Basketball is Psychology XXIX
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Quitting when it gets hard is human nature. When it hurts, our brain tells us to stop.
Regardless of your level of fitness, at some point when you’ve done enough sprints, or put up enough shots, your instincts are going to tell you to quit.
It’s easy to start things. The gym is very crowded on January 1st and not so crowded on July 1st. When things get hard and there isn’t as much visible progress, most people listen to that voice telling them to quit instead of the whisper telling them to keep going.
The offseason is the same way. There aren’t game days where you can see your progress paying off. It’s monotonous strength and conditioning workouts, thousands of unseen reps on the court. It’s not very exciting or rewarding so most people quit.
Quitting doesn’t necessarily mean you hang up your high-tops and decide to stop playing basketball. Another form of quitting is dialing back your level of commitment, exerting less effort, taking it easy, and ceasing to move forward.
The beginning is different. When the offseason first began, the progress was a little more evident, it was interesting and exciting, until the progress slowed, the excitement lessened, it got frustrating, practice got a lot harder- you hit the dip.
Author Seth Godin, defines the dip as the long slow slog between starter and mastery.
There are only 2 ways through the dip.
Quit. You can quit and waste everything you’ve invested, never see the results you were working towards.
Push through. You can keep going, even when it gets hard, knowing that it will pay off in great dividends if you lean in to the dip.
July is the dip. The season ended several months ago, and there are still several months until a new season begins. Right now, you have a choice. You can A) let up a little, spend less time and energy working on your game, or B) you can get ahead of everyone opting for plan a.
If you have ever been to a tryout, you know what the dip is. It’s that hard drill or the tough conditioning test designed to weed out those who don’t really want to be on the team. It is designed to make you want to quit.
The dip is a system put into place to separate mediocre players from great players. There are lots of dips. The offseason is one big dip made up of a series of smaller dips. Once you are able to recognize the dips, you can see them for the opportunities they provide so you can work through them with the right mindset.
About halfway through any lift, practice, or drill, there comes a moment when it gets hard and frustrating, you don’t see any results and it would be easier to go through the motions; that is the dip. If you can make the choice to go even harder for a little longer in those moments, you will see big rewards.
It can be tempting to invest less time and energy whenever it gets hard, but if you keep going, you will soon see dramatic pay off.
Becoming A Shooter Is A Dip
Once upon a time, there was a 5’6 125 pound high school sophomore who had dreams of playing basketball in college. He lacked strength, so he still shot the ball from his waist.
His dad told him that if he wanted to play in college, he would need to get his shot up above his head.
He worked on it all summer. He had to completely relearn how to shoot. It was a dip, a difficult endeavor that included lack of immediate results and the desire to quit.
It was so difficult that his brother remembers how hard that summer was just to witness, “It was tough for me to watch them in the backyard, late nights, a lot of hours on the day working on his shot. They broke it down to a point where he couldn’t even shoot at all. He would be back there at times crying, not wanting to work on his game. He had to do it rep after rep after rep to a point where he was able to master it.”
The undersized sophomore is named Stephen Curry and he’s widely known as the greatest shooter basketball has ever seen.
What if, while he was crying in his backyard, he would’ve quit? Basketball wouldn’t be the same today.
There were thousands who probably lacked strength and tried to adjust their shot, the only difference is when they got to the dip, they quit.
Steph was not born a great shooter, he became the best shooter by enduring the dip. A lot of basketball players are not willing to entirely change their shot and then shoot a ton of reps, which is why there’s only 1 Steph Curry, but it’s also why he’s so valuable.
If becoming a shooter was easy, if there was no dip, the NBA would be full of shooters with more size and strength than Steph and he wouldn’t have a job. But because becoming a shooter is so hard that most quit in the dip, great shooters are scarce and so much more valuable.
This is why Ben Simmons, whose only weakness is shooting, was taken #1 in the draft. Anyone can become a shooter, it’s just a matter of practice and going through the dip.
They said the same thing about Kawhi Leonard, the reigning NBA Finals MVP. Kawhi shot 25% from 3 at San Diego State. But Kawhi, who has a reputation for a tireless work ethic, worked on his shot. He worked through the dip to become a great shooter, and as a result, he is shooting over 38% in his NBA career.
It’s never a matter of who was born with a jump shot, no one was, but whoever can get through the dip can become a shooter, only few are willing.
The difference between a mediocre player and a great player isn’t natural talent; it’s their ability to push through the times when everyone else gives up.
Becoming a shooter is a very steep dip, which means it’s extremely challenging but also extremely rewarding.
The Dip is Your Greatest Ally
The dip is the best thing that could possibly happen because it gives you a chance to separate yourself.
The dip is the secret to success because while most will give in to the urge to let up, you will push harder- all the greats do. Anytime practice gets hard, you should be happy about it; it means you're about to pull ahead. The more you lean into the dips, the more you separate yourself, and the harder it will be for your competition to catch up.
You have to see all adversity as an opportunity to pull ahead because most people see it as an invitation to quit. The harder it gets, the better chance you have of separating yourself from everyone else.
So when you’re on your 12th sprint in practice, everyone else will start thinking about how tired they are, how bad their legs hurt, and they will stop or slow down. If you want to be the best, you’ll love the 12th sprint. Because while everyone else is making the emotional decision to quit, you recognize this is just another dip, and you’ll push harder.
When the season comes, it will be obvious who embraced the dips and who gave in to the urge to quit. The games also come with a series of dips; when you’re down by 20, when the game goes to double overtime, or when the refs are making terrible calls. When most would be tempted to give up or ease up, it’s a dip you must push through.
All the great players don’t just buckle down and grit their teeth to get through the dip, they see the opportunity the dip provides so they lean in and embrace the challenge of the dip.
You will see extraordinary results if you can keep going through the dip, if you quit you’ll be average.
Clarify your vision
No one quits a marathon on mile 25 or mile 1, most quit around mile 20. The beginning is exciting and the end is exhilarating, but the middle is where the race is won or lost and where you find out what you’re made of. You have to always be thinking about the vision you have for the future to keep you focused. The clearer the vision, the greater the quality of work.
Written by Julie Fournier
Godin, S. (2007). The dip: A little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick). New York: Portfolio.