You’re tough. That’s something that my dad always said to me. It didn’t matter whether it was in reference to school, ball or whatever else, my dad always said I was tough. Now, that statement was usually followed by “suck it up” or something else a little more obscene, but nonetheless he always said I was tough.
Basketball has given me more opportunities than I ever could have imagined, but it has challenged me even more. It has challenged me physically of course but what I value the most from my experiences are the way the game challenged me mentally. I am an over thinker and basketball was always my way of escaping whatever else was going on. As I started competing at higher levels my constant over thinking began to impede my performance and became my biggest weakness. I was continuously focusing on what I should have done. I would even take something as simple as a shooting session and turn it into utter turmoil in my head. I would over analyze every aspect of my shot trying to correct it, when all I really needed to do was take a step back, breathe, relax and escape my own mind.
The state of over-analyzing a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. Paralysis by analysis. This simple phrase is what kept me grounded and focused; a coach, who I owe a lot to, taught me how to slow the game down in my mind and just let the game come to me. He showed me how much I was paralyzing my potential by thinking and not just playing. From those 3 simple words, I discovered how liberating it was to not think and just enjoy the game.
When my dad told me I was tough, I always thought he was referring to my physical skills. Little did I know that he was referring to my mental skills as well. He always knew that I was mentally tough, even when I didn’t. If I learned anything from my 15 years of basketball and my dad’s words of wisdom, is that it takes a lot of mental toughness to survive the grind. You have a limited number of years to play the game you love, so don’t waste any time. Stay focused, stay grounded and make sure your worst enemy isn’t living between your ears and keeping you from reaching your potential
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