BASKETBALL COACHING TIPS: HELPING PLAYERS FIND THE ATHLETE’S WAY

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BASKETBALL COACHING TIPS: HELPING PLAYERS FIND THE ATHLETE’S WAY

Written by: Trevor Huffman

TrevorHuffman.com is about my life and about getting out of our comfort zone– in sports, in basketball, in building a tribe and surrounding ourselves with people that want to grow.

I’ll be sharing my uncomfortable failures and short-lived successes from around the world as I played professional basketball. I’ll be sharing basketball coaching tips on how I design my basketball training workouts for my THBA Elite and Youth Northern Michigan Basketball Skill Development Academy.

Yet, what I really want to talk about is something deeper. I want this to be something athletes, coaches, humans, and parents alike can take the darker and lighter side of what I’ve learned from my 20 years of NCAA, NBA, and European experiences.

If you want more practical sports training knowledge, here’s another athlete sports blog I love following.

In the end, how we help each other get to where we want to go is all I care about talking about.

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“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” – George Bernard Shaw

As you know (or may not know), I am an aspiring writer, basketball coach, old ex-professional point guard trainer, and solo travel junkie. Today’s athlete sports blog is about learning how to handle making mistakes and then finding the Athlete’s Way to bounce back. So as you know, I love juicing up kids, parents, and coaches and getting them a basketball workout/fitness plan that gives them access to finding personal and team success.

Today, I see so many flaws in how we are prepping kids to approach their basketball, their passions, and their lives. Entitlement, poor work ethic, and bad programming is a pattern in AAU and development programs.

I don’t have kids, but I understand how you must want to protect them and save them from their feelings getting hurt. No one likes emotional or physical pain, but the truth is, without small amounts (or big amounts) of pain and suffering, it is hard to grow, reflect, and learn how to bounce back.

THREE THINGS WE CAN DO BETTER AS BASKETBALL COACHES, PARENTS, AND PROGRAMS:

  • CARE FOR THE PLAYERS, BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEM BUT BE HONEST WITH THEM. IF SOMEONE THINKS THEY ARE WORKING HARD AND THEY AREN’T, TELL THEM. IF SOMEONE MESSES UP, CHALLENGE THEM TO DO BETTER. MAKE PLAYERS ACCOUNTABLE, BUT SUPPORT THEM AND GIVE THEM PRAISE WHEN THEY DO THINGS RIGHT!
  • JUST SHOWING UP ISN’T ENOUGH. KIDS HAVE TO DEMONSTRATE POSITIVE ATTITUDES, EFFORT, FOCUS, LEADERSHIP, AND TEAMWORK IN PRACTICE. ALSO, BY HELPING THEM CREATE A VISION AND A PLAN FOR THEMSELVES, THIS PREPARES THEM FOR THE REAL COMPETITION ON AND OFF THE COURT.
  • ALWAYS HAVING FUN ISN’T THE GOAL. LOSING ISN’T FUN. WINNING IS FUN. PROGRESS IS FUN. WE MUST VALUE GROWTH AND THE ABILITY TO ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY TO MOVE FORWARD. WE MUST HELP KIDS LEARN TO HANDLE MISTAKES, SMALL FAILURES, AND TOUGH CHALLENGES SO THEY CAN LEARN TO BOUNCE BACK AND SUCCEED. BOUNCING BACK SHOULD BE RECOGNIZED AS THE THE FUN PART OF SPORTS.

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I am not sure why we humans end up where we do, doing what we do, other than we decide to value that time we have and do it the right way. I constantly have a conversation with kids: “What’s your workout plan? What have you written down to do the moment you step on the court? What are your weaknesses and what drills are you working on to improve them?”

By having a plan, writing it down, and carrying it with you wherever you go, you start to value your vision and goals because every second you have on the court, or in the weight room, or with your team is PRECIOUS. 

LIKE LITERALLY, PRECIOUS.

For me, playing basketball with a team is over. The wins, the losses, the setbacks, the injuries, the anxiety, the exhilaration… it’s all over as a player.  During this amazing process of ups and downs, I learned what I call THE ATHLETE’S WAY.

The Athlete’s Way is a mental approach to sports, life, business, anything and everything, and it is part of my DNA now. After 20 years of training, practicing, and competing at the highest levels, I want to help others find the Athlete’s Way in their own lives. I want to help teams and players understand the value of the time they have on the court and bounce back from anything and everything that happens to them in life.

Building Your Own Inner Athlete’s Way

Now, my current use of the Athlete’s Way is helping others approach their game and lives in a way that promotes growth faster and helps kids bounce back from mistakes.

Now, it is helping teams and players understand the value of the time they have on the court by having and creating a plan, so they can truly put all of their efforts into a drill, a rep, practice, or the next workout.

Now, my intense two ball basketball dribbling routine is being handed on to the next college hopeful (as I yell at them to get out of their comfort zone).

The edge I sought in the weight room is being taught to the next dreamer.

The camaraderie I had winning championships is what I’m trying to build with my new teams.

Most of these sports moments of learning the Athlete’s Way are over for most of us after high school.

Not all of us, but most of us. For the select few that value their vision and create a plan, sports continue into college and beyond.

Playing basketball for me is done, but everything you learn from it isn’t.

What’s next, young athletes, parents, and coaches?

The Athlete’s Way is next.

It’s what sports teach you. The Athlete’s Way is still inside me, beckoning me to find my next craft.

Okay, Yoda, but what is the Athlete’s Way you ask?

