1,000 Makes a Day

1,000 Makes a Day

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

1,000 Makes a Day

The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.

~Vince Lombardi

It was 1995 and my sophomore year in high school in Claflin, Kansas. We were in the middle of our third game of the season in Ellsworth, Kansas, when I went up for a routine lay-up and was undercut by an opposing player. I took a hard fall on my right wrist and hand. Unfortunately, that just happened to be my shooting hand. After being taken out of the game, I could hardly stay still as the pain was as severe as I had ever felt in my life, and soon my wrist was swollen like a balloon.

My coach, Clint Kinnamon, immediately checked on me. Despite my pleas to simply tape me up and send me back into the game, Coach Kinnamon immediately motioned to my mom in the gymnasium stands, and then instructed her to take me to an emergency room as soon as possible.

My mom is a nurse, and thankfully she had some Tylenol with her to help relieve the pain during the trip to the hospital. Unfortunately, the attending physician spoke with broken English, and neither of us fully understood his diagnosis. However, it was clear from him that X-rays revealed I had not broken my wrist, but instead suffered a severe sprain. Despite the pain, I was relieved to hear him report that I should be back on the floor in two weeks.

We quickly returned to the Ellsworth gym in time for me to ride the bus home with my teammates. I was telling everyone that my wrist was fine and not broken, even waving it around throughout the ride home for all to see. Unfortunately, it was after I got home and the pain medication wore off that I began experiencing the most excruciating pain of my life. I spent the night screaming in pain… a night that is forever etched in my mind.

The next morning, my parents took me to a specialist, who quickly revealed through an X-ray that I had indeed a major break in my radius, as well as a chip in my ulna. Although devastating news, I was somewhat relieved to learn that the bone had stayed in place, and it appeared as though I would not need surgery. Only time would heal this wound. The physician informed me that I would be required to wear a hard cast on my right wrist for four weeks, followed by a soft cast for another four weeks.

It was at this time that I realized I could turn this devastating event into something positive, and I dedicated myself to doing just that. Almost immediately, due to the limitations with my shooting hand, I dedicated myself to learning to shoot left-handed. It was a daily struggle, but I was committed to using this time to improve and come back even stronger than before. Yes, I was limited in many ways, but the opportunity was before me. As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you do; it’s what you do next that really counts.”

After four weeks, I was cleared to play with a soft cast on my right wrist, and I was forced to shoot left-handed for the next four weeks. Despite the fact I was happy to be back in uniform, it was not until our team had reached the regional tournament that my soft cast was removed. It was obvious from the start of the playoffs that my right hand and wrist had become very weak from the eight weeks of inactivity and that my muscles had atrophied. My previous shooting accuracy suffered greatly.

Like many high school athletes, I had committed myself to one simple dream… to win a state championship. My dream was close to reality as we were playing in the semi-finals of the state tournament… just one more win and the Claflin Wildcats would play the next day for the state championship.

The most anticipated game in my young career soon turned into one of the most disappointing events in my life. To put it mildly, my shooting performance was awful. I still remember the statistics: four for twenty-one from the field, and we ultimately lost the game by just a few points. I knew I had let down my team, my school and my entire community. I was devastated and completely humiliated by the defeat. If only I had made a couple of those baskets, we would have likely won the state championship.

I had worked so hard throughout my childhood, and when I was needed the most, I couldn’t perform to the level I wanted and my team needed. I had worked so hard and overcome the adversity of a serious injury. I was at such a low point during that time that I could have easily and totally given up the game of basketball and never looked back. I was simply that low.

Throughout life, the choices you make as you experience challenges and adversity will shape you and ultimately be the determining factor in your ability to reach your goals and succeed. I had two choices. I could quit, or I could dedicate myself to being the best I could be. Of course, I chose the latter.

I committed myself to a simple and clear goal: to make 1,000 shots a day. I wanted to not just return to my pre-injury ability, but I was committed to returning that next season as an even better shooter.

A thousand shots a day is a major commitment, but I am proud to say I kept that commitment and made 1,000 shots a day until my freshman year in college.

I ultimately achieved some major goals in high school. No, we never won that coveted state championship (something that still haunts me today), but I was fortunate to break several Kansas high school records, including the career scoring leader for girls’ basketball. I was selected as an all-state player and eventually named to the USA Today top five team and was named to the Kodak All-American high school team, being named as the Most Valuable Player in that game. I was honored to be selected as a member of the junior world championship team, as well.

I was highly recruited and eventually selected South West Missouri State over Kansas State and national powerhouse Connecticut. It was perhaps the best decision I’ve ever made in my life, as I was able to play on a great team with some terrific talent, and we literally changed the face of Springfield, Missouri, in the process.

My college coach (Cheryl Burnett) challenged my 1,000 shots a day routine, suggesting it would hamper my ability to have the “legs left” to survive the rigorous college schedule. I developed another practice regimen that focused on quality shooting practice versus quantity of shots made.

My college career was truly a dream come true for me. Not only did our team reach the Final Four, but I was showered with individual honors and trophies beyond my wildest dreams. I was a two-time all-American, recipient of the Wade Trophy and Broderick Cup, and ultimately broke the individual career scoring record for women’s college basketball — a record that still stands today.

Eventually, I was drafted by the Portland Fire of the WNBA and named WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2001. After more than a dozen injuries and follow-up surgeries, my pro career was cut short.

While I never sought individual fame or glory, I was both honored and humbled by the recognition. As I look back, I know that all of the success I have enjoyed throughout my life was a result of many things: great teammates, great coaches, a supportive and encouraging family, and yes, those 1,000 shots a day.

Basketball literally opened up a world for me that I never dreamed possible. In retrospect, being injured early in my career played a huge role in my development as a player. I made a choice to overcome the adversity and my life and career were forever changed.

Adversity presents opportunities. Never ever stop believing in yourself and pursue your goals. Yes, dreams do come true — even for a girl from a small town in rural Kansas — and I’m living proof of that. It all started with 1,000 shots a day.

~Jackie Stiles, former high school, collegiate, and WNBA star

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