In Disney Hercules, the self titled character searches both in the world and himself for his life purpose. Once it is revealed to him that he was the son of Zeus, he prepares himself to finally go meet his father. Taking a trek to Mount Olympus, Hercules starts to doubt if he can complete his goal. Queue in the song “Go the Distance", and Disney creates another mythological story into a feel good family movie. In Basketball, there are some similarities. Swapping out the sing-along songs and bubbly characters, a basketball journey provides its fair share of events and obstacles that challenge every spectrum of a basketball player. While these can be small nuances to major direction decisions, it is very important for every aspiring player to prepare themselves for it and also embrace it. This is a basketball Hero’s Journey.
When did you fall in love with the game of basketball? What specifically was it that captivated you towards the game? What about basketball brings you that inner joy?
Remember those answers. You will need them. As basketball becomes tougher and things become political and even economical, you must remember why you chose to embark on
this journey. That inner joy. That time when playing basketball was just an innocent activity that you did to past time or do with your friends. Now we might ask: Why should basketball always start out fun? Answer: Basketball should be fun. A sad reality is that basketball can be far from it at times. At times it can be the worst thing you could ever put yourself through. But that joy that you once felt will keep you on your journey. It will make you work harder to get back to that place of joy. With no joy, you have no boost. When things get tough, you have no source that facilitates your drive. Long story short: Get inspired. Find a component of the game that you love. Remember it. Hold on to it.
The Leap (Call to action)
This is the first experience where you see just how competitive basketball can be. Everyone remembers their first championship game, their first 1on1 game against a quality opponent, or the first time they won an award. Looking back, these accomplishments meant the world to you. Not knowingly, this was the first experience where you pushed yourself past your “limits”. (P.S. You have no limits.) This was the first time you rose to the occasion. Like the “Inspiration” section, this is another moment you need to remember because it will come again and again. Depending on how you prepare yourself for these moments, you will either succeed and falter. Regardless, you will definitely experience both. Both are learning lessons.
This does not determine your worth as a hooper. You cannot win all of them, but you can lose all of them. Meaning- Work your butt off, compete, and if things do not come out your way, accept it and look to be better tomorrow. Do not become complacent with losing. It should sting. It should hurt. It should make you angry. This brings motivation. Each call to action is a test. You want to ace each test. When you fail, go back to the teacher and see what you did wrong.
The Set Back
The true test of your character. When everything is going wrong, when times are tough, that’s when your true character shows. Downfalls are a part of sports. Everyone gets hurt. Everybody underperforms. Everybody gets overwhelmed. In these moments, work ethic truly shows. Many players stop working out. They start to feel bad for themselves. They become introverted and secluded. Force yourself away from becoming like that. How? Watch film of your previous games. Pay attention to small, fundamental things that you could rep or change in a workout, talk to teammates or coaches on what their thoughts on your struggles. Take a deep breath. Relax.
Also, another key component to this set back is the outside. The criticism. The hate. The doubt. Believe it or not, this can come from all different types of people. Do not be shocked. Be prepared. The best athletes do not let the outside affect how they operate. Believing that they have no idea of your struggle, your day to day should be enforcement enough to dealing with the noise.
Example: Any Rocky Movie
Seriously. The Rocky saga is a perfect example of an athlete's ability to get back on path. Removing the outside from you. Placing yourself in a place (empty gym, empty weight room, open field) where you are not connected to the world. It is just you and your craft. Your purpose becomes apparent for this. It comes back like a fresh memory in your head.
Grind hard but grind smart. Push yourself just a little past your threshold each day. Have the end goal in mind, but you must have small goals each day. Listen, no one fails because they try too hard. They fail because they give up. They doubt their mentality. They believe they are not capable of such a feat. There is no cap on capabilities. You and only you make your own capabilities. Say you are capable of doing what your goal is and get it done.
You are right where you want to be. In command. Playing well. Excelling. Getting recognition for your efforts. Mission complete you would think. Not necessarily. This stop on the timeline is by far the shortest lived. No one has the opportunity of being at this apex forever. Sports are not like that. The reason being is competition. Everybody is vying to get to this point and at the top there are few spots. That means that very often those spots are being changed and replaced with different players. Many players never get to this point. That does not mean that their journey was not successful. Few people get to this point. FEW. Of that small percentage, an even smaller amount receives the full recognition they deserve. Again, that’s sports. Also, that’s life.
“You can never be the same...you are either getting better or getting worse”
Enjoy being in this position. Be gracious. Humbled. And also, confident. You deserve to be here. This is your moment. Obviously, you want to stay there. You want to always be a champion, want to always be the best player in your class, want to always be the MVP. The list goes on. In order to maintain this, you have to work. Work harder than you have. That, in itself, could be a challenge because of the efforts you put in already to get to this point. Ask any multiple time champion. The following championship(s) are always the toughest. You become the bar and other inspiring players are trying to get there.
“Keep raising the bar”
Kobe Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” is exactly this. His work ethic was so challenging that his competition was never truly able to catch up. His aspiration to be the best at all times, made him constantly challenge himself to new heights. Pushing himself, already at the apex, also pushed the bar higher. So push the bar. Try to at least. The last thing you want is to get comfortable and complacent. This for sure will lead to a major fall. A fall that most players don’t come back from. Reason being because they have made this position their reality, their norm. When it goes away, their reality is destroyed. They shatter. Never let this become a reality. Be gracious, humbled, and confident. Sounds familiar, right?
What are you after basketball? Who are you after basketball? There is an end. How do you transition? Listen, this is the last thing you want to hear. Absolute LAST. I know. That is fine. Then don’t. Don't sit down and think about it. Don’t pressure yourself to make a decision just yet. Enjoy your basketball journey. Your Hero’s Journey. My only advice: keep your mind open to new things throughout it. Through basketball, the further you go, the more opportunities you are afforded. Higher education, more travel, new people. Don’t be afraid to branch into those opportunities. Build relationships and interest. Keep them. On your off time, down time, research them. Eventually when you will be done with playing basketball. Look back to these interests and opportunities. They will help guide you to your next path.
A Hero’s Journey is long, winding, and unpredictable. Hercules did not know what he was getting into. He did not know that this path would lead him to be one of the most fierce warriors of all time and later a God. A basketball player does not know in the beginning what their outcome will be. They can aspire. They can dream. But they don’t know. In the beginning, in basketball and in Hercules, both characters start with that feeling to do it. That inner drive. That inspiration. Their inspiration pushes them into action. Their actions lead them into The Journey. Again, embrace your journey. It is unique to you. Work hard. Be humble. Enjoy!
Solomito, Dan IG: @dansolomito
The Hero Roundtable-The Hero's Journey, 26 August 2016, http://heroroundtable.com/blog//the-heros-journey-