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Game intelligence is more important than skill in basketball

Much like the posthumus dissection of Einstein’s brain, scientists are still trying to discover the secret ingredient to the greatness of Michael Jordan twenty years into his retirement.

A study led by University of South Australia PhD student Michael Rogers surveyed 90 basketball coaches in 23 countries to discover what traits they find most important in basketball recruits. 

“We found 35 performance indicators that coaches considered important and at the top of the list were psychological attributes,” said Rogers. 

“Coaches look for players who are competitive, have a strong work ethic, are excellent communicators, good teammates and can ‘read’ the game. Being super fit is a given. It is the other traits that make a difference to the scoreboard.”

Of the 35 ‘performance indicators’ that coaches look at, 14 are psychological factors. By far the most important of these factors are: attitude, coachability, competitiveness and work ethic.

“Game statistics are commonly used to recruit basketball players but by watching players on the court, and how they behave outside of it, coaches can pick up a lot of non-physical factors that indicate whether a player is likely to make the grade,” said Rogers. 

Basketball players who are optimistic, easily taught and trained, and determined to be more successful and to work harder than others are favoured by coaches,”

Mental toughness and game focus, even when tired are also incredibly important to coaches. 

“Resilience, motivation, and good communication on the court are crucial in separating the ‘best from the rest’ once players reach elite level, according to the coaches we surveyed,” said Rogers.

As for physical fitness, it does not seem to be a factor that coaches look at very much. “Interestingly, the least important indicators were physical fitness and movement skills.”

The study, which is the first of its kind to examine recruitment factors in basketball, is published in the journal Sports Medicine.

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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