In the spirit of the holidays I wanted do something special with Keys To The Gym. You could read this as a tribute to Dena but I would hope, and I know she would hope, that you can read it is as a sincere sharing of stuff that has benefited my life and I think others would benefit from as well.
I had the great privilege of spending a lot time with Dena during the prime of my development as an athlete. We trained together weekly in high school and spent many hours talking by phone before and after games as my career took me all over the country.
There are three phrases that Dena has said to me over and over throughout my career, and my life. At different points these phrases have served as inspiration on my walls, reminders in my locker, and mantras during games.
The first is “temporary inconvenience for a permanent improvement”. In a world where convenience and immediacy motivate so many aspects of our culture this one is certainly easier said than done. One interpretation might be that we sacrifice today in order to enjoy a future benefit. But over time I have realized that “temporary inconvenience” is actually where the magic lies in this message for me. The knowing that everything is temporary even it is uncomfortable or inconvenient is powerful. Wither is it a shooting slump or challenging life circumstance of much great consequence… it is always temporary. Which has a hopefulness and awareness that we are works in progress who can always enhance oursleves. This is one reason why I do not understand boredom.
“Focus on how you want it to feel” , Dena came up with this one on a Sunday afternoon mid-season during my sophomore year. I was shooting horribly and saying how it does not feel right. Dena stopped me, asked what I wanted it to feel like, and I used my answer to get really clear on how it felt when it felt good. Knowing that good feeling well makes it easier to get into that space in midst of adversity in a game, a practice, or even off court. I continue to remind myself of how I want to feel and it serves me daily.
My mom still jokes with me about this one, “selective memory”. One game in high school I went 1-8 from the 3 point line which was a very, very bad shooting day for me. After the game my mom said, I know you missed a lot of shots but I thought you did so many other good things (what a nice way to spin it, thanks mom). And I looked at her, as she tells the story, in shock and said “What do you mean? … I don’t know what you are talking about!” And that was true. I had chosen not to remember the bad stuff so much so that I was a little void of reality but I would prefer that to being negative. Though I am not proud of the teenager tone that I took with my mom, I do still stand behind the benefit in focusing on the positive stuff which is really what selective memory is about. It is the story we tell ourselves about our performance and what we think about, we bring about (another Dena phrase that I’ll save for another day).
I am very fortunate to have Dena in my life. And I am very thankful for the platform that Keys To The Gym has provided for me to share the stuff that has impacted my life immensely. I hope that the stuff that we share enhances your development and performance as players and coaches. But more than that, I hope our content sparks conversations within your teams that help you develop relationships like the one I have with Dena.
All the best in the New Year!
Emily K. Nkosi