Let’s get one thing straight. I love the game of basketball. I always have. Since my childhood years I was drawn to the skill of shooting, and my desire to become the best basketball player I could be quickly developed into a raging fire. As a youngster I practiced everyday, working on shooting, dribbling, passing, etc. My sole love in life was the game.
And this was a mistake.
To often in our modern culture we expect ourselves and our children to give up everything for a single goal. Children are expected to stop playing other sports so they can focus on only one. In the past, kids participated many sports and other activities, I feel they benefited greatly from these varying experiences. Basically, they were allowed to be kids.
Because my priorities were singularly focused on basketball, I became obsessed with it, and nothing short of excellence on the court was good enough. As you can imagine this led to fairly unhappy life because I didn’t have any other way to value myself other than the basketball court.
It is funny, as a child and teenager I always dreamed of making a last second shot to win a game. But the few times I was in this position I failed. I didn’t have the confidence, I was anxious, and I had put all my perceived value in making the shot, which put an undue load of pressure on my shoulders.
Fast forward to being 30 years old and playing in my town’s adult recreation league. In the very first game of the season I accomplished a goal that I desperately desired all those years ago: I made a game winning three. And not just any game winning three, but a game winning three in double overtime.
And then a funnier thing happened. Halfway through the season with my team down 2 points with under 10 seconds to go I made another game winning three. Two game winners in a season! My younger self only dreamed of such glory.
Both of these shots were pure as the driven snow. Perfect release, no concern for failure, and neither bothered to touch the rim as they went through the hoop. So what changed? Why was I now able to make these clutch shots when as a teen I faltered?
It all comes down to priorities. While my teen self was singularly focused on the game of basketball, at 30 years old this just was not the case any longer. I had a home, a wife who was pregnant with our first born, and a successful business. What I valued had changed, and because I didn’t put basketball on some sort of pedestal I was able to breakthrough.
The lesson here is that if you want to succeed in basketball you need to have other interests and ways to build self-confidence off the court. Try not to tie your personal worth to how you perform. It will only make you unhappy. Instead, work hard at the game, enjoy the experience, and don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Only when you have this figured out will you be able to breakthrough in a game when it matters the most.
You can’t force your light to shine, you have to let it happen.