Too often when teams at all levels start achieving success, the players (and some coaches) start to think they are invincible and let their guard down and are no longer “on edge”. Along with this cockiness, comes the groupies and cancers to your team. They come in all shapes and forms: friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, family, media, agents, etc. Unfortunately, it is human nature for us to allow this to happen because of how good it makes us feel to be put onto a pedestal.

If you have never attended a Regional Final, Final Four, or NBA Finals, before the trophy ceremony, arena personnel outline the court with a large yellow rope to keep the media and all others out; the only people allowed inside the rope are players, staff, and their families (and other misc. administrators). No one can get to you, it’s just you and your Basketball Family.

During my time at the University of Florida I was very fortunate to be part of two of the best teams in college basketball history. After winning the 2006 National Championship, three amazing men (and lottery picks) decided to return for their Junior seasons. After running through the regular season with only a few minor bumps in the road we received the overall #1 seed in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. However, at the same exact time the “Distractions” started coming out.

As soon as the morning practice was over before we headed to New Orleans for our First Round match-up vs a very good Jackson State team, Coach Donovan pulled out this enormous yellow rope. He handed one end of the rope to one of the players and told everyone (players, coaches, & staff) to form a large circle; then he instructed everyone to get on the inside of the rope and take hold of a small area. By this point, the rope was just large enough for everyone to fit inside…then Coach Donovan said, “This is our family inside this rope, don’t let ANYONE else inside our family, don’t let ANYONE inside our IMG_0256rope, STAY INSIDE THE ROPE!”

This was one of those goose bump moments I will never forget for the rest of my life. This phrase became the motto for the rest of the season and was preached 24/7. “STAY INSIDE THE ROPE”! This message became such a meaningful part of the team that it was inscribed on the 2007 NCAA Championship ring.

Every team typically has a motto each year and they are printed on the back of their shirts or practice shorts, and more times than not they are “Hard Work”, “Toughness”, “Play Hard”, “Defense Wins”; these are all great and wonderful but if you have to preach to your kids about working hard everyday, that is taking time from your practice. Implant something into their heads like “Stay Inside the Rope”, make it something unique that applies to them and will keep them focused and ignore the distractions.

Until next time…”Stay Inside the Rope”.

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