By Roosevelt Williams | Character Traits of Elite Performers; Humility, Grit and Growth Mindset
Preface by Janx…..
When one of your top NBA contacts contact you and tell you need to meet someone from Perth visiting here (Adelaide, South Australia) to talk Hoops you naturally take that very seriously.
That is what happened recently and I was able to catch up with Roosevelt Williams whilst he was visiting. What a great meeting it was and as always I am thankful to the guy mentioned above (you know who you are – was great to catch-up at the PK80 btw!) for this introduction.
Meeting Roosevelt was an honour and a privilege for me and as we delved deeper I discovered he was the Co-Owner of RAW Hoops basketball (www.rawhoops.com.au) and when I told him I was the Founder and Principal of www.highperformancehoopsnetwork.com his reaction straight of the bat was “oh! You’re that guy”.
It also turns out I had coached against Roosevelt in the Dandenong Australia Day long weekend tournament last year. I recalled being thoroughly impressed by the sheer talent of his team and the passion they played with. Of course I have to mention (sorry Roosevelt – ha) we won that game, the Semi-Final of the tournament, but that is by no means a negative to his program as the team I was lucky to be coaching, with Jason Williams and Isaac White, went on to be the most dominant U16 team out of South Australia in many decades at the prestigious Melbourne Classics (an invitational tournament for the best teams in South Australia). Our team was a club based team playing together for a number of years and RAW Hoops Basketball was an Academy based team put together from across various clubs within Perth. The RAW Hoops basketball team pushed us hard and the excitement of this game was one of the best games we played that whole year, including many finals in tournaments and competitions.
PICTURED: Australian Development at the Centre of Excellence in October 2017 where Coach Janx was fortunate to be invited along, working with great athletes including Roosevelt's son (Roosevelt Williams Jnr) and Kane Waters, also mentioned in this article.
Immediately after finding that out my thought processes started ticking over about how talented the kids from RAW Hoops Basketball were, their passion for the game and their great style of play and whilst talking to Roosevelt my intrigue in what he does, how he came to be in Perth and his program began ticking into overdrive. He is very humble but of course I kept pressing him for his story. He was originally from the United States and played Division 1 College basketball “back in the day” for the University of South Alabama, arriving in Perth as US Import competing at SBL level. His junior coaching experience at SBL* level is very extensive indeed and he has also assisted WA Metro and SBL clubs team in their mental preparation for competition.
One of the other things that impressed me with Roosevelt was his values and principles driven approach to what he does. Our platform is essentially a network of people with common values, principles and goals and Roosevelt struck a chord with those aspects. Roosevelt has told me that wants RAW Hoops to be the best agent for social change/imparting life skills using high basketball standards as the vehicle for those endeavours. Whilst our network is primarily focussed on elite youth talent we feel that offering this platform to kids gives them something to aspire and in turn creates a vision within athletes to help implement the social change/life skills endeavours Roosevelt hopes to achieve in his program.
Whilst he runs an independent Academy in WA he is also very supportive of formal, traditional Australian pathways. In fact his own Son has competed for WA Metro and also took part in an Australian Development Camp I also coached in, and remembered well. The insights he can also add as a parent of an elite, youth athlete is of interest. Support of Australian pathways and working within those pathways is something that is very important within our platform, it is one of the reasons we started doing what we do, when external parties, not supportive of these pathways were working to the detriment of the athletes we had invested significant time and effort into.
PICTURED: Roosevelt with his family and also including upcoming Western Australian State Coach Tyrone Thwaites with Roosevelt Jnr (bottom left). We love having Roosevelt on board who can offer us valued knowledge and insights, which includes first hand knowledge and experience as a parent of a High Performance athlete. Roosevelt Jnr being one of the best players at U16 National Championships in 2017.
PICTURED: Roosevelt Jnr and and top young athlete and our good friend Fiston Ipassou going at it at 2016 U14 National Championships. Both Fiston and Roosevelt Jnr went on to take part in the Australian Development Camp at the Centre of Excellence in October 2017.
Since that initial 2 hour meeting (I wish I could have spent more time) I have gotten to know him better and have consulted with other members of our www.highperformancehoopsnetwork.com team and we feel Roosevelt is a perfect addition to our team to help expand the platform into Western Australia. Like so much of what we do what that expansion actually means and how it will work we don’t know yet. We are going to get the conversation started, try some things and see where we end up with Roosevelt (and RAW Hoops team). It will probably mean looking at adding Western Australian athletes as Featured Athletes (and all the “machinery” and support that goes into those athletes), having Roosevelt ( with assistance from RAW Hoops team) develop blogs and articles and also having him contribute his insights, knowledge and experience into athlete high performance psychology, mental skills to help us select, scout and support Featured Athletes both in South Australia and Western Australia.