The Athlete’s Way is that voice that pushed me to do what others would not. It was that voice that woke me up at 6:00 am to dribble in my basement. It was that voice that wouldn’t let me get off the bus after a bad shooting game without getting more shots up that night. It was that mental obsession that would watch tape on my opponent over and over and over until their moves were engrained in my mind. It was the workout plan I taped to my ceiling every night.

I had a plan as a kid and little did I know, I was developing my own inner Athlete’s Way.

The Athlete’s Way is beckoning me now; to find my next team, build my next project, explore my next passion and know my next purpose. Yet, I’m not there. I just don’t know what it is, but I am getting closer. I don’t believe in typical American society telling me or conditioning me to do what it bids. I didn’t listen to people when they told me I would never play division one basketball and I won’t listen to people tell me to do something, “for the sake of doing something.”

  “Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”

SO WAKE UP! YEAH, YOU! I’M TALKING TO YOU. GRAB A PEN, A PAPER, AND WRITE DOWN WHAT YOUR WORKOUT LOOKS LIKE EVERY TIME YOU STEP IN THE GYM. NEED HELP, THEN LISTEN TO THIS!

The 2nd Secret of Basketball Championships

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“Welcome to the hood,” Andrew said, grinning.

“Drew, you sure I’m good here man? Everyone is looking at me.”

“You’re with me. Relax.”

I glanced around, slunk down in his passenger seat. I had just turned 20 years old and suddenly wasn’t sure of my choice to accompany Andrew to his mom’s home in inner city Detroit. At any moment I thought bullets were going to pass through his car and rip through my body.

But there was good news (no, it wasn’t the Kevlar jacket I had on), I had just survived playing in St. Cecilia, one of the most famous basketball gyms and runs in the country. St. Cecilia was a cracker box gym with no space and a raucous, engaging crowd. It was my first time playing there. I was surprised I was even allowed on the court to be honest, because every time I touched the ball, or defended the ball, a certain murmur and electricity went through the stands and opposing players.

“Attack him.”  

“Score on him.”

“Go at him.”

“C’mon, get this dude off the court,” they laughed.

And yet, there was Andrew, playing alongside me, just grinning like a little kid in a candy store.

“Let’s go Huff– you have to earn everything here.”

The 2nd Secret to Winning Basketball Championships.

And this secret came to me decades after realizing and reflecting on the formative years of my college career and how they were about learning how to build relationships inside your tribe or team (even if you have to wear Kevlar from time to time), find your authentic self within your obsession and your tribe, and learn to go through psychological and physical pain or suffering with them to improve your skills.

First of all, it’s a simple idea or personal philosophy to build relationships with people that embrace the struggle to be the best within the same field or obsession as you. I loved the game of basketball, just like Andrew did. I saw Andrew suffering and struggling to be the best everyday. I saw where he came from and how hard it was for him. He didn’t have the resources I had, but yet, we both had our own struggles to get where we were.

Sports offers us an even playing field, where the athlete that can embrace the struggle and the pain, and can build skills for themselves. The more skills you have, the more valuable you are on the court.

Simple right?

Yet, playing at the St. Cecilia with my teammate pushed me out of my comfort zone and brought us closer together.

So focus for a second.  Ask yourself some questions.

  1. Who is in your basketball tribe?

  2. What kind of people do you need in your tribe to be successful with your obsession?

  3. Who will push your kid or program to develop their skills and learn to embrace struggle and create radical self-reliance on the court?

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I can’t answer these questions for you, but I can help you ask yourself the right questions.

There won’t be many people willing to suffer with you, sweat with you, shoot with you, rebound with you, play 1 on 1 with you, and push you to be your best.  And maybe you (yeah, you kid) just like the idea of being a college basketball player. Maybe you just like the idea or vision of being on TV, or in the paper, or having success, but don’t actually enjoy the struggle to get there.

That’s okay if you don’t, but go find a struggle you actually enjoy.

The truth is, you have build a tribe around your obsession to win championships.

Your team has to stick together. Your team has to have strong bonds. And that happens on the micro level first. I learned quickly that building a tribe helped me improve at the game of basketball quicker than if I was trying to do it on my own. And so it begins, when you have a tribe around an obsession, you have quicker growth. And when you have quicker growth, you reach your potential and self-actualize your goals faster.

You have success faster and when the team has more success, you get more accolades. A team that acts as a tribe cherishes those moments together.

 

—————–

 

“Attack them Huff. Attack them every time you get the ball,” Andrew would whisper, as he snatched a rebound out of the air and passed it to me.

Then he would wave his hand, beckoning me forward– beckoning me to face my fears, to grow, and to stop being passive. But we all have to go through our own internal struggles, and to put it simply, I just wanted to fit in (and maybe that was because before I stepped on the court, I gawked and watched NBA great Jalen Rose score 60 points without sweating, only trash talking to everyone that guarded him).

“You’re not in Kansas anymore Huff.”

“No kidding,” I said back, trying to feign a smile, but eventually the game progressed and I started to forget I was a stranger there, what color my skin was, and where I was from. The game doesn’t care what color you are. The ball doesn’t go in the basket because of your religion or race.

Basketball is basketball.

So again, who is in your basketball tribe?

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I left St. Cecilia gym feeling grateful, grateful Andrew took me into a place where legends were made and played and developed their basketball skills at a level most players never get to see. He took a chance on me and I appreciated it. But after playing at the St. Cecilia and visiting Andrew in his home, it started to make sense why he had won a state championship in Detroit East Catholic High School.

