by Jimmy Yoo
In the last newsletter, we spoke about setting resolutions / achievable goals early and using everyday challenges as motivation. For example, instead of waiting til the end of the holiday season to stop eating sweets, use the sweets as a reward.
For many of us, waiting till the last second is what we do. There was a high school athlete I once met with who also took this approach. This high school athlete, whom I shall call Jen, to respect this athlete’s confidentiality, had tried out for her high school basketball team. She felt she was prepared for the team tryouts because she had taken the time to stay in shape, mainly by playing another sport in the offseason; and she had participated in a majority of the captains’ practices in the off season as well. Therefore, she felt she had put in enough time to prepare her for the season.
When it came to the tryout week, her expectation was that she would easily make the varsity basketball team: one, because she was a junior in high school; two, she felt she had put in the time on the team to earn a spot; three, she felt she was in good shape; and four, she felt she had worked just as hard as a lot of the other players in the off-season.
To her surprise, three days into the tryouts, she was cut from the varsity squad and placed on the JV team. The head coach had pulled her aside that night and told her if she worked hard and had a good attitude, she could easily move up to the varsity team at some point in the season. At first she was crushed and felt that the coach had just picked her favorite players. In particular, she felt that the coach had chosen some freshmen players just because they were taller than she was, not because they were better. Once she was able to vent her frustrations concerning the tryouts, she was then able to admit that she was amazed at how the freshman on the varsity team seemed to be better shape, and their basketball skills seemed to be more developed than her skills at this point in the season. With that said, she was able to identify that it would take at least a month of hard work before she would be ready to compete for a varsity position.
This was a good starting point. Not only was she able to admit that she had not spent enough time in the off season working on her basketball skills (shooting, dribbling, offensive and defensive footwork), but she was able to recognize how long it might take her to catch up. Instead of deciding to quit the team or settle with the idea that she would be on JV the rest of the season, she made it her goal to make the varsity team by the last 1/3 of the season and be ready for playoffs.
Jen felt that the first thing she needed to work on was improving her foot speed so that she would be quicker on defense and quicker when she initiates drives to the basket. As a result, she decided that she would jump rope 5 minutes a day to improve her quickness and agility, and 20 to 30 minutes either before or after practice to shoot baskets and practice her drives to the net. Secondly, because two JV players were asked each week to swing up for varsity games to serve as emergency backup players, she made it her goal to be one of the swing players each week.
Jen’s hard work and determination paid off. For a majority of the weeks during the season, she was chosen by the coaches to swing up for varsity games. While she sat on the bench for most of those games, she kept a good attitude and made sure to take note of things she was doing well and things she still needed to improve on, like dribbling with her off hand and getting confident taking layups with her off hand. By the end of the season, one of the varsity players had sprained an ankle during a game. Jen was asked to come off the bench as part of a platoon of players to fill in for that injured player. As it turned out, she played solid one-on-one defense and forced a key turnover that allowed her team to take the lead during the final minutes of that game.
From that point on, Jen would become one of the primary players to come off the bench to fill in for the starters. She recognized that hard work and determination are important, specifically, practicing with purpose rather than just going to practice each day and comparing her effort to the rest of the team (i.e., “I feel like I worked harder than most of the team today”). She also learned that setting goals and communicating those goals allowed her to set an expectation and have others helped her to prepare for success.