Sunday, 19 March 2017

James Clear's Article - Grit: A Brief Guide on Building Mental Toughness

One of the places that nearly every single player can build is mental toughness.  I often refer to James Clear who writes amazing articles on finding personal greatness.  Here is what he has to say on this topic of Building Mental Toughness. 

Grit: A Brief Guide on Building Mental Toughness
by James Clear

If you want to become more mentally tough, then you'll want to read this article.

Grit is one of the hottest concepts in psychology right now. Researchers are talking about how athletes can develop more grit and mental toughness in their training, how teachers can foster greater grit in the classroom, and how individuals like you and I can build grit into our daily lives. In this short round up, I'm going to lay out a summary of what grit and mental toughness are and share a few of my best resources on the topic. 

What is Grit?
First, let's define grit. In technical terms, grit is the perseverance and passion to achieve long–term goals. Sometimes you will hear grit referred to as mental toughness. Angela Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the leading researcher on grit, suggests that grit is a strong predictor of success and ability to reach one's goals.
Duckworth's research on grit has shown that…
West Point cadets who scored highest on the Grit Test were 60% more likely to succeed than their peers.
Ivy League undergraduate students who had more grit also had higher GPAs than their peers — even though they had lower SAT scores and weren’t as “smart.”
When comparing two people who are the same age but have different levels of education, grit (and not intelligence) more accurately predicts which one will be better educated.
Competitors in the National Spelling Bee outperform their peers not because of IQ, but because of their grit and commitment to more consistent practice.
If you'd like to dive into the details, I wrote about Duckworth's research here.

For a video explanation, you can watch this short TED Talk, which explains the concept of grit and how it helps foster mental toughness in our everyday lives.

How to Be Mentally Strong
As a quick primer, let me lay out three simple steps to develop grit and become more mentally strong.

Step 1: Define what grit or mental toughness means for you.
For you, it might be…
going one month without missing a workout
delivering your work ahead of schedule for two days in a row
calling one friend to catch up every Saturday this month
Whatever it is, be clear about what you’re going after.

Step 2: Build grit with small physical wins.
So often we think that grit is about how we respond to extreme situations, but what about everyday circumstances?
Mental toughness is like a muscle. It needs to be worked to grow and develop.
Choose to do the tenth rep when it would be easier to just do nine. Choose to create when it would be easier to consume. Choose to ask the extra question when it would be easier to accept. Prove to yourself — in a thousand tiny ways — that you have enough guts to get in the ring and do battle with life.

Step 3: Build strong habits and stop depending on motivation.
Grit isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage. It’s about building the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again.
Mentally tough people don’t have to be more courageous, more talented, or more intelligent — just more consistent.
Grit comes down to your habits. It’s about doing the things you know you’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis. It’s about your dedication to daily practice and your ability to stick to a schedule.

Examples of Grit
Mentally tough athletes are more consistent than others. They don’t miss workouts. They don’t miss assignments. They always have their teammates back.
Mentally tough leaders are more consistent than their peers. They have a clear goal that they work towards each day. They don’t let short–term profits, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing the march towards their vision. They make a habit of building up the people around them — not just once, but over and over and over again.
Mentally tough artists, writers, and employees deliver on a more consistent basis than most. They work on a schedule, not just when they feel motivated. They approach their work like a pro, not an amateur. They do the most important thing first and don’t shirk responsibilities.

3 Articles on How I Develop Grit

If you'd like to see additional resources like the best books to read on grit and mental toughness as well as a complete list of the articles I have written on these topics, then check out the grit category page here

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Former Player Profile Mahershala Ali - Oscar Winner

This week's blog has to do with a young actor that you may have seen in movies like The Place Beyond the Pines, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the Netflix series House of Cards.  Mahershala Ali just recently won an academy award for his role in the movie Moonlight.  The reason I decided to highlight him this week has to do with learning to deal with shifting directions in life.  So many times I hear young basketball players tell me how much they would like to play in the NBA.  Playing at that level is a very admirable goal but I speak from the heart when I say it isn't for everyone.  I think it is made to look much more glamorous than it is in reality.   I personally think there are many other worthwhile things to achieve depending on your individual goals.  Having a goal to play professionally is amazing but so is following the path of your particular life by applying the same passion to those pursuits that call you.

The article below was done written back on October 20, 2011 by the school where Mahershala Ali attended school at St. Mary's College in Moraga California.  
(  This is the same school where Patty Mills from the San Antonio Spurs and Matthew Dellavedova from the Milwaukee Bucks attended and played basketball as well.  Learning to listen to the path of your life and being brave enough to follow it is admirable in its own right.