Andrew wasn’t afraid to be different. He wasn’t afraid to challenge what society had told him he had to be.

He had a community that never let him settle for anything but his best. He had a brother that pushed him and challenged him. That’s what parents and family and tribe is for– to push people to be the best versions of themselves, through struggles and suffering and all the stuff we don’t usually like. See, Andrew Mitchell was overlooked. People said he was too small. Too light. Too fragile. Kent State had been one of his only suitors.

In my eyes, every championship team I ever played on had players that were developing this obsession and culture within the team. And when that happens, magic happens. So the Kent State University Men’s Basketball tribe formed. This culture was passed down to us, and we passed it down to the next generation of incoming freshman.

And let me brag on Andrew for a second. In my opinion, he was one of Kent State’s greatest competitors and one of the Mid American Conference’s greatest basketball winners. I was lucky to have him as a teammate. He wasn’t the only teammate that pushed me, but he was the first at Kent State. And best of all, no one would tell you that our team would go onto win three MAC championships, three MAC tournament championships, and three NCAA tournament appearances (including our Elite Eight run), and break every Mid-American Conference team record ever made by some of MAC’s NBA greatest players and teams-– from Dan Marjele, Ron Harper, Bonzi Wells, Gary Trent, Wally Szczerbiak, Nate Thurmond and Earl Boykins.

And it all started with our obsession for basketball and building that brotherhood. That’s one of the biggest secrets to winning at anything in my book.

To your continued success,

Trevor Huffman

PS. Need some help with your basketball mind? Join the THBA tribe and start my Elite Mental Training course!

The 1st Secret of Basketball

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“The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.”– Bill Russell

THBA on Winning Championships: The 1st Secret of Basketball

(three part series- 10 min read)

 

In the summer of 1994, I was 15, weighed 120 pounds, and figured out the secret to winning basketball championships after almost throwing fists at my best friend (and teammate’s) face. After that day, these basketball secrets spread into who I was during my high school, college, and professional teams. That day made me sit down and think about what winning meant to me. I may have forgotten a few (there was my 6th grade recreational championship, but I left that one out), but I counted over 12 high school, college, and professional championship teams that I’ve been a part of. Yet, these basketball secrets grow from within and over time, like a slow rising tide start to become part of who you are, part of the team’s identity, and the feeling is undeniable.

Isiah Thomas referred to one of these basketball secrets in a meeting he had with Bill Simmons in the Book of Basketball. He said, referring to why his Piston’s teams won championships: “…Cause everybody does something good. That’s what makes us good… we created an environment that won’t accept losing.” See, in my opinion, winning in basketball isn’t only about basketball. It’s about you and your teammates. It’s about chemistry. It’s the family atmosphere that despises laziness and bad work ethic and unauthentic players. It’s why teams and coaches like Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs have won so many titles. They get basketball players that have high character, know their role, and check their egos out at the door.

Championship teams can’t be built without players that understand human nature and are self-aware of their egos.

But where do you start in building championship caliber teams and programs?

Start with yourself.

Start with caring.

Start with being authentic in every encounter you have with anyone on your team from this point on.

If you start with yourself and you care, you are off to a great start.

Bill Russell used to throw up before big games. Caring is why players throw up,  it’s why certain players can’t watch certain losses after their season is over and why championship teams always have a bond and feeling that remains intact for decades. It’s why I still haven’t watched my Elite Eight game loss against Indiana (this is actually my Sweet Sixteen win, see, I won’t even let you see it!) or my loss in the Michigan Final Four in high school to Marshall. It’s why I would shut my eyes for 30 minutes before every game and try to visualize giving everything I had to win the game and execute our game-plan and ask for guidance from the Universe (God, higher power, whatever you label it) instead of vomiting into the toilet.

It all starts with you caring.

And when you care, you are starting on a good foundation, but it takes more than just caring to create championships. So let’s talk about that, because we all want to win. I’m going to break down my three basketball secrets so you can do your part to help bring a championship to your team or program.

BASKETBALL SECRET #1: BE AUTHENTIC, BE SELF-AWARE OF YOUR EGO, AND UNDERSTAND HUMAN NATURE AFTER YOU WIN

 

Pat Riley talks about “The Disease of More” and it refers to process NBA teams and players go through when they win titles and the change in psychology that happens after success comes to you. I had to learn the hard way after winning the championship title in one of the biggest Gus Mackers in the world (Belding, Michigan) as a 14-year old teenager.  We came back the next year and “The Disease of More” had started to seep into me. And that’s just it, it’s human nature to expect more after winning.

More shots. More newspaper clippings. More popularity. More ego. More attention from your classmates and the kids that are labeled “cool” at school. But I learned that summer, (rather quickly) that the secret to winning championships isn’t always about basketball talent or athleticism, it is about understanding human nature and then being self-aware of your ego WANTING MORE.

So let’s rewind to our Gus Macker title defense when I learned this lesson. My teammate Johnny was a better scorer than me. He could shoot from anywhere. He was relentless in his accuracy and creativity around the hoop. But I wanted to squabble over who was better, who could score more, who could do this or that better. I wanted to prove it to him, to our teammates, to anyone that asked, and to myself. Basically, my ego wanted to be known. It wanted to be stroked. It wanted to be told it was better.

It wanted more.

Right before the game started, as we argued on the court about who was better, who could score more, right before I threw a haymaker, his mother stopped us, yelling, “What are you two doing? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

I put my head down and walked off the court. Fifteen minutes later, still humiliated, we tried to pull it together and play our game.

We got smashed.

