Stare failure in the face and don't allow it to be an option.
2.1 seconds on the clock.
The crowd was restless. You could feel the tension in the air. Silence, yet it was screaming and ringing in my ears.
It was the national semi-final match and our team was down 3 points. Coach drew up a play that we called ‘Dirk' after the 7-footer from Germany who’s known for inbounding the ball, then immediately stepping into play, catching a pass and draining the long distance three pointer.
I had the hot hand and was being guarded by the other team’s best defender.
The referee blew his whistle and handed me the ball. 5 seconds to inbound...
Our team ran into motion, setting a double screen to free up our best big man who could shoot. I hit him down underneath the hoop. But we were down 3, so a 2 would do us no good. The defense collapsed on the ball.
I jabbed left and cut right to the corner. Our big man passed the ball right back to me. I was focused on the spin of the ball, catching it to line up the ridges on the basketball just perfectly in order to release the ball with the ideal backspin for the game tying shot.
The lanky defender trailed me closely. I didn’t have much time to get the shot off.
If I missed, we’d lose. That thought crossed my mind, but I stared it right in the face and told myself, “You’ll hit the shot. This is what you’ve been dreaming of since you were a little kid. This is why you spent hours and hours of sweat on the court practicing, running drills around chairs, shooting until your hands ached."
I released the ball. The entire stadium was on their feet.
The clock expired and the horn went off as the ball was mid-flight.
It felt good… It looked good…
Please go in!
Time stood still. The air was sucked out of the gymnasium.
I maintained my form and followthrough and watched the ball as it neared its mark.
Swish! The net sang with the crispness of a perfectly aimed bomb.
The crowd erupted. It was pure pandemonium. Adrenaline rush and the crowd so loud you couldn’t hear a thing. Like a silent celebration.
Overtime. And we went on to blow the team out of the gym. On our way to winning the national championship that year.
That shot still rings true in my mind, but not because I made the big shot and was the most popular kid for awhile. But because the thought of failure crept up and sat on my shoulder that entire play.
It wasn’t at the back of my mind, it was clawing for the front.
And I don’t know how you deal with these feelings and thoughts, but I looked it right in the face and denied it relevance to my decision making. I was prepared to make the shot. All I had to do now was do what I’d practiced so many times.
Thoughts of not good enough, can’t succeed, self-sabotage, questioning, failure, and all the rest of them will always be there. The true champion embraces those feelings and thoughts, prepares himself (or herself), and takes the calculated risk.
I had already seen the ball going into the basket long before I took the shot. And I had made that shot a thousand times in practice.
It would have been riskier if I didn’t take the shot.
Be prepared, practice so the odds are in your favor, then take the shot.
(photo via harold kobler)