Monday, October 26, 2009

The Windshield and The Fly: The Art of Bouncing Back

"Some days you are the windshield, some days you are the fly." This phrase packs a substantial punch in regards to life in general, but especially in the life of the overseas basketball player. Some days you will ride roughshod over the competition; trumpets annoucing your comings and goings, the petals of exotic flowers raining down on you like a returning conqueror as you leave the field of play, the cheers of the assembled faithful ringing in your ears. And then, every so often, there are days you will head to the showers covered in the oppositions footprints, wondering what hit you and how come you couldn't get out of the way. Of course, there are elements within the control of the individual that help determine the number of days you are windshield or smeared greenish ooze. It is the art of bouncing back that is the difference.

Most anyone who has ever played basketball is familiar with that mental space, that moment, that feeling where you can not be stopped. When you are "In the zone", On fire", that game where shooting the ball feels like sitting on a toilet, throwing pennies in a bathtub. You can't miss, the defense calls timeouts just to regain its composure, your legs feel spring loaded, there is no mountain you can not climb, no song you can not sing.

Then there is the other place. It is a place where the cold winds blow, the air in your lungs might as well be glass, you're running not on legs, but heavy, unflexible sandbags. The defense swarms like, well, flies. The lid on the basket is welded on and your coach calls timeout so that you can regain YOUR composure. I had such a game as the latter description not too long ago. It was miserable, absolutely miserable. The first rule of holes is when you are in one, stop digging. Well, in this game, not only was I chest deep in a horrible shooting night, my mental shovel kept on tunneling to China. Such is life. The difference between the days of being a fly and days of plowing through undeterred is how you recover from a "fly" day.

I learned a long time ago that preparation breeds confidence; I spend hours working on my game, sharpening my skills, essentially polishing my windshield for the next game. But no amount of preparation can stop the inevitable "off night", where nothing seems to go my way, when some off-the-court issue manages to sneak past security and wreck havoc on my mental concentration, when you just can't seem to right the ship.

If you were to study the careers of people who have found great success in their chosen field, you will usually find that there is a great deal of failure involved in the making of that success. Inventors throughout history fail repeatedly before finally getting the phone to ring, the lightbulb to blink, the airplane to get off the ground. Neither Alexander the Great nor Ghengis Khan had undefeated battle records; Michael Jordan even made a commercial where he describes all the last second shots he has taken and MISSED. To become a master of bouncing back is to learn the art of becoming a rubber fly. Instead of letting the days where you are on a collision course with a windshield smear you completely, take the hit and bounce rather than splatter.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009