Sunday, 27 November 2016

What's a Parent to Do? An Article by Kate Hays

This is an article from a Psychologist named Kate Hays about helping kids with their performances.  I had the opportunity to listen to her speak a few weeks ago and it was outstanding.  I was looking through some of her resources and came across this article so I wanted to share this information with you as I find her insights amazing.  She works with dancers, singers and athletes helping them to achieve their peak performance in high pressure situations. Kate’s website and information is listed at the very bottom of this article.  

What’s a Parent to Do?  The Advice Edge 
Constructive Ways to Give your Kids Performance Advice
By: Kate Hays Ph. D. 

Scene: the year-end recital at a music school. Nine year old Sarah (as I’ll call her) steps onto the stage and walks over to the piano. With worry in her eyes, she scans the audience of eager parents and friends, then turns back to the piano. Hesitantly, she starts her piece, pauses…and starts again. She stumbles through to the end and walks from the stage, head down.

As families later stream out of the music school, Stan, her father—newly arrived in town as principal of a prestigious school—hisses at her: “You have shamed me; you have shamed the school.”

True story….I was one of those leaving the music school at that moment and overheard his comment.
It’s a pretty dramatic example of how not to give your kid feedback. It does, though, illustrate aspects of what we all do: We identify with our child’s performance and we communicate with them at the first possible moment.

Who’s performing?
We care—passionately—about how our kid is performing. That identification is great—our child matters to us more than any other child. But: a central aspect of helping our kids become their own people is to differentiate between ourselves and them. That task is our job, not theirs.

Stan may have always wished to play the piano; he may have messed up some of his performances; he’s no doubt really uptight about his new role. That’s his stuff to deal with—not to lay on Sarah.

Sometimes as parents we lose sight of the fact that our children are just that: children. They have their own reasons for engaging in this performance area. What they need from us is systematic support to help them continue this learning process and to recognize their accomplishment.

While the end of year recital or final game of the season may be the most dramatic moment for assessing kids’ accomplishments, some approaches can be useful for any game or practice.

And as far as that goes, we adults can apply these lessons to our own performance, too.

Two things are vital to this review: timing and content.

When do you review a performance?

Right after a performance, people are filled with emotion. Being human, we tend to focus on what went wrong, what we flubbed…or just the feeling of relief that it’s all over. Because this is a time of heightened feeling, it’s exactly the wrong time to attempt any rational assessment.

When I ask kids what they’d like to do on that ride home from a game, or just after a performance, they tend to say: I want to listen to music. Text a friend. Stare out the window and think about nothing. Go for an ice cream. 

What happens instead? Typically, parents assume this is the teachable moment, the time to tell their kid what they did wrong and what they should do to fix it.

How about a different approach?

I recommend that you and your child develop a plan ahead of time for when to review their performance. Over and over, I hear kids look for a break before this discussion, whether it’s two hours or the next day. When kids and parents can agree on a time to review, everyone’s much happier—and the opportunity for constructive learning is markedly increased.

What do you talk about? The 3 Questions

Here are three questions that parents can discuss with their kids. These questions help people reflect and learn from the activity. They give direction for future action. They’re good questions for discussion between child and parent.
  1. What went well?

    2.   What did I learn—or re-learn?

    3.   What do I want to do differently next time?

Some people find it helpful to write down the responses, so that the learning can become cumulative.

These ideas apply, whether it’s end of season or the middle of things, whether you’re a kid or an adult, and regardless of your area of performance.

