A running joke in our Academy that only a handful of the players are part of the Academy Book Club.

One of our players, Deacon, asked me last year if there’s any book I’d recommend on “mindset”. I asked him what his exact challenges were and by his answer I thought that Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind would be a good read for him. I told him it’s not a book to read quickly, but rather to digest slowly to see how it connects with your experiences.

Having finished this book I asked the player if he could write a short set of lessons from the book for our other players who might be overwhelmed by reading the whole thing.

Here’s Deacon’s review of Shunryu Suzuki’s classic Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind.

“One of the most important things I got from the book is to simply ‘practice’. I often forget to just play the game, to just play ball. When I miss a shot for example, I don’t have to remember all of the times I have made a mistake. I just have to continue playing. When I’m training I don’t have to train for a specific goal, i just have to practice to practice and make the best of each practice moment.

What is also mentioned in the book is that whenever you want something or say something, you don’t have to add things to it. When I don’t feel well and say “oh I don’t feel so well”, I don’t have to add that it is because of this and that. I just have to work on the issue.

Another thing that is very important is that “The Process” is itself a process. In your process or way of training the process that is used itself will never begin as it ends. The process itself needs to be improved to improve yourself.

No matter how hard you work you will never see extremely great or fast improvements. It is like taking a shower: when you get in  you are immediately wet and you notice that. That is not how the process goes: the process is more like being in a fog. Slowly, slowly you get wet but you do not really notice it. But after a while when you compare yourself with how you started you see an enormous difference. Even though it takes a long time, it’s huge!

So this book is mostly about how you can improve your own process (with the help of for example “Zazen”) to get closer to what you want to become.”

Here are 5 quotes from the book that Deacon connected to the context of basketball


“The progress you make is always little by little.
It is not like getting in the shower which you know you’ll get wet.
In a fog, you do not know you get wet,
but as you keep walking you get wet little by little.”

D: If you’re trying to get better in something, don’t expect you’ll see magnificent progress in a short time. The process is so slow and you’ll never know that you’re getting better. But when you compare the ‘you’ in the present and the ‘you’ since you started the process, you’ll see incredible progress.

“Everything is one and two.
Even though we say mind and body,
they are two sides of one coin:
You can strengthen your body,
but while you’re doing that
you can’t ignore your mind,
they are together.”

D: It is important that you also give your mind some healthy food because if your mind gets weak, you’re body gets weak. While you’re doing work on the one, you’ll affect the other.

“When you try to stop your thinking,
it means you are bothered by it.
Do not be bothered by anything.
Let them go as the waves flow.”

D: Your mind has thoughts that are like waves. Everything that has nothing to do with the game, don’t be bothered, don’t hang and don’t hold that wave. It is a small wave if you look at your practice. Thoughts that have to do with your practices are the big waves, they’re the one we surf with.

“Doing something is expressing our own nature.
We do not exist for the sake of something else.
We exist for the sake of ourselves.”

D: This simply means that you have to be selfish, but in a good way. If you’re in an away game, don’t be bothered by what the crowd is thinking of you. You’re not that important, you’re just there to play the game. Not for the crowd.

“The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in its wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.”

D: A lot of coaches or leaders will try to dictate their teammates, but this will not help. Their own thinking and doing will not be theirs any more. If you let them do and maybe help them by giving them other options that they can do, they will try to figure out on how to use your options in to their practice.

Deacon Rey
Elite Academy Youth Player