Billy Hansen

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Billy Hansen is the author of the book “Harder Than I thought, Easier Than I Feared” about his experience with sports performance anxiety and how he recovered his skills and love for the game. 

Billy played basketball at Regis University in Denver and served as an assistant coach there for two years after his playing career ended. He presently teaches a course at Regis called Mindfulness for Athletes, and is the meditation coach for the Regis men’s basketball and baseball teams. His specialty is mindful shooting – training basketball players in the mental side of shooting the ball – and he’s worked with athletes at all levels, from high school to the NBA.

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You’ll want to be prepared to take some notes as you listen to this episode with Billy Hansen, author of the book “Harder Than I thought, Easier Than I Feared”.

What We Discuss with Billy Hansen

  • His book, Harder Than I Thought, Easier Than I Feared
  • Why athletes should take their mental health more seriously
  • The way his Dad made sports fun for him when he was a kid
  • Being a two sport athlete in high school
  • Making his identity as an athlete a huge part of who he was in high school and the pressure that placed on him to get a college scholarship
  • The stress he felt during the recruiting process and wondering whether the sacrifices were all worth it
  • How using a recruiting service helped him after his initial attempts at sending highlights and game tapes didn’t get the results he hoped for
  • Signing on with Regis University in Denver after his first visit
  • His feeling of imposter syndrome his first day on campus at Regis
  • The social culture of drinking that was in place at Regis and how that impacted his life on and off the court
  • His freshman season experience and how his confidence began to wane
  • Feeling like the ball felt unnatural in his hands during his sophomore season
  • Trying to shoot his way out of the difficulties he was having, but feeling like his skills had left him
  • Hoping during practice that his next shot wouldn’t be an airball
  • How the coaching staff at Regis tried to help him
  • Ben Simmons’ struggles with performance anxiety
  • His decision to see a sports psychologist on campus at Regis and her suggestion to begin practicing mindful meditation
  • “Every day that I got through practice without embarrassing myself was a success.”
  • Recognizing the anxiety and the refocusing on his breathing during meditation
  • How a new coaching staff at Regis redefined his role on the court during his senior season
  • “The culmination of this mindfulness meditation and visualization work that I’d been doing paired with finding a really good cultural fit and an opportunity to do what I was good at on the court really made the difference.”
  • The challenge of sacrificing for something that wasn’t fun as he was battling his anxiety during his first three seasons
  • The conversations he had with his Dad during his struggles and keeping his anxiety hidden
  • Building better sleep and nutrition as part of his recovery
  • His thoughts on NBA players like Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan sharing their mental health challenges
  • Why all athletes should start some kind of daily contemplative practice – meditation, visualization, prayer

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[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: Hello, and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle, and we are pleased to welcome tonight to the podcast, Billy Hanson, the author of the new book, Harder Than I Thought, Easier Than I Feared. First of all, Billy, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod. And secondly, go ahead and share with people in our audience, what the book’s about, why you wrote it.

Just give us the quick elevator pitch and where people can find the book. And then we’ll dive into some of the nitty-gritty details.

[00:00:28] Billy Hansen: Thanks, Mike and Jason. Yeah, really appreciate you having me on I’m happy to be here and I’m a big fan of the show. So thank you for having me. The book is like you said, Harder Than I Thought, Easier Than I Feared subtitle is sports anxiety and the power of meditation.

And it’s a book about my own athletic journey and specifically some of the challenges that I faced in college basketball, some of the mental difficulties that I experienced and. How that, how the difficulties on the court effected me off the court and ultimately about how doing something that I never thought I’d do.

And learning the practice of mindfulness meditation, working with a sports psychologist, helped me get back on the path and slowly recover. And so it’s, in some ways, an argument for athletes taking their mental health and more seriously, and making mental training, deliberate contemplative practices, a part of their athletic routines.

And beyond that, I also go into other dynamics about modern athletics, about drugs and party culture in high school and college, social media. Talk about the contrast between the two cultures I played in and how really getting with the right coach helped me a lot mentally and really bring out my abilities on the court.

So it’s really just a story about basketball and sports and being an athletes and encouraging athletes to integrate mental training into their routines and also coaches to help athletes do that. The book you can get at, that’s probably the best place to get it. And it’s also available on Amazon if you search the title.

[00:02:15] Mike Klinzing: All right. So we’re going to dive right into it as I read the book and thank you for sending it over to me so that I could read it prior to us jumping on. There were a lot of things in the book that I could certainly relate to when I think back to my college career. And I think back to some of the experiences that you went through, some of the things and feelings that you shared in the book were things that I could definitely relate to as a college player.

And then as I told you, before we jumped on, I think there’s a lot of parents. And players, particularly at the high school level where the pressure isn’t always as great and where the demands on you. Aren’t quite as high that if I would have read this book as a high school player, I probably would’ve scoffed at it.

And that was a long time ago, too. So I was a high school player graduating in 1988. So there wasn’t really much talk of mental health or any of those things. And I’m a little bit older than you. So clearly I would have had a different experience as a high school player. And as I read this book than I do now as a 51 year old looking back and thinking about my own college experience, but there were definitely things that I could relate to.

And I’m sure we’ll get into some of those as we dive further into the book, let’s start by going back to the beginning. When you were a kid, tell us a little bit about the first experiences that you had. In youth sports. I know your dad was a big influence on you in that area. So just talk a little bit about your upbringing in Oregon and how you got into sports and then what your sports experience was like as let’s say, a pre high school athlete.

[00:03:54] Billy Hansen: Yeah, definitely real quick. I just want to point out that I think I probably would have scoffed at the book too in high school, which is kind of ironic because yeah, it took me going through some serious pain in college to find any of that worth looking into or doing, but we’ll get to that. So yeah, youth sports, my first experiences with sports, I was very into sports when I was little I’ve asked my parents and they, they said they had their, or the philosophy that they were going to introduce me to a lot of things and just see what I gravitated towards and then help me pursue whatever I was passionate.

And I was way into sports from, from an early age. And yeah, my dad was, I think really good. He was very skilled parent. He was my youth coach up until probably about sixth grade is when he stopped coaching me. And he was really good at making sports fun. Like, I didn’t feel any undue pressure as a kid.

And I think part of the reason why I played so much when I was a kid was because I just loved it and it was, it just, it was always what I wanted to do. So I was asking my dad to throw me batting practice and go shoot. And my grandfather was also a high level athlete. He played professional football.

And so he was always often around after school to help rebound for me and all that stuff. So yeah, I had a really positive youth sports experience. I was in a small town, kind of a bubble, really good culture of parents, volunteering and good leagues. And yeah, I have great, great memories of youth sports.

