Basketball is Psychology XVII
Basketball season feels too distant to start thinking about game days and championships.
November 1st is 200 days away.
It’s easy to be motivated when game day is a week away or you’re playing for a championship.
It’s also easy to procrastinate making progress in the offseason by going through the motions when the season seems so far away.
What’s the point of getting better if you don’t have a game to prove it in? You won’t be hoisting any trophies, you won’t break any school records, and you won’t add any wins or losses to your record any time soon. But, a form of quitting is staying where you are without improving.
Everything you want to achieve during the season is at stake in the offseason. When it’s time to perform, the time to prepare is long gone.
Basketball season is not the time to prepare for basketball season; the time to prepare is now.
The problem with the season being 200 days away is it feels like a million days away, and it’s going to be monotonous, exhausting, hard, dull work to get there.
Our brains have a hard time relating to our future selves. We tend to overestimate our future-selves’ abilities.
You have to intentionally let your future self inform your decisions, instead of letting your present self do whatever you feel like doing. More than likely when November arrives, you’ll have wished you worked harder, smarter, and more consistently. By knowing how prepared you would like to feel in November, you can make better decisions in April.
Think Big, Focus Small
We are wired for the short-term. We want everything to happen fast. We prefer instant gratification. Which is why you need a vision for the future, but you need to focus on giving your best in the moment.
It’s easy to be motivated to do things that offer instant gratification, but it takes a lot more mental effort to delay gratification.
Everyone wants to play in a sold out arena, but not everyone is willing to give the same effort in an empty gym.
The smarter approach is to take it step by step. Focus on winning the day, winning the drill, and winning the rep.
You have to think about your big ambitions for the season while you focus on each step it takes to get there. This will allow you to make decisions aligned with your ambition. Before you make small, seemingly insignificant decisions, ask yourself if it lines up with the big picture of what you want to achieve.
For example, if you want to win a championship next season, is eating McDonald’s aligned with that? Is lifting weights?
Your brain’s default while doing anything is to ask, “What am I getting out of this right now?” We’re inclined to think we should get something out of it now. The truth is, you might be doing a drill that makes you only microscopically better. You might even have days where you’re not seeing any progress at all, but patience is the name of the game.
The greats don't get bored with the basics. The offseason is about who can stand the monotonous drills the longest or who can fall in love with the process.
It does you no good to show up to workouts without being intentional about getting better.
Your brain loves mindless busywork. This manifests in the form of practicing the easy things you’re already good at, instead of working on your weaknesses and getting better at your strengths. You’re not going to reach your full potential as a basketball player until you ditch the mindless practice and embrace the discomfort that comes with getting better.
“It’s not about the number of hours you practice, it’s about the number of hours your mind is present during the practice.”
— Kobe Bryant
In the wise words of Geno Auriemma, “By the time the moment of your opportunity arrives, it’s too late to prepare.”
Now is the time to prepare, not pre-season or during the season.
There will come a time when November displays the decisions you made in the offseason. You have 200 days. Win each one, moment by moment.
Written by Julie Fournier
Founder & CEO