Overcoming Depression

Overcoming Depression

The first time I heard about depression, I was in 7th grade in homeroom, and we were watching the morning news. There was a documentary talking about how serious depression was, and how it wasn’t just sadness. It seemed intense, and I didn’t really understand what it was all about.

Today, I completely understand what it is. After dealing with depression for a while, I haven’t completely learned to overcome it, but I’ve learned to manage it. Like in the movie A Beautiful Mind, when he still sees the visions of the people, but they are off to the corner, not affecting his daily life.

From what I’ve experienced, depression is like a big wave that just overcomes you. You don’t see it coming, and you don’t really know it’s hitting you until you’re experiencing all kinds of terrible thoughts, as you dread the future. Everything seems bleak, and nothing or nobody seems able to rectify your feelings. While everybody is laughing, you’re just in a daze, putting on a fake smile so nobody asks you what is wrong. With everybody telling us to “Be Positive” and “Be Happy”, with smiling faces all around, it all seems like a big joke.

There are plenty of schools of thought on depression, some saying it’s genetic, while others saying it’s a symptom of circumstances. I agree with both to an extent, but just marking it up to genetics then taking a whole bunch of pills may be just masking the problems. From experience, I believe circumstance has a lot to do with it.

The scary fact is that anybody can be swallowed by depression. Whether you’re rich, poor, successful, a failure, or anything in between, nobody is spared. I once read that Paulo Coehlo, the famous author of the Alchemist, once he become rich and a huge success, became deeply depressed. He started going to therapists, and they suggested pills and different remedies, none of which worked. Finally, he spoke to someone who got to the heart of the problem. The fact is that once Paulo reached the heights of success, he didn’t have any more challenges. He achieved everything he wanted in life, and didn’t have anything to work for. This person told him to really look deep into himself, and to figure out what would give him satisfaction, and a sense of purpose. It was actually something completely different than writing, and from that point on, he regained a purpose and excitement to his life.

Depression can be debilitating because we feel completely stuck. We are in a situation or environment, and we feel like there is no out, and no reason to keep on going. The truth, though, is far from that. You have unique skills and talents that nobody else has. You have a way of looking at the world, with your own experiences, that nobody in the history of the world has ever or will ever experience. Too often, we focus on the next temporary fulfillment, instead of really getting a sense of our purpose and what we were placed on this earth to accomplish.

A way out of depression is getting in touch with that. What gets you excited? What gives you hope, a purpose, and a challenge? What scares you, and is something you think you never could accomplish? Find out one of these things, then pursue it. How can you live your life striving to accomplish one of these? If you must have a full time job, pursue these things at nights and on weekends in your free time, using your day job to fuel your fire.

Life is vibrant, flowing, and beautiful. If you’re feeling depressed right now, the first way out of it is to get yourself a good meal. Treat yourself, and show yourself some love. Second, write down a few goals you want to accomplish in the coming weeks and months. Figure out a plan to reach these goals, and figure out a long-term plan for yourself, too. Look at these, and realize that you do have a purpose for your life, no matter what emotional state you are in right now.

Robert Greene wrote in his book Mastery, “Alienating yourself from your inclinations can only lead to pain and disappointment in the long run, and a sense that you have wasted something unique.” Depression is tough, but we can overcome it. We just have to have a strong sense of who we are, and realize that the future is beautiful.

Developing Confidence with the Basketball

Developing Confidence with the Basketball

Recently, I asked what your weakness was, and how you would make it a strength. I got a good amount of responses back not about how to jump higher, not about how to make every shot, not about how to make the NBA… But what to do when you get the ball.

To paraphrase a response, “When I get the ball, I get scared that I will make a mistake. I don’t want to take a bad shot or turn the ball over, and let my team down. Can you help me with that?”

To answer that question, I must say that I can and I can’t. Have you ever heard the saying, “You can show a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink?” That’s what this situation is.

Growing up, even when I was in college at the Division 1 level, when I got the ball sometimes, I got scared as well. These were high-pressure situations where if you made one mistake, you were straddling the fence. If you made 2 mistakes, you were out of the game, possibly for the rest of the game. To be honest, sometimes in these circumstances, I wouldn’t even want to touch the ball, or when I got the ball I would immediately pass it, for fear of making a bad mistake.