Our title defense looked like Jordan’s Bulls whipping on the Charlotte Hornets without Larry Johnson or Alonzo Mourning and worse, this was a classic case of Riley’s “The Disease of More.”

It was the disease of me and the disease of more.

"Detroit Country Day's Shane Battier against Petosky in a March 13, 1997 game."

There I am(#24) chasing Mr. Basketball, Detroit Country Day’s Shane Battier against my team Petoskey in our Final Four loss on March 13, 1997 game.

Yet, losing can shine the light on growth and self-awareness. And as I was watching ego self destruct team chemistry, I quickly realized that winning took precedence over everything.

On the ride home, watching the highways unwind out my window, I thought about Johnny’s strengths, about mine, and the rest of the team’s. Johnny was higher up on the food scoring pyramid. No if’s, ands, or buts about it. He was just a better scorer than me. Little did I know, he would be one of three players to go onto score over 2,000 points in high school and college.

Maybe Shane Battier did that as well?

Who knows (lucky for me, four years after our Gus Macker loss, I got to guard Mr. Basketball Battier in the Michigan Final Four of my junior year, eh hem, we held him to single digits, but he had the flu, so much to my chagrin, we can’t take full credit for that defensive effort).

My teammate Johnny and I went onto to fully realize our full potential (as well as our team’s potential). We won three league championships, three district championships, three regional championships, and had two final four appearances. Now, we didn’t win the ultimate goal of a state championship, but we were one of the only Northern Michigan teams to ever have that much success.

This happened again in my college career.

And again in my pro career.

And every year, after winning championships, I would have to reflect and look for that ego finding a way in. And every time I thought about wanting more, I started to reflect and utilize my self-awareness. Was I rationalizing for my ego? Was I being greedy? Was I doing enough to make my team better? Myself better?

With letting go of my own ego, of wanting more for myself at the expense of the team, I gave up “The Disease of Me” and got more winning and team success in return. And the funny thing about winning is that you get more individual accolades this way. Ironic isn’t it? That when you actually focus on the team success, you actually get more individual success.

And this can only happen if your team has a certain chemistry, trust, and bond with your team. This takes authenticity. From you. From others. From accepting differences, but never accepting losing or poor effort.

If someone got out of line, a leader on the team spoke up.

If you are wondering how to create team chemistry for your team, start with authenticity and letting go of your ego.

Go first. Be the change you want to see in others.

Rebound for someone.

Play one on one.

Fall 2016: Trevor Huffman Traverse City Basketball Training-Camps-Workouts

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If you are the coach, bring in your leaders. Make them set the tone and make it expected that losing is unacceptable and that anything less than 100% is unacceptable. Make that your culture. Ensure team building and opportunities for your team to grow outside the court. Take them on a trip. Show them a new city against a new team. Take them to Europe in the summer.

Are you the leader of the team?

Demand them to make the extra pass and demand the same in return.

Only accept 100% effort from yourself in every drill and workout, and then demand the same from your teammates.

Talk to them.

Ask them to pick it up.

And in the end,  when you are authentic, you are aware of your ego, and you don’t allow human nature to creep in after your have success, you can focus on what really matters.

Winning. And being part of a team that cares so much about one another, words are hard to describe the bond that develops.

How Getting Cut From a Team Can Change Your Life

GETTING CUT FROM THE NEW YORK KNICKS

It was game point and it was the last scrimmage before cuts were going to be made. I was vying for a spot on the New York Knicks Summer League team. Don Chaney, the head coach, and his minion assistants watched, their clipboards in hand, analyzing and watching and judging every play.

I, on the other hand, was fighting through a screen set by the New York Knick’s number one draft pick; a six-foot-eight-inch, 275-pound monster power forward from Georgetown named Michael Sweetney.

Running into him was like trying to shoulder charge through a cinderblock wall.

I was chasing ex-Notre Dame guard Matthew Carroll, but as I jumped, something happened. My balance felt wrong. My body awkwardly twisted and turned as the crown of halogen stadium lights engulfed the ball. Suddenly, like a sniper gunshot hitting me out of nowhere, an invisible force wrenched my body sideways.

Crackkkk. Pop.

I crumpled to the wooden parquet and pounded my fist into the floor.

No. Please. Not again. This can’t be happening again. It just can’t.

I felt the pain throbbing up my calf, through my tibia and into my kneecap. It was searing hot. A hush fell onto the practice facility. It is that silent hush that every athlete knows– when an injury isn’t looking good.

I shut my eyes to stop the tears from squeezing out. I took some deep breaths and tried to visualize something else– something that made me feel good. A highlight reel came on, and abruptly, the pain was gone. The picture playing was from a few days before, when Charlie started coaching me.

“Hey, take two dribbles, not one, when you use that ball screen.”

It is Charlie Ward’s voice, the Heisman Trophy winner and ex-Florida State national champion quarterback, and current New York Knick starting point guard, standing behind me with his arms crossed.

I am grinning, wondering: why are you, Charlie Ward, an NBA point guard helping me with pick and rolls?

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I nod and try to find words, but I’m speechless. Unexpectedly, Charlie grabs the ball from me, shifts his hips and dribbles off the chair. He is coaching me by showing me. He rises up for a 25-foot jumper and the ball swishes through the net.

“See. Two hard dribbles. You have to be a threat to score or you won’t get the spacing to make the flick pass to the big.”

He walks away. I smile again. This is a childhood dream come true.

“Thanks Charlie, I’ll keep that in mind. Hey Charlie, one more question–”

“TREVOR, Trevor… where does it hurt?”