Mahershala Ali ('96)


Name: Mahershala Ali.
I was born Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore, and I went by Mahershala Gilmore while at SMC.  I changed my last name in 2000, and from 2001-2010 I was known professionally as Mahershalalhashbaz Ali. 
In the spirit of simplicity, I've presently settled on Mahershala Ali. I'd love for people to be able to say my name. Especially with the work I do. So, I'm ready to embrace this version of my name now. Easier for all!
Major: Mass Communication
Class of 1996.
Born in Oakland and raised in Hayward, Ca.
My fondest memory of the Communication Department would be the Oral Communication class, taught by the late Br. Ray Berta. You'd be hard pressed to find a student that didn't absolutely love him. He was a light, and passionate about his students. Brother Ray actually changed the trajectory of my life through his Oral communication course, which was truly just an acting class in disguise.
My fondest memory in my time at SMC was doing Spunk my senior year. Spunk is a George C. Wolfe play, which features a collection of Zora Neale Hurston writings. I felt a peace during that period of time that seemed to give my life a defining purpose. At 22 years old, I'd experienced some great highs and lows, and I think I really wanted to find an in . . . an opening, a beginning. I needed something that would help me understand myself better. Spunk as a process, as an experience, inspired me in a way that nothing had before.
This might sound strange, but I don't miss SMC. At all. I miss the professors. Victoria Trostle, Denise WitzigBrenda HillmanRebecca EngleBr. Ray Berta – they all had a profound effect on me and my well being. In a sense, I didn't know where I was, or what I was doing there . . .  I was a scared kid just trying to hold it all together. 
The first semester of my junior year, I was basically failing Victoria Trostle's documentary film class. My father had died a few days before school started. I had mentally checked out. I didn't really care, and didn't feel like caring. She called me in her office a few weeks before finals, and first, talked to me about what was going on in my life. We came to an understanding in that meeting. My father's death was an absolute tragedy, yes. But it wasn't going to be an excuse to fail. And then she walked me through the necessary steps to pass her class. I can't say I miss that, but I appreciate it to this day. 
I went to SMC on a basketball scholarship. But when I graduated, I no longer thought of myself as an athlete. Honestly, I kind of resented basketball by the end of my time there. I'd seen guys on the team get chewed up, spat out and I was personally threatened with being shipped off to the University of Denver. All in the name of wins and productivity. 
I experienced a very clear, palpable transformation while in college. I started writing and performing my poetry. I competed in poetry slams, and began to take my academics more seriously. I always took school seriously, but I think I did better in college because I started to understand how I learned, as well as the concept of "finishing" began to take root.  I can't say I retained much of the information from my classes, but I understand how I learn, and I understand beginning, middle and end, which in turn leads to finishing. I can't think of two tools more powerful or useful in the "real world."
"In a nutshell, I came to SMC wanting the fullest experience as a student athlete, and left wanting to experience life as an artist and well rounded person." 
My road after college was somewhat interesting. First, I knew I was taking a year off, and second, I knew I had to go back to school. Rebecca Engle, who directed Spunk, and was leading the theater program at SMC, had somehow managed to set up an audition for me with the California Shakespeare Festival, located in Orinda. Long story short, I made the cut as an apprentice, which meant I was grouped with other young actors, studying and pursuing the craft. It was an intense four months. The training was closer to my experience as an athlete than a student. At the end of the day you'd be exhausted, and then you'd have a show to do that night. I think I had an advantage in some ways. I'd done that for years as a student athlete.
Most of my peers had been acting for quite some time. Socially, I was a bit out of my element. They knew all the cool avant garde films, plays, writers. I had only read Shakespeare in pieces – a few monologues, some sonnets, but not a play in its entirety. I actually auditioned for The California Shakespeare Festival with two poems I'd written. And suddenly I'm on the main stage, with professional actors, playing Montjoy in their production of Henry V.  It was a great role for me at the time – enough for them to offer me a spot as a professional the following season. (Which never happened, because I was going back to school . . .)
My Grandmother had always told me to have three options. As I had gotten closer to graduating from SMC, I noticed she would say that more often. Cal Shakes had sort of fallen into my lap. Up until that point, I was looking at doing one of three things, grad school for creative writing, law school, or perhaps . . . just maybe . . . a graduate program for this acting thing. 
Cal Shakes was done at the end of that summer. It was 1996. I had a good, go-to, hookup job while at SMC. I could work on the ferryboats in San Francisco for almost $20 as hour, as a deckhand. But I decided against that, because I was worried I'd get comfortable, and get stuck. So, I took a job making minimum wage at The Gavin Report, a record industry magazine targeted at music insiders. I recorded spins, meaning I tallied how much a given record was played on the radio in a week – the absolute definition of boredom.  But I got a lot of free music and even met the Notorious B.I.G. the week he died. 
