Nets on Fire: Making the Air Electric
The Grateful Red, the student section of the UW field house, are cheering and stomping their feet in appreciation for the skillful play of the Badgers. Team execution has reached a new level of excellence. Every shot is dropping, and for some reason, a teammate is in the right spot for every loose ball, block, rebound or steal. There is an electric current flowing. It feels good! It feels great! It is wild. This didn’t just happen. It started with an attitude, a positive attitude. It is easy to have a positive attitude when the plays are working. It takes practice to get there when it really counts, when things are going wrong and that last shot was an air ball. Especially when it is the opposing team’s court and the crowd’s taunts are echoing throughout the auditorium. That doesn’t feel very good at all.
What is a ‘positive attitude,’ or getting into ‘the zone’ or getting ‘the momentum of a game’ or getting into the ‘flow’? This mental game of ‘attitude,’ ‘the zone’ and ‘creating momentum’ is about emotions. And it is these good feeling emotions that a positive attitude is about. A positive attitude isn’t positive unless the emotions and feeling are there. The practice of positive attitude is about getting into the zone, the emotional zone, creating the emotional game first, and only then is the court yours.
Each player has their own marvelous emotional system and it is not an ‘all’ or ‘nothing’ proposition. Some players may pivot from that feeling of ‘blowing it’ to ‘isn’t this wild’ in a heartbeat; but for most it will come in steps. It may start in anger and frustration and move from there. It may start even lower, in the disempowering emotions of depression and despair. But from wherever a player is, it can and will move up into empowerment, in steps, with a little effort. Anger is not being in the zone, but it is a step in the right direction from despair. Being frustrated that those shots are rimming out is not being in the game, but it is closer than anger. Aggressive actions taken in frustration or anger are not taken from the emotional state of being in the zone. Action here will probably result in a turn-over or foul. The results and outcomes of actions, shots, plays, follow the emotional game, not the physical attributes of the player and team. Find the right emotions first, then take the action. And with practice, moving from the despair of an ‘air ball’ to the elation of ‘nothing but net’ will come faster and faster, easier and easier. And then the fun really begins.
Every moment throughout every day is an opportunity to move into a better and better feeling place, to create a more powerful positive attitude. The emotional system is giving constant feedback on whether ‘your head’ is getting into your game or into theirs. Emotions are a response to all that activity going on between the ears. They are a guidance system that lets each player individually know where their mind’s activities are heading. The better the feeling, the more the mind’s activities are in the game. The worse the feeling, the more the mind’s activities are getting lost in the opponent’s game. A time out to stop and step up the emotional staircase, from despair to anger, from anger to frustration, from frustration to hope, from hope to belief, from belief to joy, from joy to excitement, from excitement to….is a time out that means making the ball and court yours. But more than that, it means the mind, body, and heart got into the game – your game.
Practicing a positive attitude is an internal practice that doesn’t need a gym. Within every event in the day – be it with a roommate, instructor, family, driving in traffic, in a classroom or work – there is an opportunity to pivot into a better mental/emotional place, to find a more powerful positive attitude. It may start with an appreciation: an appreciation of the opponent for asking the best out of each play, shot, and defense. Each player needs to develop their own mental gymnastics to step up into a better feeling mental activity that moves them up into a better emotional state to play the game. The emotional system is there constantly, in every moment, guiding, and letting each individual player know which direction their mind’s activities are going.
Practice off the court, so when it counts, during a game, pivoting into the zone becomes automatic. The emotional system is a constant, steady, and dependable coach that can guide the mental game so that every game can, with effort, feel like you’re in the home court. Every event throughout the day is an opportunity to practice for The Big Game and to create the air-electric. Developing mental discipline means developing the skills for listening and then responding to your emotional system (not theirs). Listening and responding to what your emotions are saying about your mental activities will get your mind back on track towards that great feeling of being unbeatable. Moving the mind’s activities – from anger to frustration, to hope, to belief, to knowing that any game on any court belongs to you – takes effort and practice. And there are hundreds of opportunities to practice every day, if you take a time out and do it. Then every game in life becomes yours and any place in the world becomes your home court. Then the air becomes filled with electricity and someone will create a spark that sets the nets on fire.