In America, basketball is the accessible competitive team sport. While some may enjoy other sports more, it is very difficult to constantly get together a group and find a location to play football, soccer, baseball, hockey, or lacrosse. However, every city has a plethora of gyms, parks, or streets equipped with basketball courts. Even better, at around lunch time during six days of the week there will be a handful of people ready to pick-up and play for an hour or two. You could even play pick-up basketball for approximately thirty hours a week if you really wanted to. That is how accessible the sport is in most North American cities. I have listed five benefits that, when paired with the accessibility of the sport, should leave you with little excuse to pass up your next full-court pick-up opportunity.
1. Physical Exercise
This is the most obvious of the benefits of full-court basketball. It has long been known to be an excellent cardio workout. However, if you do all the things that ‘hustle players’ are known for (such as rebounding, fighting through picks, diving for loose balls, preventing easy fast break buckets, etc.) then even more benefits of the workout will unfold. All the starting and stopping at high speeds, strafing, backpedalling, and jumping will provide a much more intense and effective workout than the average jog through the park. You will burn calories at a much higher rate, and you will develop muscles in your legs, back, and core that would otherwise be forgotten during typical cardio workouts.
2. Mental Exercise
Basketball is a game of angles. In order to run anything resembling an effective offense your team must understand floor spacing. The sport also develops a player’s ability to read and react in split second time frames. The most basic of plays (the pick and roll) requires the ball handler to read the outcome of the pick, and for him to react with one of several decisions. Even on defense the decision to squeeze through the pick or to switch must be made case by case in a split second. The most intense of read and response situations comes when the offense is pushing the ball up the court before the defense is set. While athleticism is important, the most impactful players are often those who consistently make the right split second decisions.
3. Consequence-Free Competition
We currently live in a society that severely lacks competition. The only taste of competition most of us obtain is either outworking someone in the office for a promotion or attempting to catch a woman that other men are chasing. These types of matches may not happen frequently enough for us to fully exercise our competitive nature, and in turn maintain or increase our testosterone. Pick-up basketball is one way to exercise that competitive nature, yet is lacks any consequences. Whether you win or lose your battles on the court, you still go home with higher testosterone than when you arrived. If you play frequently enough, you will see the positive effects of heightened testosterone in your every day life.
4. Teamwork Comprehension
Understanding how to successfully utilize other’s strengths and weaknesses is something we are losing sight of in today’s westernized culture. Just like how everyone can do something if they try, anyone can at least do something on they basketball court if they put their mind to it. If you bring together your buds for a match at the park there is a chance that a couple can’t shoot or dribble well. Now you have to find a way to make them work well in a system. After all, if you have five people that are ball-handling gunners on your team then your team may suffer from sever chemistry issues. Watch your bad shooting or bad handling friend and take note of his strengths. Maybe he can rebound well, or maybe he is a good passer. Putting these people in a position where they can succeed not only helps your team that day, it helps you ability to manage talent in the world off the court.
You never know who will be on the court when you show up to pick-up. I have been fortunate enough to play with executives, actors, comedians, musicians, and NBA players. If you play with the same strangers long enough, you will build a relationship. Always respect a stranger’s and play clean. Be a good team player as well by taking smart shots and moving the ball around. Don’t be afraid of obtaining a hockey assist; you don’t always have to be directly responsible for the outcome of a play. If you go out and play hard to your strengths then you are guaranteed to gain respect from those on the floor. After all, respect is the icebreaker to starting a relationship.