Again, I played basketball on full scholarship while at Saint Mary's, so the extent of my bills were probably gas, and my trusty pager.  I had done a few interviews before graduating that May, the traditional corporate entry-level positions, which are terrific if that speaks to you. That's part of the college experience, actually. Your family wants to see you grab that diploma on Saturday and walk into a great job on Monday. But that terrified me. I didn't feel suited for that.
The day I had become serious about grad school was the day Victoria Trostle, a professor from the Communication Department, handed me a card. It basically said that I needed to go further. I needed to be around other students/ actors, acting teachers that would push me. And I needed to think about getting into one of the best programs in the country. I still have that card. 
In February of ‘97, I auditioned for NYU's graduate acting program. The audition was at ACT in San Francisco. Yale and NYU were the best graduate acting programs in the country at that time. Yale received my application a day late . . .  and wrote me a letter saying they wouldn't be seeing me as a result of my tardiness. 
I did two monologues that day, York, from Henry VI, and a piece I had written myself, a poem of sorts. I was asked to stay, and do the pieces again for the legendary Zelda Finchandler. I distinctly remember her looking at her watch while I was performing. Damn. 
It had to have been an act of God, because I was invited to NYU in March for the Top 50.  50 students, hoping to be one of the final 18. And I got in. It was three gut-wrenching, soul-searching, tortured years of self expression and exploration. But I wouldn't trade it for the world. I can confidently say that I would have never gotten there if it weren't for the guidance and love I received from the professors at Saint Mary's College. 
Getting through the program was incredibly difficult. Three years, six days a week, and you're there a minimum of 12 hours a day (except Saturday – Saturday's usually a bit lighter). Voice, speech, yoga, Alexander technique, scene study, the list goes on. Oh yeah, and whatever play you're rehearsing at the time. 
I started to become more comfortable with myself, and own my individuality in a deeper way. New York forces you to do that. If you embrace it, it can really change your life. 
By the end of my second year, I was feeling pretty burnt out. I was seriously contemplating dropping out. It was so damn hard. It's not something I can really explain. That type of work takes a toll on you. Three of my classmates dropped out. Two in the first year. The expectations you put on yourself in that type of an environment can either make you or break you. I became so aware of my weaknesses, limitations, my vulnerability that it made me more conscious of my soul. And if I was going to take on the stories of other people, real or fictional, they needed to be infused with spirit as well. My search for a greater understanding of who I was, in connection to God, is probably what got me through that period. 
I finished NYU in May of 2000. I was really fortunate to walk out with an agent, and two jobs in hand. I was the lead in an indie film called Making Revolution, and that followed with the lead role in a play called The Great White Hope. A few months later, I booked a pilot and did the first season of Crossing Jordan.
I've been working professionally for 11 years. I've been in blockbuster films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Predators; I've done a number of TV shows, including The 4400Crossing Jordan, and Law and Order SVU, and I'm looking forward to seeing recent projects come into fruition. This summer (2011) I did a film with Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Eva Mendes, called The Place Beyond The Pines. I think it's going to be an amazing film. I'm really proud to be a part of it.
I'm heading to Vancouver in a couple of days to do an episode of a new show called Alcatraz. It's an amazing, complicated, troubled character, which is both the good and the challenging aspect about the gig itself. As much as I've trained and worked, auditioned and rehearsed, at the end of the day, I don't know what the heck I'm doing. So please, wish me luck. 
My life is first and foremost about balance. I deal with trying to balance the water of spirituality with the vessel of religion. I find, that if I begin there, if I exist in that space, things fall into place in an organic manner. I'm healthier on that path. 
And funny enough, now I'm a sports nut. Way more than in college. I don't care to play basketball anymore, but I love to watch it. If my TV is on, it's usually on ESPN. 
And it brings me great joy seeing the success of the Gaels under coach Randy Bennett. I met coach Bennett in the spring of 1991, in my junior year of high school. He was an assistant coach at the University of San Diego, and the first to offer me a scholarship. He was genuinely disappointed when I turned down USD for SMC. He was the hardest call to make upon coming to that decision. I loved that guy! I'm actually glad he wasn't at Saint Mary's when I was there, because I probably would have had a great experience as a player and never discovered acting. 
It's difficult to describe what kind of person I am, because I'm conscious of how much I've changed over the years. SMC gave me structure for the areas where I've struggled with discipline, and freedom where I've struggled with rigidity. And to this day, I have to tell myself that I'm a student. Things go better for me with that approach. When I remind myself that I know very little, I learn so much more. 
The best advice I could give to any student would simply be to listen. Listen for your life signs. And respond accordingly. Intuition is a muscle, and it's developed in the manner of call and response. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

