By Isaac White | Mental toughness and dedication
Prelude by Janx.......
I've asked Isaac White to be our next guest blogger!!
Isaac is a super young man. So many in South Australia and Australia have seen him; lead National Schools Championships in scoring, taking Sacred Heart all the way to the National Finals; winning medals at U20 National Championships with the South Australian State team, and leading the championships in scoring; playing for Australia at Albert Schweitzer Tournament; or dominating for the Sturt Sabres. Seeing all this they may take for granted how good a player he is becoming. He is potentially a great role model for other young players because he has worked hard for it so far.
I've known Isaac initially as an opposition coach but was lucky to find myself coaching Isaac in 2013/14, at the Sturt Sabres. This started with coaching him at training and games and also workouts on Sundays after trainings. During these I realised he was a very good player, with a good work ethic and focus. However, it wasn't until he had some setbacks that I began to really get to know him well, and what makes him tick. I have learned over the years you cannot really tell much about an elite prospect until he has actually suffered a few setbacks. I began to see what the kind of driven athlete and person he was.
In 2014/15 I got to coach him again in a team that was recognised as one of the strongest teams in Australia at that time. All Isaac's team mates set high standards on and off the floor for each other, trainings were sometimes like wars, they were all so competitive. These guys had very similar mindsets and it often rubbed off on each other, where one fell out of line they were not afraid to let each other know.
Isaac, like all of us in life, suffered some setbacks along his climb to where he is. I won't reveal all our conversations about overcoming setbacks and those that don't recognise your talents over the years, in the words of Greg Popovich that is "family business", however I can say that with every setback it made him more determined, more ambitious to prove what he could do. He has a growth mindset, listening-to and respecting those around him and never blames others for poor personal performance, he holds himself to account and the highest standards, always looking internally to what he could do better to learn and improve.
Over the past 4 years I've known Isaac my respect for him as a player and competitor continues to grow, I'm privileged to know and work with him. I feel he has made me better as a coach and he always makes himself and his team mates better. This man in my opinion is almost the text book definition of a winner.
Isaac has a very, very long way to go to achieve his goals and he is working harder every day to get better on the court, in the classroom and in all aspects of life. It is still very early in his journey, however he has now emerged as one of the very best 2017 guards in Australia (I personally think THE best), and so I have asked him to be a guest blogger on this site about Mental Toughness and Dedication, two traits of his I have rarely seen in anyone quite to his level.
Over to Isaac;
I’ve been asked to provide a blog on my background in the sport and how I apply mental toughness and dedication in order to achieve my best.
You have less than 100 years in this life. One day the entire universe will crumble to a distant ash, taking any physical remains with it. This is a concept that I live, and will die by.
I am Isaac Lewis White from Adelaide, Australia, and I’m different. I am my own project, and I estimate it will take me around 85 years to complete it.
Here’s an introduction of myself…...
Ever since I was able to walk, I’ve been a self/peer-proclaimed try-hard. I’ve always backed myself to do things which appeared impossible (to others anyway). I remember spending countless hours a day in my backyard as a little child, throwing a water-logged basketball at a 10ft hoop, without even grazing the net. I would throw tantrums, curse (fortunately with a limited vocabulary), and let the situation completely dominate me. However, I never gave up. I knew that if each and every day, I could develop the strength to approach that rim just a little more, if I could improve just a LITTLE more, I would get there. And one day, I did. It the process that got me there. This was just lesson one in a 85 year long school day for me.
As the years progressed, I recognised that I had some reasonable sporting abilities- assumingly due to the copious hours spent battling against my brother (Sam) in any ball sport we could think of. I never really played sports for a particular reason, I just let my passion and love for a competitive environment lead me. My brother was a major influence on me, and a figure in my life which I owe a whole lot. His presence undoubtedly installed a competitive drive inside of me, one which would take credit for any successes which I experience throughout my life. I believe it was a combination of my gullible nature, and admiration for my brother that made me who I am today. I would like to share a few memories of my childhood (some with my brother), and how they influenced my life.
At age 5, I was told by my brother, that if I wanted to be the next Scott Welsch (an AFL football idol of mine), I needed to run 100 laps of my yard with him before the sun went down. I did it. I subconsciously established a connection between hard work, and success.
