One of the biggest concerns with a roster that’s almost completely new players who haven’t spent a lot of time together is how they’ll mesh as a team. Individual players have different personalities and different styles of communicating, yet they all need to find a common language and shared mindset to achieve their goals on the court. It’s a problem Calipari has had to solve every year he’s been at Kentucky, and this year, he and the coaching staff are taking an innovative approach to speeding up the players’ bonding process.
Enter game on Nation, a company dedicated to helping athletes and teams improve communication, leadership, character development, and media training. Founded by Steve Shenbaum (AKA “Player #2 in Space Jam) in 1997, the firm has an impressive client list that includes eight #1 overall draft picks (such as Eli Manning and Cam Newtown) and over fifty first round draft picks in various sports, plus big name teams like the New York Yankees, Florida State and Alabama. This fall, the UK men’s basketball team will be working with the game on Nation team to build trust and work on communication both on and off the court in the hopes of getting the edge in the race for the national championship.
You may be wondering what tactics Shenbaum and his staff use to get the players to communicate freely with each other, and the answer sends chills left over from high school drama class down my spine: improv games. By creating an atmosphere where anything goes, the game on Nation staff helps players say anything without fear of judgment or rebuttal. It’s a lighthearted approach that gets everyone involved, from the starting forward to the last player off the bench. Plus, everyone can bond over the mutual awkwardness of having to stand up in front of a bunch of people and act goofy.
Want to see a real life example of what Nerlens and Archie may be doing very soon? Check out this video of Shenbaum playing an improv game called “Red Light, Green Light” with the Florida State football team.
We already know that our basketball team can win any dance competition, and after their work with Shenbaum and game on Nation, maybe some of them will find a new hobby in stand-up comedy and improv. Archie Goodwin- coming soon to Comedy Off Broadway? Plus, you KNOW the WBA will make a spin off from their classic music videos to filming themselves playing improv games as they roam the streets of Lexington during a #TeamNoSleep outing.
Sure, team bonding through improv sounds a little goofy at first. However, last year’s championship team was lauded across the nation for their strong friendships and evident brotherhood; if game on Nation and their methods can help this year’s team build chemistry and improve communication on the court en route to #9, I’m all for it. Coach Cal, you’re a mad scientist… and I like it.