Dan Sullivan is the author of a book called The Gap or the Gain. I think its message is a great reminder for all of us, and one I’ve been working to apply to our basketball program. Sullivan’s main message is that we often focus on the wrong thing when it comes to our goals. We often focus on what he calls “the gap”, which is the space between where we currently are and the ideal version of whatever we are chasing. For example, if someone set out to lose weight and lost 20 lbs., a person focusing on the gap would view that as a failure because even after that loss, they didn’t have the ‘perfect’ body. Conversely, Sullivan suggests focusing on what he calls “the gain”, or the progress that we have made. To use the previous example, someone focusing on the gain would focus on the 20 lbs. that they lost and give themselves credit for the progress they’ve made.
I think this concept nicely compliments having a growth mindset, or a belief in our ability to improve. Too often, players get discouraged if they don’t see immediate and drastic results. They want to be Steph Curry after two weeks of working on their shooting. Objectively, we know this isn’t possible. But too many players become discouraged by this and give up. It’s an all or nothing mindset. If I can’t be Steph Curry, why practice my shooting? Well, perhaps you can’t go from Shaq to Steph Curry at the free throw line, but maybe you can go from Shaq to 75%. This is one reason we encourage players to track their shooting. It allows them to see the incremental progress that over time adds up to significant progress.
For us as a program, it is also a good reminder. My goal is to continue to build our basketball program into one of the most competitive in the area. Are we there yet? No, and at times I get frustrated because I focus on the distance we still have to travel to get there and the ‘perfect’ program I’d like us to be. However, when I flip my mindset to focus on the gain, it totally changes my perspective. For the first time since 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, the varsity team had consecutive winning seasons. This year marked only the second tournament win in the past eight years. Those are signs of progress, or gain. We have an outstanding coaching staff in place down through the middle school level. We have expanded our program offerings in the grade school levels (Covid permitting). Some of those things are seeds that won’t bloom for years. But all are signs of growth. Will it happen quickly enough to make me happy? Probably not. But it will happen, and I will be happier and more productive if I focus on where we’ve grown rather than how far we still have to go.
Of course, this doesn’t mean any sign of progress should make us content. We should continue to strive for more, but with a healthy mindset that shows acknowledgement and gratitude for progress made. To get to where we want to will require immense effort and continued growth from our coaches and players. However, setting the ideal as a goal only sets us up for failure, as the ideal is often not realistic. I hope our players apply this in their athletics but also to their studies and other commitments. In terms of basketball, while we may not achieve all our goals, our players and team’s gains over the past two years have been tremendous, and I am proud of them for their work. Keep working and keep gaining!