23 Characteristics of Great Players

I am part of a distribution list called The Coaching Toolbox which gives amazing resources to coaches  and I came across this article. Apparently it was a part of Alan Stein’s Coaching Nuggets Collection. The author is Coach Lyndsey Fennelly of  Lyndsey Fennelly is a former WNBA player and is now a coach that does a great job of developing players.  I love her material a lot so you will have to take a look at her list.  

1- Getting Better – the #1 emphasis and purpose behind training. Each athlete’s goal every time you walk into a gym should be to pick up 1-2 new golden nuggets of improvement. Commit to this improvement by starting a basketball journal and writing the concepts you learn each day down on paper for maximum information retention. The way to create big separation in your game is by picking up as many ‘little things’ as you can.

2- Energy – there are 2 things people do when they walk into any room: they either take away energy with frowns, negative body language, and constant complaints or they give energy with genuine smiles, positive body language, and encouraging comments. An energetic gym is more fun to be so, as is living an energetic life. Create the energy in your own gyms, classrooms, and other environments.

3- Focus – most people attribute the success of athletes to the physical game. This is key and important, but you cannot under-estimate the power of a strong and focused mind. Great players focus on what is taking place in every drill, every practice, every game, and every day. The mind is constantly asking oneself : What can I do in this moment to get better?

4- Hustle – great players have an uncommon hustle. You should know that your career window is limited, so make it a habit to maximize every second every time you are in the gym. Set the standard of hustle in your practices, not in games. Great players don’t have an ‘on-off switch’; they simply have it always turned ‘on’!

5- Attitude – one of the few things in life we can control. You have only one today your entire life. Why not have a great attitude every single day? What’s special is having a terrific attitude every day under every circumstance. Show off your great attitude during the toughest of times – that’s impressive.

6- Commitment – the act of being pledged, loyal, and true to your dreams and visions. Create a goal for this season. Write it down somewhere that you can look at it daily. Remind yourself of the commitment you’ll need to make both on and off the court this year to have a successful season.

7- Passion – do what you love and love what you do. You cannot fake passion. If you truly love the game of basketball, you should have a passion for your improvement and development. You should have passion every time you step into the gym with a willingness to learn and mentality of, ‘what can I do to get better?’

8- Teamwork – in a team sport like basketball, the we is always more important than the me. The better the team, the more noticed the player. Do all you can to foster great teamwork, knowing that will get you the attention most players desire? A program with great teamwork, constantly putting others before themselves, is easily envied by the weak.

9- Body Language – 93% of what we say is non-verbal. You are constantly communicating even if your mouth isn’t moving. Communicate all the time that you’re paying attention, you’re engaged, you’re tough, and you’re eager to learn more. Great body language will make your coaches coach you more, will make your teachers teach you more, and will make an employer want to hire you one day.

10- Hard Work – “If everyone worked as hard as I did, I would be out of a job” is a quote by Steve Nash that is a great reminder that there is truly no substitute for hard work. Hard work is unquestionably one of the best
skills you can master to master a successful life both on and off the court. Allow no one to out work you.

11- Control – control of body, control of eyes, control of thoughts, control of emotions, control of the game,control of the tempo, and most importantly, control the controllable. Rather than blame, make excuses, or point
fingers, focus on the things you can control : your effort, your attitude, your mind.

12- Practice Makes Pe…Permanent – practice does not make perfect, it instead makes permanent. Great players don’t go half speed at any time, knowing that the opportunity to become permanently great was just missed. Practice habits that will make your game permanently improve and allow you to compete at the highest level.

13- Sportsmanship – the best players have a respect for the game, its rules, officials, and participants, including coaches, players, and fans. Be gracious in defeat and humble in wins without compromising the unrelenting desire to succeed, improve, and most importantly win.

14- Character – you speak louder in action than you do with words with the decisions you make. Live this simple rule : “do the right thing”. If you don’t whether you know it’s right or wrong, it’s most likely the wrong decision. Treat others as you want to be treated, including your teammates. Be ‘bigger’ than negative people and show off your true self all the time, not just when things are going well.

15- Pride – a true champion has the pride of a lion: self-respect and personal worth. You have satisfaction with your achievements, and you allow your pride to fuel your burning passion to always improve. Those with pride
have a feeling of ‘dislike’ when they know they’ve fallen below their own standards.

