GETTING CUT FROM THE NEW YORK KNICKS
It was game point and it was the last scrimmage before cuts were going to be made. I was vying for a spot on the New York Knicks Summer League team. Don Chaney, the head coach, and his minion assistants watched, their clipboards in hand, analyzing and watching and judging every play.
I, on the other hand, was fighting through a screen set by the New York Knick’s number one draft pick; a six-foot-eight-inch, 275-pound monster power forward from Georgetown named Michael Sweetney.
Running into him was like trying to shoulder charge through a cinderblock wall.
I was chasing ex-Notre Dame guard Matthew Carroll, but as I jumped, something happened. My balance felt wrong. My body awkwardly twisted and turned as the crown of halogen stadium lights engulfed the ball. Suddenly, like a sniper gunshot hitting me out of nowhere, an invisible force wrenched my body sideways.
I crumpled to the wooden parquet and pounded my fist into the floor.
No. Please. Not again. This can’t be happening again. It just can’t.
I felt the pain throbbing up my calf, through my tibia and into my kneecap. It was searing hot. A hush fell onto the practice facility. It is that silent hush that every athlete knows– when an injury isn’t looking good.
I shut my eyes to stop the tears from squeezing out. I took some deep breaths and tried to visualize something else– something that made me feel good. A highlight reel came on, and abruptly, the pain was gone. The picture playing was from a few days before, when Charlie started coaching me.
“Hey, take two dribbles, not one, when you use that ball screen.”
It is Charlie Ward’s voice, the Heisman Trophy winner and ex-Florida State national champion quarterback, and current New York Knick starting point guard, standing behind me with his arms crossed.
I am grinning, wondering: why are you, Charlie Ward, an NBA point guard helping me with pick and rolls?
I nod and try to find words, but I’m speechless. Unexpectedly, Charlie grabs the ball from me, shifts his hips and dribbles off the chair. He is coaching me by showing me. He rises up for a 25-foot jumper and the ball swishes through the net.
“See. Two hard dribbles. You have to be a threat to score or you won’t get the spacing to make the flick pass to the big.”
He walks away. I smile again. This is a childhood dream come true.
“Thanks Charlie, I’ll keep that in mind. Hey Charlie, one more question–”
“TREVOR, Trevor… where does it hurt?”
The video reel suddenly stopped. I opened my eyes and the pain was back. There were faces and coaches circled around me. Charlie Ward was gone.
“Can you point to where it hurts?” the trainer asked, hovering over me. I had a sinking feeling that my ankle was broken.
But the real problem wasn’t my ankle, it was the slow realization that my first NBA summer league try-out was in serious jeopardy.
Just a few hours before, I was confident I was making this team. Charlie Ward helped me with pick and rolls. The New York Knick coaching staff was working with me, yelling at me, teaching me, and reaffirming to me keep doing what I was doing. And best of all, these coaches and players like Brendan Malone, Charlie Ward, Frank Williams, or Matthew Carroll, were pushing me to learn and grow as a point guard.
I tried to sit up. “It’s my ankle. I did it again, I think it’s broken,” I told the trainer.
“Let’s get you up and into the training room,” he said.
Some of the players asked if I was okay, then helped me limp with my arm around their shoulders to the Knicks training room. Matthew Carroll patted me on the back.
“Sorry man. Get better.”
It was his foot I landed on. He was one of the players I was competing with for a roster spot, but it wasn’t his fault. The moment replayed in my head. I was right there. I should have just let him shoot.
At the training table, I gingerly took off my shoe and NBA socks. The trainer slid a knife-like scissor device through my ankle tape and as he exposed my ankle, the swelling resembled an oversized grapefruit.
“Hmm. I’m gonna touch a few spots. Tell me where it hurts.”
He pressed his index finger into the swollen areas around my ankle and the pain made me wince and flinch at every spot. The trainer shook his head.