[00:05:29] Mike Klinzing: Do you remember parents of some of your friends who maybe took a different approach. Like, did you have anybody in your life as a friend that their dad was more of the domineering, Hey, I’m dragging you to practice. Hey you’re going to do this because if you want to be good, this is what you need to do, as opposed to the opposite track, which is sort of the one that your dad took.

And it’s one that I’ve talked about on our podcast that I feel like my dad did the same, and I’ve tried to do that with my son where you provide those opportunities and you are there to rebound the ball or play catch if your kid wants to. But if they don’t, you’re not pushing them over the edge. And as a parent, I can tell you that that is a difficult spot to be in when you’re a competitive person.

And you see. Your kid has an opportunity to be good at something you kind of want to push them and it’s hard to hold back. So do you remember anybody that you grew up with that had a parent that had an opposite approach kind of what your dad took?

[00:06:29] Billy Hansen: Yeah, I do. And yeah, there’s some that can get pretty dark when, when parents are putting far too much pressure on a small child too early.

And it wasn’t like my, my family was perfect by any means, but there’s generally just really positive feeling about sports and encouragement. And I was way into like action figures and Spider-Man too. So that was a whole other phase of my childhood where like my dad painted a big Spider-Man on my wall.

So like basically whatever I was into, they were really pushing me in that direction or helping me move in that direction. My dad and I’ve talked quite a bit about all of it and the one thing that we also he, he talks about is like, he was so positive and so encouraging. And it’s so where a lot of my coaches growing up that I was left potentially.

I was very raw when I got to college and played originally for a very old school coach. And when I first three years, so that was almost like a blessing growing up, but also a curse when I got a little bit older. But yeah, to answer your question, I do remember instances of parents taking the opposite approach and the kids feeling like that was their job when it, before it should have felt like that.

And I’ve also noticed that as I’ve gotten older, just being around the game and, and seeing different approaches and yeah, you can get some pretty crazy events going on or, or just like observing the sideline of a pop Warner football game. Like it’s a, it’s a weird energy and send a lot of cases.

So I’m grateful for how my family treated it.

[00:08:01] Mike Klinzing: There’s definitely a lot of different approaches that you can take. And as you said, I never claimed that. My approach is the only way or the right way. And there are a lot of times, and there were a lot of times, and I’m sure that will continue to be times where you wonder as a parent, am I doing it right?

And that comes down to not just when you’re dealing with your kids’ sports, but when you’re dealing with anything in their life, we’re all as parents is that we’re just kind of flying by the seat of our pants. You’re trying things. You’re, you’re doing the best you can and trying to figure it out as you go.

And you just hope that the decisions that you make, especially as you know, your kid better than anybody else, that you make the decisions that are right for them. I think it’s interesting that you talked a little bit there about how, because you’ve had such positive coaching first from your dad, and then from coaches that you experienced in multiple sports in high school, that then when you came in contact with a coach who was the opposite and wasn’t that positive rah rah type of coach, the guy that wasn’t going to put his arm around you, but was more critical, was less approachable, I think would be a good way to say it that maybe you hadn’t, it’s almost like you didn’t get the vaccine, right? You didn’t get a little bit of a, he didn’t get a little bit of a taste.

You can get a little bit of a taste of that growing up where you’re like, Ooh, eh, I see that I can handle it. Now I can go back to this sort of safe zone. And then when you got exposed to it, it was quite a shock for you. So let’s go, let’s start with high school. Tell us about your high school athletic experience.

You were a basketball player, you played baseball. Just tell us a little bit about some of the things that you appreciated about the coaches that you had, especially now looking back where you have maybe a little bit more.

[00:09:47] Billy Hansen: Yeah, so pretty great high school experience. The only exception to that being very stressful recruiting, that was a huge stress for me and for my family, but just in terms of on the court and on the fields I had quite a bit of success early on.

I played, so I kind of swung varsity my freshman year in basketball and got some minutes at the varsity level, played baseball. I was on JV two and then made varsity in both my sophomore year and was an impact player pretty early. And we had a lot of success as a team in baseball and basketball.

And my sophomore year, we played in the state championship game, my sophomore baseball season. And we’re in the hunt for the state tournament in basketball, which was, we had a very high powered baseball program, not as, quite as good as basketball. So that would have been a huge deal. We didn’t quite make it.

And then in. Baseball. We kept staying in the hunt for state championships, never quite won one basketball. We were not quite as talented junior and senior season. So I had the ball in my hands, the whole game, the whole season, and scored a lot of points, took a ton of shots and was doing a lot on the court.

Yeah, my basketball coach was great. He was really good person, taught me a lot about sports, but also just a good influence for me as I was growing into being a man, my baseball coach, him and I are still in close contact and he was remarkable. It just probably up there with the best coaches I’ve ever had just in terms of, and he was, he wasn’t a softie, like he was intense, but also just very positive and encouraging and he ha he helped make the game fun and he really poured his heart and soul into it.

I’m still now I really appreciate just how much time. He put into summer hitting and long practices and all the film that he watched with us and stuff like you don’t really realize as a kid that he’s not getting paid for all of that. And that’s a pretty big sacrifice, make it a little bit.

And so, yeah, no, I’m really grateful for, for my high school coaches and the experience I had.

[00:11:54] Mike Klinzing: When you think back to those times, what’s a memory that stands out for you could be in the locker room, could be on the field, could be on the court. Just if you had to summer sort of summarize your high school experience with one particular memory, what stands out to you?

[00:12:13] Billy Hansen: Yeah, good question. The first thing that comes to mind is I hit a game winner, my junior season. That I was pretty lucky shot. Honestly, it was like a broken play where we screwed up the play and that I just caught a pass and chucked up a fadeaway falling out of bounds against our rivals. And it went in and it was a big pandemonium celebration.

And there was also a big rivalry that year between my best friends, who was the quarterback of the football team, who was in attendance. And there was like a bunch of tension between the football players who are watching. So you know, how it can get in high school sports. Like it’s that’s the kind of the, the most rochus atmosphere that I’ve been in.

And so, yeah, w make a big shot to win the game and have our fans storm their courts. And that was the game that put us in the playoffs. I guess that’s the moment that stuck out to me in high school.

[00:13:06] Mike Klinzing: Early success. And as a kid growing up, obviously you have aspirations of playing one of your sports, or maybe both of your sports in your case at the college level.

And you mentioned a little bit earlier that that recruiting process was stressful. And I’ve told my recruiting score story a couple of times on the podcast, but basically for me, I had no idea, and this is pre-internet and nobody knew anything. My parents didn’t know anything. My high school coach really had never had a player that was capable of playing at the level that I was playing.

