What does finishing strong mean in the game of basketball? To me, finishing strong applies to three distinct aspects of the game:
- Finishing around the basket
- Finishing at 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.
Finish Strong at the Basket
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 layup? They make a million-dollar move but then fail to finish.
They usually miss around the cup for one of five reasons:
- They shoot the ball casually
- They shoot with the wrong hand
- They don't use the glass (when they should)
- They rush the shot or contort their body to avoid a block
- They take their eye off the target (the rim)
Regardless of the reason, they don't finish the play. Not finishing is on the top of every coach's list of pet peeves.
Regardless of the level of play, the best players in the game finish.
At DeMatha we stress finishing all of the time. Our motto is simple: Every layup is important and you have to take pride in finishing plays. We teach our players to expect and embrace contact around the rim. Missing shots is a part of basketball, but if you don't finish around the basket, you're coming out of the game.
A strong finish around the bucket is one of the biggest momentum builders, especially when it results in an old fashioned 3-point play.
We have several finishing drills we use in practice, but this is our favorite:
Finish the Game
What about finishing the game? Regardless of the score or outcome, do you play the 4th quarter with the same intensity, energy and enthusiasm you had 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?
Finish the Season
What about finishing the season? Are you playing your best basketball and giving your best effort? 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?
To help you get you in the right frame of mind and finish the season strong, 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).
Hopefully all of your hard work will pay off and you will win a championship.
I'll leave you with this: I hate losing. I'm 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 percent of teams will end their season with a loss (with the only exception, in theory, being the champion).
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.