The best weapon you have to keep you excited about your sport, to keep you committed to improving and striving for achievement, is your imagination.
Most every athlete has a vivid imagination. Most of us think often of what it will be like standing in the winner’s circle, or on the winner’s platform, or cutting down a net, being carried off a field, standing at a microphone, being interviewed on national TV. Having a vivid imagination not only helps get you through difficult practices and lonely sessions aimed at improving your skills, it also keeps you energized and on course.
The better your imagination, and the more you work to improve it, the better chance you have of reaching your goals in sports.
Everyone has imagination and everyone can stand to be even more imaginative. Spend time, therefore, on improving your imagination as well as your skills. The better your imagination gets, the better your skills will get because the more you can energize your practice sessions, the more you will get out of them.
You have to use your imagination in whatever way works best for you, but you also ought to try to get your imagination to work for you in ways it may not be doing right now. Let me give just one example.
At the end of each day, back when I was an aspiring athlete committed to out-working every possible competitor in the nation, I finally would be ready to go home and go to sleep. I had done the day’s quota and put forth all the effort I could. Then it was time to kick in my imagination.
Before going, why not make one more violent fake, followed by a crossover step? One last, effort-filled attempt to perfect a maneuver I hoped some day would enable me to fake out and pass by the best defenders in the nation. So, I muster my remaining energy, make the move, score the point. And go home?
Wait. Imagine, at just that moment, on my way off the now-darkened court, a classmate drove past and said “Hey, can I see that move again?” How difficult could that be? Surely I could muster the energy to show a move to a classmate. So, one more time. Make the move, score the point. Grab the ball and begin to walk off the court.
Wait. Imagine one of the girls in my class driving by. (One of the cute girls. One of the ones I always hoped would be interested in me.) “Hey, I’ve always admired you and the way you play and practice. Could I see that fake-and-crossover move you have?” Sure, she could see it. Would I mind waiting a minute and showing it to her mother? She was talking about me to her mother (really?) and her mother is a big fan of mine (really?) and she would like to see the way I practice in the off-season.(Really?)
So I take a few shots. And I imagine what we would talk about as we wait for her mother to show up. What other moves would I be willing to show off to this lovely girl who I never knew was even interested at all in me, until now. She’s here wanting to see my moves and wanting her mother to see them, too. You get the idea. Her mother comes and goes, and she goes, and I start to go, and then the mayor comes, and the governor, and the senator, and the president.
I’m exhausted. I practiced all day. I couldn’t do any more. But then a guy came, and a cute girl that I liked, and some important people and then the president of the United States was at my practice court saying he had heard about me, a little kid from a small town who no one paid much attention to, and he was interested in my shooting form and some moves he’d heard about that would one day fake out the best defenders in the nation. Turns out the president was quite a basketball fan.
THINK THE GAME
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After the president, Jack Nicholson came by. Everyone knows what a Lakers fan he is. I almost told him, “Hey, Jack, wait till tomorrow, I’m exhausted” but he’s got that Joker smile on his face and he starts encouraging me the way he did the Chief in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. “Just raise ’em up, Chief. Just raise ’em up.” How could I turn him down?
Oh c’mon, it’s just a movie. Yeah, I started to tell him that, too. But he had Meg Ryan and Michelle Pfeiffer in the car with him. You know those Hollywood types. All the big stars hang around together all day long, right? Maybe not. But that’s not important. What is important is that I’m exhausted, I want to go home, but Meg and Michelle get out of Nicholson’s car. Meg and Michelle. M&M’s. Not exactly plain, or peanuts, if you know what I mean.
And guess what? They want to see me make some awe-inspiring moves on a dark basketball court. They know I’m tired, they are sorry to ask, but if I can just do a few I can visit them in Hollywood, hang out with them and Jack on Venice Beach. It would soooo excite them. Can I just do a few?
Meg just loves spin dribbles. Michelle goes bonkers over little kids who can fly, stop on a dime, and fly again. “Oh that stutter step you’ve got,” she says over and over again. She tells Meg she can’t contain herself. Meg is jealous! Crazy? Hell yes. But I think you get the picture.
I went through scenarios like that nearly every summer evening when it seemed time to quit and time to go home for the day. It’s amazing how much more you can do when you make a real effort to get your imagination involved. It was never quite like actually having Meg and Michelle there in person, but my thoughts got rather vivid and they did energize my efforts in ways I could not accomplish any longer with mere will power and commitment.
Try it. But, uh, listen. Don’t use Meg and Michelle. They’re mine.
—Excerpted from the book, “Think the Game”
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PGC Basketball provides intense, no-nonsense basketball training for players and coaches. Our basketball camps are designed to teach players of all positions to play smart basketball, be coaches on the court, and be leaders in practices, games and in everyday life.
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