In order to get over your fear, you must face it head on. What are you scared of? Missing the shot? Not playing? Not knowing what to do with the ball? Recognize what the fear is. Now, realize what your strength is. Are you a shooter? If so, when you get the ball and shoot, you shouldn’t feel scared. Are you a point guard and scared of getting the ball stripped? Work on your ball handling a little more, and focus on making smart decisions.

I say I can help you and I can’t because I can tell you what to do, but you have to actually put it into play. Trust that you are a great player. Basketball is simple. When you get the open shot, shoot. If you get trapped with defenders, pass the ball. If you have an opening, drive to the hoop. You know how to play the game, now you must execute. Trust in yourself to make the right decision in the circumstance, whatever it may be. And if you make a mistake, learn from it and don’t make the same mistake next time.

You’ve got two options: One, is to keep passing the ball, never making a mistake, but never doing anything of meaning, either. Always being the mediocre player who maybe gets a few points per game. The second option is to shoot when you’re open, having confidence when you get the ball, and taking it aggressive to the rim. Maybe you will make mistakes here and there, but your coaches and teammates will know you are working your butt off trying to produce. They will trust you with the ball to make plays, and that’s where your confidence will develop.

The great thing about basketball is that there is always a “next play” and “another game”. These are the opportunities we have to prove to ourselves how good we actually are.

The #1 Drill to Become a Lock-Down Defender

IMG 1510 300x225 The #1 Drill to Become a Lock Down Defender

 

Defense sucks. When was the last time you told a friend, “Yo, let’s go to the courts and do some defensive slides”? Never? It’s okay, because those words have probably never been uttered in the history of human kind.

However, defense is half of basketball. Look at never practicing defense as drinking soda every day instead of water. Yes, you can do it, but it will slow you down, and it’s not going to benefit you in the long run. Practicing your defense is like drinking pure water filled with electrolytes. It’s going to keep you in shape, and provide a huge boost to your game.

The only thing worse than a cocky player is a cocky player who doesn’t play defense. Don’t be that person. I told someone that I was doing defensive slides at the courts this weekend by myself. They said, “Tyson, you’re probably the only person who does that without a coach screaming at you to do it.” I said, “True.”

In order to be great, you have to do what nobody else will do. When the other players have their Beats headphones on looking at Instagram photos with each other, be that person who will be working on your game.

These are the drills I was doing this weekend: Full-Court Defensive Slides

Do you want to be the best? Or do you want to be average?? It starts now. I used to always finish my workouts with these. Do the same.

Why Upper Body Strength in Basketball is So Important

Why Upper Body Strength in Basketball is So Important

IMG 1731 300x225 Why Upper Body Strength in Basketball is So Important

 

We all know that one person.  They’re strong, they barely lift weights, and you wonder how they got that way.  But it’s not just a “yea I work out 3 time per week” strong.  If you tried to move them, you would have absolutely no chance.

Growing up playing basketball, there were a few guys like that in my town.  They weren’t the best players, but they were rock-solid.  Getting them out of the post would be impossible, and they definitely pushed me around when I tried to drive by them.  It was annoying, and I didn’t like it at all.  So what did I do?  I did everything I could to match their strength.

Having a strong upper body in basketball is so important.  Obviously, everybody wants to have a great vertical jump, and be the quickest person on the team.  What’s underrated, and very subtle, is having a strong upper body.  No matter how high you can jump, or how quick you are, nobody will be able to push you around.  You’ll be able to hold your ground on defense, and can back your defender down more easily to the hoop on offense.

I was at a basketball tournament in Los Angeles in high school.  It was a high-profile tournament, with lots of college coaches everywhere.  Around one court, there were a bunch of coaches, but I didn’t recognize any of the players.  I said to my teammate, “Who are all those coaches here for?”  My teammate said, “I don’t know, probably that guy.”  He pointed to the strongest guy on the court.  Not the tallest guy, but the most muscular person.

This is what being stronger than everyone else does.  It sets you apart from the other players on the court, even before you start playing.  Obviously you have to be a great player to get noticed, but being stronger gets everybody looking at you before the ball is even tipped.  I played against an NFL player recently.  He was huge.  Our whole team kept saying, “Who’s gonna guard him?”  “He’s gonna kill us!”  He ended up being a pretty bad player, but before he even stepped on the court, most of our team was intimidated already.  That’s what being the biggest guy on the court does.

