It’s early morning and the sun has not yet risen, but a committed basketball player is wide awake and ready to go. The next game may still be months away, but the difference between winning and losing is happening now. The player knows, somewhere another player is trying to outwork him and one day take his spot on the team. Any player committed to being the best he or she can be knows one thing is certain: if they are not working to get better today, then somebody who wants it more is.
When fans see the high-flying dunks or high speed action they saw in UBA Season 4 they are watching the end result of the work put in by players away from the floor. Practice helps teams come together and run plays, but when games reach the final minute with the result still in doubt, conditioning is what allows players to perform at a high level.
The UBA has brought a conditioning and training mindset to India that has forced players to work hard on their conditioning and training between seasons. The UBA has raised the game by bringing international players to the league; increasing the level of play and the speed of the game significantly. Now players must follow rigid workout schedules throughout the off-season in order to keep up. “What these guys need to know is they’re professional athletes,” says UBA Chairman Mr. Fisher. “If you’re going to be a professional athlete, you have to be a professional when you’re not at training camp, when you’re not in season. You have to be a professional every day and you have to want it.”
It is during the off-season players must want it every day and ask themselves how badly do they really want to be the best they can be? Former NBA pro Joe Courtney, who played with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in 1993, has worked UBA games on television in India and with UBA players at the league’s US Pro Training Camp in the United States. Courtney told a group of UBA players the difference between being “good” and being “great” is the commitment made to making oneself uncomfortable. “Most people are straddling that line,” Courtney told UBA players. “They say I want professional basketball, if it’s comfortable. I want professional sports or to be the best, if it works around my schedule. I want professional sports, I want, I want, I want, if it’s on my terms. What you’re going to learn as you grow through this is, to be great, it’s not comfortable at all. As a matter of fact, to be great and make it somewhere, you have to master being uncomfortable.”
It’s during the off season most UBA players will face their toughest test. No scoreboards, no cheering crowds, but knowing that somewhere another player is working hard to earn his spot in the league. Remember, for every new player who makes his way to the UBA in any season, another player has lost that roster spot.
UBA Director of Coaching Jody Basye has worked with every team and every player in the league, during the season and during training camps, in both India and the USA. But Basye is not able to work with every player every day of the calendar year. “We can’t be the only motivating factor for them. Although they love basketball and they like to do it. They love the game part. Now they have to love the work part.” UBA League Assistant Jon Kimberlin, who has also worked extensively with every UBA player, knows those who put in the necessary time and work away from the games, will be back for another season. Those who don’t, will not. “What we’re really trying to accomplish is to teach them the fact you have to be an overall athlete. You can’t just train half speed basketball and expect to be a professional athlete.”
The crowds were overflowing and loud throughout Season 4, but somewhere the difference between winning and losing in Season 5 is happening in a quiet and empty place. In one place a player may be practicing free throw shooting while still dripping wet from an exhausting workout. In another place a player may be working on conditioning drills so when the game is tied in the final minute of play he can be on the floor competing instead of on the bench catching his breath.
It’s during the off season when top UBA players will spend significant time working on ball handling drills, working on dribbling, taking thousands of shots, and working in the weight room to get stronger and in better condition.
Because more international players will be coming to the UBA, fewer roster spots will be available for everyone else. The players who want them the most will fall asleep tonight in part, from having worked hard today, but they will wake early knowing they must work even harder tomorrow.
There may not have been any games today, but for the best professional players, today was not an off day.