And I knew nothing. So I was basically left in the dark where the school that I ended up going to ask me to come down for an official visit. I think it was after my junior year. And I told him no, because I was still waiting for duke and Ohio state and North Carolina to call me. And I had no idea that that was at that point.

Completely unrealistic. I had no clue. And so I ended up making it, ended up working out for me. And I ended up in a good place that fit who I was. And it w it all worked out, but not because of any good decisions or things that I went through. I have no good advice for anybody going for their, through the recruiting process in terms of my own story, probably do the opposite of whatever, whatever I did.

I just happened to get lucky. So for you sounds like it was at least something similar where you had an expectation of what you thought was going to happen. And when that started not to happen, suddenly you had to look in the mirror and start to figure out, okay, what’s going on? Why isn’t it happening happening?

And then what am I going to do? So tell the story of where you were recruiting wise and just what some of the things are that you went through with your family.

[00:14:57] Billy Hansen: Yeah. So being I’d pretty much made success in athletics, a big part of my identity. Right. I was the kid who didn’t go to the party cause I was going to be up early training.

I was that was kind of who I was, was a successful athlete. Right. And so part of me, whatever, whether I knew it or not at the time, I think felt like if I didn’t, if it didn’t pay off in something special, like some cool scholarship or something, then what was it all for? Like who was I at that point?

Right. Like it had to be something cool. And for the longest time I was growing up, I was thinking, going pro and then slowly reality kind of set my expectations into place. Over time, the other thing is growing up in a small town, you don’t quite understand. How good people are across the country.

And so even though you’re dominating in five A’s Southern Oregon, that you’ve no clue the kind of talent in LA and Texas and Arizona, and like all of these places. Right. So I my dad and I sent a highlight tape out to probably 50 division ones, some high majors, some mid majors, and of just me hitting a bunch of threes from all over the core, deep threes and got a bunch of attention back quickly.

And at that time I think I’m probably 16 and I don’t understand much about anything. So I go and tell everyone like, Hey, oh my God, Davison’s talking to me like Portland, like all of the Air Force and I’m stoked. Right. I want to be, that’s what I think I’m going about. I thought at that point offers were coming after all the letters.

Right. And then they Al they pretty much all of the mass for, they said, Billy really interested in you. In our program, please send full game tape. And so we put together a tape where I had like 36 points and glad to come back. And I was really, I was pretty confident when I sent the send button because it was a great game and just pretty much crickets after that.

Like nobody got back to me and we sent follow-ups and they all said thank you, Billy. I think you’re gonna have a successful career, but you’re not a great fit for our program at this time. And in hindsight, it was obvious that I was a good shooter, but wasn’t a good enough guard to play at that level.

Then I shouldn’t have been recruited at that level. Right. But that was really hard. Cause then I’m answering questions around the community of like, well, what’s what’s air force saying now and where are you going to go? So that was a tough year because I didn’t have any offers until after the spring of my senior season.

So yeah, just going through that, having the kind of identity problem of feeling like all of this had to pay off in some way, all of the parties I’ve missed all of the. Time I put into this, if it doesn’t turn into a scholarship, then why did I do it? That was kind of the feeling I had. And it was pretty stressful.

And then, like you said, no one in the family had gone through it. So it’s like, we didn’t know who we should be aiming for how we should be going about it. And it was, it was a very stressful time.

[00:17:56] Mike Klinzing: It’s a challenge when you don’t have anybody sort of in your circle that can help you and point you in the right direction and say, Hey, this is what you should be doing.

Or this is who you should be talking to. Or this is the level that you should be shooting for that you should be trying to get into contact with coaches from division two or three or an AI or whatever it is. And it’s challenging. And as you said, when you start and you have your identity tied up in I’m a basketball player or I’m an athlete.

And I think in a lot of ways I was similar. I want it to be a division one basketball player and. I was probably similar to you in that I was not as coach Jason will attest. I was not the greatest athlete. When you think of athlete in terms of his vertical. So good. Billy, I’m telling you, I didn’t say she can really get that net.

He’s really good. I’m good. I can get up. I can, I could still get up and get the net. So I was never that type of jump high run, fast athlete, maybe run long endurance was probably something that I was pretty good at, but as I was going up and playing on the playgrounds and playing in what limited, it wasn’t even called a basketball, but just summer basketball back then.

And I saw a bunch of the guys that I played against all the time that I felt like I was as good or better than many of them signed before their senior season. And just like you, I went through my entire senior season and didn’t have an offer, but I think unlike you, I was probably. Still blissfully unaware that offers weren’t coming.

It was only when my season ended and I didn’t have anything that I called back up the program at Kent State, where I had declined the paid visit and said, Hey, are you still interested? And they’re like, well, maybe. And it turned out that a kid transferred and they had one scholarship and I was the seventh scholarship freshmen in a class of seven and just happened to get lucky and got that opportunity.

But when I signed with Kent, I was talking to two other division, one schools and talking means I didn’t have an offer. They were just still kind of keeping me hanging around. I’m sure as they were waiting to see if whoever they were really targeting was going to sign with them. And that maybe I would be a fallback option in that case.

And so ended up getting the opportunity, but to your point, and I’ve had this conversation a few times with lots of coaches about trying to find the right fit for you and maybe it’s division three or maybe it’s division two or whatever it was. And for me it was, it was never any of those things. It was, I mean, it could have been any division one school, and I would assign simply for this fact of what you talked about, like that was kind of who I was.

I saw the guys that I played with all the time or against all the time that I thought I’m as good as them. It was kind of that division one or bust mentality that we talk about. And we try to, I think, aim kids away from that, but that’s certainly who I was at that time. And it’s just, when you don’t know better, you can end up making some bad decisions.

And for me, luckily, I ended up in a place that fit and I’m sure we’ll talk about it a little bit more as we get into your experience as well. So tell us a little bit about how you ended up resetting your expectations and then what that led you to.

[00:21:21] Billy Hansen: Yeah. So I finally worked with a recruiting service that was really helpful.

They helped organize my game plan. The other thing that made it difficult was I was probably equally as good at both baseball and basketball. And I had probably a glaring efficiency deficiency in both in baseball. It was arm strength and basketball. It was that athleticism and lateral quickness, things that really just inhibited me from being a kind of a complete player at that could have gone D 1 or whatever.

So they helped me after they saw the kind of interests that I had gotten already. They helped me target more division two schools and NAIAs, and I had quite a bit of interest and set up some visits for the spring of my senior season. And my first visit was to Regis university in Denver and me and my dad went out there and we were pretty blown away by the experience there.