Getting strong isn’t easy.  It takes lots of work, and lots of training in the gym.  You can take all the creatine, supplements, and protein shakes you want, but if you aren’t actually training, the pills, powder, and shakes aren’t going to have any effect at all.

Online, you can find thousands of different workouts for when you’re in the weight room.  Bicep curls, bench presses, tricep extensions, etc.  These are all important, but one of the best ways to get stronger is through body weight exercises.  If you’re still in high school, or under 17 years old, you shouldn’t be lifting weights 3 or 4 times per week.  Your muscles are still growing, and the strain of weight training puts you in jeopardy of getting injured.  Also, too much weight training will mess with your shot.  One of my friends lifts weights all the time, but he can’t shoot very well because he doesn’t stretch much.  Because his arms are so tight from lifting, his form is messed up, and he doesn’t have a consistent jumper.

Here are a few body weight exercises to help you get stronger naturally, won’t mess up your jump shot, and you can do these anywhere you have a chair or a bench.  No weights necessary.

Tricep Dips

When you do these, do them until you can’t do them anymore.  They work your triceps, along with your forearm.  Keep your hands evenly spaced out, and lower yourself down to the ground.  If you want to make it more challenging, speed up or slow down the movement.

Burpees

These are more for the full body, but the upper body definitely gets worked here.  Do 10-15 to start, then progress into more.  For an extra challenge, do a pushup when your hands and feet are on the ground.

Slow Pushups

We’re all accustomed to doing things fast, but when you slow things down like this, your body isn’t used to it.  Count about 5-10 seconds when you’re pushing up, and 5-10 seconds when you’re lowering down.  Eventually, your muscles will start to shake.  That’s what we’re going for.  Try 10 to 15 repetitions, then add more as you get better at it.

Pull Ups

If you have a bar, a tree, or any stable thing you can pull yourself up on, get in the habit of doing pullups.  In New York City, they do these on the construction bars and stop lights at the intersections.  Also a staple of every Navy SEAL training program, pullups are effective for basketball training as well.  Pull your chin above the bar, then slowly let yourself down to a full hang.  Repeat.  5 is a good start, but 10 is better.  It takes a long time to get to a high number of pullups, so practice is necessary.

Explosive Pushups

Unlike the slow pushups, these really challenge the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your arms.  If you can clap in between, try it, but focus on getting as high off the ground as possible, then smoothly bringing yourself down.

Obviously, these are basic, but they are a start.  All you need for these is a will to do them.  There are no excuses here.  Everybody has a bench, and you can find a pullup bar anywhere.  Start these now, and, consistently done, you will see a transformation in your upper body in the coming weeks and months.

If you have any questions about this or want more information, reach out to us.  That’s what we’re here for.

Dealing With an Injury

Basketball Training — Dealing With an Injury

It happens to everybody.  At one point, you’re going to experience an injury.  Whether you break your hand, sprain your ankle, or anything else, an injury sucks.

But don’t let it discourage you.  It’s just a setback.  Blake Griffin couldn’t play for the first year or so in the NBA, now he’s one of the best.  Here are a few tips to get through an injury:

1.  Keep a mindset of hope.  When you’re home icing that ankle, do everything right.  Know that you’re doing everything that you can to get back onto the basketball court.  An injury is temporary, but your spirit is forever.

2.  Cheer your team on.  When you’re at the game in street clothes, act like you’re one of the team.  Don’t just get jealous because everybody is playing.  Your team and the fans will see that.  Your coaches will definitely see that.  Then, once you get better, they will remember that you had a terrible attitude when you were on the sidelines.  That doesn’t help your situation… Trust me.

3.  Accept the fact that you have an injury, but do nothing different.  Show up to practice on time, help your teammates, be engaged, and do what your coach wants you to do.  Its the tough times that determine the type of person you are.  If you show that you won’t let an injury ruin your passion, your team will respect you.

4.  Work on your weaknesses.  If you broke your right hand, start shooting with your left hand, or dribble constantly with your left hand.  If you broke your foot, shoot hundreds of free throws.  Figure out what you can do, and just freaking do it.

