The following comes from a book that I started a few years back and have yet to finish. This is an excerpt from the chapter titled "Prepare and Compete."
If you should ever happen to come upon a construction crew in the midst of building a home or a large skyscraper, take the time to stop and observe as these craftsmen assemble something that very often can stand for decades. Much of what they do to successfully build any type of structure can be carried over to the game of basketball in building a good, competitive basketball player. It is in this book that we want to begin the “construction” of a sound basketball player. Just as a construction crew started out, we want to begin with a solid foundation. In basketball, that “foundation” is fundamentals. They are the key to growing a complete basketball player and will better allow you to compete in what is vastly flourishing into the most competitive of all sports.
To make sure that the fundamental foundation that we are building is strong, we are going to use an important tool of those who construct buildings – the ladder. By working your way up the ladder, one rung at a time, combining your effort with enthusiasm and a positive attitude, you can go a long way in reaching your basketball potential. What a player’s potential translates to, is becoming the absolute best she can be. For a few, this may translate into a college scholarship while for many it will simply help them make their grade school, junior or high school team. Regardless of the end result, just being the best you can be is a tremendous achievement and should be a goal for us all.
Two quotes come to mind when thinking of working to reach your potential. Both come from the legendary John Wooden.
“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
It is noteworthy that Coach Wooden used the word “success” in both of the quotes. So often it is easy to set forth numerical goals such as points scored or rebounds accumulated, when the true worth of a player could never solely be defined by statistics. A player may set the goal of being All-Conference or All-State. This too is a goal that can often lead to disappointment because such appointments are often out of our control.
PREPARE - COMPETE: AN ONGOING PROCESS
The philosophy that I have followed throughout my life can be summed up in two words: Prepare and Compete. Together they have served as a formula for the success I have found in all facets of my life. The one thing I have discovered is that life is an ongoing proposition. We have heard it said before, but it is a truth that grows in strength with each passing day – life is a journey and not a destination. With that in mind, I set forth to develop a philosophy that would regenerate with each challenge that I faced in life.
Preparation is such an important factor in reaching one’s potential yet so many look for a short cut. The problem for so many is that proper preparation is time consuming and requires hard work. Many are too impatient or don’t have the work ethic to lay the ground work necessary to be successful.
There is no better example than the Law of the Harvest. For the farmer, there is a great deal of work that goes into the preparation of the soil and the seed. There is the daily grind of watering, fertilization, and weeding of the crops. There can be no day off in the process. It is an amazing period of tedious work that lasts the entire year until the crops are finally ready to be harvested. Could you imagine the probability of having fruits or vegetables if you didn’t till the soil? What if you skipped the fertilization process or didn’t prepare for the drought? Obviously, there would not be a successful harvest.
The same is true of all the challenges we face in life. Any goal worth pursuing must be carefully planned out. In fact, a major part of preparation is your ability to dream. Before you can start any worthwhile journey, you must be able to map it out – you must start with the end in mind! Where do you want to go? Once that is decided then the preparation can begin in earnest.
As Stephen Covey so simply put, "Start with the end in mind." How could an artist paint a picture without the vision of a final product.
And while on the subject, don’t limit yourself. We had a saying in the LSU Women’s Basketball program coined by Hall of Famer Sue Gunter that we are very proud of: Dream Big…Work Hard! Have a belief in yourself and what you can accomplish and then put the formula of Prepare and Compete to work for you, and your achievements will be worthwhile.
Preparing is difficult for so many because they fail to realize that everything you do prepares you for something. That’s a strong concept. I am constantly telling my team (and myself) that there are no “little things.” Everything is important in the overall scheme of reaching your goals.
As a basketball player, it is important to understand that everything is part of the preparation for you to be your best on the court. Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind would include practice.
Conditioning and strength training would also help prepare a player for competition. But there are so many other areas such as rest and nutrition. One very important part of preparing is your attitude. It is important because it is an area that we all have complete control of – we all have the ability to choose our own attitude regardless of the circumstances.
While we have taken the time to decide upon a goal for ourselves, life is constantly throwing obstacles at us. Part of a successful philosophy is having the flexibility to adjust to the hurdles thrown at us. Do you have an attitude where an uphill struggle scares you? Possibly a set back has you feeling like you are the target of more bad luck. Or do you possess that attitude that creates excitement with failure because of the great challenge it presents? I don’t know of any successful person that has achieved greatness that didn’t do so after many struggles. Part of preparation is preparing for failure. Whether we want it to be or not, it’s part of the equation. In fact, it’s extremely difficult to persevere if you haven’t previously prepared.
I have for years had a sign that hangs in my office and does today at UCF that quotes General George S. Patton:
"Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory."
Compete is the second word of my philosophy. Quite simply, it is giving the job at hand your very best. Of course, this is easier said than done which partly explains why some are successful and others are not. For most, it is easy to give great effort from time to time. It is the truly great ones that can consistently reach the highest level of effort each time out.
At this point, it is important to define “effort.” Many think we are referring to physical effort. And while giving your very best physically is certainly a prime requisite for competing, you must also give your best mentally and emotionally.
A popular phrase we often share with our team is that “the mental is to the physical as 4 is to 1.” In other words, the mental aspect of preparation and competing is four times more important than the physical phase. It is an important part of competing that you are able to think and make decisions – whether you are on the athletic field, in the corporate office, or raising a family. Life is full of individuals (as well as teams and groups) that had all the physical attributes to be successful but fell short because they didn’t understand the importance of being mentally ready to compete.
You must be emotionally ready to compete as well. The word emotion usually conjures up images of athletes in jubilant celebration, but the emotional factor we’re looking for comes from the inner desire to self-motivate oneself to prepare and compete at the highest level. If you are emotionally ready for any phase of your life, then you have positioned yourself to do your absolute best because it is important to you. Emotional readiness provides you with a passion to achieve. Often, the amount of energy you apply to preparing raises your desire to compete at your best. All great individuals and teams that have met with great results have been passionate about their approach. Emotional preparedness also means that you don’t allow your emotions to overtake you at key junctures in your journey. Leaders and winners exhibit great poise and control of their emotions at the most extreme times.
Another piece of the puzzle in regard to competing is to finish. So many times we put a great deal of energy into preparing and come out of the blocks eager to compete only to pull up a little short of our goal. Sometimes our inability to finish comes because we have run into a hurdle. Other times we are unable to finish because of too much success. That’s right, often success can be a major opponent for us to defeat as well. Complacency is something we must always guard against as we strive to be our best. It has been said that good is the enemy of great and this can be a main reason for us not to finish.
The final point in regard to the Prepare and Compete philosophy is that all that we do in order to succeed involves others. There can be no great achievements without team. We are all dependent upon others to help us succeed. We all have an effect on others and their quest to succeed. Therefore, there must be an understanding of the importance of relationships in any philosophy if we are truly dedicated in reaching our potential. Our ability to mesh well with others and to understand roles (our own and others) is of vital importance in properly preparing and competing.
This is the philosophy that has guided me through life and the philosophy that we try to instill in our basketball team. Prepare and Compete – simplistic in formula but complex in execution. But remember, nothing worthwhile was meant to be easy. That’s why success feels so good. So Dream Big…Work Hard!
Next: THE LADDER OF SUCCESS: SIMPLICITY