For some additional—overlapping but not the same—thoughts about end of season reflections and opportunities, check out a recent blog by colleague Dr. Jim Taylor @

For some additional ideas about parents and kids in sports—but applicable to any other performance realm, a couple of books are standouts in my mind:

The Cheers and the Tears by Dr. Shane Murphy
Parenting Young Athletes by Frank Smoll and Ronald E. Smith
For a well-written memoir about the struggle to handle stage fright as a pianist, Playing Scared by Sarah Solovitch

And as always, if you’ve got thoughts or questions you’d like to direct to me, feel free to contact me @

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Profile of an Amazing Coach - Lisa Thomaidis

Lisa Thomaidis is the Coach for the Canadian Women's National Team and she had an incredible year this year. I thought I would highlight her as I read an interesting article about her this week.  I really like what a powerful and successful coach she is. Some of the tactics and ideas are really perspective changing like the way she structures her timeouts.  Most players are on the bench and the coach is in front of them facing them directly and providing direction.  Coach Thomaidis angles her chair so that she is sitting beside her players to provide feedback and guidance.  It gives the perspective that we are in this together instead of the way other coaches typically handle time outs where they are at the helm.  To me it makes the circle much more inclusive in a way because of the room it opens up for other players to be able to see what she is talking about. Her back is only to a couple of players rather than all of them except for the five players in front of her.  It is a small change that can really shifted my perspective in terms of thinking about a different way to do a very common basketball things.  She looks like the hub of the wheel in a way which is a much more inspiring and collaborative leadership style. Given her success with her teams it seems to be working. 


Huskies Head Coach Has Year for the Ages 

by Scott Larson 
Sasktoon Starphoenix 

Lisa Thomaidis will have a very hard time repeating the success she has enjoyed over the past year or so.

The Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team’s head coach, who carries the same title with Canada’s national team, piled one success on top of another.
Thomaidis started by guiding the national team to a Pan Am Games gold medal where they went 5-0. She followed that up with Team Canada winning the 2015 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship in Edmonton (again going undefeated,) which also qualified the team for the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

Then she spent a historic season with the Huskies who won their first-ever CIS national title this past March, downing the Ryerson University Rams 85-71 in the final.

Then it was back with Team Canada at the Rio Olympics this summer, where they made it to the quarter-finals before bowing out to France.

“It has been a whirlwind,” said Thomaidis, whose Huskies played their home-opener Friday night against Winnipeg. “It was one highlight after another. All I can do is sit back and feel so fortunate and grateful to have had all of these opportunities … Once in a lifetime experiences. I don’t think it is possible to top that.”

Thomaidis says the national team’s success has given them some well-deserved attention.

But, that success didn’t come overnight. It was a four-year build off the 2012 London Olympics.

And the same can be said for the Huskies run toward a national championship.

“We knew from the get-go that we had the talent to be able to do it, but so much has to go your way,” said Thomaidis, who is in her 17th year as the Huskies head coach.

“You can have the talent, but so many more things have to come together for you — you have to stay injury-free, you have to be playing well at the right time — to see all that come to fruition.”

She was especially happy for the veterans, who had put so much time into making the Huskies the best team in the country.

“To see someone like Dalyce (Emmerson, who is third all-time in Huskie points) finish off her career like that. She has a special place in my heart, in what she was able to accomplish here at the U of S. And someone like a Laura Dally (a transfer from Western), who took a chance on us and moved halfway across the country to join our team and have a shot at a national championship, and to do it.

“And then getting an email from Sabine (Dukate from Latvia who asked to join the team) and all of a sudden she becomes our starting point guard and a huge piece of the puzzle.”

Dukate is the Huskies’ only returning starter, as they begin a new chapter in their history.  And that suits Thomaidis just fine. 

“It was probably good to have so many highlights last year, winning the national championship and then with the Olympic team. It seemed like it was a natural end point,” says Thomaidis. “It was the end of a (four-year cycle) with the national team, it was the end of an era with the Huskie team. And now we are starting something new.

“Coming into this year I actually felt quite rejuvenated. Anytime you get a chance to start from scratch with a group of young players; help mold them and build a new team with a very different look. To see if you can do it all over again with different personnel.”

That challenge has helped take away any Olympic hangover she may have had coming into this season.

“I was tired by the end of (the Olympics), but coming here and seeing a bunch of new faces and new prospects helped me get over that post-Olympic depression or letdown that they talk about.”

She looks at her young squad as underdogs this season, but know other teams still see them as national champions.

“Even though this is a very different team than last year, we still have that S on our chests,” she said. “We have had a very good run over the last four to five years … so everyone is going to get up to play us.”

