The ability to be consistent is what separates a good player from a mediocre one. When your coach starts saying things about you like, “No one can beat him baseline” or “No one can keep him off the boards,” you are a good player. Mediocre players are the ones always pointing out the times they do something good. But good players expect to perform certain tasks over and over again routinely.
You don’t expect praise for never giving up a layup, you just do it because it’s do-able. Things that are do-able, you do, over and over again, every time. Good players have an every-time kind of pride, and that is what coaches call “consistency.” That, not 360s and slam dunks, is what separates good from mediocre and winners from losers.
Strangely enough, season after season, teams called “great” get four or five or even ten victories a year by only a few points over teams called “mediocre” or “bad.” Think of that. Great teams often beat bad teams by only a few points. That’s one turnover, a tip-in somewhere, and a free throw made or missed one way or the other. That’s a tiny defensive lapse maybe tucked away someplace in a fold of the game that the fans never even saw, could have been early in the first half (of all places!), or some play snuck in from out of bounds or on a jump ball someplace.
You’ve got to think hard about that to realize what it means. A few points, a couple of plays, a 45% shot someplace instead of one more pass and a 55% shot—not much difference between a 20-game winner and a team with a losing season. It should give you a healthy regard for complaining, dissatisfied coaches and for words like precision and concentration and hustle. Such a tiny thread in 32 or 40 minutes of basketball separates good from bad, and yet, some people win consistently (by a few points) while others lose consistently (often only by a few points, too).
There is probably only one way to cross that tiny little thread and get on the winning side. Be consistent. Develop a ridiculous attention to detail, to doing things right, to making every practice count, to concentrating on every shot. It is not easy to be consistent. Because that’s what “good” is.
From Dick’s book Stuff