It was a basketball visit and the coach. Offered a full scholarship and it was a beautiful campus and we love Denver. And then the one problem there was that I was going to have to give up baseball, which I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to do. And so the basketball coach met with the baseball coach and he looked at all my stuff, my, my recruiting profile, and he offered me a, a roster position.

So as a walk on a preferred, like a walk-on spot on the team. So at that point I got back and I had these other visits scheduled and I was so excited that we just signed the papers. I just took the first one. And we were on our way to Regis and canceled the other visits. And, and part of that I think was just impatience with, I was actually in a terrible hitting slump senior year.

Worst of my career and I, and it’s, it’s interesting. Cause as soon as I signed, I started hitting good again, it was just this load off my back of like, okay, I’m going somewhere in college to play. Thank God I can relax and enjoy the rest of my senior year and my summer and have a good time with my friends.

[00:23:20] Mike Klinzing: So you get there and this is a story I love from the book that you get there for the first time. And your coach, coach Daniels meets you. And he says, Hey, you want to go and get some shooting in before we check out the cafeteria relay what you said to him and then sort of how you were feeling in your mind at that moment.

[00:23:39] Billy Hansen: Yeah. So throughout my senior year, this was already kind of happening in a weird way. I didn’t shoot a great percentage senior year. I’d had, there was some weird hitch in my shot where my left hand was too involved with my shot. And I didn’t really realize at the time, but over time I realized that that was getting worse with nervousness or anxiety.

And when I first walked onto the Regis campus, he asked if you wanted to go shoot, like right when I got there and I immediately got tents and just, I had these, I probably couldn’t have articulated it this way at the time, but I think it was a level of imposter syndrome of, oh my God, he’s going to realize that he made a mistake in giving me the scholarship.

If we go shoot right now, because I got, I advertise myself as this lights-out shooter. And I was pretty much a life lights-out shooter sophomore, junior in high school, but haven’t been for about a year and he’s going to realize that I’m not that they made a mistake. And so I told him no, like I I just want to get settled in first.

And that was kind of the first instance of me. You know, trying in a weird way. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, but trying not to play or shoot in front of my coaches as much as I could, which is sounds crazy. I know, because that is something you’re going to have to do if you’re on a basketball team.

But but yeah, as I’ve come to talk to other athletes, that’s actually more common than you might think is that level of imposter syndrome when you show up on campus.

[00:25:06] Mike Klinzing: I think everybody has that to some degree in whatever, it could be a different aspect of their life than sports for somebody who’s out there listening.

And you’re trying to set yourself up as an expert or you wonder, and they’re really paying me to do this job. I don’t really know what I’m doing. Sometimes I get imposter syndrome as a parent, and I think about myself and I’m like, man, I’m 51 years old and I’m like a giant kid. I know my dad had it way more together than I did.

And it just. He made it, he may have, or he may not have, but I always feel like I’m just kind of a big goofy kid still. And I know I’m not, I have three kids and I’ve had a job for 27 years or whatever it is, but nonetheless, there’s a part of you that still feels like he is goofy though. I’m like, I’m not really, I’m not, I’m like, I’m not really an adult.

Right, Jason. I mean, I think it’s just like, you try to do things and stay young and whatever, but there’s a part of you. That’s like, man, I’m not sure. I’m not sure I belong at this at this spot and I can understand where you’re coming from. And then the next thing that happens to you is you find out a little bit about your teammates and that there’s sort of a drinking culture on the team at Regis.

So talk a little bit about how that affected you, how it started you down a path. You mentioned earlier that you were a kid that didn’t drink didn’t party stayed away from that because it. Contrasted with your view of yourself as an athlete. So just talk about how you handled that and what that meant to you as you went through your college career.

[00:26:42] Billy Hansen: Yeah, definitely. So first of all, those, those teammates that I had early on at Regis are, I love them. They’re really good people. And I just want to start there. It’s not, I’m not trying to talk bad about them as people, but they’re absolutely, but yeah, but there was a very heavy drinking culture within the team.

And this is, of course, I don’t know that because I’m just showing up. I thought that’s just how it was in college, but you know, it was the team hadn’t had success the last few years. And there was, I think, kind of a culture of, of building in this defense mechanism of, well, yeah, we suck, but we get to party and at least we’re in Denver and these other people were playing or in Gunnison, even though they’re kicking our ass we have a better experience.

It was kind of this, this strange attitude. And there definitely was an expectation. Within the social leaders on the team that you are going to show up on time to the pregame and you are going to get really drunk on weekends. And so it was generally in the preseason every Friday, Saturday, and then during the season we had games Friday, Saturday, so Saturday nights, and then even some of the players would go out Friday in between games, which is horror.

You know, that’s just crazy. And so I of course wanted to fit in wanting to be liked by the upperclassmen. And I think that the drinking became kind of a release from the discomfort and anxiety I was feeling throughout the week, but ultimately contributed to it longterm. I just by midway freshman year, I felt completely worn down physically and mentally.

And I think a lot of that had to do with the partying. Then I, again, I I think there’s something to be said about making some mistakes when you’re young and I’m not completely anti drinking or anti partying. I think for me, it was just the repeated. Damage of weekend after weekend after weekend, that did it to me.

Right. If I would have done that just in the preseason to explore a little bit, or once in a while, I don’t think it would have been as unhealthy as it was, if that makes sense.

[00:28:40] Mike Klinzing: It makes sense. And I think that there’s a fine line there, right? When you think about high school students, when think about college students, the vast majority of them are going to experiment to some degree.

And I was a kid that I was just like you in high school. And I continued with that philosophy during college, I was lucky enough that there wasn’t a pervasive culture of that. Not to say that teammates weren’t drinking. Cause certainly they were, but I had one teammate that I lived with and he and I, well, actually I was lucky because my freshman year I had two roommates from the.

One was just like me didn’t drink. Other one did the one that didn’t he and I got to be real close. And that was a year that I wasn’t playing very much, but I had somebody to hang out with no matter what, even if you go out to a bar or club, he and I could stand there and drink our waters or drink a soda or whatever, and I’d have somebody.

And then he transferred after my freshman year and then ended up living with another guy who was another kid who didn’t drink on our team. So it was sort of easy for me. And that same from that standpoint, because I had somebody there that was with me. But I could certainly see that if you didn’t have somebody there with you who was supporting that, it would have been a lot more challenging, I think, for me to pull that off.

And then you combine that, and this is something that I think I really related to, that you talked about a lot was just the stress you felt from the coaching style. And just the shift from a high school environment where sports are fun, and you’re clearly the blessed best player to an environment where maybe your coaching staff isn’t quite as supportive where maybe practices aren’t quite as fun where it’s maybe more of a business relationship and then your level of enthusiasm for practice and being a college basketball player, sort of ebbs and flows.

