You are there training your mind and body to perform to your highest possible level on the day when you find yourself up against an outstanding performer…
There used to be a commercial or, rather, a short public service video clip on TV that had a significant impact on me. The film showed a car driving down the street to a stop sign and just beside the car was an imaginary police car with a dotted line around it that ran parallel to the real car and stayed beside it like a shadow.
The narrator reminded viewers to remember the imaginary or phantom police car. “Always drive as you would drive if there were a police car directly beside you.”
Most people would have to admit that their everyday driving isn’t quite the same as it would be if they had a police car directly beside them at all times. And, most athletes would have to admit that their everyday practicing effort isn’t quite the same as it would be if they were playing against champions in a packed arena on national TV.
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This is a concept that will come up in a number of other contexts, but I want to make sure it is abundantly clear to you. To become a champion, it is necessary to practice, to the fullest extent possible, with the idea that you are playing against champions in big games that really matter. Often you may find yourself in practice playing against a second-teamer or a smaller, weaker player. So you let down, or you play carelessly, or you do things that work there but won’t work against a star.
Why waste your time? What is it you’re actually practicing for? Have you lost sight of your goals, of the phantom police car, of imaginary champions?
You aren’t there practicing in order to beat that little kid. You can already beat him. You are there training your mind and body to perform to your highest possible level on the day when you find yourself up against an outstanding performer. If you think of it that way, you will infuse your practice with more enthusiasm, concentration, and effort, and you will get a lot more out of it.
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You will actually be preparing yourself now for success when that big day comes, instead of helping prepare yourself for failure, which so many athletes unwittingly do. It’s not very hard to figure. If you are content to do something in a slovenly way because the competition happens to be easy, you have to realize that you are not preparing for tougher competition. Sure, you may increase your effort when you do meet that tougher competition, but what are you doing now to improve? If you fail to improve in practice, the increased effort won’t be enough when crunch time comes. You can’t just increase your effort to be successful in a championship game, you have to improve your skills and performance every day during the months leading up to that game.
If a star running back is preparing for a future championship game, he will be trying his best to go untouched to the goal line and not be content merely to break the tackles of the smaller, weaker players in the junior varsity’s secondary. If a star center is preparing for a future championship in basketball, he won’t be content to score against the second team in practice just by using his greater height, he will be thinking about the day when he will be facing a taller, stronger player and he will work on moves that will enable him to score when he doesn’t have a height and strength advantage.
Keep in mind, always, that you are practicing against imaginary champions, and make the moves, hit the shots, swing the bat, run and fake in ways that will work against champions.
Championships are not won on the night of a big event, but years before by athletes who commit themselves daily to championship principles.
—Excerpted from the book, “Think Like a Champion.”
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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Our goal at PGC is to empower you with the tools to fulfill your basketball dreams, while also assisting you in experiencing the joy of the journey.