The video reel suddenly stopped. I opened my eyes and the pain was back. There were faces and coaches circled around me. Charlie Ward was gone.

“Can you point to where it hurts?” the trainer asked, hovering over me. I had a sinking feeling that my ankle was broken.

But the real problem wasn’t my ankle, it was the slow realization that my first NBA summer league try-out was in serious jeopardy.

Just a few hours before, I was confident I was making this team. Charlie Ward helped me with pick and rolls. The New York Knick coaching staff was working with me, yelling at me, teaching me, and reaffirming to me keep doing what I was doing. And best of all, these coaches and players like Brendan Malone, Charlie Ward, Frank Williams, or Matthew Carroll, were pushing me to learn and grow as a point guard.

I tried to sit up. “It’s my ankle. I did it again, I think it’s broken,” I told the trainer.

“Let’s get you up and into the training room,” he said.

Some of the players asked if I was okay, then helped me limp with my arm around their shoulders to the Knicks training room. Matthew Carroll patted me on the back.

“Sorry man. Get better.”

It was his foot I landed on. He was one of the players I was competing with for a roster spot, but it wasn’t his fault. The moment replayed in my head. I was right there. I should have just let him shoot.

At the training table, I gingerly took off my shoe and NBA socks. The trainer slid a knife-like scissor device through my ankle tape and as he exposed my ankle, the swelling resembled an oversized grapefruit.

“Hmm. I’m gonna touch a few spots. Tell me where it hurts.”

He pressed his index finger into the swollen areas around my ankle and the pain made me wince and flinch at every spot. The trainer shook his head.

“Might be a break, might be a bad sprain. Hard to tell. Can you walk?”

I stepped down to the floor and it felt like someone was stabbing me with a dull #2 pencil between my ankle joint. I tried to take another step.

“Nope? Okay. Lay back down. We’ll take x-rays, but my bet is this a minimum of 4-6 weeks of recovery Trevor.”

He wrapped my ankle in three ice bags and saran wrap and jogged away. A few minutes later he arrived with assistant Coach Malone. Coach Malone walked up to me cautiously and slid his wiry glasses up his thick nose.

“How you feeling?”

“Been better.”

“Think you broke it?”

“Would be the fifth time since I was 16, so probably. I guess my family tree gave me bad ankles,” I said, trying to laugh.

“Well. I see. Trevor, it’s probably not the best time, but do you want the good news or the bad news?

“I’ll take the bad.”

“We have to cut you. With your recovery time, it leaves you with too little a window to get ready for summer league.”

“Well,” I said slowly, taking in the inevitable. I could feel the pain spread from my ankle bones to my chest cavity. “Coach, well, then what was the good news?”

“You had a roster spot if you hadn’t gotten hurt,” he said apologetically. “But get better. Keep working hard. We will have someone drop you for x-rays in Manhattan. Keep your head up.”

He handed me a summer league practice jersey with my name on the back, turned on his heels and walked away. But just like that, I had been cut from the team. This epiphany hit me hard and the sadness crept into my head, washing out any positive thoughts or vision of the future. No one was around. I was alone in a training room wondering what had happened, questioning why it happened to me, and ultimately, what would come next.

3 Empowering After-You-Get-Cut Mindset Questions:

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Getting cut can be a powerfully negative experience, but if we really examine failure or adversity, it isn’t really as bad as you think. For one, getting cut is just an unfavorable result, just one small bad moment in time. A tiny negative blip on the journey of your life.  I like to call these negative moments micro failures. And if you pause and reflect with some self-awareness, these micro failures can ignite powerful questions that fuel future growth and success through practicing grit, discipline, and having a personal development blueprint.

Here are three empowering questions that you can ask yourself when you experience the oh-my-life-is-over-why-did-this-happen-to-me-scenarios.

  • Question Number One: How does failure make you feel? This is important because you need to be clear on how you feel about your micro failure. If you don’t care about failing then maybe it’s time to find something else to focus on. A quote that resonated with me is from Abe Lincoln: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure.” Here’s a tip. If you truly feel sad, upset, or bitter, it’s time to turn these emotions into personalized, commitment-laced jet fuel.
  • Question Number Two: Am I doing everything I can to create my desired future? Okay, so you are not content with failure! Yes, let’s get after it! Don’t be a victim, be a victor! That’s the grit and passion we are talking about! Okay, I just got hyped with you, but now what?  Now is the time to look yourself in the mirror and get your Elite Mental Game right. Get you or your kid’s game plan in place. Now is the time to look into those motivated, ambitious eyes and ask yourself if you are truly doing everything you can.
  • Question Number Three: What are the 3 small things I can do to invest in myself every day for the next 3 weeks? As a 12-year ex-professional point guard, skills trainer, and coach, I guarantee parents and athletes can always do better. I’ve developed a personal coaching package with Travis Thomas, a performance and leadership specialist, that has worked with NFL, MLB, USA soccer, and elite youth within the prestigious IMG Sports Academy. For a limited time, reserve your one of twelves spots in our Elite Mind Athlete Training course, where Travis will work with parents and athletes to help define and educate you on being an Elite athlete really means.

Being a successful elite athlete requires an education in developing real grit, passion, and meaning.

This is the time to start down your new path with unwavering commitments and start developing your mental game with the help of someone that works with the best athletes on the planet.

From my years in high school to the pros, Travis mentored and helped me navigate the athlete’s world of micro failures, setbacks, and choosing to say yes to practicing grit.

