Not long ago, my teammate, Cody Braun, told me about the strategy the Philadelphia 76ers have used to get to where they are today. Years ago, they began playing for the future—not so much for the moment. They sacrificed wins at the time, losing many games during those seasons to earn a higher pick in the NBA draft. In other words, before they were very good (as they are today), they were very bad—just getting ready to make a run at the playoffs. They drafted young players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who now lead their team. They understood that winning is a long-term strategy you work; it’s not just about purchasing talent from another team.
It seems to have worked.
They now have an incredible team that shoots lots of three-pointers, passes more than other teams and plays super fast on the court. They are fun to watch. Along the way, however, they’ve added one more item to their strategy.
It’s a four-point line.
Wait. What? Does a four-point line even exist? Well, no—only in Philadelphia. On their practice court, they’ve painted a light blue line, about five feet further away from the basket than the three-point line. It’s a tougher shot to make if you tried it, but this four-point line is about much more than making shots harder for players.
It makes the team better.
What’s Your Four-Point Line?
Below, I want to consider three benefits to having a “four-point line” for your team. You can actually create one, regardless of your sport. It can serve numerous purposes and can challenge your players to be better than they currently are today. Let me explain the benefits I see in a four-point line.
1. It stretches your ability beyond the current performance.
It’s like running at track and field practice with ankle weights on. As I teen I was a distance runner, and I often wore those weights in practice. Obviously, when I took them off, my legs felt so light. Much like a hitter who takes the donut off the bat before he steps up to the plate. The once heavy bat now feels easy to swing quickly. A “four-point” line is stretching, like a standard that beckons you to live at a higher level than everyone else. All other NBA teams practice taking 3-point shots. I bet few of them practice taking shots from further out. With a tougher goal, players are called to work harder and play smarter.
2. It opens up space for teammates to work inside.
One big reason Coach Brown added the four-point line to the court is to open up the congestion that usually takes place inside the three-point line and even more, inside the key. It is easier for opposing players to double team your inside player and to thwart a play. When teammates take a spot five feet beyond the three-point line, there’s more real estate for your good players underneath, like Embiid. You may be tempted to watch Embiid with the ball. But look at Redick instead. He’s closer to the half-court line than the 3-point line. Or even a 4-point line. Redick isn’t bothered when his defender stalks him. He knows that he’s making it easier for Embiid to score. “I’m, like, ahhh, I’m doing my job,” he said. “It’s 4-on-4 now.”
“When you look at modern-day offense, and you try to play a style that I believe in and have for a while,” Coach Brett Brown said, “you have to space the floor, you have to shoot threes and you have to create room.”
3. It pushes you to envision a higher level than your competitors.
Not unlike my first reason above, this one is about enabling your players to perform at a higher level than their competition. But it goes further. When you add a four-point line, it impacts the mindset of the team. Everyone begins to see themselves living by higher standards, both on and off the court. Certainly, it pushes players even more because it challenges them to become accurate from a farther vantage-point than a three-point shot or a shot inside the paint. But it also embeds a mindset for conduct in interviews, public appearances, community service and leading their families. A four-point line becomes a metaphor for being a four-star human being, wherever you are.
So, my question for you is simple. What is your “four-point line” that your team embraces to nudge them to become better performers, teammates and people? Leaders set standards and expectations that affect everyone. What are yours?
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