Sunday, October 19, 2014

Maintaining Excellence By Jasen Sousa for Premier Hoops

After watching the San Antonio Spurs lose to Berlin Alba Berlin earlier in the week, and after watching the Miami Heat mentally and physically collapse after a two-year title run, I thought it would be interesting to explore how a team is able to sustain excellence over a period of time, and how the mental approach to a game, and to a season, is so critical.

The Hunger

There is usually some type of hunger or driving force which brings a team together which creates momentum to be great and overcome large obstacles. It could simply consist of years of losing and wanting to change the atmosphere, or it could come from somewhere deeper like the loss of a teammate.  The common thread is that there is usually an underlined theme or storyline which brings a team together.

The question is, once you reach a successful level as a team or as a player, how does one sustain this passion and desire to keep winning as the main priority, and not let other outside influences impact the ultimate goal? There have been very few basketball teams throughout history which have sustained a complete dominance over a period of time.

Re-focusing

If you and your team had a successful season the previous year and won a championship, or came extremely close, how will your approach the upcoming season? Since every season is completely different, there usually needs to be a new formula introduced as the same principles from the previous year will most likely not work again.

It’s usually up to the coach to create a theme and an atmosphere for the season which will keep individuals motived throughout the year. Coaches in the past have passed out a book to every player on the team and have everyone read it as a group. These small, but important gestures go a long way to creating unity and cohesion, and put everyone on the same page literally and figuratively.  Maybe you can suggest this to your coach if they haven’t implemented this already.

Definition of Success

Try and define why you are trying to win? If it is for personal glory, the team will most likely not have great success.  Maybe you lost the previous year and had a heart breaking defeat where you were moments away from advancing or winning the title?  Try and remember those feelings and how horrible it made you feel.  What else could you personally have done as a player to turn things around?  Could you have made a few more free throws? Shoot a better percentage from the field?
Commit fewer turnovers?  How can you as a player positively contribute to all of these areas this upcoming season?  Did you train harder in the weight room?  Did you practice your free throws?  Did that one time you didn’t dive for a loose ball last year, remind you to the point that you that you don’t even think twice about it this time?

When you are part of a winning team sometimes everyone takes it for granted and thinks it is going to happen again. Remember how fragile winning is and how much you and your team have to continue to push the limits in order to maintain the excellence and success that every sports team and athlete desires for.


Contributing writer Jasen Sousa for Premier Hoops is the author of a number of poetry and fiction books for young people.  Jasen has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and is a life-long participant and fan of the game of basketball.

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