16- Loyalty – you are honest with your family, your coaches, your teammates, your friends, your teachers, but most importantly, yourself. You are loyal in words and actions with those you surround yourself with. Be loyal to these people in life by never violating their trust, turning your back on them, or speaking about them instead of to them.

17- Appreciation – life is TOO short to not appreciate each and every day you are given on this Earth. Two powerful words that we don’t use enough: “thank you” can be said more often than most do. Be verbally appreciative with sincere words and physically appreciative by never wasting an opportunity on court to improve.

18- Respect – most importantly, respect yourself because it’s impossible to respect others if you can’t respect the most important person in your life, you. Treat others as you want to be treated: coaches, parents, teachers, friends, family, teammates, officials, and opponents. Respect the facilities you play in and the environments you are surrounded by.

19- Accountability – you are the driver of your own life and of your own career. Do not fall prey to allow others to dictate your future. Take accountability and responsibility for your actions, your dedication, your work ethic,and ultimately, your decisions. Hold yourself to a higher standard of excellence than anyone else.

20- Finish – the great Michael Jordan once said, “It’s not how hard you push along the way, it’s having something in you to finish”. The great players and people in life finish what they have started. Make it a habit to complete everything you do with the same energy and effort you start with.

21- Intensity – an effort defined by expression of great zeal, energy, determination, and concentration. You ‘attack’ drills with speed, power, and a rage for improvement. Your end of game intensity is paralleled by your in
practice intensity. You show off your intensity not only in effort, but in your consistent body language.

22- Poise – having a calmness under every situation and always being yourself. Pressure situations don’t faze you, but instead bring out your greatness. You are always communicating an “I got this” with your teammates and coaches. People turn to you knowing you have an un-faze-ability.

23- Excellence – “the habit of excellence can become enjoyable addictive” (Dick DeVenzio, author of Stuff Good Players Should Know). We have trained all Fall Skills in creating habits of excellence on the court. Make excellence your habit in everything you do. Be an excellent student. Be an excellent friend. Be an excellent daughter, son, sister, brother. Be an excellent athlete. Be an excellent human being.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Practice Habits and Self Evaluation

Players of all sports often hear the saying “You practice how you play!”  It is important to evaluate your personal practice habits and the environment you are contributing to as a player in order for your team to work at its highest level.  Many players make the mistake of leaving it to their coaches to push them and make them better.  If you are waiting for your coaches you may be waiting too long and missing out on some key development opportunities that can help to take your game and your team to the next level.  Players that expect their coach to motivate and push them all of the time are like wheelbarrows.  Expecting someone to pick you up and move you around can be very labour intensive for a coach because they have a lot of players to work with.  If the majority of players are expecting that you tend to not go as far as teams with self-motivated players.  It is much better to be self-sufficient and find your own way as an athlete. It’s similar to an animal being fed in a zoo versus an animal finding their own food in the wild. The zoo animal waits for things to come to them.  The wild animal fends for itself and figures things out.  

 A coach is definitely someone that can assist you on a personal level but they are looking at the whole team it is hard for them to catch everything.  They don’t know you as well as you know yourself so it is possible for a player or two to slip through the cracks. They may be also dealing with those players that have the biggest problems so it is a really good idea to learn how to motivate and fend for yourself. This will help you to find the best long term development.      

Performance Is Not a Switch 
The whole meaning behind the saying above is that the energy and atmosphere you bring to practice is the same energy you are bringing to the game when the game starts.  Many players make the mistake of not bringing their best to practice and so when the game starts they are not ready.  The thing about performance is that it isn’t a switch you can turn on and off with any degree of accuracy. Really great players only have one switch they are always on.  If you take moments off at practice you are definitely going to do the same in games.  Even when these elite players are on the bench they are still engaged in the game and ready to go. Get in the same mentality you do for practice as when you are in a game.  Listen to music, get into the proper mentality and play at game speed. Your mentality should be to prove you are the best person in the gym and better than YOU were yesterday. 

Find Your Level 
Without a question you will know yourself better than anyone will so hold yourself to a high standard. In high school I was on a very under-skilled team where I grew up.  Over the summer I attended a basketball camp in Hawaii and my eyes were opened to a whole other level of playing.  When I got back to my team’s practices I held myself to a higher standard and that became the level for my play.  It didn’t matter what my teammates were doing I had my own goals in mind and it was like playing golf I was more interested in trying to play against myself.  My goal was to make myself better as well as my teammates.  I knew my teammates didn’t have the same goals as me but I worked with them to help our entire team be successful. I was the player setting the tone for my teammates and I worked with them to help us to be successful.    