As a kid, every time I experienced a micro failure or setback, I didn’t realize my response was just another opportunity to practice what the world’s leading psychologist and researcher Angela Duckworth has recently described as one of the most underlooked indicators of success:

GRIT.

As a personal basketball coach and trainer, I’m watching and analyzing players, making recommendations for coaches on who stays and who goes. As middle schools, high schools or AAU programs like Northern Exposure or Northern Pride Sports Academy make cuts, it’s important to not let a micro failure get you down for too long if you don’t make it.

“Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. ‘I have a feeling tomorrow will be better’ is different from ‘I resolve to make tomorrow better.’ The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.” ~ Angela Duckworth

Angela’s developed a grit scale that figures out why people give up, or move on, or don’t stick with something to succeed. She interviewed and tested cadets at West Point during Beast Barracks (read this Beast Blog!) on their challenging 7-week transition from cadet to soldier.

Want to know your how much grit you have? Click here for the GRIT test.

Grit is defined by Merriam-Webster as the firmness of mind or spirit, the unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.

Yesterday, at the Northern Exposure boys try-outs I saw young boys compete with passion, yet inevitably, some of these players will get cut and they will be forced to ask themselves questions and this is happening all across the country as basketball season starts.

Players getting cut is happening all across the country as basketball season starts.

Getting cut, in a way, is the start of that discussion, not the end of your goals and dreams.

My sports advice on getting cut comes from a place of empathy– don’t let the obstacle stop you from growth. 

Being cut is an obstacle. For parents. For athletes. For anyone getting hit in the side of the head with failure. It’s as simple as that, but the way isn’t to turn around and quit. The way is to climb, go around, adapt, and commit to a super-charged plan so you can jump right over it.

I mentioned my colleague Travis who worked for IMG Academy as a performance and leadership specialist and is now the current author of Getting Unstuck: Live Yes And.  But I wanted to officially introduce him now and give athletes a chance to start the discussion on developing an elite athlete mind.

What does that even mean? Watch his video below.

Who is Travis Thomas?

From Travis:

We have all heard that sports is “mental.” We use the word when it comes to describing those players that are clutch performers, avoid distractions, embrace pressure, and know how to overcome adversity. But how do you teach these mental skills?

Travis Thomas has been teaching these mental and leadership skills to youth, college, and professional athletes for years. Now you have the opportunity to work with Travis on a one-to-one basis. In these sessions, Travis will help you and your child understand the tools for developing a high-performance mindset, on and off the court.

As a result, your child will learn:

* Playing with Purpose and Motivation

* Ideas for Being Able to Perform in the Zone

* Tuning Out Distractions

* Embracing Pressure

* Developing Grit Through Learning to Say Yes

CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT NOW:  LIMITED TO 12 SIGN-UPS BEFORE JANUARY 8TH!

 

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Make your mind Elite. Travis has worked with the best in the field and I’ve always been a huge fan of investing time, energy, and money into the areas that give you the most meaning. This is one of those times to say yes.

If you aren’t interested, remember to keep asking those questions, find your grit, and stay inspired.

Sincerely,

Trevor Huffman

PS. WHY IS LEARNING GRIT IN PARENTING, SPORTS DEVELOPMENT, AND COACHING IMPORTANT?

An excerpt from Angela Duckworth’s Grit:“Indeed, over the past forty years, study after carefully designed study has found that the children of psychologically wise parents fare better than children raised in any other kind of household.

“… about ten thousand American teenagers completed questionnaires about their parents’ behavior. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, social class, or parents’ marital status, teens with warm, respectful, and demanding parents earned higher grades in school, were more self-reliant, suffered from less anxiety and depression, and were less likely to engage in delinquent behavior.”

Hey gritty parents, listen up! Travis Thomas and our Elite Mind Athlete Training will get you and your athlete get on track for winning the mental game that most athletes fail to master.  Whether it is creating a plan for the big picture or analyzing the small picture to begin a more respectful, supportive conversation for their athletic passions AND have high, demanding standards… Elite Mind Athlete Training will help!

Life After Pro Sports: Athletes on Commitments versus Goals

My phone was vibrating as the electricity shocked me. I dropped the neon green Ryobi power drill on the floor with a loud thud. I hadn’t mastered this yet, I thought. Add another one to the list.

0e954424b676bbf2d2e1a18d40d85755Thankfully, my friend Charlie was calling, interrupting me from the flow of 110 volts of electricity flowing through my body. 

“Charlie!” I answered, shaking my free hand.

“Hey Huff, are you gonna be late to our workout today or what?”

“Yeah, so what if I am?” I retorted sarcastically. “What do you want? I’m trying to work here!”

“No seriously, you gonna be late or not?”

(I am blushing as I write this).

I paused before answering. I had a list of excuses and reasons for being late already rolling through my head… I  have to drive 40 minutes to get to the gym… and I have to make sure I’m done getting all the new wall outlet covers on… and lastly, now that I’m not a pro basketball player, who cares if I work out.

Well, besides Charlie that is.

But my excuses weighed on my conscious. I knew that traitorous voice as a pro basketball player. It’s that internal voice spouting off every reason to procrastinate and giving you every excuse to not stay committed. Every athlete hears what the War of Art  author Stephen Pressfield calls RESISTANCE. This foot-dragging voice fears becoming the highest version of itself. It manipulates you. It cheats you. It dupes you into believing it is actually you making the decision to delay commitment, discipline, and your goals from happening.