So thought, I don’t know which one of those things you want to touch on, but just as you got into your freshman year, how did your attitude towards the game of basketball and being a college basketball player changed from what you thought it would be from that first moment you stepped on campus?

[00:31:07] Billy Hansen: Yeah, While the culture I got into in college wasn’t for me. And I’m in many ways, I know there are a lot of athletes who are in much, far more destructive ones than I was in. You know, my head coach was very old school. He was a yeller. He was really intense, really critical, but also Jenn, like, I have a lot of respect for him as a person, and he was good to me off the court, and he definitely cared about me.

And so I know that there are players in worse situations than I was in, and I still admire him in many ways. The assistant coaches were more than supportive. They gave me every opportunity. It was it was more, I think a lot of it had to do with the basketball fit of not being, I was thrown in the fire because the team wasn’t good the previous few years, they invested in their new talent.

And so I think, in hindsight, I probably could have benefited from a red shirt or a year, not playing too much and developing, but I got thrown out there. I wrote a bit, a bit about this in the book too, of how I was in high school. I was 63, which in the Southern sky conference is pretty tall. So I could often hide on defense and guard forwards or bigs, and then getting to college and having to guard these really quick, strong athletic guards.

I was really bad on defense and I never got good, but I was just at Bismal when I, when I got there. And so I think a lot of it just had to do with the struggles on the court. I wasn’t shooting well, I was getting more and more. I was losing confidence over time. I was getting bullied in the paint by bigger, stronger, faster guards.

And yeah, I don’t, it’s hard to, it’s kind of hard to remember how my attitude was throughout freshman year. It was not good. Kind of trying to get to the weekend and get through the season. And then I was worried about baseball coming in the spring because I hadn’t touched a bat in months. So it just was generally an unhappy time that actually got worse my sophomore year.

[00:33:05] Mike Klinzing: When did, and maybe you never did. When did you start to recognize that anxiety or feel there’s something that you say in the book that, about being the basketball felt unnatural in your hands, which for a kid like you, who grew up with the game who grew up with athletics, basically with some kind of ball on your hands from the time, I’m sure you were two, three years old to say that the ball felt unnatural in your hands.

I think it’s hard for somebody who hasn’t experienced that to know what that meant or what that felt like. So when do you remember. That feeling creeping over you for the first time?

[00:33:47] Billy Hansen: Yeah, it was definitely present freshman year, especially towards the end, but I think it really got to its lowest point during my sophomore season.

So after having, excuse me, after having a not a great baseball season either, I decided that if I’m going to underperform in both of these, I need to pick one because I’m on and I’m on scholarship for basketball. So I had to quit baseball focused on basketball, and I put a ton of pressure on myself leading up to my sophomore season.

I was pretty, I was desperate to get back on track and get my career going again. And I think my solution to my problems was misguided. At that time. It was basically just a brute force approach to like, if my teammates are going to get a hundred shots up a day, I’m going to get 500. If they’re going to run a mile a day, I’m going to run four miles and it.

And that was something I was pretty good at. It’s like working hard and pushing through pain, but at that point in my life, it wasn’t what I needed. It was, I, it would have actually helped me to relax a little bit, I think. But so anyway, I get to my sophomore season and, and I start out shooting poorly again, and I can sense the disappointment from the coaching staff.

And that’s when it really started. It was, and that was the best way I could describe it was like for the first time in my life, the ball didn’t feel right in my hands. And I couldn’t, I couldn’t even get it to where it felt like I could shoot it cleanly. And it was, the ball was pulling off my guide hand.

I was basically every shot in practice. I was just hoping it wasn’t going to be an air ball. Then I was relieved when I hit the rim, even if it was a mess and free throws were especially dreadful because you’re not supposed to air ball those. Right. And so it’s. Yeah. And then being recruited as a shooter and then losing the skills that I took for granted as like a seventh grader, right.

I could knock down free throws in my sleep in seventh grade, and now I can’t, I’m shooting less than 50% in practice and not playing in games. And I would still do these, these crazy kind of pseudo heroic attempts to get out of my slump where I would go to the gym at 9:30 at night with practice coming up in the morning, trying going to shoot my way.

I’m going to see enough shots, go through the hoop to get out of this slump, which is generally, probably a good thing for a lot of players to just shoot your way out of it. But for me, it was just adding to the stress and pressure and yeah, it just kind of spiraled into this feeling of the, the skills that I’d grown up taking for granted.

Just all of a sudden were gone for me as a sophomore in college.

[00:36:28] Mike Klinzing: Did any of your coaches recognize that and have a conversation with you at any point?

[00:36:36] Billy Hansen: Yeah. The, the graduate assistant who has as you guys probably know there’s a the graduate assistant can be a little bit more friendly with players, like on a friendship level.

Then as you move up the ranks, it’s not inappropriate. Right? So he would like eat lunch with me. And he had an intuitive understanding of what I was going through and try to help me try to encourage me. He would go shoot with me. The assistant coach Daniels, who recruited me was very supportive and try to help me out.

So yeah, I knew that everybody knew and my head coach was just generally disappointed that I wasn’t playing well. And I I think I probably brought up as a defense mechanism as a defense mechanism. I brought. Not the best attitude to the gym, which also kind of offended my coach. So yeah, it got to a pretty bad space and none of them ever treated me with any real disrespect or anything bad, but it was just so yeah, to answer your question.

Yes, they did know, and they did try to talk to me, especially the graduate assistant, Steve . He could definitely feel my pain a little bit. It seemed like, and, and work with me.

[00:37:46] Mike Klinzing: It’s a tough situation. And Jason, I’m going to tell a story you’re on the podcast that I don’t think I’ve, I know I’ve never told it on the podcast and I haven’t really told it to a ton of people

Jason Sunkle:  Every time you do that, every time you bust this out, Billy, he says I’ve known Mike since I was seven or eight.

So I think I know a lot of his stories, but I get excited whenever he says this.

[00:38:12] Billy Hansen: So you’ve got hundreds of podcasts, so, an original.

[00:38:14] Mike Klinzing: Yeah, this is an original. So it relates completely to. Your story. So as a high school player, I shot, I believe for my high school career, I, I probably shot 87, 88% from the line as a high school free throw shooter.

And I scored a lot of points. So I got to the line a lot. And when I got to college, my freshman year, I didn’t play very much. So I didn’t get to the line very much my first year, because I played like four minutes a game. And then my sophomore year, we had a really good team. And I think we finished, I want to say we finished 21 and eight, I believe.