5.  Finally, don’t complain.  Complaining does nothing.  Instead, focus on where you will be after your injury is healed, and get everybody around you excited for when you get back.  Say, “It’s okay, it’s just a roadblock.  I’m going to come back better than ever.”  Say it enough times, put in the work, and it will be true.

An injury is tough to deal with, but fortunately, it’s temporary.  Focus on what you need to do to get back on the court, and you’ll be good to go in no time.

The Psychology of a High School Basketball Coach

The Psychology of a High School Basketball Coach

The basketball season is upon us, and it’s going to be full of drama, highs, lows, frustration, and celebration.  That’s just a fact of life.  Hopefully you have prepared for this season the best you can so you put yourself in the best possible position.

Even though you worked hard, it’s important to know what’s going on behind the scenes.  The only person that controls your playing time is your coach.  And they have a lot on their plate.  The next few paragraphs will give you an idea of the psychology of a high school basketball coach.

1.      The Program.  Your coach’s number 1 priority is to win.  They know that if they don’t win, they will be fired eventually.  They want to look good for the program, and show they are a good coach and can do their job.  At the high school level, it’s not as serious as in college or the NBA, but the eyes are still on the coach to see what they will do with their team.

2.      The Team.  You may have a new team this year, all returning players, or a mix.  Either way, your coach wants to cultivate their team to win.  They will push you to make sure you perform your best, so the team will do well. 

Also, at this point, your coach is still figuring out who got better, who is out of shape, and who is extremely serious about their basketball career.  All these things are coming into play.  Right now is when your coach starts to make the team for the season.  If you’re starting now, there is a good chance you’re going to be starting in 3 months.  Know that they aren’t just looking to see who can score, but who does the intangible things like diving for loose balls, plays great defense, and is a positive influence on the team.  Players who bring the team down emotionally hurt the team, and your coach can sense who does that.

3.      The Players.  Your coach wants to see you do well.  They will work with you after practice, but you must also show them that you are serious.  Listen to your coach, and do what they say.  Your coach needs you to play your role, whether that’s shooting, ball handling, or rebounding.  Make your coach’s job easy by being the best at what they want you to do.  Remember they have 12 other players other than you, so don’t make their job harder by starting drama or being lazy.  Listen, work hard, show up on time, and support your team through anything that happens.

4.      The Parents.  Your coach is going to have parents talking to them all year.  Every parent wants their kid to play more, shoot more, or get a college scholarship.  It gets annoying for your coach.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it is a factor in playing time decisions that they make.  It’s called basketball politics.  It’s unfortunate, but true.  The only way you can overcome this is to play your game, and do the best you can when you get on the court.

 Your coach has all these aspects in their mind.  During practices and games, they’re looking at every player and thinking about the long-term implications of playing or not playing them.  This is the beginning of the season, so you have to get off to a great start.

 Create a role on your team for yourself, and become a contributor early on.  If you contribute to the wins now, your coach will trust you to contribute during playoff time.  It starts today.  I’m rooting for you. 

 

Increasing Your Vertical Jump for Basketball

Increasing your Vertical Jump for Basketballkeep pumping 300x229 Increasing Your Vertical Jump for Basketball

There are hundreds of products, supplies, powders, and juices that will tell you that you can increase your vertical jump by doing/taking them.  From years of experience in playing and working with other athletes, there really is no magic potion or solution.

Before we get into how to increase your vertical jump for basketball, you need to know one thing about your muscles.  Most muscles are either fast-twitch or slow-twitch.  Fast-twitch muscle fibers provide an athlete with explosiveness, but they get tired easily.  I saw this plenty of times with my teammates.  We would be running a mile together, and they would get tired after the first lap.  The slow-twitch muscle fibers allow an athlete to run for a longer period of time, but aren’t as explosive.  After that first lap, these athletes would just be getting started.

So what’s the big deal about if you have slow or fast-twitch muscle fibers?  It’s a big deal because it will probably determine the amount of work you’re going to have to put in.  I was amazed by kids I knew who could dunk easily in 8th grade, yet I had to put in hours of work with plyometrics.  As I got older, I learned about the different muscle types, and how some athletes are just meant for explosiveness.