“Well, Charlie, that’s a good question– a fair question. My being tardy isn’t something I have put a lot of thought into lately. Plus, since I give you all my workout knowledge for free and that’s priceless… I can be a little late right?” I joked.

“Yeah, about that,” he chuckled. “Can you be on time today? I have a family, a schedule to stick too. Can you make a commitment to be there and ready to go at 5:00 p.m?”

Fall 2016: Trevor Huffman Traverse City Basketball Training-Camps-Workouts

In the Life and Minds of Pro Athletes

I heard it in his voice this time. He meant business. Charlie was a close friend of mine, a financial advisor that had just become a father for the first time, and I knew driving 40 minutes to work out with him wasn’t a valid excuse for my tardiness. 

Instantly, his question got me thinking about goals versus commitments and how it related to my life before and after basketball.  I knew too many people that couldn’t transfer commitment to their lives and got stuck in their own self-made hamster wheels.

I didn’t want RESISTANCE to win. I didn’t want to look back a year from now and regret not committing to something that I knew was good for me. I didn’t want the internal traitor to spread into other areas of my life.

Another dream gone.

Another goal missed.

“I know, you are right Charlie. I was never late to practices or my own commitments with basketball, why am I late to our workouts now?”

I paused and thought about my current workout goals.

I had none. At least no concrete ones that I had written down on paper.

“Well, it is a long drive,” I said. “And I am doing things for work that sometimes push me back. Errands. Workers. Getting electrocuted, you know, the perfect day–“

“So what! Can’t you just drop it? Can’t you just make a commitment to the workouts and not be late?”

I waited before I answered. I knew this conversation wasn’t like most of our conversations.

“Yes.” I said, pausing. “I can commit to that.”

As I said it, I knew I was in trouble. Not because I couldn’t do it, but because I knew the difference between committing to something and just saying, “my goal is…”

Goals aren’t enough.

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Committing to something is serious to me. Plus, I was busy with my new life after basketball. Trying to become a businessman. Trying to sail the Caribbean. Learning to write. Building an inspirational website. Taking Spanish classes. Training other friends. Teaching and running my basketball academies.

I thought back to my youth. I had written down Titanic-sized goals, but my commitments were even bigger. My commitments to basketball and training were probably viewed as insane to people on the outside looking in, but not sticking to my commitment to touch a basketball twice a day felt like I was deserting my team when they needed me most.

And who cared really cared if I didn’t touch a basketball twice day, every day?

No one but me. And I cared more than anything.

Touching that basketball was my daily commitment to help me reach my goals of being a freshman on varsity, to becoming First-Team All-State, to playing Division One basketball in college, and eventually becoming an NBA or European professional player.

I knew beating the RESISTANCE inside me took:

A DAILY, UNWAVERING CARE TO STICK WITH MY COMMITMENTS.

Rain or shine. Hurt or healthy. Sad or mad. Traveling or at home, I touched that ball.

But now what? What happens after careers end or new transitions begin? How do you wield the power of personal commitment in your daily life?

For example, you could say, “I want to be a millionaire.”

Well then, okay, what are the daily commitments you’ll make every day to ensure that happens?

You could say, “I want to have a forty-inch vertical.”

What are the daily commitments to weight lifting, jumping, and plyometric training you will do every day?

You could say, “I have the goal to be a straight-A student.”

Yeah, I know this one. You get home and your homework isn’t done and you procrastinate. You play video games. You call your friends. Commitments don’t procrastinate. Commitments don’t wait. Commitments don’t whine.

They just get it done.

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Committing to an ambitious goal calls for you to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I got you today commitment.”

That’s how you build trust with yourself.

That’s how you become All-State.

That’s how you play college basketball.

That’s how you become a straight-A student or a millionaire, by caring enough to stick to the small details of doing the work.

So maybe I need to replicate what I did as a seventh grader when I wrote my goals and commitments on notecards and stuck it on my ceiling, my bathroom mirror and my school folders.

These notecards read:

“Play professional basketball.”

“Touch a basketball twice a day, every day.”

I knew if I could commit to just touching a ball twice a day, I would start shooting, dribbling, and playing. I knew I would start sweating and want to improve once I acted upon just touching a ball.

The commitments adapted as I got older– to wake up and practice before school started… to lift weights like a mad man… to play 1 on 1 with older kids or do dribble drills at lunch time… or to challenge my own friends to play me in 2 on 1.

I learned and replicated how Pistol Pete Maravich carried and dribbled his basketball with him everywhere. But I stayed true to my commitment to not only touching a basketball twice a day but to doing more than I thought I was capable of.

Yeah, unfortunately, people stared at me when I wore Strength Shoes to school.

“You are crazy, kid,” they’d say.

Maybe.

But guess what– I was committed too.

Everyday.

365 days straight.

Like Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

There is no trying to do a commitment. There is only doing or not doing. In a book Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win, two Stanford professors (Ryan Babineaux, John Krumboltz) taught a class on committing to doing, failing, and doing it again. They said,  “Happy and successful people tend to spend less time planning and more time acting. They get out into the world, try new things, and make mistakes, and in doing so, they benefit from unexpected experiences and opportunities.”

There is a difference between setting a goal and actually committing to it day after day. You will be acting on commitments and possibly making mistakes, but moving forward, growing, and experiencing the world rather than thinking about it.

As I thought about my goals (and commitment blunders) as a 37-year old man, I heard something on the other end of the line. Charlie was still waiting.

“Oh, hey man, you there? Sorry. I was thinking about something.”

“Yeah, no crap,” he laughed. “So, see you at five?”

