We are in the middle of the high school basketball season. Last night I watched an outstanding and previously undefeated team fall. No doubt the coaches and players will analyze the game period by period. Technique will be studied. Plays will be debated. And the halftime correction will be praised. So many things factor into the outcome of a basketball game, and no doubt each one of them will be evaluated.
But there is one thing that has intrigued me week after week in game after game. All of the players miss free throws.
Are you kidding me? There is nothing more fundamental to the game of basketball than a free throw. If you allow a five year old onto a basketball court, they will almost without fail take the ball to the line and take a shot. Every day in cafeterias all around the country, middle schoolers rush through their lunch to have just a few extra minutes at the free throw line in the gym before going back to class. Every elementary team, every high school team, every select team expects players to drill on free throws. College players and NBA players all know that at any given time they could be standing on the free throw line, the game at stake. Yet even in the NBA, most players only make 70-80% of their attempts.
So how is it that all of the players miss free throws? Not just some of them, all of them.
Well, it’s not as easy as it looks. A little like life.
Free throws and life require practice. It is not easy for anyone.
Free throws and life require a routine. There is comfort and predictability in routine. Variety is the spice of life, but muscle memory gets most things done.
Free throws and life require an uncluttered mind. Too much anxiety, too much worry, too much overthinking takes away from our best work. Meditation, quiet walks, and time to just disconnect allow us to be our best selves.
Free throws and life require balance. I’m on record as saying there is no such things as a perfect “balance” between work and life. But a balanced person is on solid footing and has time for the things that matter to them.
Free throws and life require keeping your eye on the target.
Free throws and life require follow-through.
Free throws and life require style, and “granny style” is a style.
Free throws and life require getting back to zero. Absolutely everyone misses shots. All of us! Take your shot. Make it or miss it, move forward. The next shot is waiting.
And most importantly, free throws are unopposed. This is perhaps the most interesting thing of them all. It is about you and the ball and the basket. You are the one who makes it. You are the one who makes you miss. Most of the really important things in life are between you and you. Know yourself. Know your goals. Know the work needed to get it done.
Then take your shot.
You will make shots. You will miss shots. Such is life! Even Stephen Curry only makes 90% of his free throws.