I really believe I have slow-twitch fibers because I’m not a jumper.  I can get up there, but I can’t do a 360 tomahawk with ease.  With that said, I needed to figure out a way to increase my vertical jump naturally.

What I learned is that you must be dynamic with your workouts.  You can’t just do calf-raises every day, expecting to dunk in 2 months.  Charles Barkley, one of the best NBA players of all time, learned how to jump higher from finding a fence near his house, and jumping over that fence every day.

Lots of studies have been done on increasing your vertical jump, and here are a few of the best exercises:

Squat Jumps

With a full range of motion, you are jumping up as high as you can, then coming down into a squat position.  This works your quadriceps, hamstrings, calfs, and your abs.  Do 10-15 reps, then rest about a minute, then continue for 3 or 4 sets.  Very basic, but very powerful.

Jump Rope

This works because it a continuous jump.  You are conditioning your muscles to get faster and stronger with every jump.  If you don’t have a jump rope, you can just jump in place.  Do this for at least 2 minutes to get the full effect.  As time goes on, increase the amount of time you jump.

Squats

Ideally, you would do these with weight.  As long as your form is correct, this strengthens your legs, and gives them the extra power to jump.  If you don’t have a gym or weights, you can do these with just your body weight, making sure to keep correct form each time.  Do 10-15, for 3 or 4 sets.

Calf Raises

Your calves provide the spring in your jumps.  The highest jumpers I’ve seen have always had the thickest calves.  Doing at least 50-100 of these every day will enable you to have much more power in every jump.

Wall/Backboard/Rim Touches 

Finally, just practice jumping as high as you can.  Gravity is annoying sometimes, but the more you jump, the higher you will eventually get.  If you can’t touch the rim yet, touch the backboard.  If you can’t touch the backboard, put a sticker on the wall and keep trying to touch higher and higher every day.

These are the basic exercises to increase your vertical jump for basketball.  There are loads of different, interesting exercises you can do, but a main point in this is to just do it.  Start doing these basic exercises, then move into the more advanced stuff.  When you see people running with parachutes or people with the Vertimax bunjee cords, that will help but it’s not really practical.  You aren’t going to bring a parachute to the basketball court and start doing sprints.

These are the vertical jump exercies you can do by yourself, whenever you have free time.  Over time, you will start to build your muscles, and attain the goals you are trying to achieve.  It’s worked for me, and it’s worked for thousands of other players.  But you have to put the work in.

Are you prepared to do that?

 

Playing Basketball with Bad Pickup Players

Playing Basketball with Bad Pickup Players

IMG 1510 300x225 Playing Basketball with Bad Pickup Players

New York City Basketball Pickup Game

Any serious basketball player has played hundreds, possibly thousands of hours of pickup ball.  For the non-basketball player reading this, pickup ball is when random people get together to play basketball, and create their own rules and keep track of score themselves.  In some areas, such as New York City, pickup ball is a way of life, even with movies made about it.  The competition is fierce, and can get very emotional.

However, some places, not many people play basketball, and the games are terrible.  I have had this happen plenty of times in my life.  I’m going to tell you what to do when you get stuck in a game with terrible players, and you don’t want to just abandon the game and walk off the court.

Playing at a high level in college and professionally, it really sucks when I get in a bad pickup game.  I don’t like to just walk off the court, though, because it would seem like I’m too good for them.  I don’t want to be arrogant, so I’ll stick it out and play. 

When I’m playing with these players, my main priority is to not get hurt.  I don’t want to injure myself playing with people who don’t take basketball seriously, so I am a little more careful.  But, once I recognize that, my goal is to work on my weaknesses.

Scoring points on these players is easy, so what I want to do at this point is work on things that I wouldn’t have the chance to in a normal, competitive game.  Things such as posting my man up, then doing a left hand hook shot, or forcing myself to only go left on every move, or working on crazy moves that I wouldn’t think about doing in a serious game. 

Also try to play ridiculously good defense.  If you are a smaller player, guard the biggest person on the court, and work on your post-up defense.  If you are a big player, work on your footwork and guard the smallest, quickest player on the floor. 

Set goals and challenges for yourself during the game, such as keeping your man out of the paint, not letting your player score any points, or playing great help-side defense.  Maybe even practice taking charges, even though people will wonder what the heck you are doing taking charges in a pickup game.

