As many of you know, I have three boys whom I had the extreme privilege of coaching in La Verne’s youth basketball leagues, one of the great joys and benefits of living in our great town. Like any coach, I was looking for an edge when I heard about this guy, Tom Amberry, who sank a world record of 2,750 free throws in a row.
At first I was in disbelief. My personal best was maybe five or six free throws in a row before watching the next one invariably clank off the rim.
There’s more to his story. Tom accomplished this amazing feat at the ripe age of 71. A southpaw, he would shoot until his arm went limp and then switch to his right hand. He wasn’t Stephen Curry, he was a foot doctor who practiced his hobby at the Rossmoor Athletic Club. That’s near Seal Beach.
In hopes of emulating his success and sharing it with my team, I purchased his book, “Free Throw: 7 Steps to Success at the Free Throw Line.” Better yet, I went out to my driveway basketball court and eyeing my very generous basketball rim, I began executing his advice as methodically as I could: feet parallel at the line, shoulders square, bounce the ball three times, keep the elbow tucked, aim and fire, all in exactly six seconds.
Following his advice, I achieved a personal record of 26 in a row, just 2,724 free throws shy of Amberry’s record.
Why did he succeed and why did I fall so miserably short?
“I’ve learned to focus and concentrate better than anyone else,” Tom told the Los Angeles Times not long after setting the record.
After learning of Tom’s success and his explanation for it, and after seeing my own driveway marksmanship improve by following his advice, I was certain that Tom was on to something. Focus is one of the keys, if not the key, for achieving success in life.
If you FOCUS (Follow One Course Until Successful), you will achieve more. You can’t let life’s distractions keep dividing your intentions. For example, early in his career at UCLA, Coach John Wooden did everything but drive the team bus. He even took a second job, working at a dairy farm from 6 a.m. to noon before coaching basketball in the afternoon. Despite his hard work, Wooden didn’t win a single NCAA championship his first 15 years in Westwood. He was chasing more than one rabbit, catching neither. That all changed one day when new athletic director J.D. Morgan entered his office and swept everything off Wooden’s desk. “John, you just take care of getting the team ready to play basketball, I’ll handle the rest,” he told him. Wooden went on to win a record 10 NCAA titles in the next 10 years.”
Focusing on one thing – to the exclusion of everything and everyone else – goes against our better judgment. Flying solo, not having a back-up strategy or Plan B, can be a very uncomfortable feeling, but it also can put you on the road to success. I would just remind you what Andrew Carnegie, someone else who knew quite a lot about success, said about adopting this all-in, do-or-die approach. His solution, “Put all your eggs into one basket and then watch the basket.”
Tom Amberry, John Wooden and Andrew Carnegie all watched the basket, and you should, too.
To be effective, be more selective. Once you find your purpose and passion, take action and limit distraction.
Tom Amberry (1922-2017) passed away this March, but before he did, he made this one student of the game a little better!
There’s only one mattress man in La Verne, so call Paul at 909.727.3700 or 909.392.5554. He’s the owner of Cost Plus Mattress, conveniently located at 1147 Foothill Blvd., next to the 210 freeway at the Foothill exit.
Tell him, Pete sent you!