At age 8, I was running an 800m race on a school sports day. After the first lap, I found myself in tears of pain as I had recently broken some ribs, and hence decided to pull out of the race. Although my heart dropped as every last year 2 in the school passed me, my brother reminded me that if I was able to at least finish the race, I would earn some points for my team. I did it, and our team won the carnival narrowly. I learned that sometimes effort can suffice for ability.
At age 10, despite an unfortunate singing voice, I decided to sing in front of my entire school at assembly. I was called a “try-hard” for my efforts, and asked my mother for a definition of the term- I liked who I was becoming, and who I was being perceived as.
By age 14, I had accumulated so many life experiences, and had allowed myself to be influenced in such a way, that I began to make some substantial realisations about my life. In essence, my childhood did not turn me into some intellectual/physical genius, but rather provided me with a solid base, upon which I could build. The above is reasonably disconnected; but all you need to know at this point, is that I was an average heighted, average weighted kid, who had never seen a video gaming console in his life, was a good student, had a brother for a best friend, and had just decided that basketball was the sport for him.
A turning point for me in my career……..
This personal building process began when I was approximately 16 years old. To paint a picture, I had travelled through my junior career quite cleanly- I was recognised as one of the top players in the state, and I was okay with that for some reason. I had decided to try out for the u18 South Australian State team as a bottom-ager; I still thought I could make the team. By the time the tryout weekend was over, it was time to cut down the 75 player squad to approximately 45 individuals. I had a reasonable tryout and made a number of shots- however, admittedly, I thought I was likely to at least scrape through to the top 45 regardless of how I had performed. The coach began reading names, in alphabetical order. With a last name ‘White’, I was relaxed after the coach had reached its halfway point. Just minutes later, it had hit me. I had just been cut at the first cut of the tryout. I was no longer considered in the top 3 players in the state, in fact, I failed to be considered in the top 50. “Stay calm Isaac, get your ball and just get out of here before anyone realises you’re upset”- I found my mother in the carpark just minutes later, and pleaded for her to just drive and to not ask any questions……I had completely lost direction. I cried into my jumper, tried numerous techniques to shift responsibility, and even resorted to eating comfort food. I couldn’t shake this. I had gotten worse.
I arrived home, obviously feeling completely defeated. I isolated myself in my shed and decided to have a few hours alone to gather my thoughts. After minutes, I began to feel a fire brewing deep inside of me like nothing I had ever experienced before. I rehearsed to myself over and over, “You have gone backwards, you have gone backwards Isaac”, it seemed to fuel me more. I broke the situation down into its finer details, just as Kobe Bryant suggested. I, Isaac White, had somehow managed to fall substantially behind in my basketball career, and it bloody well stung me. BUT. This……. is where I changed forever. I stood up, found a mirror, and made myself a promise, a promise that one day, however long it took, however many hours it takes, however many tears of pain or hurt I had to sacrifice, I would prove to myself and others I could overcome this setback.
Long story short, the following weeks saw some 8 hour days of pure workouts. I called the coach who had cut me from the team, and asked him to break down every single flaw he saw in me and my game, I took everything on board except one- “Isaac unfortunately you were too small for our team anyway”. I translated every single flaw into a specific training schedule, which I found time to complete where no one else could. I remember waking up as early as 4:50am, to catch a bus to my local gym to hit the weight room, and follow it up with an intense on court workout.
Just a few months later, a number of squads were announced for the National Intensive Training Program. To my dismay, but not to my surprise, I was again disincluded in any of these lists. In all honesty, this was just some free metaphorical firewood- I increased my training hours and intensity even more. Besides, I had more people to prove that I could rise above their perceptions.
Every coach I had ever worked with had helped me along the way and all have offered me something valuable. What I needed at this stage was someone to see and believe in my abilities and encourage me to keep my goals high.
By now, I was playing in my u18s with the Sturt Sabres, and was taken under the wing of Coach Andrew Jantke. He was that solid figure in my life, who would listen to any thoughts or issues I had, offer up ideas for solutions, worked me out whenever I asked, and most importantly, backed me, and believed that I could achieve ANYTHING. With a man like that in my corner, who clearly has some credibility, I felt all the more empowered. That year in particular, as I have described, was the turning point in my basketball career.
