Why trying to be cool will ruin your basketball career

By Tyson Hartnett, contributing author.

Everybody tries to be cool. That is the goal for everyone growing up. That was the goal for me growing up, too. Coolness was this far away land where the kids who partied and smoked lived.

But guess what?

I wasn’t cool. I was never cool. Believe me, I tried but I didn’t fit in.


I was too tall and lanky; I was weird and shy; I was awkward. I tried being funny so other people would believe I was cool, but I’m pretty sure they saw through the desperation.

It was tough, not being cool. I didn’t get invited to parties, I didn’t drink every weekend, and I definitely didn’t smoke.

But all the cool were kids doing it. A lot of times, I thought, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I fit in?”

Basketball was my escape.

It was rough not having everybody want to be your friend, but the one place I didn’t care about being cool was on the basketball court.

Whenever I had the ball and the hoop everything else just faded away. I would go to the court with my problems and leave two hours later wondering what I was so upset about.

This love affair with the hoop and ball, however, didn’t get me far socially. Instead of hanging out with other kids after school, I’d spend time in the gym doing ball handling drills or getting up jumpers. I remember lots of times how kids I knew would come into the gym and see me doing sprints all alone, and ask me what I was doing. I would tell them I was training, and say, with confidence,

“I’m going to get a basketball scholarship.”

They’d look at each other, laugh, and just walk away.

Was it embarrassing? I guess. I don’t know. And, honestly, I didn’t care.

Once I got into high school, the epidemic of being cool swept over everybody fairly quickly. Like a fast-moving storm, a cloud of coolness hovered over the student population for years. I was sucked into it, but I used my passionate love affair with basketball as my strong and sturdy umbrella to weather the storm.

I don’t know if it still is this way, but when I was in high school, the cool thing was to not have energy. Basically if you had too much energy, or worked your butt off, you were definitely not cool.

In order to be cool, you had to look like you were constantly about to fall asleep. If you didn’t show up to class, or didn’t do school work, you were even cooler.

[Tweet "The court doesn't care if you're cool. #hoopdreamsfulfilled"]

Cool doesn’t always equal excellent.

Why do we think these people are cool? Because they’re lazy? Because they don’t have a sense of drive, passion, or determination?

Or are they simply people who make us feel satisfied with our mediocrity?

When people see a high-achiever, they try to bring them down to their level, to blame that person’s success on luck or any other number of uncontrollable factors.

You know why the world’s most successful people weren’t cool as kids? Because they didn’t get sucked into the trap of conformity, laziness, and coolness.

While the cool kids were out drinking on the weekend, the un-cool kids were working on their game, studying, or figuring out ways to make money. They weren’t sabotaging their body with drugs, alcohol, and other unhealthy behaviors, and certainly weren’t practicing making laziness a life habit.

For example:

Say you just got done playing ball with some of your friends on the court. Once you get done playing, you should always cool down and stretch. If you can’t do a full cool-down, at least stretch for a few minutes. This will keep your body at a high level, reduce injuries, and get your body ready to relax.

However, most people don’t do any stretching at all. You know why? Because they don’t want their friends laughing at them.

They may have seen “White Men Can’t Jump” and don’t want to be that guy stretching on the sidelines.

But do you know what the first thing all Division 1 college basketball teams do before they get on the court is? Stretch.

 Do you know what the last thing they do before they get off the court is? Stretch. Start to get in good habits now, so your body gets used to it and stays in great shape.  Maybe the first time you stretch, your friends will laugh at you, but if you do it consistently every time you play, it will become normal, and they’ll get used to it.

Trust me.

Being cool is overrated.

I was never cool, and I got a full Division 1 scholarship and played professional basketball overseas. How? By not getting sucked into the “cool” lazy mindset, and by focusing on the goals that I set for myself.

 Have you ever been pressured to be cool? Have any stories about it?

Comment in the section below.  I want to hear them.

Learn more about Tyson’s story by reading his book, Hoop Dreams Fulfilled.


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