The Huskies resume their two-game set with Winnipeg Saturday at 6:15 p.m. (the men play at 8 p.m.).

Their national-championship banner raising goes next weekend, when they host the Brandon Bobcats.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Improbable Path: Jonathon Simmons’ Rise

I love the San Antonio Spurs!  One of the things I like the most is how they  seem to find and develop incredible players that really make an impact on their team.  The Spurs coaching staff find 'diamonds in the rough’ and make them into incredible players.  Many coaches go for the sure thing and the Spurs do that as well. However, what they have done over time is given athletes the opportunity to continue to grow, evolve and move up.  They find athletes that may not get much of a look on other teams and as they work with the system they end up thriving. This has definitely been the case Jonathon Simmons’ over time.  A few years ago he was part of the D-League and Summer League team associated with the Spurs. Now he has climbed his way up to being on the Spurs team and has had a couple of really great games so far.  I wanted to share an article that Lorne Chan wrote just to give some perspective on his path.  

Improbable Path: Jonathon Simmons’ Rise 

 By: Lorne Chan

When Jonathon Simmons walked into an Austin gym three years ago, he was one of 60 guys refusing to give up on a dream.

The Austin Toros held an open tryout at Concordia University in September 2013, where the requirements were a $150 registration fee and an accurate size for a souvenir jersey.

Some in attendance had pro experience, while others played their most competitive games in a neighbor’s driveway. Simmons was a relative unknown, with a resume that contained one season of Division I basketball and a few semi-pro games.

The open tryout is a place where everybody has been told no before. They are participants who have been told at some point that they might be better off giving up on basketball. 

They find themselves at a D-League open tryout because they refuse to believe what they’ve been told.

 “I try to focus on moving forward, but I still think back to that tryout all the time,” Simmons said. “Walking in with all those guys, trying to figure out a way to stand out.”

Three years later, Simmons is a 26-year-old NBA rookie for the Spurs. He heard a chant from the crowd in Milwaukee during a January game:

“Who Are You? Who Are You?”

Simmons responded with a career-high 18 points.

Spurs fans have gotten to know Simmons this season as a key member of the “Juice Unit,” the Silver & Black reserves who make up one of the best benches in the NBA.

A 6-foot-6 guard, he’s averaging 5.7 points per game with an array of high-flying highlights as he nears the end of his rookie season. His improbable path from an unknown at an open tryout to the NBA may be the ultimate leap.

A year ago, Simmons was scraping by to earn diaper money for his children. Now, Simmons has an NBA contract and the NBA per diem alone –money players receive for meals on the road – is more than he made playing basketball before this season. 

“I still can’t believe this,” said his mother, LaTonya Simmons. “This is one of those stories you see in a movie, but this is not somebody else’s story. I’m looking at the TV, and that is my child on the screen.”

Count LaTonya among those who weren’t sure about her son’s basketball future.

She saw him toil in 2012-13 with the Sugar Land Legends, a suburban semi-pro team in Houston. He’d score 30 or 40 points a game, but in front of sparse crowds for little or no pay. With nobody watching, calls weren’t coming in for Simmons to further his career.

LaTonya had a fallback career in mind for him. As a barber.

“He’s pretty good at cutting hair, and he would have built up a nice clientele,” LaTonya said. “I told him a few times in the offseason he should think about getting his barber’s license. Basketball turns out to be better than cutting hair.”

A tryout in Austin might have been Simmons’ last shot at pro basketball. With daughters to support at home, the barber’s chair was the viable option. Simmons was closer to holding clippers than facing the Clippers.

Tryouts are a key part of building a roster for the now-Austin Spurs. The entire coaching staff runs participants through six hours of drills, with San Antonio Spurs scouts and staff members in attendance as well. According to Brian Pauga, the Austin Spurs’ general manager and San Antonio Spurs’ director of scouting, it only took a few minutes to see that Simmons was “head and shoulders” above everybody else trying out.

“We saw an athlete who could really finish plays,” Pauga said. “He clearly had so much talent, but the work he put in since that day is why he is where he is now.”

