I am 44 years old and have learned a lot since my high school days. While I was a decent high school player that ended up playing in a Division 1 basketball program, I look back now at that age and think of all the things I could have done differently. I know this sounds like Uncle Rico in Napolean Dynamite. These are suggestions that I obviously can’t go back in time to do, but current athletes can incorporate them into their lives. I believe that implementing one, or all of these practices, will improve a player’s overall performance and well being.
1) Meditate for 10 minutes a day – I started meditating in 2008 and have experienced the benefits. I am much calmer, no longer get road rage, and focus much more on the present. On most days I try to start the morning with ten minutes of meditation. There are numerous types to explore: transcendental, mindfulness, loving kindness, guided, breath work, and many more. A good place to start can be apps such as Headspace, Waking Up, or Insight Timer. All three platforms offer free options for beginners. Meditation is not about controlling your thoughts or emotions, or having a blank mind. It is about helping you focus, reducing stress, controlling anxiety, and more. Here is an article about how the NBA is getting involved in this practice.
2) Incorporate Ice Baths and Saunas – In 2017 I had the opportunity to train with Gabby Reece and Laird Hamilton at their home in Malibu, via their company XPT. There I learned about the benefits of extreme heat and cold. I submerged into a tub of ice water for three minutes. It was intense, but once I got my breathing under control, I could handle the extreme chill. When I got out, I felt euphoric and had a feeling of accomplishment. In February 2020, I traveled to Poland to train with the Iceman, Wim Hof. This breathing and cold water immersion program took ice baths to the extreme. Our graduation test was ten minutes in a mountain stream of snow melt, as well as a six-mile hike up a mountain wearing just shorts and boots. That trip was life changing. No way did I think I could do these activities when it started. But after completing those feats, I felt a grand sense of accomplishment. Here is a good article for athletes on overcoming resistance to cold water immersion. Knowing what the cold can teach one is why I am trying to share it with those who are interested. Some of the benefits for a high schooler doing it are as follows:
-Boosts the immune system
-Releases feel good hormones
-Creates a positive stress response in the body
-Enhances ability to control breath during times of physical stress
-You feel tougher!
Saunas are not as available as filling a bathtub with bags of ice, but if a recreation facility or workout center near you has one, take advantage of it. NBA players such as Montrezl Harrell, Kevin Love, and Stephen Adams utilize this modality during the season. Here are the benefits:
-Additional red blood cells created which will increase endurance
-Creates heat shock proteins which preserve muscle mass
-Boosts immune system
3) Be present and enjoy the high school experience versus stressing about college – My goal since I was a little kid was to play Division 1 like my father, uncles and cousins. If I played at that level, I would be the sixth in my family to do so. I put so much pressure on myself to get to Division 1 that I had anxiety which led to stomach issues during high school. I constantly tried to figure out how I was going to get to the Division 1 level. My father was 7’0’’, tall and at age 16, I was 6’7’’. I was waiting on my growth spurt to come at any minute. Schools were telling me they would be interested if I grew as tall as my dad. My skills still needed work. I played on one of the top teams in the state of Kentucky, and if I could go back now, I would have slowed every thing down and not tried to rush the experience of high school. We traveled to Ireland, Alaska, Georgia, Florida, and regionally since we had a “top 50” player on our team. Today’s players are more focused on getting that college offer than ideally playing professionally. This is intensified due to social media and pressure from parents. My advice would be to keep working hard and put yourself in the best positions possible to get recruited, but to also slow down the process.
By the time you graduate high school, you will have spent 90% of the time you will spend seeing your parents in their lifetime. Enjoy time with your family, siblings, friends, and hometown. Savor the small moments. This is where meditation can help you be mindful. While each high school athlete’s situation won’t be the same, it will be a part of life that will help form you. I hope this helps put some perspective on being in high school. Using these tools that are helpful to me might help you in life and in the game. Let me know if you have any additional suggestions for high school players by emailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org