And I was a starter on that team. And for Four fifths of the season I was shooting and I’m actually looking at my statistics right now. So for the season, from the free-throw line as a sophomore, I shot 49 for 66. So 74%. So not compared to what I was like in high school, obviously not very good, but at one point in that season, I was 48 for 56.

So I went one for my last 10. So that experience that you had of the ball feeling unnatural in your hand with about, I can’t remember how many games there was to go in my season, maybe 7, 8, 9. And I can’t even remember, but we used to have to, at the end of practice, we would have to make five swishes before we could leave practice.

And I started shooting the ball and trying to, in trying to answer. To swish it somehow all of a sudden my ability to shoot free throws was completely gone. Now, Jason, I’ve talked about Ben Simmons and how he doesn’t want to shoot. And I was afraid to go to the free throw line. And I got to that point when I was a sophomore or in practice, we would do a little free throw shooting games like on our day before game practice.

And I would be to your point, just like you described of, I just don’t want to shoot an air ball. If this ball hits the rim, I’m going to be ecstatic. And it was the most strange and bizarre thing. Kind of think back to like the Steve sax or the Chuck, Noblock the guy, the Rick, and Kiehl’s a baseball that can’t throw the ball and all of a sudden I couldn’t shoot.

So I had to go back and what I did was I tried to change my routine. So I previously had a routine where I would take three dribbles and then I’d take this breath and then I’d, I’d reset. And then I’d take the shot. And that routine, anytime I did that, I then associated that with me not being able to get the ball anywhere, anywhere near the basket.

And so my last, whatever, 6, 7, 8 games, it didn’t really affect me anywhere else on the floor. I mean, I didn’t really want to get fouled, but it wasn’t like my, the rest of my performance when completely in the tank, I just didn’t want to go to the free-throw line. And so then I spent that whole summer, none of my coaches ever said anything to me about it in terms of, Hey, what’s happening?

Like, can we, they looked at things with my mechanics, not with. Mental performance. So it was very strange. And then I

[00:41:47] Billy Hansen: Do think that, sorry to interrupt. Did you think before it was, was it to the point where your teammates and coaches knew something was up or was it such a short period that you kind of just went the,

[00:41:57] Mike Klinzing: oh, I think they knew.

I don’t think so. I actually had dinner with my assistant coach who’s now he’s probably in his mid seventies. This was a couple of months ago. And in the course of us talking, he’s like, man, he goes, I remember when you just completely just lost the ability to shoot, to shoot a free-throw, but I’m like, well, what did you guys, did you talk about it?

Was there any thought of, Hey, let’s see what we can do to get Mike out of this thing. What can how can we do it? And so when you described like that anxiety of wanting of going up there, that’s how I felt. So I was one of my last 10 as a sophomore, and then I go into my junior year. So all summer, obviously I’m working on this.

I mean, to your point about having an identity, like my identity was Mike’s gonna make free throws. I mean, you shoot 88, 80 9% as a high school player. You’re not probably used to missing too many. So as a junior, I would get to the line and I would have this feeling again, of it being unnatural, the ball, that was a great way to describe it.

It just didn’t feel like this is something I had done literally every day, since I was probably eight, nine years old, I shot a hundred free throws and I’m exaggerating. I’m sure it wasn’t every day, but there were a lot of days of my life where I shot a hundred free throws. And every time I would go to the line, I would feel that anxiety.

And as a junior, I shot 71% from the line. So it wasn’t completely debilitating. It didn’t take me completely out of who I was, but I was certainly a different player that didn’t want to go to the live. As much, I had a bigger role as a junior that I did as a sophomore and I shot nine less free throws, probably because I didn’t want to go to the basket as hard.

And then as a senior, I somehow managed to shoot 82%, which is probably the thing that I’m most proud of. Maybe in my career that I really haven’t shared with anybody was that I kind of was able to overcome it. But I will tell you that even today, there are still moments where I think about, well, I’m going to go shoot a free-throw when I can.

And I can still get that feeling. I’ve never talked to a sports psychologist. I’ve never done any meditation. Cause obviously my career is long since over. So my ability to knock down clutch free throws at this point, probably isn’t that important, but it’s definitely something that when I read your book and I heard about those experiences that you went through, it definitely brought me back to a time where I felt that same.

Anxiety and unlike you, which we’ll talk about in a second, I sort of was left to fend for myself. And like I said, coaches, talk to me a little bit about mechanics. And I was a kid who I, I thumbed the ball with my, with my guide hand. So they try to look at it and see, well, maybe that’s what’s causing it.

And I knew that that had nothing to do with it. My shot hadn’t changed at all. From a physical standpoint, it was all strictly me getting to the line and just tensing up and feeling like I couldn’t just let it flow. I know you talk a lot about the flow state in the book. So that’s my story. I didn’t mean to interrupt your story.

And it’s interesting, but I definitely felt like there was a lot of things there that I related to. It gives me lots of ammunition and NBA pots. And Mike makes one of Ben Simmons. I’m really excited to have that. So, well, see, this is why I always say, I know how hard it is to overcome because. And when you can see it, you can see it.

[00:45:33] Billy Hansen: And Ben Simmons, for sure. You can put yourself there. Like, when I watch him, I was in that playoff series. I, when he was getting trashed by the media and stuff, I, I was like, man, this guy’s going through it. And he’s got a tough time, you know? And you just,

[00:45:47] Mike Klinzing: I don’t know. I don’t know what it was that allowed me to work my way through it.

And, but I never got completely through it. I never got back to that. 88, 89. I never felt the same way. Like if you’d have told me when I was at the beginning of my sophomore year, when I was in high school, that I would ever step to a free throw line and not feel like that ball a hundred percent was going to go in.

Obviously I miss some, but I never felt like that ball. Wasn’t going to go in. If you’d have told me I was ever going to lose that feeling, I would have told you, you were crazy. And you know, at some point I did, but like I said, one of my proudest moments is. I was able to overcome that because look at the guys who have lost careers, baseball, golf, there’s basketball guys, Simmons, who knows what’s going to happen here with him, who just to be able to, to be able to overcome that.

I just, it sounds, it sounds silly to say that I’m proud that I was bad for a while and was somehow able to become at least a little bit better and not get back to the level that I had been before. But I definitely, as I read it, I heard and felt the things that you were feeling. So that was, that was really interesting for me.

And it was, it was, I really enjoyed reading it because. A lot of the feelings that you were describing were things that I could completely completely relate to. So I’ll let you continue with your part of the journey and how you started to go about overcoming that. Because my advice for overcoming it, isn’t very good, which is just kind of struggled, struggle along in your own head and try to figure it out, which I, I didn’t have any methods to my madness, nor did I have any real outside help.

