I love watching and reading about competitive sport because of the many dimensions involved – the technical proficiency, mental application, the role of team spirit, and the competitive nature of the combatants.
Basketball is one of my favourites and over the past few seasons my family and I have enjoyed watching the rise and rise of Mitch Creek through the Australian National Basketball League to the fringes of the NBA, through its Summer League which is the July ‘shop window’ for players aspiring to hit the big time, and then onto a training contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
He is very close to achieving his lifetime goal of playing in the NBA and in his recent article for Players Voice, Mitch tells his story and the mental and physical investment required to get to the top.
It’s a great story and I think there are 5 learnings from the grown up kid from Horsham in country Victoria that can inspire you.
1) You rarely get it right first time
To achieve an important goal can take time and require multiple attempts to refine and reshape what you do and how you do it. It’s important to have the patience, persistence and the resolve to keep on going and to learn in the process.
In 2017 Mitch had been unsuccessful in his first Summer League try out but as he said, “For me, everything in life is an audition, and on this occasion, I didn’t get the role. But I learned. Everything I’d absorbed was going to lead to something else. I walked away from that trip with the IQ I needed to get better, the mental strength to become more resilient. I helped my side, the Adelaide 36ers, make the last game of the 2017/18 playoffs. I won the club’s MVP. It was one of the proudest moments of my career and life, due to the work I’d put in. And then came the call-up to the 2018 NBA Summer League. This time, I knew I was ready. I prepared myself well and removed all distractions.”
2) Do what it takes
You need to make sacrifices to achieve your BHAG’s –your big hairy audacious goals -which Mitch did, as he describes below.
“I abstained from drinking and partying, I deleted my Twitter and Snapchat and only kept my Instagram and Facebook for business purposes – and to stay connected with my family while abroad. After the experience of last year’s Summer League, I knew what I needed to do. I felt mentally stronger and more prepared. I’d made every sacrifice possible to achieve my goals. I was strict with my diet. Over the six-week period, I may have had one pizza but that aside, it was all plant-based foods, juices and what my body required. I needed to ensure I was giving myself every opportunity to succeed. I couldn’t afford to leave anything behind”
3) It’s a daily grind
The phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour” reinforces that to make things happen you need to keep at it and make continuous progress, one step after another. Mitch talks about ‘The Grind ‘. “Many people think Summer League is the same as the NBA. Big cash, private jets, hanging with A-Listers and playing basketball in between. It’s not like that. Not even close. I was in the States for six weeks and played a total of four games. And in between, I trained and trained and trained some more. There was nothing Hollywood about it. Just a bunch of blokes from around the world trying to be the best they can. I was paid around $150 a day to cover expenses. I’d be sitting on the team bus next to a millionaire, playing in the same league as potential millionaires – and here’s me wondering what lunch order will fit in my budget! It didn’t bother me one bit. I was there to do a job.”
4) Do the right thing
I loved this part of Mitch’s story – we each do many little things because it’s right to do so without needing to be thanked or appreciated. In Mitch’s case the little thing led to the big thing.
“Something completely unrelated to my skills, my fitness or my preparation put me on the radar of one NBA team. I didn’t see it coming at all. An old lady was entering one of the facilities. I like to think of myself as a chivalrous guy and I held the door open for her, as I would normally do. I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t realise anyone was watching. Soon after, I got a call from my agent. He said a member of an NBA team’s front office saw me holding the door for the lady. He was asking questions about me and my background. I know! It sounds like something out of a movie script. But it was obviously a character trait that aligned with what this particular front-office guy was looking for in a player. I guess it comes down to whether you’re a ‘team first’ player or a ‘me first’ player.”
5) Stay positive and strong
Achieving your dreams can at times be lonely and to last the distance you need to be courageous and to stay positive and strong. Here Mitch talks about the dark side of his Summer League experience. “I also never thought that the experience would be so lonely. I was in America by myself. The closest thing I had to a friend was FaceTime, but considering the time difference between Australia and the States, phone calls were few and far between. I was training in Dallas, where the coolest day we had was 38 degrees. It wouldn’t have been smart to go for long, energy-sapping walks in the heat in between games. But neither was it much fun staying in a hotel room on my own. I ended up getting Ubers to the shopping mall and walking around in the air-conditioning. And I’d talk to the bell boy at the hotel every day. He was the only person I had to communicate with between training sessions and games. He must’ve thought I was crazy. Every scenario kept circling around my head. What if this doesn’t work out? What if it does? What do I do with my house? Do I bring my dogs if I make it? If no one in the States signs me, should I sign in Germany? What do I do with my bike? Over and over and over again. When you’re alone, everything just magnifies. I never thought that the experience would be so lonely.
I suffered anxiety, constantly wondering what was next. I had days where I would call my family and best mate in tears, just wanting to hear their voices. I felt like I was my grandfather sitting in a retirement home, waiting for someone to pop their head through the door and say hello. So, while people might have thought, ‘Man, that kid’s living the dream,’ I’d be crying behind closed doors thinking, ‘Everything I’ve ever worked towards could end this week’. You spiral into doubt, which makes me very uncomfortable.
We live in such a fictitious world, where we seek approval via likes or views on our social media accounts. I don’t buy it. But people forget that behind the Instagram or Facebook account, there’s a human being just trying to be the best they can be.
There are so many distractions in this era. I need assistance to focus on what’s important and to cut out all the bullshit.”
View full Players Voice article by Mitch