Bring Others With You 
The energy level is critical if you are a leader on the team then it is up to you to get the best out of your teammates. If you don’t think practice has the right level of energy then work on shifting it.  Leaders work on bringing others with them and one by one they start to change the energy level of those on the team.  They might even take time over a water break to pull people in and encourage each other to give more. You might see something your coach doesn’t see so really work on being positive and encourage your teammates to give their best. Positivity is key and use your leadership to provide the guidance as well as encouragement.  If you try to get what you need through being negative it isn’t as easy for people to buy in but sometimes it is needed to get the message across. Sometimes a teammate needs to hear the truth there is nothing more detrimental to the team than fake harmony.  Be real, honest and authentic to each other in order to be able to perform your best. Most importantly show you care because it goes a long way.        

Get On The Same Page 
Basketball is a team game so if your team is on the same page and locked in they will be successful or at least on the right path.  If the players start buying in and coaching each other from the inside and the coach is doing their part it helps to develop a new level of teamwork.  When everyone is working together towards the same ends the team moves much more effectively towards the goal.  The more engaged the team is the more they move in the same direction.  Think of the opposed where everyone on the team pulling in a different direction and going nowhere.  

Focus On The Details 
You might do the same drill over and over again throughout the course of a season or even during your career.  The higher the level of play the more important it is to be locked into the details and doing things right every single time.  This is what it takes to master skills and also hold other people accountable as well.  This can be really powerful in terms of your development of standards over time.  Work on figuring out the drill from a mastery perspective by understanding the details.  Look to re-engage with the drill by thinking of one of the same details you want to do correctly every single time.  Whether it is from the start of practice all the way through to the cool down really lock into executing the small things.  

Practice Self-Evaluation 

1) Are you an energy giver or a taker on your team?

2) What is your preparation when you come to practice? How does that differ when you are getting ready for a game?

3) Do you encourage other people on your team to get involved when they are holding back?

4) Do you go at every drill in practice to make it game speed or to get better? 

5) Do you practice your hustling skills?

6) Are you vocal in practice in a positive way (talking on defence, giving reminders, cheering when you aren’t involved in the drill)?

7) Do you take it easy on your teammates because you are friends instead of pushing them to be better players?  

8) What can you do to make your team better in practice?

9) Is there anything you are holding back from your team that you want to identify?  

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Playing BIG

At certain points when kids are growing there can be a very large discrepancy in size.  It can be a tough thing to deal with especially for kids who are on the smaller end of the scale. I remember last year one of my players who was in grade 8 was literally half the size of one of the players on the grade 9 team we were scrimmaging against. When he stood beside the centre he only came up to his waist.  There is a saying that is often used “It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play” or another one often used is "It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog." This can be of comfort to help players to cope with being small as they have to learn to work harder and engage in figuring out what skills to focus on that will set them apart. 

When you aren’t the biggest player figuring out what your skill set is can help you harness your game. Are you fast, are you a lock down defender, are you a great passer, are you focusing on shooting the ball, do you do the small intangible things that help your team be successful, are your courageous, are you a good teammate? Most importantly do you play BIG? None of those things have anything to do with size.  Sometimes getting exposed can be the best thing to happen to you.  Although it can be painful and very raw to know that truth. If you learn to evolve it can be a blessing.  This knowledge can help you to change your game as you continue to find your niche. Everyone has limitations to their individual game, after all no one is perfect, but it is those that focus their skills that will find a way to improve.  

Take Wayne Gretzky for example, on many of the teams he played on he was a couple of years younger than many of his teammates.  In one of his books I read he credited that experience with helping him build his incredible vision on the ice because he had to know where all of the big players were at all times due to fear.  Take away that experience and he wouldn’t be the same player he ended up being during his career.  In your journey in sports as well as in life there are always things to overcome and figure out.  Just giving up or getting discouraged doesn’t help you to grow.  Quitting or holding back limits your ability to think of a solution or find a way to evolve yourself. Some of your biggest strengths will come from your toughest challenges.  Keeping with something even when its hard and using your brain to get better is a great way to overcome obstacles.    

What does it mean to play BIG?

