fought through adversity, and they sacrificed in order to make others feel good. As they continue through their basketball journey and come in contact with people from around the basketball world, I am  confident that their character will stand out. After having met our players and seeing them in action, people will have no choice but to speak positively about them when they are not around. 

~ Coach Bill

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"When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe,
then you will be successful."
~ Eric Thomas



Eric Thomas, a well-known motivational speaker, became famous in one of his speeches when he told the story about a young business man wanting to get mentored by a veteran business guru. In the story, the guru tells the young man to meet him on the beach the next morning very early. The young man meets him there and the guru tells him to walk into the ocean. Thinking the guru is crazy, the young man initially refuses. But after the guru questions whether or not the young man wants to be great, eventually the young man walks into the ocean.  The guru walks along with him and tells him to continue walking until he gets to the point where the water is near his head. At that point, the guru grabs his head and holds him under water. Just before he passes out, the guru brings him up and says to him, “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breath, then you’ll be successful.” 


Eric Thomas would argue (and I tend to agree) that this is the mentality one needs in order to be successful. People must put so much effort and sacrifice into the thing they love that it brings them to the metaphorical brink of death. The upside to this is that they will emerge transformed and better because of it. Some of our players do this; some don’t. But they all need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is difficult for a lot of players in this generation, Generation Y (the millennials), because there are fewer and fewer instances where they are in uncomfortable situations. They get participation medals or trophies. They can access infinite forms of entertainment on their phones. And because of the way society is structured, they can sometimes fall into the trap of expecting things to just happen for them. The Pew Research Center states that millennials have access to social media, constant connectivity, and on-demand entertainment and that they are growing up in the “always on” technological environment. They state that the implications of this are both positive and concerning. The concerning part comes from the fact that delayed gratification (which inconveniences those willing to engage in it) is a road some millennials may not wish to travel. 

From a coaching standpoint, I see why this is both concerning and troubling. But as Centred Basketball coaches, it is our job to instill this mentality into our players. They need to know that putting in effort in one practice isn’t going to yield immediate results. They need to learn to love the effort and welcome the journey and sacrifice that it takes to become great at something: sports, academics, instruments, relationships, etc. They should feel pride if they exert the amount of effort it takes to master something. At Centred Basketball we are communicating that to our players in practices and in games. And when they exert effort they are praised because we know it’s going to yield positive results. It takes sacrifice, effort, and disappointment before one reaches a level where they can consider themselves great or even good at something. We want our players to lose the ball in dribbling drills because that means they are pushing themselves. We want them to miss shots during shooting drills because their legs are tired. We want their shoulders to ache because they shot so many shots that they don’t feel they can shoot accurately anymore. In essence, we want them to metaphorically hold themselves underwater until they are at the brink of passing out. 

There are some college athletic programs that use something called the beep test in order to test not only an athlete’s oxygen level but his/her effort level as well. They have the athletes run a type of shuttle run between two lines. When the athletes hear a beep they run to a line and stop. When they hear another beep, then run back to the original line. This happens over and over again, but the beeps come quicker and quicker until the athletes cannot go anymore. It’s a grueling exercise in effort and determination. And when they athletes are finished, they are much like the young man in Eric Thomas’s story - gasping for breath. 

Centred Basketball is about challenging our players to reach their greatest potential. We want our players to come into the gym and give it their all again and again. And in the weeks and months that follow, after they compare themselves with how they are versus how they were, they will stand on the beach and willingly dive headfirst into any wave (no matter how uncomfortable and intimidating it may seem) because they know they will emerge from it stronger, better, and able to breath more deeply than they ever have.

~ Coach Bill

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F-A-I-L

In my classroom I have a sign that reads, "F-irst   A-ttempt   I-n   L-earning." I usually start off the year teaching my 8th grade students that they shouldn't expect easy grades, and they shouldn't be able to get through the content easily. I tell them that if they do, they should be upset with me because I'm not challenging them enough. "The equation to success," I tell them, "is simple: you must struggle and sometimes fail first in order to succeed." This statement is true in almost any avenue of life, but I think it can be seen most overtly in sports. The examples are everywhere. A weightlifter pushes himself to exhaustion, tearing muscle fibers along the way. The fibers repair themselves and the weightlifter comes back stronger. A basketball player shoots a left-handed layup for the first time and she feels awkward and cannot make many. After several sessions, though, she becomes more confident and begins to see success. As an organization, one of Centred Basketball's pillars to success is to help players build a foundation where they can work through failure with the expectation that they will learn from it and become better. During our first week of practice coaches discussed failure with players and encouraged them to push themselves through challenging drills. We know that in an athlete's life they will face players that are better, opponents that are faster, emotional challenges that push them to the brink, and many more unforeseen difficulties. But between the baselines and the sidelines of a court lies a metaphor for life. Centred Basketball coaches want the athletes that come through our doors to welcome the challenges on the court, learn from them and not only apply them to their athletic endeavors, but to their lives off the court as well. As players progress in their basketball development our coaches are working hard to provide adequate, timely, and specific feedback both when something was done correctly and when an athlete may need more work. It is my hope that the athletes will grow to embrace the process of receiving feedback just as the great students in my classrooms have learned to accept failure as an exciting and necessary part of growing. As we embark on this basketball journey in our region, we are excited to see how the lessons players are learning on the court transition to their development as young men and women. 

~Coach Bill 

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State College, Pennsylvania 16801

Phone: 814-424-4978
Email: [email protected]
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