A great discussion on TV the other night about Kobe and Durant being clutch sparked a thought in my mind: what allows some great players to be absolutely clutch when the chips are down?
There is no black and white answer to this, and hoenstly the discussion could go on and on about who, what, why, when, and how they do it…but the bottom line is that success leaves a trail.
As fate would have it, after listening to the conversation about success in the NBA I read a blog post from strength coach Dan John that helped clarify my thoughts. Dan has a way with words that seem to make more and more sense as I continutally get older (and wiser).
Rather than complicate your brain and give you a bunch of in-depth, complex analogies talking about a bunch of psychology and yada yada yada. I’ve decided to break it down to just 3 things:
1) Use Lists – Dan calls them checklists, my dad just called them “reminders.” If you have read my blog for any length of time, you may be aware of the list of concepts my dad used to have written for me for sports (in particular basketball). His list was rather basic, it included things like: ‘change speeds and change direction,’ ‘use fakes often,’ and ‘keep 1 hand up and 1 hand down on defense.’ At the time I thought it was kind of corny, but to be honest, it helped and the more I look at it now, the more I realize it helped contribute to my success as a player.
I like using the list as a set of reminders before you play. It helps you mentally prepare and picture yourself in a position to succeed. The list doesn’t need to be exhaustive (too many things isn’t good either). I would say 5-8 offensive and 5-8 defensive concepts and thoughts will work well. This will also help you shrink your list down to the most important concepts and skills to your on-court success.
2) Minimalist approcach. If I only gave you an option to do a bare minimu of 3-5 drills everyday (on the court), and 3-5 lifts everyday you workout (in the weight room), what would they be? Your answers will be the foundation for your minimalist approach to training for basketball. Those concepts will be your umbrella to furhter success and will actually help you deicde how you should train and what direction to take your training.
I recently decided that I am going to go on a quest of improving my olympic lifting abilities. For those that aren’t familar with the olympic lifts, they consist of two lifts: the snatch, and the clean & jerk. In order to improve my mastery and growth in these lifts I’ve taken a minimalist approach: if the lift or exercise doesn’t improve my olympic lifting, I don’t do it. It’s that simple. While I probably won’t carry on this approach long-term, for me it’s important to start training with a goal and to take out all of the unessary crap that most people put into their programs.
3) Practice A Lot. Everyone practices some, but most people don’t do anymore than the bare minimum. That’s a problem, especially if you want to succeed at a high level. Shooting 75% from the foul line is a whole lot easier than shooting 90%, but most don’t want to take the time or put in the effort to get your shooting from 75% to 90%. Remember that as you train there is an inverse relationship between time and skill; eventually your improvements start to slow down over time and there is minimal return on investment. For that exact reason you should take the above descrbied ‘minimalist’ approach so that you can get as much out of your training as possible.
So after all of this, what does that have to do with succeeding in the clutch? Everything. When you’re stressed and in a high pressure situation you will resort back to your habits and your most ‘minimal’ thoughts. The better your habits and the more minimal approach you have, the better your chances of success. It’s that simple. The more you simplify things the less that can go wrong. If you have two moving pieces in a shot only 2 things can go wrong. If you have 5 moving pieces in a shot, 5 things can go wrong. By fovusing on those 2 things exlusively you can dedicate a lot more time to improving your craft and a lot less time to crap