[00:47:32] Billy Hansen: Yeah, no, that’s, that’s fascinating to hear your story. And I’ve been surprised actually, as I started to share what I went through and write about it, talk about it, that there’s a lot more athletes out there than you’d think who go through something like that in their career to varying degrees, not many sink to the depths of like Markel faults, but there, there are quite there many athletes can relate to that.

It seems like. So it was interesting to hear your story. As far as recovering I was to the point where I was ready to quit. And I my parents were encouraging me to stick it out and my grandparents, and I’m glad they did that just because at that point, I’m not going to get a scholarship anywhere else, having such poor stats for the first two seasons.

Right. And I finally decided to see a sports psychologist on campus. Don’t remember why I ended up doing that, but I remember not telling anyone not wanting on it. This, the first question I asked her was like, this isn’t gonna, my coaches, aren’t gonna know I’m here. Right. My teammates aren’t gonna know I’m here.

And she said, no, if I see you on campus, I won’t look at you. I won’t say hi. Like we’ll just make this private. And I appreciated that. And she was really great. Like she was a really gentle, but wise and serious person who is obviously really good at what she does. And she, after talking to me, basically put those words on it, which I had never even thought about.

It was like, you’re suffering from really bad. Performance anxiety, and you have depression off the court, and that is growing up as a happy kid. That was weird to hear because I never thought of myself as someone who experienced any of that, but I thought she was right. And as one of the main we did quite a few things, but the primary remedy that she suggested was basic mindfulness meditation.

And I was a bit of a tough sell at first on that. Cause I had associated meditation to so many other cultural baggage, but she encouraged me to, to try it. And I started to practice with her in her office. And then she got me some audio from UCLA to do on my own. And it’s I could feel even immediately, I could feel right away that there was something to it.

It didn’t quite help that much during my sophomore year because my, it was such a whirlwind. Despair and anxiety. I was literally just every day that I got through practice without embarrassing myself was a success. And I, when I was in games, I just didn’t want to play. As long as the score stayed closed.

I knew coach wouldn’t put me in the game. If we were up by album, up by a lot or down by a lot, I was going in. And so I would root for whoever was behind from the bench, which is completely shameful, but I’m just being honest. Like it’s a horrible place to be in, but that’s, that’s the truth. And so I made it through my sophomore season and then she stayed in contact with me into the off season.

And that’s when I really gained a little bit of momentum with the meditation stuff. And I practice throughout my junior season. And ultimately it was one of the variables that helped me recover. I don’t, I don’t try to simplify it so much that like, okay. Meditation saved the whole thing, but I definitely think it played a crucial role.

[00:50:47] Mike Klinzing: What did meditation look like? Look like for you? So what did you start out doing? What does she have you start out with and then how did it evolve and how maybe has it evolved in your life where you are now?

[00:51:00] Billy Hansen: Yeah, so it started out with just following the breath every, every time feeling the inhalation, feeling the exhalation, maybe even counting the breaths as a way to stay anchored every time you notice your mind run away, which is very often, you just gently bring your attention back to the breath.

And that’s just a simple way to reframe it. Was this really the thing that I really appreciated about it was it was a different mental strategy than I had been accustomed to it. The, what it was before was this kind of macho wish self-talk of watching motivational YouTube videos, trying to amp yourself up you’re today.

You’re not going to be nervous today. You’re going to play like how to play, but it was all very, surface-y kind of bullshit. Like. It didn’t really help me. I actually think that kind of thing made it worse. It was basically just re confirming in my own mind that I didn’t actually believe in myself all of that, that stuff I was doing.

And I know some athletes have success with different things. So I’m not saying my way is the only way, but for me it didn’t work. So with meditation, it was instead of wrestling with the anxiety or trying to think my way out of it or talk myself out of it. It was just, okay, every time you notice this, feel, the sensations clearly feel them in your chest, feel them in your face, fill them in your hands, and then return your attention to the breath into your feet on the floor and to the next play.

And so after following the breath, she would put me through these exercises of, I would actually put myself in the gym mentally, maybe at the free throw line with my coach watching. And even just the thought of it would trigger some kind of muted version of the discomfort that I felt on the floor. And so I could practice.

Okay. You’re feeling where do you feel the anxiety physically and just that little shift of putting your attention on the physical sensations goes a long way in terms of cutting through their power. It’s like, rather than being in the storm, you’re kind of stepping out of it and watching it just for a second.

Right. And so we practice those things. We also just did some simple visualization of visualizing myself, making free throws or making jump shots. And that was a really clear indication that what I was going through was mental because I remember being in her office and every time I tried to play the movie of, in my mind of a, of a perfect free-throw, the, the w the image in my mind would.

Without fail. They would pull off my left hand and I would miss off the front rep. And so I couldn’t even see it in my mind, like that’s how deep it was. And so that was what first convinced me that, okay, this really is a mental issue. Like it’s not mechanical, this is something going on psychologically.

Right. So, so sorry, go ahead.

[00:53:48] Mike Klinzing: Yeah, no, I mean, I knew right away that it was something psychological as opposed to something physical when that was happening for me. And I think I probably, again, I look back on it and I’m not sure really how I got through it. I don’t, I don’t remember doing much except trying to beat down those feelings.

That’s probably what I remember most is saying to myself, this can’t be what’s happening. To me, it can’t, how can this be? What I’m doing? I’m not the person standing here doing this. And I wish I wish I had a more scientific approach. I wish I had better advice. I wish I had a way that maybe if somebody had been able to get to me and gotten me some, some help in a different way that maybe I would’ve been able to overcome it faster.

And who knows, maybe I would’ve been able to get back to the level that I got. And it’s just, it’s interesting to think about those experiences, because as you said, we hear about some of those really high profile people that have difficulty. And yet I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one that had happened to you.

Weren’t the only one that had happened to, and some guys are able to overcome it and other people are not able to overcome it. And I think part of it is just how you go about and. What’s your approach is and how the support group that you have around you. And you had something that in your senior year probably helped as well, because you had a new coach come in that reset your opportunity, reset the environment, and that at least allowed you maybe to sort of change the way that you were viewing things.

And sort of, I look at it as sort of the same way that I changed my free through our routine. So I got out of what was triggering me before and tried to do it a different way. And that definitely helped me. And I think that’s the one thing that even now, if I go back and think about that, I used to do these three dribbles and then this breath and shoot it.

And that was the way I was the best foul shooter I’ve ever been in my career. And then now I’m doing it this way, and it’s just interesting, the way your mind plays tricks on you. And sometimes, sometimes you have to try to trick. I felt like sometimes I had to try to trick it back. Like let’s, let’s trick it back to what it was before.

