Finding Trust in the Youth Sports Landscape
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
—Lao Tzu, ancient philosopher and poet
People often say that they want to do something; they will talk about it for days, weeks, months, sometimes even years. But they never take that first step. Reading this is that first step.
You may not know it now, but you are a gift, and within you you’ll find life’s ultimate gift. Have you ever wondered what may have happened if you never picked up a ball? What if your parents never met? Your life, your experiences, your journey is remarkable because you live on purpose, in direct reflection of your aspirations.
We limit ourselves in everything from the goals we make to where we should go to college. We assume that other people are capable of more than we are, and that is not true. If you change your mind and consider the unlimited opportunities, you will reach goals that will surprise even you. But it comes with a price: there will be hours of constructing your skills, reviewing film, meditation, visualization, and getting stronger.
I must change your mind’s mind, because even it has its own thoughts. You may agree that shooting fifty free throws a day is good enough, or making fifty free throws is even better. But how about visualizing shooting and making fifty free throws? Close your eyes and imagine getting to the line and doing your free throw routine. Experience the texture of the ball, the way it spins in your palm. Listen for the subtle sound the ball makes as it leaves your fingertips. Now, take note of the ding of the rim or the swish of the nylon net as the ball goes through.
The same goes for ball handling. Do not absentmindedly finish stationary ball handling. I want you to visualize, then time, how fast you can efficiently complete each drill. Every drill must be this way. See, feel, and hear yourself attacking each exercise with urgency, precision, and determination as you did with your free throws. Breathe, relax, and go.
This quest is not about striving for perfection, or achieving someone else’s expectations. This is about teaching you how to tap into your inner chi -- that strong energy force within you. It is that sensation of being in the zone, when both your mind and body are in harmony. You have the power to influence your performance by meditating and visualizing. In any moment you choose, you can flip a slow start to a great finish. You can recreate each moment, yourself, and your life as you want it to be, by trusting the process.
Push yourself to the end. Do not give up on yourself.
By the end of my first year of college at Oregon State, the three other freshmen that came in with me had all transferred. I was ready to leave as well. I could have blamed my coach for not giving me more playing time, or for not giving me more chances to show I was capable. I could have said she was impossible to play for, too tough on me, or demanded too much. We spent too many hours in practice. She was crazy and too involved with my life outside of basketball. I could have gone to another program and been successful, or ended up dealing with the same issues.
The thing is, if you dislike a situation, you either run away from it or change it. And the winter of my first year, I wanted to run as far away from basketball as I could.
I called my mom, crying about the things I just mentioned and she told me, “You have always been a leader, and leaders don’t quit. You’ve never been a follower. Finish the rest of this season, and then decide what you want to do.” My mom was incredibly positive, and I was thankful because if she had not been, if she agreed with me and began making excuses for my situation as I was, I would have quit every time something got tough. That experience made me stronger.
The reason I was able to start my career at Oregon State is because of one word: Trust.
I had to trust myself, trust my coaches, and trust my parents. Right now, I’m asking you to trust me. Trust that I’m steering you down the correct route. I want the absolute best for you.
Coaches tend to use one of two different approaches to get their message across and teach the game of basketball: the positive approach and the negative approach. The positive approach focuses on rewards and praise based on your good behavior, correcting your mistakes, making the right play, hustling after a loose ball, reading the defense, boxing out, getting a rebound, etc. This is so that you continue doing these good deeds in the future.
The negative approach focuses on your continued errors. Instead of teaching and encouraging change or another way to do something, this approach justifies punishment and criticism to wade off the unwanted behaviors. It usually involves screaming and shouting, extra conditioning, push-ups, or no water break.
I have a had the pleasure of being coached by both types of coaches from the time I was nine years-old until I was twenty-five years-old. Since the day I began coaching, I have shaped more lives because of the positive approach I developed from my experience and I would train you the same way because I believe that every success has grown from a seed of trust. There is a way to blend both approaches so that every moment is a teaching one.
No matter what avenue it has come from, if you don’t have someone in your corner you can trust, know that you have me.
- What is your vision or goal?
- Is there anything stopping you from getting there? If so, what is it costing you?
- Write an experience that has made you stronger.