The Playmaker Project

Inspirational Legend shows over us how to overcome Adversity. The KG Story.

Inspirational Legend shows over us how to Overcome Adversity. The KG Story.

Managing Stress, not Time is the Key to High Performance and Personal Growth

A young, 17-year-old Kevin Garnett called halfway across the country to Coach Nelson the head basketball coach at Farragut high.

“Coach, I am going to come live with you,” Kevin stated into the phone matter of factly.

“What! You ain’t live in Chicago, you ain’t even live in Illinois. That’s the craziest thing in the world. Why are you gonna come to Farragut when you live halfway across the country?” Coach Nelson cried out into the phone.

“Coach, I am moving to Chicago. I am coming to Farragut to play for you.”

“You’re crazy Kevin but if you can get to Chicago before the school year starts then you can come play for me.” Coach Nelson said, suddenly warming to the prospect of the lanky 7 footer coming to play for his team.

Coach Nelson had coached Garnett for a couple of games in an all-star showcase and now the kid was talking about coming halfway across the country to play for him.

Why did Kevin Garnett decide to move to Chicago for his senior year of high school?

It was his way of recovering and adapting to life stress.

When Garnett was a junior in high school in Mauldin, South Carolina, a race riot broke out. Garnett was arrested and charged with second-degree lynching—even though all accounts indicated he was there but not involved in the melee. Eventually, his record was expunged, but that incident not only stuck with Garnett.

It drove him.

Garnett was dead serious about moving to halfway across the country to a new high school as a high school senior. The amount of time, effort, and stress this crazy lynching incident had on him was intense.

He could either use this stress as a launching point for his career or he could let it burden him and bring him down.

The biggest challenge for any athlete and any human being for that matter on this planet is managing and adapting to stress, which can be physical, psychological, cognitive, and/or spiritual.

Kevin Garnett was not going to let stress/adversity and the actions of others determine his fate. He was going to harness this stress and utilize it as a launching point. He was moving to Chicago and he was going to play his senior year of high school basketball for Farragut.

“If I were to sum up what I’ve learned in 35 years of service. It’s improvise, improvise, improvise.” General James Mattis

Human beings as a species like to be in homeostasis. We like to be balanced. When stress hits us we get thrown off track, we back away, not dealing with it and hoping that the stress goes away.

This gets us off mission, off-track and away from high performance.

The fact is, we tend to avoid pain in all its forms, whether good or bad. However as Kevin Garnett shows us in the story above, integrating pain, discomfort and stress is good for us.

We must learn to lean into it, learn from it, adapt, get better, and recover. If we do this with our mental, physical and spiritual stressors then our mind and spirit will adapt, recover and get better just like the body does with physical stressors.

Stress + Recovery = Adaptation (Improvement)

“The true man is revealed in difficult times. So when trouble comes, think of yourself as a wrestler whom God, like a trainer, has paired with a tough young buck. For what purpose? To turn you into Olympic-class material. But this is going to take some sweat to accomplish. From my perspective, no one’s difficulties ever gave him a better test than yours, if you are prepared to make use of them the way a wrestler makes use of an opponent in peak condition.” Epictetus from his book Discourses

Kevin Garnett’s NBA career has literally been Herculean. Garnett was a locker room leader, 15-time All-Star and a four-time first-team All-NBA. He won a championship with the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics. He also retires having made $326 million in his career, the most in NBA history.

This drive, success, and ability to harness stress to his advantage was shown back in the mid-1990s when he called a basketball coach he barely knew and said he was moving halfway across the country to finish his high school basketball career.

We all face daily mental/cognitive and spiritual stressors in daily life. We have the option if we so choose to figure out how we can turn those stresses to our advantage. Like Kevin Garnett turning a lynching charge into a new World-Opening opportunity.

If the charge never would have happened he would have probably stayed in South Carolina and probably would have gone to college after high school. I have no idea how the butterfly effect would play out on that one, no idea if Garnett still would have skipped college, still would have made the Hall of Fame…

The wise ones scream “BRING IT ON!” to their challenges, *knowing* that their INFINITE (!) potential exists on the other side of whatever is currently freaking them out at the moment.

AND yes if you know anything about Kevin Garnett then you know that he screams “BRING IT ON” to any life challenge on and/or off the basketball court.

How do you respond to stress ?

Do you find a way to make it to your advantage?

Do you attack the stress with a vengeance and then take time to recover?