Simmons was a raw talent at the tryout, having bounced around at two junior colleges and the University of Houston. He grew up in Houston’s northeast side, attending what was then called M.B. Smiley High. 

Simmons went to class enough to stay eligible for basketball, but there was little else for motivation at Smiley.

During Simmons’ senior year in 2007-08, a Johns Hopkins study labeled Smiley as a “dropout factory,” a school where at least 40 percent of a freshman class doesn’t get to their senior year.

Smiley was rated “academically unacceptable” by the Texas Education Agency, and it’s school district, North Forest, recorded an average SAT score - 748 out of 1600 – that was one of the worst in Texas.

In 2013, the TEA shut down North Forest ISD, and the Houston ISD absorbed the entire school  district.

“Jonathon was a good kid,” LaTonya said, “But there aren’t many kids in this neighborhood who are given a chance. He always had a dream of the NBA, but you got the feeling that it might be unreachable.”

LaTonya was doing all that she could to raise her four kids; Jonathon, the oldest, his younger brother and two sisters. LaTonya has worked at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport for almost 20 years now, doing everything from working at check-in to taking boarding passes for United Airlines. She sent tens of thousands of people off on their dream vacations, without taking a trip of her own. 

Raising four children on her own, LaTonya didn’t have any time or money for a vacation. Working shifts that bled into dinnertime, LaTonya would take the four kids to McDonald’s, where they had their choice of $3 worth of items off the Dollar Menu.

“I still like the Dollar Menu though, no matter how much I’m making,” Jonathon said.

LaTonya is still working at the airport, where she’s added a mini-Spurs ball to the antennae of her walkie-talkie. She said strangers come up to her every day talking about her son. 

“Some people will just yell ‘Go Spurs Go!’ from down the hall,” LaTonya said. “Whenever I get that, and I tell my son’s story, it makes you think about how many people work their whole lives for goals, but they get so close and it seems so far. Jonathon had obstacles and setbacks, but he stayed focused.”​

Jonathon graduated from Smiley and attended junior colleges – one year at Paris Junior College and two years at Midland JC – as he worked toward qualifying for a Division I school. 

Staying close to home, he attended the University of Houston for his junior season. He led the Cougars in scoring, averaging 14.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.

Rather than return for his senior season, Simmons opted to enter into the 2012 NBA Draft. 

Houston coach Wayne Dickey said he advised against it, but Simmons was determined to declare.

He had another motivating factor: providing for his three daughters.

Simmons believed he was ready and had a chance to support his children. Others weren’t so sure.

"I didn’t want him to fall into the category of a guy who should have made it,” said Dickey, who is now an assistant at Oklahoma State. “We all loved coaching him. His heart was always in the right place, and he always wanted to do what’s best. But we didn’t know what was going to happen.“

Simmons went undrafted and was without a backup plan. He said he didn’t know about his D-League or overseas basketball options at the time.

“That was maybe the time that I really doubted myself the most,” he said. “I was seeing guys that I played against in college get drafted and go to Summer League, and I had nothing. I felt like I could have played at that level back then, but I had no options.”

Simmons took the first paying gig he could find playing basketball, and it was with the semi-pro  Sugar Land Legends. 

He was easily the best player on the floor, but playing in high school gyms, Simmons realized how far from the NBA he was.

He needed any sort of way to stand in front of a professional coach and show what he had to offer. There happened to be a team in Austin taking a look at all comers.

The Austin Spurs have signed players out of open tryouts before. Forward Eric Dawson, who grew up a couple of miles away from the AT&T Center, spent parts of four seasons in Austin and earned a 10-day contract with the San Antonio Spurs in 2012. Wing Terrance Woodbury and guard Devondrick Walker have also turned their tryouts into Austin Spurs contracts.

With Simmons, Austin coaches knew he had the potential to be the best player they had seen in a tryout. Now, they had to get to work.

“The D-League really lights a fire under you,” said Spurs guard Danny Green, one of five players on the team with D-League experience. “You see what it takes to make it to the NBA and how many great players in the D-League are next to you gunning for those same spots. A lot of guys should experience that.”

