Basketball is an excellent metaphor for recovery. On the court, as in real life, the environment and its circumstances evolve continuously. The action is constant, but energy and momentum can shift dramatically. Different players rotate in and out of the game, some playing more substantial roles than others. Each person’s playing time and the significance of his or her role can change. Coaches and assistant coaches are resources that help to provide direction, guidance, and mentoring. Even the best players require the support of teammates in order to win games. And even the best teams have to call time-out on occasion, when the game gets away from them, and they need to regroup. In order to be successful, it’s important to be able to see as much of the court as possible, to be present-centered and mindfully aware of what’s happening in the moment. What is the overall defense doing? Is it a full-court press, a half-court trap, a man-to-man, or a zone? Is the defense laying back to prevent the dribble drive and giving up the outside shot? Or it is playing close and tight, creating opportunities to drive to the hoop? Success against each type of defense requires a different set of responses. Successfully negotiating life on its own terms requires a similar assessment of the situations I am presented with in the here and now. John Wooden was the legendary men’s basketball coach at UCLA whose teams achieved an unparalleled degree of success. They won ten national championships during a twelve year span from1963 to 1975. Wooden thought of himself first and foremost as an educator; a teacher whose primary responsibility was to prepare the young men he coached to be successful in life, rather than just in basketball. He did this by teaching and instilling in his players an incredible foundation of values in addition to skills, through continuous repetition. It’s unclear if Coach Wooden knew of Milton Erickson’s model for learning and skill development. What is clear is that he was intimately familiar with the concept of unconscious competence/mastery and sought to operationalize it at the team level. His approach to preparing his teams was based on uncompromising conditioning and meticulous execution achieved through the mastery of universal team and individual fundamentals. His teams achieved a degree of unconscious competence by practicing virtually the same way every time they took the court. Coach Wooden taught that failing to prepare translated into preparing to fail. He maintained an unwavering belief that if his teams practiced the right things the right way and performed to the best of their ability, winning would take care of itself; and it did. This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by By Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).