Well playing BIG is for everyone not just for players who are physically big.  Playing BIG means doing the little things that help your team to be successful.  When I think of playing BIG I often think of a player coming down on a fast break ready to do a layup and they have a defender coming from behind to block their shot.  Instead of taking the layup right away the player does a pump fake under the basket. As their opponent misses the ball and flies right past them the offensive players finishes their layup.  To me this is the epitome of playing BIG.   It doesn’t matter if the player is big, small or somewhere in between they used their mind to conquer the situation and it stands out because they made the right read.  Here are a couple of other examples of playing BIG: 
  • Setting great screens 
  • Making the extra pass to get your team an open shot 
  • Diving on the floor for a loose ball 
  • Taking a charge 
  • Learning to make good decisions especially around shot selection 
  • Hustling
  • Developing the mentality to fight back

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.  Sure big players have an advantage and there are many times when a coach is going to give preference to a player that is big and has potential to get better over a smaller guard. However, being a big guy isn’t always the best scenario when players are younger.  In fact, sometimes they grow so fast that they don’t know where their limbs start and end so they can be very uncoordinated.  I have seen a player that went through a growth spurt try to catch a ball that went through his hands and hit him right in the face.  There are also the growing pains and injuries that can come from growing too fast.  Keep in mind that when you are the biggest guy on the court you are also often tasked with guarding the biggest player from the other team which isn’t always glamorous if you aren’t as big, strong or skilled. There are many different types of big and so sometimes you might be a skinny guy that has to guard someone that is very strong and powerful which can be very challenging.  Sometimes coaches pigeon hole big players and don't allow them to do what they want to in terms of being outside the paint or shooting the ball (yes that still happens).  Also, the rest of your life you have to deal with people asking you how tall you are or make comments about it on a continual basis.  

In closing, you can’t control how fast or how much you grow. You also can’t control when either because some people hit their growth spurt early while others may be incredibly late.  What you can control is how you react to it and the way you are going to choose to help yourself to find ways to get better.  You can set yourself up to grow by eating healthy, getting enough sleep and getting enough exercise.  You can also perfect your skills and learn to do the fundamentals to set yourself up for success.  Striving for personal greatness isn’t easy.  Whether you end up growing a little or a lot is outside of your control but using the experience to be the best version of yourself is always a great way to manage the obstacle.   

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Lil Beast Program & James Clear Article The Myth and Magic of Deliberate Practice

Lil Beast is Growing 

Since November of last year I have been working with a group of elementary kids on Monday nights to teach them basketball.  It is a beginners group and we are starting to grow.  I have added a second session for smaller kids (Grade 1 to 3) so if you know of anyone in Richmond Hill that wants to learn basketball can you please let them know about this program? Here are some of the details if you require further information on the price and a registration form my details are below.  

Date Range: Monday Nights (Starting Feb. 6th until April 10) 
Location: Our Lady of Annunciation (30 Bayswater Avenue, Richmond Hill) 
Grade 1 - 3   6:00 to 7:30pm 
Grade 4 - 6   7:30 to 9:00pm 

Marla Gladstone
416 648 8488

This is an article written by James Clear.  I couldn't have said it any better so I decided to just sent this out.  Happy reading!  

The Myth and Magic of Deliberate Practice

Read this on
Joe DiMaggio was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. A three-time winner of the Most Valuable Player award, DiMaggio was selected to the Major League All-Star team in each of his thirteen seasons. He is best known for his remarkable hitting streak during the 1941 season when he recorded a hit in fifty-six consecutive games—a record that still stands more than seventy-five years later.
I recently heard a little-known story about how DiMaggio acquired his exceptional ability.

Joe DiMaggio in 1939. Published by Bowman Gum for Play Ball Cards.
As the story goes, a journalist was interviewing DiMaggio at his home and asked him what it felt like to be such a “natural hitter.” Without saying a word, he dragged the reporter downstairs. In the shadows of the basement, DiMaggio picked up a bat and began to repeat a series of practice swings. Before each swing, he would call out a particular pitch such as “fastball, low and away” or “slider, inside” and adjust his approach accordingly.
Once he finished the routine, DiMaggio set the bat down, picked up a piece of chalk, and scratched a tally mark on the wall. Then he flicked on the lights to reveal thousands of tally marks covering the basement walls. Supposedly, DiMaggio then looked at the journalist and said, “Don’t you ever tell me that I’m a natural hitter again.” [1]

We love stories like this—stories that highlight how remarkable success is the product of effort and perseverance. In recent years, the study of hard work has developed into a scientific pursuit. Experts have begun to refer to focused and effortful training as “deliberate practice” and it is widely considered to be the recipe for success.
There is no doubt that deliberate practice can be the recipe for success, but only under certain conditions. If we are serious about maximizing our potential, then we need to know when deliberate practice makes the difference between success and failure and when it doesn’t. Before we can capture the power of deliberate practice, we need to understand its limitations.

