As we say goodbye to 2010 and welcome 2011 with foam fingers and pom poms, the second half of the basketball season is here. High-school teams, fresh off winter break, are ready to make moves with a strong playoff push. The grind of the season can be physically demanding juggling classes, basketball and a social life. You signed up to be a student-athlete and this is what you have to do: Finish a late practice followed by a couple hours of study hall. Or, drop 20 points in a game, then go home to take out the trash and wash dishes. As the season shifts into a grind, here are some things to remember when switching gears:
It doesn't matter how you start
I missed the first five games of my senior year of high-school season with a bad case of mononucleosis. We lost some games early on but still finished on top, winning State. Strive to play your best basketball towards the middle to end of the season. Peaking too soon can cause a downward spiral if you don't catch yourself early. No one ever remembers the first game -- it's always the last one that people talk about.
Keep your grades steady
I've said it before and I will continue to say it: Take school seriously and keep your grades on point. An education will last far longer then a pull-up jumper or crossover. Even though my shot isn't what it used to be, my mom will brag forever about my education. It's difficult to manage school and basketball during the busiest part of the season. Sometimes after a late game, I would do homework at the kitchen table and fall asleep face down in my math book. But must I point out Maya Moore, the best player in the country, has the highest grade-point average on her team? You can be an All-American at both.
Don't get caught up in foolishness
People will pull at you in every different direction. It's up to you to stay true to your morals and values when peer pressure knocks on the door. I use to get called a "grandma" for going to bed early or a "loner" for not staying out late. Just because Friday rolls around once a week doesn't mean it's an automatic invite to rush to some random house party. I'm not saying not to have a social life. Just don't get caught up or put in an uncomfortable situation where you find yourself regretting your actions the next morning.
Be a good teammate
Being positive to someone who is in a slump, or rebounding for a teammate who wants to put up extra shots are characteristics of being a good teammate. It also extends to outside the lines as well. Maybe you're the team's Dr. Phil who listens to everyone and gives advice. Or, you're the team's burst of energy when tears and frowns surround you. Be the person people enjoy to be around, not the one whose teammates sigh in relief after Senior Night.
Road bumps are inevitable
Bumps in the road to success come in the form of losing games, getting kicked out of practice, or team blow-ups. They come and go but great teams overcome all growing pains and the turbulent times. Use obstacles to make you stronger rather than getting whipped around like some petty rag doll in a dumpster. Seeing the bigger picture of a playoff berth or winning a state title will put things into perspective and eliminate problems.
It matters how you finish
Being a student-athlete is difficult and no one ever said it was easy. Now is the time for you to really buckle down and focus on the little things necessary to make you successful. Remember to take time for yourself -- it will help you finish strong.
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Joy Hollingsworth is a first-year assistant women's basketball coach at Seattle University. A native of Seattle, Wash., she was a standout guard at Seattle Preparatory High School, earned WCC Freshman of the Year and honorable mention freshman All-American at the University of San Francisco and was a two-year starter and honorable mention All-Pac-10 at Arizona. Hollingsworth played professionally in Greece and earned an M.Ed. from the University of Washington. She can be reached at email@example.com.