Wednesday, April 18, 2012

No Playoffs, No Climax Point

Playoffs in Germany.

  The last month of any basketball season usually marks its climax point.

  In high school, you were vying for a league championship, and a state playoff berth. Once you hit college, your conference tournament and a prestigious invitation to the NCAA Tournament caught your focus. Finally as a professional, whether in Europe or the NBA, your motivation is to make the playoffs, and for your team to advance as far as possible.

  The climax is what you play for. All the excitement, all the pressure, all the hard work comes to a head come playoff time. That's when you want to be playing your best basketball. Because that's when the games count the most.

  For me this season, there are no playoffs. There is no climax. And I've decided it stinks! It's like reading a book, or watching a movie that has no climax. It just sputters out, and limps to the finish line.

In college, your focus was the NCAA Tournament!
  The league I'm playing in has no playoffs. There is a Final Four 'tournament' for the top four finishers in the league. But unfortunately my team is not quite at that level this season.

  Some teams are still fighting to avoid relegation for the following season (the bottom two finishers in our league drop down to the lower league). Thankfully, as of a few weeks ago, my team has successfully secured its place in LF2 for the 2012-2013 season.

  So essentially, we have nothing to play for. Nothing, that is, except pride, and satisfaction in your own performance.

Playoffs: Bigger crowds to play in front of, bigger games! (Sweden)
  But let's be real, everyone's level of pride can vary a great deal. Just like our ability to self-motivate can differ enormously from one person to the next. Practices can get lackluster (to say the least), and games can feel like glorified scrimmages. My goal is to not allow that to happen in my final two weeks in Dunkerque.

  At the onset of each season, teams usually sit down together and set goals of how they want the season to go. Some might want to finish with a playoff berth and that's it (in most leagues, that means finishing in the Top 8 in the standings). Others might be more specific, and say they want to finish in the top two, or win the championship.

Have to keep focused as season ends!
  The professional season can be very long. You get tired physically, and you can lose your focus mentally. Once you hit that seventh or eighth month, you might find yourself going through the motions. That's where having goals can help keep you and your teammates motivated. Goals give you a way to measure your success, and will keep your eyes on the prize.

  In situations where the season is seven or eight months, I think it's helpful to break your goals down. 'Shorter-sighted' goals are easier to keep focused on, and easier to measure after all.

  While I'd love to be preparing for a a playoff series, or the Final Four, that's not my reality this season. So my motivation remains on my own personal pride in how I play, and how I can improve as a leader. I cannot control those around me, but I can control my effort and my focus on each and every practice, and our final two remaining games.


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