Before answering, I reflected on my life. My happiest and most joyful moments come when I’m around people I enjoy. When I’m part of a team. When I’m helping others succeed at something. When I’m sweating and pushing myself, trying to be the best version of myself. 

So why wouldn’t I commit to something that brings me joy and happiness? If commitments are what help me reach my goals and my goals are in line with my values and vision of what and who I want to become, why would I not commit?

If commitments are the life force of professional point guards, millionaires, maestros or savants and success stories, if commitments to never skip your workouts, to save and invest 10% of every payday, to be on time for practice, for workouts, for meetings, for appointments, for work, for anything and everything in life that gives you meaning…

Why let RESISTANCE win by not acting upon new commitments?

An epiphany hit me: if I can’t commit to being on time for something that gives me meaning, what does that say about me?

“Charlie,” I said.

“Yeah?”

“I’ll be ready to go at five– on the dot.”

Stay inspired. — Trevor Huffman

PS. One of my favorite quotes that will inspire us onwards to hunting our new dreams. Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Being a Freshman on Varsity – My Basketball Anxiety

 

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Trevor Huffman on Basketball Anxiety

 

Being a Freshman on Varsity: My Basketball Anxiety

“You aren’t worth a damn.”

Breathe.

“You are going to lose.”

Breathe.

“Do you even belong here?”

I slammed the bathroom door behind me and sat on the toilet. As my monkey mind chattered away (I called it my monkey mind because it is that voice that never stops talking), I realized how excited, anxious, and negative I felt. Really, at any moment, I could pass out. And tonight was a big night for me. It was something I had worked really hard to make happen. Unfortunately, this process came with gut-riddling nausea, cold sweats, and racing thoughts.  

Granted, I was a freshman playing in my first varsity game. It had been a dream of mine since I was in seventh grade. But death was above me pounding their feet into a wooden floor. The fans had a certain rhythm, like a hundred thousand soldiers slamming their swords into their shields at once.  I knew up there, on the court, fanatics were waiting for me to fail, standing vigil over their team with judging eyes.

But that’s what anxiety does to you before battle. It makes you think about every single angle, every single move, every single opponent, every strength and weakness and it loops in your head like a video on repeat. I couldn’t sleep the night before and when I woke up in the morning to eat my Frosted Flakes, my hands were cold, white, and shaky as I spooned the cereal into my mouth. My stomach churned. My mom was talking to me, but I didn’t hear what she was saying.

I was obsessing about the game.

Looking back now, at 37, after 22 years of having a basketball in my hand every day, I’m able to understand things that I wasn’t able to when I was younger. See, it wasn’t all anxiety. It was excitement too. It was this nervous excitement to do something I loved. And it was this battle between allowing nervousness and anxiety to swing back and forth like a pendulum and still move forward through it that mattered.

Some people may call this existential decisiveness– moving through the crossroads of anxiety, fear, and nervous excitement through action and meaning.

Fast forward to that infamous first-game-day in St. Ignace, Michigan. We were playing a team ranked in the top ten in Class C basketball. I had just been called up from JV because our senior guard had a sprained ankle, which meant, I would have to play.

The bus ride from Petoskey to St. Ignace seemed like eternal purgatory. The toilet episode had my older brother (a volatile all-state power forward) wondering where I went. And as I ran onto the court and heard the boos, and jeers, and cheers, I could literally feel the heat and energy of a packed gym, feel the unseen hope of thousands of people during that silent moment before the national anthem.

The music was always my cue to breathe and relax, shut my eyes and know everything would be all right– win or lose, fail or succeed, bomb or ace. It was when the music played that I shut my eyes, prayed and repeated bible quotes like: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

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Yet, even after my eyes opened, I hoped I was strong enough to run onto the court when Coach called my name. But there was so much meaning for me to play in the game that night, in fact, to play basketball every night. Maybe it was moving away from my dad (my mom had custody) and wanting to show him I was worth that long drive to visit us from Flint. Maybe it was wanting my mom to see me succeed and face our fears. Maybe it was my younger brother Damon (of six years) and his white puffy hair, as he idled by, watching me with gargantuan eyes and an admiring smile. Maybe it was my older brother Jeremy, who played power forward on varsity and had always been tough on me, preparing me for this moment.

Maybe it was the notecard I had made as a seventh grader and pinned to my ceiling that reminded me of my goals:

Play varsity basketball as a freshman with Jeremy.

Workout twice a day with basketball.

Win a state championship.

Play professional basketball in Europe.

————-

This morning, at age 37, in my effort to attach meaning to my new life after basketball, I’m reading notes about Eric Maisel’s book Mastering Creative Anxiety. It is a great book in helping understand why we have anxiety and how to deal with it.

I think about myself as a kid, that teenager that felt like he is awaiting the executioner block. 

That is anxiety.

Procrastinating, worrying, obsessing, and fretting over the blank page of my next game was in many ways like what anyone feels when they want to do something creative, something that matters to them,  something aligned with their purpose, authentic expression, and future.

This could be writing a book. Finishing a painting. Getting a workout in. Playing in a game. Going to get a new degree. Going to work. Finishing a speech. Quitting your job. Giving a speech. Coaching. Creating and teaching a curriculum you believe in. 

As Brian Johnson, one of my favorite collector of motivation and inspirational books says:

  1. Ask what matters to you?
  2. Are your thoughts aligned with what matters to you?
  3. Are your behaviors aligned with what matters to you?
  4. How can I make myself proud?

Good luck out there and stay inspired.

— Trevor Huffman