“It’s your actions, more than your thoughts, that dictates who wins.” Phil Stutz and Barry Michaels

In my experience, the most effective way to deal with life stress in a way that moves us forward and causes mental and spiritual adaptation is to act decisively.

Just like Garnett in his move to Chicago.

Indecision creates fear, fear activates our sympathetic nervous system, which slows down our ability to recover and adapt. It’s not easy to act decisively in the middle of a crazy situation, especially when you are under pressure and exhausted. The thing is, any plan is better than no plan, and a good plan executed now is far better than a perfect plan executed too late — high performers never succumb to analysis paralysis.

How can your mind and spirit stay stressed out when you’re busy innovating and adapting to take advantage of new opportunities?

Take a moment to assess the situation, make a decision, and take action as soon as possible. If you’re unsure what action to take, try this: Begin by determining you’re available resources, break your old patterns and set a new routine that will reorient your focus to the present challenge.

In Garnett’s case he knew Coach Nelson from an All-Star camp that he had attended in the past summer. He utilized Coach Nelson as an available resource to break old patterns, set a new routine, fully recover from the lynching case, and adapt and move forward.


I learned this strategy/tool from psychotherapists Phil Stutz and Barry Michaels. Stutz and Michaels are 2 of the top therapists in the World who consistently coach/provide therapy to the top Stars in Hollywood.

Here is the short story on this tool. Your infinite potential exists just on the other side of your comfort zone. Exiting your comfort zone feels, by definition, UNCOMFORTABLE.

Therefore, if we want to tap into our infinite potential, we *must* get really comfortable being really uncomfortable. Thus, we need to reverse our desire. I.E when we feel stress and discomfort we must embrace stress and discomfort and get excited about it.


Every time we feel fear bubble up, we say to ourselves, “BRING IT ON! Pain sets me free. I love pain!

You think a sixteen year Kevin Garnett felt comfortable calling some basketball coach he barely knew, telling him that he was moving to a new city so he could play for his basketball team.

Lately, when I have been using this tool to conquer my stress I have been visualizing in my mind Kevin Garnett on the basketball court screaming “BRING IT ON! Pain sets me Free. I love pain!”

Come on, if you have watched enough of KG then you know you can imagine him doing that:).


“If nothing succeeds like success, it is equally true that nothing fails like excess. Because change requires moving beyond our comfort zone, it is best initiated in small and manageable increments.” Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

Ok, now that we have a couple of Tools to figure out how to deal with life stress lets talk about how we can overcome physical stress from training.

Physical training is different than /cognitive/spirtual/life stress because we are intentionally putting stress on our bodies in the hopes of getting a particular adaptation.

The body does not adapt and improve when we are doing the skill but when we are recovering after the practice or competition.

Our body doesn’t care what type of workout we do or what modality we use to recover, it just does its process through continuous waves of stress, recovery, and adaptation, stress recovery and adaptation.

As an example, if we elevate our heart rate with something like thermic cycling (like taking a sauna and then jumping in an ice bath), our body doesn’t recognize that there is different from a physical practice or training session—all it knows is that it’s been exposed to a stimulus, and it reacts accordingly.

Stress, recovery, adaptation. Stress, recovery, adaptation.

Stress, recovery, adaptation. Stress, recovery, adaptation.

Nature itself has a pulse, a rhythmic, wavelike movement between activity and rest. Think about the ebb and flow of the tides, the movement between seasons, and the daily rising and setting of the sun. Likewise, all organisms follow life-sustaining rhythms—birds migrating, bears hibernating, squirrels gathering nuts, and fish spawning, all of them at predictable intervals. So,too, human beings are guided by rhythms.

Nature has rhythms. We have rhythms.

If we want to train, live and perform at high performance then we’ve gotta be good animals and line up to the deep rhythms of life.

The concept of maximizing performance by alternating periods of activity with periods of rest was first advanced by Flavius Philostratus (A.D. 170–245), who wrote training manuals for Greek athletes. Russian sports scientists resurrected the concept in the 1960s and began applying it with stunning success to their Olympic athletes.

Today, ‘work-rest’ ratios lie at the heart of periodization, a training method used by elite athletes throughout the world.

It’s a myth to think that we can force recovery through nutrition, hydration, mobility, sleep or anything else. Our body is going to go through its wave regardless.

But! We can either delay or facilitate recovery, and a lot of it comes down to timing and dosage.

