I just got off the phone with my good friend Mr. Coco. He’s on his way to the first game of the season at his new team in France. We talked about a lot of things. The first was some feedback we got about a few iBall Players. Did you know that a team in Spain has to pay the league commission a minimum of $4000 just have one American on the team?!?! Damn we some high-priced-horses!
VISIONS OF A VET
After that, we spoke about his outlook for the first game. Mr. Coco has an interesting perspective. As a child, he and his family were forced to flee their homes, and country, and uproot their lives because of the Bosnian war. Coco’s family was one of the ‘lucky’ ones that escaped the horror. They ended up relocating to Sweden. As Coco explains it, he has been on the road pretty much ever since.
When he got to Sweden, his main sport was soccer. But not only was he 5 inches taller than all the other kids, he towered over the soccer moms too. The word spread, and before he knew how to say ‘Goooool’ in Swedish, the coaches had him training for basketball. (remember there’s no high school or university system like in the US, so when you’re good, you train with sub-divisions of the local pro team).
Back to our conversation…
********** ” You are a boom or bust. Money don’t have time for a work-in-progress. Either they have fully committed to you, or they have already begun to look for your replacement. And for better or worse, there’s only one thing you can do about it–Play the game! ” **********
Coco spoke about how he was feeling physically..about his comfort in the system, about his coaches, and the leadership role they had given him. He spoke about his teammates and some of the key ways they would need to contribute in order for them to be successful. He looked ahead at the schedule and compared his team to the others in the league. He spoke about how important it was to win the first 2 of 3 games if they wanted to make a real push for the mid-season cup game. He even factored in the duration of the scheduled road trips, the tough places to play, and teams that played styles that may give them trouble.
BLURRED, BURIED, BE WORRIED
For most players, Coco’s perspective is many years away. Some can’t even tell you what the first minute of their first game will look like, let alone a whole season. For others, their opportunity will come and go. They will look back on it, and it will all seem like a blur.
The first week of the season, especially for young players overseas, can be really different from anything they’ve ever encountered. It’s like you’ve come so far but have so far to go.. so much to experience, to learn.
One of those things could be the plays.. You’re still trying to figure out what’s ‘puno’, what’s tap the head, and then they want you to learn all the opponent’s plays too. Hopefully you’ve given up on trying to learn that ONE play.. the stupidest play you ever seen in your life. If you’ve played overseas or watch alot of Euro hoops, then you know what I’m talking about. There’s always that one play where you pass, screen away, basket cut for no reason, then there’s like 4 dribble hand-off, and a cross court pass, all so you end up running a pick and roll with like 3 seconds left on the clock. THAT play is some coaches’ fantasy of being the next Duško Ivanović.
Another thing you could be trying to figure out why you’re not starting. In every preseason game, you’ve out-produced the other guys in your position. But for some odd reason, when they toss up the jump ball, you find yourself buried on the bench.
And then there’s the almost unexplainable. Sometimes players will prove themselves to be the best player on the team in pretty much every practice. They stay before and after to get up extra shots. They come to work out on their own. And they hit the weight room extra hard in every session. But for some reason, every game turns out to be a total disaster. Over shot goes in and out. They get called for every foul. And they make mental errors one after the other. And every game, it gets worse.
WRITING ON THE WALL
For everyone above, the writing is on the wall. Some GM, some coach, or some teammate has already made up his mind about you.. and the season hasn’t even started yet. For them, it’s black or white. You are a boom or bust. Money don’t have time for a work-in-progress. Either they have fully committed to you, or they have already begun to look for your replacement. And for better or worse, there’s only one thing you can do about it–and that’s Play the game!!
No matter what happens in practice or preseason, some players are destined to seize the moment. When the bright lights come on, when the crowd starts that ridiculous chant, when the flares are lit in stands, when the elbows start flying, the hips start checking, and the guy the face-paint and curly wig starts to bang the drum, that’s when the Real Players come alive.
The great thing about being a player is that there is always the next game, the next play, and the next opportunity to have everything to fall into place.. The next chance to be set up for the MONSTER GAME, the Killer Move, or the Big Shot that wins the game.
All we can do is to go out, play in the moment, and make it happen. Everything else–what people think, what they say–is beyond our control.
LIVE YOUR DREAM
For Rookies, vets, and everyone else in between–you’ve been working for this moment all your life. The first game of a new season represents a fresh new start… A chance to show what you’re really made of.
For rookies who are playing their first pro game, you are about to write the first line, in the first paragraph of a whole new chapter. Ever since you picked up the ball, this is the moment that you’ve been dreaming for. Embrace it. Have fun. And play Your game. You’re doing what you love, and you’re getting paid to do it. It doesn’t get any better than that!!!
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