top of page

"Preparation Breeds Confidence. Confidence Breeds Success."

On June 6, 1984, Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics beat their archrivals, the Los Angeles Lakers and Earvin "Magic" Johnson, in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, an epic series that the Boston Celtics would go on to win. Coincidentally, that was also the same day I was born. My dad, Dave Babcock, was an assistant coach at San Diego State University. As a result of him being a coach, I was practically born with a basketball in my hands. I also became an obsessive fan of Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, mainly due to my family roots in New England. These influences would prove to steer a significant part of my life — my life as a basketball player.

Having been raised as a coach's son, I was thoroughly taught the fundamentals of basketball as a child. Even today, as an adult, my mind is tattooed with memories from my childhood doing "Pistol Pete" ball-handling drills, the "flip drill," and receiving coaching from my dad to execute the "gooseneck" when following through on my shooting release, just to name a few things. By being coached well and having done my best to mimic my childhood hero, Larry Bird, by working on my game religiously, I developed an advanced skill level at a young age.

In the fall of 1998, I was a freshman at Shorewood High School in Shorewood, Wisconsin, a suburb just outside of Milwaukee. A young, skinny, six-foot kid who could barely even touch the ten-foot-tall rim, I was asked by Shorewood's head basketball coach, Vince Peterson, to be the starting point guard for the varsity team. 

Until that moment, I hadn't realized that playing on varsity as a freshman was even a possibility, much less being the lead guard. I was honored and proud. 

I experienced some growing pains as a player in the first part of my freshman season. I did okay, but certainly nothing worth writing home about. However, once the first semester of school had finished, several of the top players on our team were ruled academically ineligible. This allowed me to fill a more vital role within the team, as I was asked to step up to be an assertive scorer. Before this opportunity, although I started, I was more of a complementary player. My team was desperate for me to produce more for us to have the chance of winning any more games that season. And to add to the drama, our next scheduled game was against the number one team in our conference, Slinger High School, who was undefeated at that point in the season.

I remember the night before that game vividly. I stayed after our team's practice to shoot by myself, as I did regularly. I knew that was what Larry Bird would have done. I spent a lot of time perfecting my rhythm and shooting release. I projected what shots would be available for me within our offense and practiced those shots over and over again. I also visualized making every shot. I was able to get a lot of shots up that night. By the time I left the gym, I felt extremely confident, knowing I was prepared.

The next night, I showed up for our game at the Shorewood gym, ready to go! I was asked to step up, and that's exactly what I did. In that game versus Slinger, I netted seven three-pointers and scored 27 points, leading our team to victory. As the buzzer sounded, the announcer could be heard throughout the gym: "Freshman, Matt Babcock, 27 points!" I celebrated with my teammates and coaches as we gradually made our way to the locker room. Someone in the crowd shouted: "Babcock, where did you come from?" I seemingly generated quite a buzz in the gym that night, and I could feel everyone's eyes on me. Once we got to our locker room, our team continued to celebrate. We were all pumped up!

After showering, changing into regular clothes, and catching my breath a little, I needed to meet my parents because I was only 14 years old and needed a ride home. I walked up the stairs from the locker room back onto the court, and there was a large congregation of people to cheer us on some more. I saw my parents, both smiling ear-to-ear. I knew I had made them proud, which was one of the most gratifying parts of that night.

In hindsight, I may have surprised many people with my performance, but I was not surprised. I had worked extremely hard on my game and outside shooting, specifically. I had practiced the shots I made that night thousands of times by myself. I visualized making those shots far before I could take them. I expected to make every single shot I took.

That next morning, to my surprise, I awoke to my parents hooting and hollering. “You’re in the paper!” my dad shouted with excitement. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s headline of the sports page read: Babcock, Shorewood, Shock Slinger.

The attention I received walking the halls at school that day was somewhat overwhelming but intoxicating at the same time. Regardless of whether I knew them, it seemed as if everyone I crossed paths with would mention something about the previous night's game. I had never experienced anything like that before; it was unbelievable! And the attention didn't stop there. A day or two later, a local newspaper interviewed me and wrote a story. My dad had spent so much time working with me on my game, and I had spent hours and hours alone in the gym. Although I was only a fourteen-year-old freshman then, I had lived my entire life as a self-proclaimed "basketball player." To be recognized as one at that level for the first time was very rewarding. I enjoyed the fruits of my labor. It was an experience I will never forget.

Although the breakout game during my freshman year of high school was not the biggest stage, it was the first time I could see that proper preparation leads to success.

A saying I have come to appreciate that fits this story well is, "Preparation breeds confidence. Confidence breeds success." I believe this concept can be applied to almost anything, especially shooting a basketball.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page