The Vision of Greatness

In the early 1990s, a man named Louis Rosenbaum began analyzing the eyesight of Major League baseball players. He soon found out that professional baseball players were nothing like the normal person when it came to vision.
According to Rosenbaum’s research, the average eyesight of a Major League position player is 20/11. In other words, the typical professional baseball player can read letters from twenty feet away that a normal person can only read from eleven feet away. Ted Williams, who is widely regarded as the greatest hitter in the baseball history, reportedly had 20/10 vision when he was tested by the military during WWII. The anatomical limit for human vision is 20/8.
Most of Rosenbaum’s research was conducted on the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. According to him, “Half of the guys on the Dodgers’ Major League roster were 20/10 uncorrected.” [2]

Eyesight and visual acuity results of professional baseball players from 1993 to 1995. The data above includes both minor league and major league players. (Source: American Journal of Ophthalmology. November 1996.)

In his excellent book, The Sports Gene, author David Epstein explains that this visual trend holds true at each level of the sport. On average, Major League players have better vision than minor league players who have better vision than college players who have better vision than the general population. [3]
If you want to play professional baseball, it helps to practice like DiMaggio, but you also need eyesight like an eagle. In highly competitive fields, deliberate practice is often necessary, but not sufficient for success.

The Deliberate Practice Myth

The myth of deliberate practice is that you can fashion yourself into anything with enough work and effort. While human beings do possess a remarkable ability to develop their skills, there are limits to how far any individual can go. Your genes set a boundary around what is possible.
In recent decades, behavioral geneticists have discovered that our genes impact nearly every human trait. We are not merely talking about physical characteristics like height and eyesight, but mental abilities as well. Your genes impact everything from your short-term memory abilities to your mental processing speed to your willingness to practice.
One of my favorite examples is tennis great Steffi Graf. When she was tested against other elite tennis players as a teenager, she not only scored the highest on physical attributes like lung capacity and motor skills, but also on competitive desire. She was that once-in-a-generation talent who was both the most-gifted and the most-driven person on the court. [4]
During a conversation I had with Robert Plomin, one of the top behavioral geneticists in the world, he said, “It is now at the point where we have stopped testing to see if traits have a genetic component because we literally can’t find a single one that isn’t influenced by our genes.”

How big is the influence of genes on performance? It’s hard to say. Some researchers have estimated that our genes account for between 25 percent to 35 percent of our differences in performance. Obviously, that number can vary wildly depending on the field you’re studying.
So where does this leave us?
Well, while genetics influence performance, they do not determine performance. Do not confuse destiny with opportunity. Genes provide opportunity. They do not determine our destiny. It’s similar to a game of cards. You have a better opportunity if you are dealt a better hand, but you also need to play the hand well to win.

Layer Your Skills

How do we play our hand well? How do we maximize our genetic potential in life—whatever that might be? One strategy is to “layer your skills” on top of one another.
Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, explains the strategy perfectly. He writes, “Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.” [5]
If you can’t win by being better, then win by being different. By combining your skills, you reduce the level of competition, which makes it much easier to stand out regardless of your natural abilities.

The Magic of Deliberate Practice

Sun Tzu, the legendary military strategist who wrote The Art of War, believed in only fighting battles where the odds were in his favor. He wrote, “In war, the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won.”
Similarly, we should seek to fight battles where the genetic odds are in our favor. It is impossible to try everything in life. Each of us could become any one of a billion different things. Thus, if you aspire to maximize your success, then you should train hard and practice deliberately in areas where the genetic odds are in your favor (or where you can overlap your skills in a compelling way).
Deliberate practice is necessary for success, but it is not sufficient. The people at the top of any competitive field are both well-suited and well-trained. To maximize your potential, you need to not only engage in consistent and purposeful practice, but also to align your ambitions with your natural abilities.
Regardless of where we choose to apply ourselves, deliberate practice can help us maximize our potential—no matter what cards we were dealt. That is the magic of deliberate practice. It turns potential into reality.

Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter
  1. I first heard this story from Darin Van Tassell at Georgia Southern University, who either coached with Joe DiMaggio or knew someone who did. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the story beyond that.
  2. The Sports Gene by David Epstein. Page 40.
  3. During my research I discovered a variety of organizations that test professional athletes. A physician named Bill Harrison runs one of them. Harrison began testing athletes in the 1970s and claims that out of the thousands of baseball players he tested, Barry Bonds scored higher on visual tests than anyone else. Interestingly, these tests were conducted back in 1986, long before Bonds became the all-time leader in home runs and suffered his notorious scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs.
  4. The Sports Gene by David Epstein. Page 46.
  5. Career Advice by Scott Adams.