Last week I had the pleasure of watching the best basketball shooter on the planet do a clinic for our local travel basketball association. Dave Hopla - the best basketball shooter on the planet. Quite a big claim, certainly I didn't believe it going in. That's him on the right with my daughter Amanda. Certainly didn't look like the best shooter on the planet. I think I could take him.
When I arrived, Dave was warming up shooting one handed shots from all over the court, including three pointers. He took about two hundred shots and I didn't see him miss. Might need to revise the "I could take him" claim.
He then began the clinic portion where he was going to shoot roughly 300 shots over the course of an hour while discussing with the kids how he became a great shooter - and how they could too if they wanted it.
What I learned is that the lessons for becoming a great shooter are the same lessons that will allow you to be successful in just about any endeavor.
Think Positive - He started by asking the kids how they were doing and got a chorus of "Goods" from most of the kids. His response was something along the lines of "Well that's too bad, because I'm doing GREAT and you guys are just good!" at the top of his lungs. He doesn't like calling them foul shots, because foul is a negative word. To him, they're free shots. Your left hand isn't your off hand, another negative word, it's your balance hand. To be great, you've got to think positive.
Aim High - His goal with every shot is not to make it, but to swish it. Not most of his shots, but every single shot. From everywhere on the court. In every practice.
Set Goals - When Dave was a teenager he was taught one of the most valuable lessons you can learn - setting goals. He set goals of making varsity, making all county, getting straight A's - and he wrote them down. As I've blogged about before (here), you can't achieve your goals if you don't know what they are.
Practice - You want to be really exceptional at something, you've got to work at it. Every day he strives to be better. In business, are you working harder than the competition? Are you taking the right steps to be the best project manager? Are you learning new programming techniques? Are you reading business books to become a better manager?
Track Your Progress - Dave's got notebooks dating back to when he was 16 of every practice session, how many shots he took and made from every position on the court. While this is borderline spooky, this is what it takes to be the best.
Be Persistent - Dave got cut from several basketball teams in high school. Giving up would be easy. He chose the more difficult path. Work even harder. He didn't have much talent, but he was going to work harder than anybody on the court.
Below are the results from Dave's clinic. 336 shots taken. 9 misses. Truly one of the most amazing performances I've ever seen. What makes it even more amazing, is this was a bad day for him. He had driven to New Jersey from Maine that morning and was a little tired. Check out his web site - this guy is amazing.