What does finishing strong mean in the game of basketball? To me, finishing strong applies to 3 distinct aspects of the game:
- Finishing around the basket
- Finishing the end of a game
- Finishing the end of the season (Playoffs)
Finishing, in all three cases, has more to do with mental toughness than anything else.
How many times, especially at the youth and high school level, do you see a player make a remarkable move to get to the hoop and then miss the lay-up? They make a million-dollar move and a one-dollar finish.
They usually miss around the cup for one of these 5 reasons:
- They shoot the ball casually
- They shoot with the wrong hand
- They don’t use the backboard (when they should)
- They rush the shot or contort their body to avoid having it blocked
- They take their eye off the target (the rim!)
Regardless, they don’t finish the play. Not finishing is on the top of every coach’s pet peeve list. The best players in the game, at every level, finish plays! That is one of the things that make them great. One of the biggest momentum builders is a strong finish around the bucket, especially when it results in an old-fashioned 3-point play.
At DeMatha we stress finishing all of the time. Our motto is simple; every lay-up is important and you have to take pride in finishing plays. We teach our players to expect and embrace contact around the rim; not avoid it. Missing shots is a part of basketball; but if you don’t finish around the basket because of one of the five reasons mentioned above – you are coming out of the game.
We have several finishing drills we use in practice, but this is our favorite:
What about finishing the game? Regardless of score or outcome, do you play the 4th quarter with the same intensity, energy and enthusiasm as you do in the beginning? Are you strong with the ball and do you make crisp passes? Do you shoot free throws with focus? Do you play solid defense on every possession?
What about finishing the season? Are you playing your best basketball and giving your best effort now? Regardless of your record, are you playing/coaching with the same fire that you did in December… especially in practice? Do you come in early to get in extra shots? Do you try to get from practice or just get through practice?
To help you finish the season strong, and to get you in the right frame of mind, you need to take a few minutes every night before you go to bed and reflect. Reflect on your pre-season workouts. Reflect on how hard you worked and how excited you were for the season to start. Reflect on the goals you set before the season started (even if you didn’t achieve them).
I will end with this. I hate losing. I am an extremely competitive person. But I acknowledge losing is a part of life and certainly a part of basketball. While nobody wants to lose, 99% of teams will end their season with a loss (with the only exception, in theory, being the champion).
Hopefully all of your hard work will pay off and you will win a championship.
If not, if your season does end on a loss, make sure you leave every ounce of heart, soul and love on the court. Make sure you go down giving it everything you have.
Make sure you finish strong.