For his first blog I have asked Roosevelt to focus on his basketball experience and also qualifications in Psychology, Mental Skills training to identify the character and personality traits of a range of elite athletes that he feels has contributed to their success.
Sometimes what we think are the kinds of character traits of elite performers may not be reality. The things we see in movies and read in books may not be the truth and this blog is a great read for athletes of all ages, parents and supports and coaches in the sport from someone with the knowledge, qualifications, playing and coaching (And LIFE for that matter) experience to provide great insights. It is real, not fiction.
As you read Roosevelt's personal story you begin to learn he himself is a great example of what he speaks of in this article; Humility, Grit and Growth Mindset. It is so well written it had me on the edge of my seat from his own personal experiences, to what his program RAW basketball stands for, through to describing the Humility, Grit and Growth mindset, using real life athlete examples and then how coaches can develop these traits in their players it is an awesome read. I'd recommend youth athletes at all levels, coaches, parents and supporters in our sport have a read of this great blog article.
Over to Roosevelt….
First thanks to Janx and High Performance Hoops Network for allowing me this amazing opportunity to share my views on the sport I love so dearly and that has given so much to my development as a person.
PICTURED: Roosevelt locked in. Roosevelt has a unique mix of skill, experiences and knowledge that makes him a great mentor, coach and valued team member of www.highperformancehoopsnetwork.com
You could say I grew in an unconventional way. Early on my mother was an addict and my step father was abusive. I ended up in the foster system at age 4 after mental and physical neglect from my mom. Lucky my grandmother raised me until at around aged 15 she passed away. At this point her house turned into a drug house (longer story) and a friends mom kindly offered to foster me until I finished high school. Amongst all of this gang violence was at an all time high and the crack epidemic was destroying countless lives. People being shot 50 meters away from my house, stabbings another 100 metres away, and the routine ducking behind something when a car approached at night with the lights off (drive by) was a regular occurrence.
I think I was 13 and I decided I was going to give this organised sport thing a try. I ended up playing basketball and I liked it. I was not good at all, but I liked it and I was tall. All of a sudden I was a part of something. Over the next 4 years I made a big leap in my basketball skill level and learned so much about myself. The main thing I learned is that I was always capable of more. And the limits I thought I had were not there! The boundaries I thought existed starting serving as fuel to my motivation to reshape who I was as a basketball player. And that slowly started to creep over into my life. Basketball taught me that there are few limits in life and often we put more limits on ourselves than anyone else does.
The last 20 years I’ve devoted my personal time to being a volunteer basketball coach to young people here in WA. I also hold a BSc (Honours) Degree in Psychology and a BA degree in sociology. My thesis for my honours degree studied how a coach’s leadership behaviour impacts young basketball player’s perceptions of their ability to perform on the basketball court. It is these two passions of sport and psychology that have brought me to start RAW Hoops. RAW Hoops' goal is to inspire and assist young players to further their basketball skills but more importantly become better people. Our general belief regarding sport is that it is an important vehicle to positively impact lives.
This leads to my motivation for meeting Janx, and agreeing to work with High Performance Hoops Network to do some blog articles and to help WA athletes reach their potential stems from a desire to help players set their own limits on and off the court. I want them to realise that they are in charge of their evolution and growth, and this will not always be easy or comfortable. And if I can do that I feel my purpose here is served. Ultimately giving these young people an opportunity to realise how much they can actually accomplish in life (on and off the court)!
PICTURED: Willetton Tigers U14 Success, where Roosevelt was the Head Coach. Roosevelt has coached and had success at almost all levels. Running an academy we (at www.HighPerformanceHoopsNetwork.com) feel it is vital that coaches have experience and insights working in, contributing to, our nation's junior pathways, Roosevelt has that.
Sports is a wonderful world that allows us to live vicariously through the excitement and action that happens on the court. We are consistently in awe of the ease and frequency our very best make the impossible…..possible and almost routine. People will routinely say things like “they are naturally gifted”, “they make it look so easy”. Of all the athletes I’ve coached I have yet to see one just step on the court and start performing at an elite level. Most start with some physical or mental gifts that can be cultivated and added to but all take considerable work to get to that “elite” performer status.