Before he arrived in Austin, Simmons had never spent more than one season in any system.

“He used to just put his head down and try to jump over you, and that’s just not life in the NBA,” said Austin Spurs coach Ken McDonald. “When he learned to see the floor in our system, from there he took off.”

Austin Spurs coaches sit down with players at the beginning of each season, and map out a list of goals, working on strengths and weaknesses. For Simmons, defense and outside shooting were underlined.

He averaged 10 points a game for Austin in 2013-14, and his first season in the D-League opened up some options overseas as well. Simmons decided to stay in Austin for another year, because he didn’t want to be an ocean away from his family, which now included four daughters. 

 “When you’re evaluating players, you’re also evaluating their character,” Austin Spurs coach Ken McDonald said. “In our notes on Jonathon, we made sure to put that whenever he had some spare time on the road, he was on FaceTime with his daughters.”

As Simmons returned to Houston for another offseason, the doubts began to creep back. Nights in Bakersfield and Boise wore him down and the NBA calls hadn’t come yet. 

“I tried to limit doubt as much as possible,” Simmons said. “You have to try to stay positive and go from there. Coaches kept telling me that I had to have faith.”

In his second Austin season, 2014-15, Simmons reached those underlined goals. His work ethic was second to none, and his 3-point percentage jumped from .284 (25 of 88) in his first season to .398  (51 of 128). He was named to the D-League All-Defensive Third Team.

But Simmons watched as teammates JaMychal Green, Bryce Cotton and Jarell Eddie all received call-ups, and he didn’t. Simmons said he was proud of his teammates at the time, but the situation was even difficult for McDonald to handle.

“All these guys around him are leaving the nest, and we don’t understand why he isn’t getting called up either,” McDonald said. “He was doing all the right things. But we had to just preach to him that he was right there.”

The call finally came in July 2015, while Simmons was on the bus with Brooklyn’s summer league team. His agent called to tell him the Spurs were prepared to offer his first NBA contract.

The dream once thought as unreachable was now a reality. Simmons would never have to think about being a barber again. He won’t have to worry about scrounging money for diapers.

“It’s surreal and also humbling at the same time,” Simmons said. “The process was a grind, and I don’t take any part of it for granted. It was a humbling experience, and now I enjoy this part even more.”

One of his first calls was to LaTonya, who said she spent the entire night in shock. Simmons joined  the Spurs’ Summer League team in Las Vegas and celebrated with a championship game MVP trophy as the Spurs won the tournament.

Simmons said he feels his journey is just beginning. He’s still an NBA rookie, after all. He’s scored in double figures eight times this season, providing a valuable jolt of energy off the bench.

“He just dives into the game, and he competes,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s really got great athletic skills, and he’s a quick learner, a good worker. So he’s got a chance to be a long-time player in the league if he pays attention and sticks to it.”

Going from an open tryout to the NBA, there’s one part of his new life Simmons is still trying to grasp. He often runs into people on the street who tell him he’s an inspiration.

Simmons thought of himself as a guy grinding away, who took the long way to his professional dream. He was a guy trying to support his four children. 

He never thought about what people would think when he made it. 

“People say it’s inspiring, but I still don’t see it,” he said. “I just had to work a little harder than others.”

In February, LaTonya Simmons was on the other side of the airport counter. After 18 years of long shifts to provide for her four kids, she flew to Los Angeles for a quick vacation. 