“Might be a break, might be a bad sprain. Hard to tell. Can you walk?”
I stepped down to the floor and it felt like someone was stabbing me with a dull #2 pencil between my ankle joint. I tried to take another step.
“Nope? Okay. Lay back down. We’ll take x-rays, but my bet is this a minimum of 4-6 weeks of recovery Trevor.”
He wrapped my ankle in three ice bags and saran wrap and jogged away. A few minutes later he arrived with assistant Coach Malone. Coach Malone walked up to me cautiously and slid his wiry glasses up his thick nose.
“How you feeling?”
“Think you broke it?”
“Would be the fifth time since I was 16, so probably. I guess my family tree gave me bad ankles,” I said, trying to laugh.
“Well. I see. Trevor, it’s probably not the best time, but do you want the good news or the bad news?
“I’ll take the bad.”
“We have to cut you. With your recovery time, it leaves you with too little a window to get ready for summer league.”
“Well,” I said slowly, taking in the inevitable. I could feel the pain spread from my ankle bones to my chest cavity. “Coach, well, then what was the good news?”
“You had a roster spot if you hadn’t gotten hurt,” he said apologetically. “But get better. Keep working hard. We will have someone drop you for x-rays in Manhattan. Keep your head up.”
He handed me a summer league practice jersey with my name on the back, turned on his heels and walked away. But just like that, I had been cut from the team. This epiphany hit me hard and the sadness crept into my head, washing out any positive thoughts or vision of the future. No one was around. I was alone in a training room wondering what had happened, questioning why it happened to me, and ultimately, what would come next.
3 Empowering After-You-Get-Cut Mindset Questions:
Getting cut can be a powerfully negative experience, but if we really examine failure or adversity, it isn’t really as bad as you think. For one, getting cut is just an unfavorable result, just one small bad moment in time. A tiny negative blip on the journey of your life. I like to call these negative moments micro failures. And if you pause and reflect with some self-awareness, these micro failures can ignite powerful questions that fuel future growth and success through practicing grit, discipline, and having a personal development blueprint.
Here are three empowering questions that you can ask yourself when you experience the oh-my-life-is-over-why-did-this-happen-to-me-scenarios.
- Question Number One: How does failure make you feel? This is important because you need to be clear on how you feel about your micro failure. If you don’t care about failing then maybe it’s time to find something else to focus on. A quote that resonated with me is from Abe Lincoln: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure.” Here’s a tip. If you truly feel sad, upset, or bitter, it’s time to turn these emotions into personalized, commitment-laced jet fuel.
- Question Number Two: Am I doing everything I can to create my desired future? Okay, so you are not content with failure! Yes, let’s get after it! Don’t be a victim, be a victor! That’s the grit and passion we are talking about! Okay, I just got hyped with you, but now what? Now is the time to look yourself in the mirror and get your Elite Mental Game right. Get you or your kid’s game plan in place. Now is the time to look into those motivated, ambitious eyes and ask yourself if you are truly doing everything you can.
- Question Number Three: What are the 3 small things I can do to invest in myself every day for the next 3 weeks? As a 12-year ex-professional point guard, skills trainer, and coach, I guarantee parents and athletes can always do better. I’ve developed a personal coaching package with Travis Thomas, a performance and leadership specialist, that has worked with NFL, MLB, USA soccer, and elite youth within the prestigious IMG Sports Academy. For a limited time, reserve your one of twelves spots in our Elite Mind Athlete Training course, where Travis will work with parents and athletes to help define and educate you on being an Elite athlete really means.
Being a successful elite athlete requires an education in developing real grit, passion, and meaning.
This is the time to start down your new path with unwavering commitments and start developing your mental game with the help of someone that works with the best athletes on the planet.
From my years in high school to the pros, Travis mentored and helped me navigate the athlete’s world of micro failures, setbacks, and choosing to say yes to practicing grit.
