The ideas of discipline, training, and habituation generally evoke sentiments of boredom, dullness, and monotony. But if we believe that excellence is an art then we must recognize that a pursuit of excellence requires an incredible amount of imagination and creativity. Sports provide an incredible platform to cultivate skills using creativity and imagination to design training regiments that cultivate virtuous habits. In somewhat paradoxical terms, the un-virtuous athlete is the uncreative athlete, whereas the journey of excellence necessitates from us a high level of inventiveness, originality, and ingenuity.
Put simply, creativity is born out of virtuous habits. The person (or athlete) that allows themselves to be influenced by the lottery of shifting emotions becomes enslaved to whatever feeling they have at a particular time. It is only when we dedicate ourselves to the beautiful ritual of habituation that we are free to become innovators. Art is a commitment to craftsmanship that must be wisely cultivated in the crucible of virtuous habit. It is only after you pledge yourself to developing virtuous habits that your creativity within you craft can be unleashed!
Do we act rightly because we are excellent or does excellence come as a result of acting rightly? Athletes, coaches, and teachers of basketball must wrestle with this question as they attempt to develop a theology of motivation. Following the order of excellence is crucial if we want to become virtuous.
Excellence is not a buried treasure deep inside of us waiting to be unlocked by a magic potion or secret mechanism. There are no formulas, 5-step DIY manuals, or treasure maps that show us the road we must take. Instead excellence is a laborious process; it is the summation of thousands of individual decisions that comprise a greater work of art.
It is like a sculptor who starts chipping away at a piece of rock. The sculptor does not expect to find his piece of art to take shape after only a few swings of the chisel, but understands that each cut into the rock brings him closer to a beautiful finished product. Virtuous repetition is the path that leads to excellence.
Those who practice habits of excellence give themselves a chance at greatness. Greatness in basketball is never achieved by choosing the best drills or most clever training regiment. Rather, you give yourself a chance at greatness by the habits you choose to cultivate. There is an endless obsession – particularly in the world of sports – with using the most innovative training equipment or learning the flashiest drills hoping these things will make you a great basketball player.
If we strive to be excellent, we must shift our focus from a consumer mentality to a craftsman mentality. Consumers believe that external products will give them an advantage over their competition, and initially this may be true. The problem with consumers is that as soon as a training technique, product, or service goes out of style, they immediately look to switch to the newest trend.
A craftsman understands that we must train our bodies in excellence and ingrain habits that teach us inconsistency and discipline. In athletic terms, a virtuous athlete must train their bodies to repeatedly practice their skills and hone their talents. The primary ways to do this is through cultivating virtuous practice, training, and study habits. Craftsmen hold themselves to a higher standard because their craft has immense meaning in their life. They discipline their bodies in order to achieve their ultimate goal.