Point is, don’t waste your time.  Even though you are playing with lesser-quality players, use the chances you have to work on your weaknesses.  If something is too easy, make it challenging.  If it is challenging, make it even more challenging by setting goals for yourself along the way. 

If you play basketball consistently, you will definitely get into games like this that you just want to quit.  Don’t quit, however, and use the opportunity to begin to strengthen your weaknesses.  Do this consistently over time, and you will wonder how you got so good at keeping your man out of the paint.  Then you will think back, and realize those horrible pickup games weren’t so horrible after all.

How to Hold Your Own Against Better Competition

How to Hold Your Own Against Better Competition

In any sport, game, or competition of any kind, the goal, normally, is to get better.  And there are two ways to get better:  One, through quality training and practice, and two, by playing against someone better.

 How to Hold Your Own Against Better Competition

Playing against someone better, or, “playing up”, is how the greatest players of all time got their starts.  Michael Jordan’s older brother, Larry Jordan, beat him in basketball every single day when he was growing up.  Once Michael got better than his brother, he stopped playing against him because there was no more competition. 

I was reading an article about chess the other day that said if you don’t play against a stronger player, you will never get better.  You will have the satisfaction of winning, but, for the serious player, if they are not challenged constantly, chess will become boring.

Growing up, I always tried to get the best possible games I could.  I made it a science to find out where and when the best players played.  I knew the best games were in Philadelphia and New York, so I tried to play there as much as possible.  If you don’t play against better players than you, you will never get better.  Mark my words.

Now, when it comes to “playing up”, you want to show that you can “hold your own”.  Meaning that you can hang with the big boys (or girls).  If you play against players much better than you, and you play terrible, they most likely won’t let you play with them again.  Or, if they do, they will probably never pass you the ball and treat you like a liability, which, for me, is even worse than not getting to play with them.

So, what do you do when you know you’re going to play against much better competition, and this is your only chance to make a great impression? 

Three things:

1.      Play your game

If you are a shooter, shoot the ball, and hope you swish every single jumper.  If you are a post player, play tough and physical, sticking to the fundamentals.  If you are a point guard, DO NOT turn the ball over, make great passes, and get everybody involved.  If you don’t have any specialties, then just play great defense, and take what comes to you, whether it is a layup, an open 3 pointer, or making a few great passes that impresses everybody.

2.      Match the physicality of the game

You MUST NOT let them push you around.  If somebody is backing you down in the post, be extra physical, and foul them if necessary.  If a defender is all over you, completely up in your face when you get the ball, give them a warning elbow so they know they are getting too close.  If they continue, accidently elbow them so they get the physical message to back off.  Box your man out, and show that even though you are smaller or less skilled, you are just as tough as them.

3.      Quickly analyze the player you are guarding

If they are very quick, give them a little space to shoot.  Don’t let them blow by you.  If they can shoot, stay up in their face the whole game.  If they are a post player, keep them out of the paint as much as you can, then find out their go-to post move.  Stay on top of the person you are guarding, because even if you don’t score or do anything offensively, you will still be judged by your defense. 

Find out who the best players are on your team, and get them involved.  If you hog the ball and shoot bad shots, they will not let you play with them again.  You won’t take as many shots, and may not do anything fancy or flashy, but they will know you are a player that can be trusted to pass the ball, shoot when open, and play good defense.  If you want to keep playing with them, these are the most important things.

I have been on both ends of this, playing with bad players, and playing with high level guys.  Nothing was more annoying than having a teammate who thought he could play, and turning the ball over doing something fancy, and shooting every time he touched the ball.  I never would pick him again, and didn’t even want to play with him.

On the flip side, I know that when I play with much better players, they are the stars, not me.  I have to adapt my game to be a hustle player, playing great defense, getting loose balls, passing excessively, and shooting only when completely wide open.  This shows that even if I’m not as good as them, I am a solid player, and I can hold my own against them.

I hope this has helped give you an idea of what to expect when playing against better competition.  First impressions mean a lot.  If you get on the court with better players and you stink it up, you will develop a bad reputation real quick.  You can only change that by playing consistently great the next time, and hope they start to trust you.  If not, you’re out of luck, and you’ll probably have to find other players to play against.

