As I transition into my professional basketball career, I'm discovering that my mind is my most valuable asset. Everything is new and I have to start from scratch to familiarize myself with it all. New coaching staff, offense, teammates, team dynamics, expectations, team strengths/weaknesses etc.
It reminds me a lot of my first few weeks at Claremont McKenna College or even in high school for that matter. As a result, I want to give a few tips that can help you adapt to your changing basketball environment, whether you're transitioning from college to the pros or from freshman to JV.
Even if you're on the same team as last year, these tips will help you re-focus and make the most out of your upcoming season.
1) Approach the game as a student
Be hungry to learn. I recently was able to travel with CAI Zaragoza (The ACB parent club) on 2 of their recent road trips. Even though I didn't play a single minute in their first two games, I devoured every bit of information I could get my hands on.
I studied their plays by writing and re-writing them. I learned their warm-up routines. I absorbed all the little things that the coaches praised. I noted the types of mistakes that they corrected. I noticed who were team leaders and who needed some impetus to play hard.
I made it my mission to attack that road trip like I was studying for a test.
2) Ask questions
Not only will this clarify any confusion you may have, but it also shows that you're engaged and want to improve. Coaches absolutely love that.
Don't be afraid to ask veteran players questions either. It's nerve-wracking to approach an older player for advice. Especially for someone with a quiet personality (like myself), it doesn't come easy. But trust me, the possibility of learning from an experienced player far outweighs the small moment of feeling uncomfortable.
Most older players enjoy giving advice and helping out younger players. And even if they don't, most people enjoy talking about themselves. So ask them questions about their personal experience and you'll find that they start to open up and reveal some helpful tips.
3) Be yourself
Don't abandon what has made you successful and what makes you tick. This includes both on and off the court activities.
On the court, showcase the skills you have to offer. If you're a big man with good range, don't be afraid to demonstrate that. If you're a guard that can post up, make it clear that you have that skill.
Off the court, it can be easy to fall into the trap of "fitting in." And while you obviously don't want to upset your teammates, keep being you. This brings me to my next point...
4) DON'T TRY TO BE COOL
Trying to be something you're not is a great way to drain your energy. It's exhausting to portray a false image at all times. The concentration needed to maintain that guise takes away from the energy you have available to play and adapt to your new surroundings.
Winning is cool. So don't worry about acting a certain way. Focus on winning and the rest will follow.
Coaches absolutely love players who bring positive energy to practices and team activities. Strive to always be the most enthusiastic player. Make it a habit to be the loudest, give the most high fives, and have the best body language.
If you don't feel enthusiastic, fake it. I'm serious. In the short-term, faking enthusiasm can actually make you feel more energetic. Just faking a smile or mimicking confident body language can completely change how you feel.
The Takeaway: It can be incredibly daunting when you start playing in an unfamiliar setting. But by applying these tips, you'll be able to do more than just adapt to your new environment. You'll be able to excel in it.