Prior to this year's NBA Draft a few beat writers reported on a conditioning drill the Boston Celtics incorporate into there pre-draft workouts. The drill nicknamed the "Boston Marathon" requires players to sprint the length of the 94ft court as any times as possible in three minutes. For those tracking at home the record is 29 times. A successful performance clearly demands peak physical conditioning, but the Celtics are very much interested in the view it offers of the player's mental makeup.
Celtics director of player personel Austin Ainge, quoted from the ESPN.com story linked above, said, "First of all, it shows conditioning level, obviously,but also your heart, your grit, your toughness. At the end of a workout, how hard are you going to push yourself?”
Both portions of this test are controllable. Each player can condition both his body and mind to withstand the intensity. There are conditioning strategies one could employ to enhance the physical side and there are certain thought patterns one could subscribe to that if used properly could increase focus and motivation to "push yourself" further. We will focus on those thought patterns, which should be productive in nature.
A productive thought is one that drives a player towards a performance gain. It is important to note that what is deemed productive is dependent on the athlete and task. As the assessment progresses more and more distracting thoughts could potentially enter each player's mind. For example, one's chest may begin to burn, pain may develop in the legs, or the athlete may simply lose interest because others are outpacing him. These stimuli all have the capability of high jacking their thoughts, which has a direct line to ones performance. To counter this an athlete could establish a clear goal and deploy practiced offensive and defensive self talk to remain on target. The clear goal could be a total number of lengths completed or segmented further to 1 length intervals.
The terms heart, grit, and toughness Ainge mentioned are not exclusive to a select few. To initiate the usage of mental skills open a dialogue with your athletes about their thoughts. There feedback will be an eye opener and begin the process of utilizing self talk strategies to enhance performance. A player will default to the level of his/her training. So utilize conditioning runs as a tool to not only promote physical conditioning but also mental skills.