Our body will recover eventually, with or without external intervention. The only question is whether we introduce additional stimuli (mobility, electrical stimulation, hydrating fluids, etc.) appropriately to either help or hinder the inevitable adaptation.

Do it right and you get faster, more complete recovery, but do it wrong and you get slower, minimized restoration—-effectively maladaptation.

You can’t stop the body from adapting in some way to stimuli, but you certainly can assist or interfere with the degree to which it does so.

So knowing that let’s discuss how to harness adaptability rather than interfere.


Breath Control Training: Breath control training accelerates recovery in remarkable ways. Research has shown that slowing down and deepening breathing shifts us from the stress response to the relaxation response; this slows the heart, normalizes the blood pressure, increases blood flow to the digestive system, deepens sleep, increases energy, focus, concentration, and memory—optimal breathing not only helps prevent or cure diseases, it raises performance levels in school and sports

Tai Chi: New research published in the Journal of Neuroimaging suggests that tai chi could improve brain health and speed up muscle recovery. Tai Chi is a gentle, low-impact ancient Chinese flowing form of meditative movement that has been practiced for centuries. A form of mind-body exercise, Tai Chi improves balance, strength, and flexibility and reduces stress and anxiety. Researchers also tracked muscle recovery by measuring phosphocreatine recovery time in the leg muscle. The recovery time for muscles significantly improved after 12 weeks of Tai Chi.

Active Release Techniques: This recovery technique combines deep tissue massage with simultaneous movement to diagnose and treat soft tissue injuries. ART has been proven to alleviate many chronic conditions and acute injuries.


When the ball is turned over, the players who now find themselves out of position have to react quickly. Fast recovery will slow down the opponent’s transition from defense to offense and limit the opponents chances of creating a high-percentage scoring opportunity.

How to optimize recovery in this situation?

Close off space quickly.

This gives your teammates the chance to reclaim stability in the situation and set up their structure to prevent an easy scoring opportunity. This situation is hard to defend because following a rapid change of possession (fumble or interception in football, a steal or turnover in basketball, or a broken-down passing move in soccer or rugby.) This kind of offense-to-defense moment is harder for the team that loses possession to recover from because of the speed at which it unfolds and the urgency of the situation.

Much like it is much harder to recover from fast-moving life stressors that involve a sense of speed and urgency. When turnover happens as a team you must put maximum effort into recovering. The attacking team will try to take advantage of this opportunity while you are standing there still thinking about what just happened.

This is why closing off space is so important especially to the attacking player who has the ball. If the defensive team can put the ball under enough pressure, it can buy time to get teammates back to support the defense, compress the playing field, and cut off space for the offense.

When a turnover happens make the decision to recovery and either attack the ball or get back as soon as possible. A great example of game time team sports recovery at its best is LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

His block of Andre Iguodala’s layup attempt was the pivotal moment in Game 7.


A few rare individuals i.e. Kevin Garnett refuse to have limited lives. They drive through tremendous amounts of pain—from big time moments like facing a prison sentence to shorter moments of embarrassment and anxiety.

They also handle the small, tedious pain required for personal discipline, forcing themselves to do things that push themselves beyond their limits, recovering and then pushing themselves again even farther the next day.

Because they avoid nothing, they can pursue their highest aspirations. They seem more alive than the rest of us. We all need to recognize that stress is a part of our lives and it cannot be sufficiently balanced by a casual, nonspecific approach to recovery.

The biggest challenge for any athlete and any human being for that matter on this planet is managing and adapting to stress, We need to embrace the stress that comes into our lives and utilize it as fuel for the next baby step in our life journey. This is how we adapt, this is how we get better.

Just like Kevin Garnett utilized a lynching charge as a jumping-off point for a Hall of Fame NBA career you can use your life stresses as a similar jumping off point to accomplish your goals and live, train and compete at high performance.

Work hard—rest equally hard. Make waves, powerful, symmetrical waves, while Screaming “Bring it On” and Acting Decisively in the Process!

High-Performance is the Payoff.

You can do this!

– Chase –

Since you’re here…

…YO, I have a small favor to ask. More people are reading The Playmaker Project article section than ever, and each week we bring you compelling content to building better athletes. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage me with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics.  Let’s get better today!— CJ

Coach Jackson
Coach Jackson
Master’s Degrees in Education (Specializing in the Work of Abraham Maslow and Human Potential) and an MBA in International Leadership and Coaching. He is a N.A.S.E certified Speed and Explosion Specialist and Optimize Coach.
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