She did a little sightseeing before she went to the Staples Center, where her son faced the Clippers.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Ray Allen's Letter to My Younger Self

After not playing in the NBA for the last 2 years Ray Allen officially retired.  He published this letter to his 13-year-old self as a way to reflect back on his journey over the last couple of decades.  Ever since reading his message earlier this week  I got thinking his article really captures the essence of basketball at a high level.  When players first start playing it's to be around friends or they think it's fun.  There is so much positivity to it.  However, when you get out of high school there is a different motivation especially when people's jobs depend on the outcome of their teams.  If you don't have a rock solid foundation in your love for the game or you aren't sure how to protect it from other people who can really shake its foundation the game becomes a lot more complicated.  Some players really love the idea of playing in the NBA. However, when it comes down to the work involved, the competition or how many obstacles you have to get through to be at that level other choices often become a lot more appealing. Over the years I have really enjoyed watching Ray Allen play and he will certainly be held in very high esteem.  Here what he had to say: 

Dear 13-year-old Ray,
When you get off the school bus tomorrow, you’re going to be in a whole new world. This is nothing new. Every time your father gets stationed at a new Air Force base, you have to say goodbye to your friends and start a new life. It’s the same routine once every three years or so. New school, new culture, new faces. 
Northern California. Then Germany. Then Oklahoma. Then England. Then Southern California. 
And now, Dalzell, South Carolina. 
You’re used to being the kid that nobody knows. The majority of your existence has been about trying to find new friends, trying to show people that you’re a good person and that you mean no harm. You’re used to being an outsider.
You’ve gotten pretty good at it. 
This time is different though. It’s the middle of the school year. Everybody already knows one another. You’re at a critical age, and kids are just.… 
Kids are just mean. 
You’ve grown up in a military household your whole life. Until now, your friends were all from military families. You walked around the neighborhood with your I.D. card hanging around your neck like a dog tag in case some unfamiliar MPs rolled by. You spent your formative elementary school years in Britain. So you don’t even realize it, but to some people, you speak very proper. 
When you step off that school bus in South Carolina tomorrow and open your mouth, those kids are going to look at you like you’re an alien. 
“You talk like a white boy,” they’ll say.
You’ll look around the school and see groups of kids all paired off, and you’ll feel like you don’t have a place. 
You’ll think to yourself, I don’t understand. Who am I supposed to be? 
I’m going to be 100% honest with you. I wish I could tell you that it will get easier, and that you’re going to blend in, and that it’s going to be alright. But you’re not going to fit in with the white kids, or the black kids … or the nerds … or even the jocks.
“You talk like a white boy,” they’ll say.
You’ll be the enemy to a lot of people simply because you’re not from around there.
This will be both the toughest and the best thing that will ever happen to you.
What I want you to do is this: Go to the basketball court. Stay at the basketball court. You can build your entire existence there. 
The world is much bigger than Dalzell, South Carolina. If you stick to the plan, you’ll see. Remember that when when you’re lying in bed on Saturday and Sunday mornings and you hear the engine of your father’s old Trans-Van start up outside. 
You know that sound. It’s not pretty. 
All you’ll want to do is sleep, but grab your sneakers and run down the stairs because he will leave you. You have exactly two minutes before the heat kicks on in the van and he’s backing out of the driveway. He’s on military time, and if you don’t get to the Air Force base court by 0900 on the dot to put your name at the top of the sign-up sheet, you’re going to have to wait around all day to get a run in. 
You’ll learn a lot on that court. As a 13-year-old kid playing against grown men, you’ll learn to play in transition out of necessity. You’ll play so fast that all the airmen will start calling you “Showtime” when you walk into the gym. 
In between games, when you’re on the sidelines, I want you to listen very carefully to all the stories these guys tell. 
You’re going to hear a lot of, “Man, I coulda …” on these courts. 
Man, I wish I could go back in time. 
I’d have gone D-I. 
Booze got the best of me. 
Man, I coulda.… 
Man, I shoulda.… 
I wish I could go back, young fella.…
Don’t ever put yourself in the position to wish you could hop in a time machine, Ray. You need to stay focused, because things will only become more complicated as you have more success on the court.
