Keith Edmonds is a 32-year veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003.

In his first season in the NBA, Michael Jordan had a clause in his rookie contract with the Chicago Bulls that stated that ‘even though he was hurt, when HE felt that he was ready to play, that he could begin working out and approach his return to the team at HIS OWN PACE without consulting the doctors.’

It was called the “Love of the Game” clause.

The current situation in our world is affecting players in many different ways. This is a very difficult time for many of our areas AAU players, teams and kids that play travel basketball. Schedules have been drastically changed (or cancelled) and the minds and wills of our young people are being challenged with trying to answer the questions “Are we going to have a summer season and if so, how do I stay in shape?”

Young people are being forced to decide when it’s appropriate to go workout and what types of things to do to keep them mentally and physically sharp for what will hopefully be some semblance of their AAU season. This is where the title of this article comes into play: “For the Love of the Game.” 

Coaches will say that the BEST opportunity to improve your game comes through the work you put in during those hot summer months of June July and August when though you’d rather be at the pool or at the lake. You understand that if you’re ever going to make that coveted varsity team or give your team the opportunity to advance to winning conference or state tournament acclaim, then you can’t let the summer go by and do nothing. You have to PUT THE WORK IN.

The question that many young people are asking is “What if there is NO SUMMER to put work in during?”

This is truly a dilemma! AAU coaches all around the country are scrambling trying to approach the nation’s “Shelter in Place” policy and give their teams strategies as to what to do to improve their game while keeping the mandated “social distance” regulations in place. It’s tough.

I am also in this current dilemma with my current travel team and we’ve discussed things that they can do to improve their cardio and physical conditioning, but what it comes down to is: How much do you love the game? There should be very few times during this current lay-off from competitive sports that you’re not thinking about how you can get better.

Creativity comes to you when you stop and think things through. You have a ball, a rim (maybe) and the world of “internet searching” as to what you can do to get better. The players that truly want to get better will not let this opportunity to improve pass them by. They will search and search until they find what works FOR THEM and pursue it with all of the vigor and passion that separates the good from the great.

No doubt this is a challenging moment for our nation and for our local AAU, high school teams and coaches. We will see after this pandemic passes which teams and payers took advantage of this unique moment and which one’s just allowed time to defeat them and their opportunity to improve. I guess we’ll see who really spoke to themselves, “I really want to get better because I love this this game!”

Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear every Monday during the prep basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 

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