Besides physical traits like being 7 foot tall or being a complete freak athlete…..are there a set of traits that impact players reaching elite status and more importantly performing at an elite level consistently? I’ve coached and observed many talented kids here in WA over the past 20 years that fell way short of fulfilling their potential because they were weak in or lacked these traits all together. So the traits I’ll look at here will fall into three main categories: Humility, Grit and Growth mindset.
What is Humility?
Of all the kids I've coached the most successful ones (on and off the court) are the humble ones. Now when I say humble most thinks this is a weakness as it is more contemplative than overtly aggressive like sports tend to be. But given the fact that supreme confidence (and a big ego) are also requirements for an elite sports person, humility is the key that helps them to balance their ego and the real world. The elite sports world can be surreal and chaotic but I see humility as that calming force that allows players to stay grounded.
A great example of this is a Wani Swaka, who I had the pleasure of coaching a few times in his formative years. A friend brought him down to me when I was coaching an U11 development team at East Perth Basketball Association, and this was his first exposure to representative level competition. Even as a 10 year old he was a visibly gifted athlete with some innate basketball instincts, but what I really noticed was his respectful and humble manner (big credit to his family). I pushed him harder than maybe any coach to that point as I felt he needed to learn the work ethic and intensity in order to achieve his best. But through it all he was always humble, always respectful, and always very coachable. I can’t remember any occasion (on or off the court) where he was not respectful and hardworking. Deservedly so, Wani has had lot’s of early success (thanks to his own work and work put in by Stirling Basketball Association) and is currently at the NBA Global Academy in Canberra. Despite this, he will still make the time to say hello to myself and others that have helped him along the way. Great kid…on and off the court!
PICTURED: Perth athlete Wani Swaka joined the NBA Global Academy at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in the first intake. This program is an exciting development by Basketball Australia, working in partnership with the NBA. More info on the Academy: https://nbaacademy.nba.com/location/australia/
What is Grit?
Grit is a relatively new term that is gaining attention and involves perseverance and passion to achieve long–term goals. In my humble opinion this is often referred to as mental toughness. Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that grit is a strong predictor of success and ability to reach one's goals. From my experience players that exhibit characteristics of "grit" are more resilient, ambitious, persevere longer, and are more likely to continue after negative results.
All things being equal this is separate of any "talent" as gritty players will persevere until their skills are refined to an elite level. Gritty players are determined to get what they want and fail more than most.
This concept is a tough one for people to comprehend because it is hard to measure. You have to look the cumulative results and not just the immediate results, which is tough for people to do in this instant gratification society we live in.
I used to work as a Systems Administrator in Rockingham and one of the guys I worked with also coached basketball at the Rockingham Basketball Association. He was raving about a big kid he had that was raw but showed a lot of potential. Lucky for me that he is the same age as my own son, so I was able to see his progress over the last 5+ years. His name is Kane Waters, he is definitely one to keep your eye on. Kane has had his ups and downs over this time from normal development issues to just simply growing into his body (being 6’10” at age 15). But what I’ve noticed through out it all was a steely resolve that has been there the whole time. Even when the results were not always noticeable the “grit” was…..at least to me. I remember in the SCC tournament in 2015 he was up against another very good big from Victoria and I was only a spectator but gave him a small piece of advice…..”make him feel your presence”. This is the abridged version as I gave him some more detailed examples of how to do this, but he was so effective that game he frustrated this player with his will and determination. There was a few other times I coached him that I was able to witness his grit up close. The most recent time was in his preparation leading up to the Australian Development Camp in September 2017. Kane had a tough U16 national tournament and I’m certain he was not happy with his team or personal results. You could see in the preparation for this camp he was not happy with those results in June and was determined to show his true capabilities. He was obviously successful and is now on scholarship at the NBA Global Academy in Canberra. Again grit is evidenced over a longer length of time and Kane is a shining example of this. (Janx: Isaac White's story called Mental toughness and dedication 👉 https://goo.gl/eBptQU is also a great example of Grit).
PICTURED: Roosevelt Snr with his son Roosevelt Jnr, Santa, and Kane Waters who also joins the NBA Global Academy in 2018.
What is Growth Mindset?
Most these days involved in sports have heard of the concept Growth Mindset but I'm not sure people understand the concept. Sometimes these concepts seem to "airy fairy" for coaches and sports administrators. But if the look at the characteristics of having a growth mindset player....I'm certain most can identify multiple elite athletes that have them.
The opposite of this is a fixed mindset that limits effort and development while a growth mindset enhances it. The fixed mindset is characterised by the belief that their ability level is limited by natural talent. Fixed mindset players: fear of trying, fear of failing, focused on shortcomings, get caught up comparing their abilities to others, often have natural talent but lack the motivation to develop, and most importantly often undermine their own success.