When you start getting attention from colleges, some of your own teammates will say things like, “UConn? You’ll sit on the bench for four years.” 
Just because you don’t drink, they’ll say, “Man, you’re gonna be an alcoholic once you get to college. You won’t be ready. All they do is drink there.” 
A lot of people don’t want to see you succeed. Don’t get into fistfights with these kids. Trust me, it will accomplish nothing. 
Instead, remember exactly who said those things. 
Remember how they said it. 
Remember their faces. 
Keep these voices inside your head and use them as fuel every single day when you wake up. 
And the voices telling you you’re the man? Those are the voices to keep out. When you start getting some national attention in high school, you’ll hear things like, “Ray’s jumpshot is God-given.” 
Listen: God doesn’t care whether or not you make your next jump shot. 
God will give you a lot of things in life, but he’s not going to give you your jump shot. Only hard work will do that. 
Don’t be so naive as to think you’re ready for college ball. 
Young fella, you’re not ready. 
In high school, you might think you understand what it takes to be a great basketball player, but you will truly have no idea. When you get to UConn, your coach will show you what hard work really is. 
His name is Jim Calhoun. Don’t get on this man’s shit list.
When you walk into the gym for that first practice, get ready for hell on wheels. You’re going to be all excited to put on your Huskies gear and start shooting around. But then Coach Calhoun is going to flip the script.
“Freshmen!” he’ll say. “You think you deserve to wear this uniform? You don’t deserve the privilege. Not yet.” 
“I want to see some sweat,” Coach will say. 
Up until that very moment, you’ll think basketball is all about going out and putting up some jump shots and showing your skill. 
When you get put through Coach Calhoun’s first practice you’ll realize, Oh, this game is a sonofabitch. 
You will be put through the hardest workout of your life. You’ll be gasping for air, hunched over. But the thing is, the gym in Storrs is air conditioned. Your body is used to playing in the sweatbox gyms in South Carolina, where there’s no air conditioning. 
At the end of the practice, coach Calhoun is going to line everybody up and walk down the line, looking at every player. 
When he gets to you, he’ll look down at your shirt. There will be a single bead of sweat trickling down your Adam’s apple. 
He’ll  look at you. Then he’ll look at the little bead of sweat. Then he’ll look back at you. 
“That’s it? I guess we didn’t work you hard enough, Allen.” 
The next practice is going to be even tougher. 
This man is going to damn near break you, but he’s going to make you a much better player and person. This will be your introduction to what it really takes to be great. 
A few days later, you’re going to have one of the most memorable moments of your life. You’re going to wake up at 5:30 a.m. and go to the weight room to get your workout in, and then you’ll come back to the dorm and shower before class. 
You’ll put on a shirt and tie, throw your backpack over your shoulder and walk across campus to your first class of the day. 
It’s early, so it’s still quiet. The leaves are crunching under your feet. You’re sore, but your clothes are on point. You got your work in. You’re prepared. You have a purpose. 
I don’t know what it is about this moment in particular, but as you’re walking, you’ll think, Wow. I’m a college student. No matter what happens at the end of this tunnel, I’m going to make my family proud. 
When you get to your public-speaking class and sit down, this girl will turn to you and say, “Hey, why are you so dressed up?”
You’ll say, “Because I can.”
In that moment, it will feel like you have conquered the world. 
I could end this letter right here, and you would still probably be excited about what you are going to accomplish in life. But you still have an 18-year NBA career ahead of you. 
How do I sum up nearly two decades in the NBA? What do you really need to know? What’s truly important?
You’ll get to play against your heroes: Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler. 
You’ll play alongside Hall of Famers: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade. 
Sometimes you’ll be afraid. 
Sometimes you’ll think you’re out of your league. 
But you’ll keep showing up every day, putting in the work. 
You’ll put up more than 26,000 shots in your career. Almost six out of 10 won’t even go in. I told you this game was a sonofabitch. 
Don’t worry, though. A successful man is built of 1,000 failures. Or in your case, 14,000 misses. 
You’ll win a championship in Boston. 
You’ll win another in Miami. 
The personalities on those two teams will be different, but both teams will have the same thing in common: habits. 
Boring old habits. 
I know you want me to let you in on some big secret to success in the NBA. 
The secret is there is no secret. 
It’s just boring old habits.
