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Breaking Through as a Basketball Player: Tips for Getting There

February 24, 2016

You’ve been working on your shot, or a new finish at the rim, or your crossover — and it seems like you’ll never get there. Where is “there”? The next level… when everything clicks.

How do you get to that next level? It seems elusive. It can be frustrating. Here are my three keys for breaking through.

Acknowledge that this process cannot be rushed. Mastery in sports takes time. A player has to embrace the daily work that must go into mastering a skill. There’s a legendary story about John Paxson, a former GM of the Bulls and a legendary Bulls player. The story goes that he spoke at a camp and said, “I am a million times better shooter than you,” to the campers. His point was not to make fun of the campers, but to say that he had taken that many more shots in his lifetime.

How did he do it? It is in the daily approach that makes the difference. If you made 200 shots per day, five days per week, that’s 1,000 made shots. 52 weeks in a year equals 52,000 made shots. John Paxson made more than 200 per day. Great shooters are not born, they are made. And they’re made day by day, shot by shot.

Understand that competing every day to master a move or a shot, or to up your level of play, doesn’t always show instant results. As a coach, I’ve seen many players work day after day and not see much progress, but one day it clicks and they go to the next level. It is not the work that they do that one day, but the constant push they made day after day.

Steph Curry, the reigning MVP, had an amazing year last year. Most would have thought it would be a challenge to duplicate that type of year. And he isn’t duplicating it…he’s exceeding it. How? Every day he is striving and one day it clicks, his confidence goes up, and then he pushes to the next level again.

Be concerned with what you are doing day to day, not with what you have done or might do. So many times you see players that are concerned with results only: how many points they scored, how many minutes they played, what level they are playing at.

The players that break through the most consistently are concerned with the process. Working hard, being coachable, learning from mistakes, and understanding the game and where their strengths lie are all things that can be controlled on a daily basis. If you control these day by day, you will experience a break through as a player.

As a coach I love the player that just works, listens, and learns. Each year I love to see which players will have that sought-after breakthrough! This is where parents have to allow the coach and player to work together on the process. Together, they’ll make good progress.