The truth is, Coaches and parents are instrumental in forming an athlete’s mindset. Parents and coaches often praise talent and accomplishments, rather than hard work and discipline. Growth mindset athletes: believe their outcomes are ultimately fuelled by hard work (opposed to natural talent), have high motivation levels (fuels their drive), are more resilient, persistently look for ways to improve, don’t need awards or prizes to feel confident, gain confidence through focusing on self-improvement (trusting the process), and more importantly they enjoy the “grind” of hard work (Janx: in a previous blog I talk about enjoying the grind instead of ONLY playing for 1 specific goal | So, you have been cut? If not, you will be!! 👉 https://goo.gl/pTWTVD).
Looking at the definition of growth mindset above one person sprung to mind. I’ve never coached this person but when I think of her journey I can’t help but to think she has an extremely high level of growth mindset. If I googled “growth mindset” and a picture of Tully Bevilaqua came up I would not be surprised. She is an FIBA World Championship Gold medallist, Olympic Silver Medallist, WNBA champion, WNBL Champion, 4 x WNBL Defensive Player of the year, amongst many other personal and team accomplishments. Honestly there are too many to list in a short blog. I bring her up because the path she took to these accomplishments and manner in which I saw them unfold. So I’ve seen her work ethic and character up close as she played in the WA SBL on the same team as my wife. For me her success has been fuelled by a few of the key traits of a person high in Growth mindset: 1) fuelled by hard work, 2) super high motivation levels 3) resilient.
PICTURED: Tully Bevilaqua playing in the WNBA with San Antonia. One of our most decorated athletes , not always gifted opportunities. PIC SOURCE: Getty Images
Tully went undrafted in the WNBA yet worked her way into a 14 year WNBA career, collecting over 800 career assists and 500 career steals. At 34 she made her first National team! Not only did she make “make it”, she contributed to a Gold and Silver medal for her country. To make a long story short her success can be traced back to her mindset. Which resulted in continuing hard work and improvement on her part, exceptionally high motivation even in the face of very difficult situations, and resilience that allowed her to always be ready to make the most of her opportunities when they arose (even at 34!).
Coaching Strategies to promote these traits
PICTURED: Roosevelt in action with one of his youth teams. Great coach, mentor and leader.
So you might saying “this is great but what can I do?”. There is actually lots of things a coach can do but early on these things can get in the way of “winning” and they are hard to stick with because of all the outside pressures we have as coaches. Below I’ll suggest a few strategies that I hope might help some people to promote these character traits (elite or not).
Common behavioural standards – require players to be decent human beings first. Things like listening when a coach or player is talking, or ringing when they are going to be late set a cultural standard.
Standards for respecting the game on the court – having fun is great but not at the detriment of opponents. Help them understand without opponents and refs the game does not happen, so there should be an underlying appreciation for both. Winning (even by a lot) doesn’t have to be disrespectful. I personally don’t let my kids shoot in the last 20 or so seconds if the game is a blowout, they dribble it out. Others may not agree but that’s my way of getting them to show respect to their opponents (not rubbing it in) and the game in general.
Focus on effort and energy – focus on these things instead of end results. Lot’s of performance psychology that backs up this as a way to improve performance and development (mentally and skill wise).
Promote making mistakes at “game pace” – learning from mistakes is great but if it’s not at the same pace as the you will see in a game….how much are you actually learning? Apart from this they will build up great mental fortitude by becoming comfortable with this process of learning.
Preach “Trusting the Process” and most importantly believe it! – this to me helps them to put everything into perspective which frees them up from the pressure of the end result which I’ve seen increase motivation, help players work harder more consistently and ultimately become more resilient.
"It is difficult for young players to learn - because of the great emphasis on records - but, ideally, the joy and frustration of sport should come from the performance itself, not the score. While he is playing, the worst thing a player can think about in terms of concentration - and therefore of success - is losing. The next worst is winning.” John Wooden
For the record these are my own thoughts and preferences so they may or may not work for others. But hopefully by me sharing others can take 1 or 2 useful bits to help them and ultimately their players reach their goals as players but more importantly as human beings.
PICTURED: Roosevelt's Son with John Lucas (renowned NBA coach and former player). Roosevelt has great knowledge on American pathways and talent ID that we look forward to learning more about.
PICTURED: Raw Hoops logo. Raw Hoops in it for the right reasons, if you are in Western Australia get to know them!!