As a kid, every time I experienced a micro failure or setback, I didn’t realize my response was just another opportunity to practice what the world’s leading psychologist and researcher Angela Duckworth has recently described as one of the most underlooked indicators of success:
As a personal basketball coach and trainer, I’m watching and analyzing players, making recommendations for coaches on who stays and who goes. As middle schools, high schools or AAU programs like Northern Exposure or Northern Pride Sports Academy make cuts, it’s important to not let a micro failure get you down for too long if you don’t make it.
“Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. ‘I have a feeling tomorrow will be better’ is different from ‘I resolve to make tomorrow better.’ The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.” ~ Angela Duckworth
Angela’s developed a grit scale that figures out why people give up, or move on, or don’t stick with something to succeed. She interviewed and tested cadets at West Point during Beast Barracks (read this Beast Blog!) on their challenging 7-week transition from cadet to soldier.
Want to know your how much grit you have? Click here for the GRIT test.
Grit is defined by Merriam-Webster as the firmness of mind or spirit, the unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.
Yesterday, at the Northern Exposure boys try-outs I saw young boys compete with passion, yet inevitably, some of these players will get cut and they will be forced to ask themselves questions and this is happening all across the country as basketball season starts.
Players getting cut is happening all across the country as basketball season starts.
Getting cut, in a way, is the start of that discussion, not the end of your goals and dreams.
My sports advice on getting cut comes from a place of empathy– don’t let the obstacle stop you from growth.
Being cut is an obstacle. For parents. For athletes. For anyone getting hit in the side of the head with failure. It’s as simple as that, but the way isn’t to turn around and quit. The way is to climb, go around, adapt, and commit to a super-charged plan so you can jump right over it.
I mentioned my colleague Travis who worked for IMG Academy as a performance and leadership specialist and is now the current author of Getting Unstuck: Live Yes And. But I wanted to officially introduce him now and give athletes a chance to start the discussion on developing an elite athlete mind.
What does that even mean? Watch his video below.
Who is Travis Thomas?
We have all heard that sports is “mental.” We use the word when it comes to describing those players that are clutch performers, avoid distractions, embrace pressure, and know how to overcome adversity. But how do you teach these mental skills?
Travis Thomas has been teaching these mental and leadership skills to youth, college, and professional athletes for years. Now you have the opportunity to work with Travis on a one-to-one basis. In these sessions, Travis will help you and your child understand the tools for developing a high-performance mindset, on and off the court.
As a result, your child will learn:
* Playing with Purpose and Motivation
* Ideas for Being Able to Perform in the Zone
* Tuning Out Distractions
* Embracing Pressure
* Developing Grit Through Learning to Say Yes
CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT NOW: LIMITED TO 12 SIGN-UPS BEFORE JANUARY 8TH!
Make your mind Elite. Travis has worked with the best in the field and I’ve always been a huge fan of investing time, energy, and money into the areas that give you the most meaning. This is one of those times to say yes.
If you aren’t interested, remember to keep asking those questions, find your grit, and stay inspired.
PS. WHY IS LEARNING GRIT IN PARENTING, SPORTS DEVELOPMENT, AND COACHING IMPORTANT?
An excerpt from Angela Duckworth’s Grit:“Indeed, over the past forty years, study after carefully designed study has found that the children of psychologically wise parents fare better than children raised in any other kind of household.
“… about ten thousand American teenagers completed questionnaires about their parents’ behavior. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, social class, or parents’ marital status, teens with warm, respectful, and demanding parents earned higher grades in school, were more self-reliant, suffered from less anxiety and depression, and were less likely to engage in delinquent behavior.”
Hey gritty parents, listen up! Travis Thomas and our Elite Mind Athlete Training will get you and your athlete get on track for winning the mental game that most athletes fail to master. Whether it is creating a plan for the big picture or analyzing the small picture to begin a more respectful, supportive conversation for their athletic passions AND have high, demanding standards… Elite Mind Athlete Training will help!