Why Trying to Be Cool Will Ruin Your Basketball Career

Why Trying to Be Cool Will Ruin Your Basketball Career

I could make this into a 10-part series, but for now I just want to touch on the general idea of this.

Everybody tries to be cool.  That is the goal for everybody growing up.  That was the goal for me growing up, too.  Coolness was this far away land that the kids who partied and smoked lived in.  But guess what? 

I wasn’t cool. 

I was never cool.  Believe me, I tried to be cool, but I didn’t fit in.  Seriously.  I was too tall, I was lanky, I was weird, I was shy, and I was awkward.  I tried to be funny so the other people would think I was cool, but I think they saw through the desperation.

It was tough, not being cool.  I didn’t get invited to the parties, I didn’t drink every weekend, and I definitely didn’t smoke.  But why were all the cool kids doing it?  A lot of times, I thought, “What is wrong with me?  Why can’t I fit in?”

It was rough not having everybody want to be your friend, but the one place I didn’t care about being cool or not going to all the parties, was on the basketball court.  Really, whenever I had the ball and the hoop, everything else just faded away.  I would go to the court with my problems, and leave 2 hours later wondering what I was so upset about.

This love affair with the hoop and ball, however, didn’t really get me far socially.  Instead of hanging out with kids after school, I would be in the gym doing ball handling drills or getting up jumpers.  I still remember lots of times how kids I knew would come into the gym and see me doing sprints all alone, and ask me what I was doing.  I would tell them I was training, and say, “I’m going to get a basketball scholarship.”  They would look at each other, laugh, and just walk away.  Was it embarrassing? I guess.  I don’t know.  I didn’t care.

Once I got into high school, the epidemic of being cool swept over everybody fairly quickly.  Like a fast-moving storm, a cloud of coolness hovered over the student population for years.  I was sucked into it, but I also had a passionate love affair with basketball, so I used the basketball hoop as my strong and sturdy umbrella to weather the rainstorm of “coolness”.

I don’t know if it still is this way, but when I was in high school, the “cool” thing was to not have energy.  Seriously, if you had “too much energy”, or worked your butt off, you were definitely not cool.  In order to be cool, you had to look like you were constantly about to fall asleep.  If you didn’t show up to class, or didn’t do school work, you were even “cooler”.

Can we stop and recognize how stupid this is?

I don’t know if all schools are like this, but I still notice how the lazy person who self-sabotages their own mind and body are labeled “cool”.  What the hell is this all about?

Why do we think these people are cool?  Because they are lazy? Because they don’t have a sense of drive, passion, or determination? 

Or are they somebody to relate to, and who makes us feel satisfied with our mediocrity?  When we see a high-achiever, we try to bring them down to our level, and blame their success on luck, or any other number of factors.

You know why the world’s most successful people were not “cool” growing up?  Because they didn’t get sucked into the trap of conformity, laziness and coolness.  While the cool kids were out drinking on the weekend, they were working on their game, studying, or figuring out ways to make money.  They were not sabotaging their body with drugs, alcohol, and other unhealthy behaviors. 

I could seriously go on for pages about this, but I’ll keep it short.

Here is the epitome of trying to be cool:

Say you just played ball with some of your friends at the courts.  Once you get done playing, you should always cool down and stretch.  If you can’t do a full cool-down, at least stretch for a few minutes.  This will keep your body at a high level, reduce injuries, and get your body ready to relax. 

However, most people don’t do any stretching at all.  You know why?  Because they don’t want their friends laughing at them.  They may have seen “White Men Can’t Jump”, and don’t want to be that guy stretching on the sidelines. 

But do you know what the first thing all Division 1 college basketball teams do before they get on the court is? Stretch.  Do you know what the last thing they do before they get off the court?  Stretch. 

Start to get in good habits now, so your body gets used to it, and stays in great shape.  Maybe the first time you stretch, your friends will laugh at you, but if you do it consistently every time you play, it will become normal, and they will get used to it.  Trust me.

“Being cool” is overrated.  I was never cool, and I got a full Division 1 scholarship and played professional basketball overseas.  You know how?  By not getting sucked into the “cool” lazy mindset, and by focusing on the goals that I set for myself.

Have you ever been pressured to be “cool”?  Have any stories about it?  Comment in the section below.  I want to hear them.