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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Basketball: Turning Failure into Success


Many sports are failure games. Mickey Mantle struck out over 1700 times. His career batting average fell just short of .300. But when he wasn't failing, he won three MVPs (and three 2nds), made sixteen All-Star appearances, hit over 500 home runs, led the league in Wins above replacement (WAR) nine times, and was seventh all-time in adjusted OPS.  

We can't let fear of failure stop us. Rational people doubt themselves. The opposite of fear is recklessness, not courage. Courage balances the extremes. Seek balance. 

Greatness arises from failure and humble origin. Ulysses Grant graduated in the middle of his class at West Point. He became an alcoholic. At one point he sold firewood on street corners to subsist. At the beginning of the Civil War, he labored in obscurity in his father's leather shop. From these marginal existences, he led victory during the Civil War.  

Bill Russell grew up a sickly child in West Monroe, Louisiana. The family relocated to Oakland, where his father was a shipyard worker and his mother died of kidney failure when he was twelve. Russell wasn't a highly acclaimed prep player. He went to USF, discovered by Hal Julio. That paid off with a pair of NCAA titles and Olympic gold. His professional career yielded eleven rings in thirteen seasons. Frank Deford wrote, "Fourteen times in Russell's career it came down to one game, win you must, or lose and go home. Fourteen times the team with Bill Russell on it won."

Russell saw basketball this way, "If you can take something to levels that very few other people can reach, then what you're doing becomes art."

The path to success is cryptic. Legendary playwright David Mamet has "what hinders you?" engraved on a new watch, a tribute to Stoic philosophy. Master film scorer Hans Zimmer begins each day facing a blank white screen bereft of notes. 

People struggle everywhere. I remind some, "Don't beat yourself up. There will always be someone else to do that for you."

We can never be better than we believe we are. Self-belief isn't arrogance. Choose balance. Achieving balance requires finding a manageable process and discipline to follow. 

Lagniappe: Free throw rebounding. 



Failure to rebound free throws frustrates coaches. Defensive rebounding reflects positioning and toughness. I teach players to 'sandwich' one side and man up the other. But we should be aware of 'tactics' used to rebound free throws. 


Zak Boisvert shares the X technique. 

I teach players to beware the "Hook" technique where the offensive rebounder "hooks up" the closest rebounder's outside arm (technically a foul). Another technique offensive rebounders use is jab stepping into the lane and bouncing low if the inside rebounder overreacts. 



Here, Zak shows the Nova free throw rebounding tip strategy. 

Lagniappe 2. Remember Kevin Eastman's WILT: "What I learned today." 

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