Over the following year, I stuck to my regular routine, continued to awake at 5am each morning to workout, and kept on my grind. I started to notice some improvements, but I also enjoyed being ‘under the radar’. The details in between then and where I am today are not too complex at all- I worked hard, worked smart, and worked consistently, had a reason to do so, and the rest took care of itself.
My team mates throughout my time so far have been fantastic too. Basketball-club wise, for example, with Sturt, I’ve been bought up in a success driven culture where players are held to account for their efforts, attitude and coachability. This was a culture amongst my team mates and despite some of the challenges mentioned above the success I had with them at my club was really valuable at a time I was facing setbacks in other programs. Their drive and commitment to our team and to developing their own games helped me greatly too.
As I too would prefer not to read over a several thousand word thesis, I will make an attempt to make the following as concise as possible.
Here are a few final concepts I would like each and everyone to consider, if they truly desire success in basketball, sport or life in general.
Talent vs Skill:
This is a concept I have derived from Will Smith, and something which is very misunderstood. I, am a very untalented person. In fact, one of the very few talents I do have, is a work ethic. Some people may think “But aren’t you kind of talented basketballer?”- the answer is no. Talent is something that is given to your naturally, something that you are either born with (such as height or coordination), whilst skill is something which is developed over a time frame, and through repetition or practice.
The importance of mental toughness:
As you may have understood from my stories, any successes I have experienced throughout my short career, are due a relentless determination, and will to persevere through adversity. You MUST understand…… every time you find yourself struck by hardship or pain, it is an opportunity to rise, learn and grow. As a side note, it is a sweet taste knowing that those who once doubted you, are now those who preach about you.
For those who are desperately trying to find a way to develop or expand their game, I would strongly suggest spending the best part of your week PLANNING and BREAKING DOWN the areas which need to improve, and then developing a method of attacking these areas. In my opinion, 10 minutes of intense, purposeful work, is worth more than 3 hours of fadeaway threes and half court attempts.
This is something which I have never found too hard to do, as I have never been attracted to the alcohol, party, or social scene, but if you want to be the best in this game, you must be willing to make some substantial sacrifices (as cliche as it sounds). Although it seems petty and stupid, as a self-rewarding system, everytime I see my peers or opponents out in town, abusing alcohol, or taking drugs, I find a way to hit the gym or workout, so that I am 100% sure that whilst my competition is out there taking backwards steps, I’m taking leaps and bounds forwards.
The world is temporary:
This is something which has been looming on my mind ever since I was young. One day, I will die, the sun will fall from the sky, and the universe may very well be doomed. But what will remain? Your legacy, and your EFFECT on civilisation. What is the use in being average? Why be just another number in this world? Why let the people around you determine you and your future? If you want something, go get it, it is the only way- you will find a way if you want it bad enough.
How does all of this tie in? How will it help you? Well, it will help you as much as you allow it. I’m not asking you to follow in my footsteps as I haven’t achieved my capacity as of yet- aim to create your own journey, and own process.
The entire essence of this entire blog is based around the process, which saw me experience a life and career changing transformation. What I’m trying to say is…. The reason you may not be where you wanna be at this point, could be completely out of your control. In my eyes, success is dependent on opportunity. At the start of this year I had very few basketball credentials, and I had my doubts in myself. However, as detailed, I stuck to my process and those things I could control- I MADE SURE I would be ready if an opportunity arose. Sure enough, I was fortunate enough to have the honour of representing my state as a bottom-age at the u20 National Championships in February. Just weeks later, I found myself in Germany representing my country. I’m not saying “I’ve made it”, or that I should be idolised, but it is simply a thought.
Basketball is a very unpredictable sport. For some, the road to the top requires years of failure. For others, everything may fall into place instantly. Regardless of your path in this sport, and in this life, if you apply yourself, your opportunity will come…… will YOU be ready for it? I know I will be.
I plan to write again in the near future, but I hope you have enjoyed listening to some of my story, and have learned from some of the concepts I have developed over the first 17 years of this project.