In every locker room you’ll ever be in, everybody will say all the right things. Everybody says they’re willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to win a title. But this game isn’t a movie. It’s not about being the man in the fourth quarter. It’s not about talk. It’s getting in your work every single day, when nobody is watching.
Listen: God doesn’t care whether or not you make your next jump shot.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade. The men who you are going to win championships with are all going to be very different people. What makes them champions is the boring old habits that nobody sees. They compete to see who can be the first to get to the gym and the last to leave.
Your peers who think this is a cliché, or who think this doesn’t apply to them because they have God-given talent, will play their whole careers without winning an NBA title. 
But I want you to understand something deeper. The championships are not the point. 
Yes, there will be a sense of validation and vindication when you raise the trophy above your head, remembering everyone who ever said you wouldn’t amount to anything. 
Four-year benchwarmer. 
White boy. 
But if I’m being real with you, what you’ll realize after you win the first title is that the thrill is fleeting. The vindication is fleeting. If you only chase that high, you’re going to end up very depressed. 
The championships are almost secondary to the feeling you’ll get from waking up every morning and putting in the work. The championships are like when you were sitting in class at UConn with your shirt and tie on. They’re just the culmination.
Your winding path to those moments, just like your walk across campus on that quiet fall morning in Connecticut, is where you will find happiness. 
I really mean it from the bottom of my heart: Life is about the journey, not the destination. And that journey will change you as a person. 
Let me tell you one final story that may help you understand what I mean. 
It’s the early morning hours of June 21, 2013. You’re 38 years old, and just a few hours ago you won Game 7 of the NBA Finals with the Miami Heat. 
You are an NBA champion for the second time.
You lay down in bed at about five in the morning, but you just can’t sleep. Finally, around seven o’clock, you give up on sleep and creep downstairs. All your friends and family have come over to your house to celebrate — they’re all passed out on couches, sound asleep. You tiptoe around them on the way to the kitchen to make some breakfast. The sun is coming up, the house is quiet. You have achieved exactly what you set out to do. But you’re still restless. 
So why do you feel this way? Isn’t this what you worked so hard for?
Around 7:30, you get into your car and go for a drive. 
You park your car in front of a white office building. They’re just opening up. 
When you walk in the door, the receptionist looks at you and says, “Ray? What … what are you doing here?” 
“I couldn’t sleep.” 
“But … you just won the title.” 
“Yeah, I just wanted to get out of the house.” 
“But … it’s eight in the morning. And you just won the title.” 
“Well, I still got some work to be done on this tooth. Is he in?” 
Your dentist walks out of his office. 
“Ray? What are you … what?” 
“Couldn’t sleep.” 
This is what success looks like for you. You’re the kind of guy who goes to the dentist the morning after winning an NBA title. 
I know, man. 
I know. 
But in order to achieve your dreams, you will become a different kind of person. You’ll become a bit obsessive about your routine. This will come at a heavy cost to some of your friends and family. 
Most nights, you won’t go out. Your friends will ask why. You won’t drink alcohol, ever. People will look at you funny. When you get to the NBA, you won’t always play cards with the boys. Some people will assume you’re not being a good teammate. You’ll even have to put your family on the back-burner for your job.
Most of the time, you will be alone.
That won’t make you the most popular person. Some people simply won’t understand. Is the cost worth it? 
Only you can answer that. 
Who am I supposed to be? 
Tomorrow when you get off that school bus in South Carolina, you’ll have to choose. 
Every day for the rest of your life, you’ll have to choose. 
Do you want to fit in, or do you want to embark on the lonely pursuit of greatness? 
I write this to you today as a 41-year-old man who is retiring from the game. I write to you as a man who is completely at peace with himself. 
The hell you experience when you get off that bus will be temporary. Basketball will take you far away from that school yard. You will become far more than just a basketball player. You’ll get to act in movies. You’ll travel the world. You will become a husband, and the father of five amazing children. 
Now, the most important question in your life isn’t, “Who am I supposed to be?” or even, “What do I have to do to win another championship?”
It’s, “Daddy, guess what happened in math class today?”
That’s the reward that awaits you at the end of your journey. 
Go to the court. Stay at the court. 
Get your work in, young fella. 

Most people will never really get to know the real you. But they’ll know your work.