My 7-year old son, Dany, is very passionate about sports and fitness. He has already decided that he wants to be an athlete when he grows up. He loves to exercise and play a variety of sports. And whatever sport he plays, he does so with great passion, enthusiasm and positive attitude. Dany wears his heart on his sleeve and like many kids his age, he tends to get frustrated quickly when things aren’t going his way.
A couple of months ago, we signed Dany up for classes at a local basketball clinic. He didn’t have much experience but was interested in learning how to play. He was one of the youngest and shortest kids in the class. But that didn’t stop him. He jumped into the class with enthusiasm and gave it his all. He loved practicing the dribbling, footwork and jump stops. He was having a blast. And then it was time to practice shooting hoops.
But what happened next, didn’t quite go how we had all expected.
All the kids got in a line to practice shooting. If you scored, then you could move onto the next hoop – there were 6 hoops around the court. If you didn’t score, then you went to the back of the line and waited for your next turn.
Dany couldn’t throw the ball high enough and completely missed the shot. He ran straight to the back of the line and waited for his next turn. Eventually, all the kids scored and moved onto the other hoops around the court. But Dany kept missing and didn’t make even one shot that day.
He looked disappointed, but said that he couldn’t wait to come back to the class next week.
The same thing happened to him the following week. He didn’t score once. We told him that he was doing great and that he just needed to keep practicing. But it didn’t get any better. It was so hard watching him struggle at every class.
In fact he didn’t score once in 5 weeks.
By the end of the 5th class, he’d had enough and burst into tears. He told us “I suck at basketball. I’ll never be able to score”. We stayed behind after the class to help him practice, but that didn’t help. He was just having a hard time shooting and every time he missed, he just got more upset.
We needed a different strategy.
Later that evening, I had some ideas on what we should do.
Here’s a summary of our experience and the lessons we learned along the way:
1. Get a Clear Vision of Success
The next day, I asked Dany to imagine what it would be like if he could shoot hoops. He was a little negative at first. I asked him to imagine that I’d waved a magic wand and he was suddenly able to make those shots effortlessly. “What do you think your next class would be like with these new ‘magic skills’?”
He thought for a minute and then started telling me about how many hoops he’d score and how his coach would say “Dany, that was amazing. How did you that?” and Dany would just grin and say “Aw, that was nothing”. We now had a vision of success to work with.
2. Focus On The Process, Not The Outcome
Later that day, I took him to the park and played a simple game with him. I told him to forget about shooting hoops. Instead, all I wanted him to do was to throw the ball and make contact with the hoop, net or backboard. I needed a way to encourage him to keep practicing his shooting without getting frustrated.
Now instead of feeling the pressure of making that shot, he was just thinking about throwing the ball high and far enough to make contact with something. Not only was that an easier goal, but he was now focused on the process (shooting) and not the outcome (scoring).
3. Measure Your Progress & Make It Fun
Next, we agreed that every time the ball made contact with the hoop, net or backboard, he would get a point. And when he had 25 points, he would get a small reward (in this case, a little extra video gaming time).
I also told him that if he did shoot a hoop, then he would get 3 points, but it was no big deal if he didn’t. All he needed to do was to keep throwing the ball. Now he had some measurable goals. And he was playing a game, instead of worrying about getting the ball in the basket.
4. Celebrate The Small Victories Too
We practiced for about 20 minutes and he didn’t shoot a hoop once. But he did accomplish his goal of getting 25 points. Instead of feeling disappointed for not getting the ball in the basket, he felt like he’d had a small victory.
We celebrated him getting the 25 points. He got the extra time to play video games that day. And he couldn’t wait to come back and score another 25 points.
5. Do Something Every Day
Dany and I committed to practicing together for about 20 minutes every day that week. All he had to do was to keep scoring the 25 points each day. We arrived at the park the next day, ready to play our ‘points’ game. And something wonderful happened.
He threw the ball up towards the hoop and got the ball in the basket. He made his first shot. He was so excited. I was so excited. We celebrated. We danced around the court. We did high fives.
And then get got back to the business of scoring the daily 25 points.
6. Don’t Give Up
We turned up at the park every day that week. Some days, Dany would make one or two shots. On other days, he’d do better. But no matter what happened, we stayed focused on our daily goal of 25 points. And he could earn extra ‘bonuses’ by scoring even more points. Every day, his shooting got a little better.
Before we knew it, a week had passed and it was time to go back to the basketball class. Dany was so excited. He started practicing before the class started. He took his first shot and missed. He took another shot and missed. My heart started to beat faster. I wondered if this class was going to be like all the others.
But Dany kept trying until he got the ball in the basket. He was so excited. He had overcome the challenges. I could see the confidence in his face now. This was a major milestone and turning point for him.
I’m so proud of Dany. He learned some important lessons from this experience. Not only did he improve this shooting skills, he also learned about the process of setting and achieving your goals. I’m hopeful that this experience will stay with him and help him to be better prepared when he faces other challenges in his life or really wants to do something.
He also taught me an important lesson. What were all the things in my life that I wanted to do but had become frustrated with or had given up? How often was I telling myself that I wasn’t good enough? It was eye opening.
What’s one thing that you’re currently struggling with or something that you’ve given up on? Could these lessons also help you to overcome those challenges? What could you do in the next 7 days to make your own shot?