So yeah.

[00:56:25] Billy Hansen: Yeah. Yeah. And I think the meditation, it was something that, and that’s something I try to argue now is I think it’s become something that is sold as kind of a quick fix solution. And it’s really not. It’s something that the real fruit of the practice comes from. Just like anything in sports.

Like if you want to get good at ball handling, you’ve got to do it consistently over a long period of time. I feel the same way about meditation. You’re not going to do really hard one hour long ball handling drill one day and then be a transformed ball handler. Right. And so luckily my sports psychologist helped me persist, encourage me to keep going.

And then I kept practicing throughout my junior season and things were just generally better. I didn’t have a great season junior year, but. I was no longer miserable and I was still battling with some of the same issues, but it wasn’t so consuming as it was sophomore year. And I actually finished my junior season with two good games.

The last two games of the season. I played a lot. I scored, I felt more comfortable on the court than I’d felt in a long time. And then, so I, I was getting better already. I practiced really hard again in the summer that, that, and then the, between junior and senior season, and then when the new coaching staff came in, it was like this brand new, fresh starts for me to kind of start over.

[00:57:50] Mike Klinzing: And how did that help you when you think back to that, do you think you would have continued to have the same? I don’t know if breakthrough is probably not the right word, but the same progress would have continued. Or do you think the new coaching staff maybe accelerated it and made it easier when you look back on that?

[00:58:10] Billy Hansen: Yeah, so I think a lot of it had to do. Just the practicalities of basketball because yes, I would have kept meditating. It would have been fine. I would’ve kept improving, I think, but just, it was such a better fit for me when coach Bergeson came in. And one of the first things that he said to me early on in an open gym was I had gone to the hoop a couple of times and gotten my shot blocked or missed a floater or something.

And he took me to his office and he said, you’re not allowed to do that. You’re not allowed to drive anymore. And unless it’s like a wide open, fast break. And I was, it’s a little bit hard to hear because I had spent so much time working on everything guard play. Right. But he said, we want you, when you catch the ball, you can either shoot shot faker pass, and then move the offense.

And that alone was so transformative for me on the court that. I was just, I was put in position to do what I was good at. Right. And he would, he would blow the whistle and stop practice and yell at me if I didn’t take a semi contested shot. So it was very he was really pushing me to, he, I think he could see that I was a good shooter.

I just needed a little push probably. Right. He also, he also had me shooting from deep, which I wasn’t allowed to do with my previous coach. Deep three pointers were terrible shot in the first program. Now I was being encouraged to like move back. We know you can shoot it from out there. You were doing it a little bit in high school, but I want you to practice deep threes to spread the offense.

And I actually got really comfortable out there with less of a contest. I felt really good. Stepping back a little bit. So the, and then also just the culture of. You know, consistency toughness, we’re really valued and praised. So like, I felt like when I, if I showed up to practice and I worked really hard and I brought energy and toughness, I was going to get rewarded for it, with praise, from the coaching staff and opportunities for playing time.

And so I think it was, yes, the culmination of this mindfulness meditation visualization work that I’ve been doing paired with finding a really good cultural fit and an opportunity to do what I was good at on the court that really made the difference.

[01:00:29] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. It’s amazing how much the right fit makes a difference.

I know I speak about my career all the time and my coach was definitely old. School was definitely critical in a lot of ways I could visualize your coach and my coach being similar without having seen or experienced what you went through. Hearing some of the descriptions would, were definitely, I think, brought back to life.

Some of the ways that I felt like I was coached and in a lot of ways, like I’ve said a couple of times I ended up in the right place for me in that my coach valued some of the things that I was able to bring to the table. And therefore I got lots of opportunities to play. I started every game as a sophomore, as a junior and as a senior.

So despite whatever difficulties I was going through, I continued to be able to. Be out on the court and continue to play my freshman year. It was by far my toughest year. When you go from being a high school player to be in a college player, who’s not playing very much. And you got to go through and the grind of practice every day.

And I always laugh when I think about practice, especially as a freshmen, there was you and Jason May be too young to even remember this, but there was a show called the Dick van Dyke show that was on reruns. And that show would play practice at three o’clock. And every day that show would come on, like from two to two 30 and it had a very distinctive song, but I know that Dick van Dyke showed it had a very, it had a very distinctive theme song.

And so whenever that’s theme song would come on and you get like this PTSD reaction of like, oh, I gotta go it’s time for it’s time for practice. And, and I was a kid who loved basketball and I continue to love basketball, but there were, there were definitely moments throughout my college career. Where you were like, ah, this practice is just not, it’s just not fun.

And I was the kid who, again, after that freshman year, I played, I started every game. I think I averaged 37 minutes a game for my career. So when I was playing, I most never came off the floor, but even for me, so a kid who loved basketball, a kid who was playing all the time, there were moments where it was really difficult.

And obviously I had the thing with the free throws that I described. And I can only imagine what it’s like for somebody who isn’t having all the positive feedback and success that I had. Man, if I would’ve gone through four years, that were similar to my freshman year, either in terms of minutes or just if I hadn’t been able to play well, or wasn’t starting, it was only getting spot.

And then it’s to go through that grind every single day would have been, would have been really, really. Really difficult. And I give anybody who could do that, a lot of credit for figuring out a way to, to make it through that. And because it does, it does take a lot of mental strength and commitment to be able to go through something that’s difficult, especially when you’re not getting the reward that maybe you envisioned when you started.

[01:03:48] Billy Hansen: Yeah. It’s a lot of time and energy and effort and sacrifice to put in when the thing that you’re sacrificing, all of that for is what’s making you miserable, right? Yeah, absolutely.

[01:04:04] Mike Klinzing: That’s a very good way to put it and you’re on scholarship, right?

So you want to school for free, which adds a whole nother element to it. You had people I’m sure. Back in your hometown that were asking you, talking to you, wondering about you. If you had come back into town after a year or two and had given up your scholarship and gone somewhere else to school, you probably would have had to answer a lot of questions that probably wouldn’t have been, you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed answering those questions.

I’m G I’m guessing probably could’ve, but she probably wouldn’t have enjoyed answering those questions that much. So there’s this, there’s that underlying pressure that you put on yourself, but then there’s also this weight of expectations from other people. What were the conversations like with your dad during those four years?

I’m just curious. What did you guys talk about? How much of it, the struggle did you share with your dad? How much did you try to maybe keep it to yourself and say, well, the less people that figure this out about me, the better, just where, where was that relationship and what were the conversations like?

[01:05:17] Billy Hansen: Yeah, that’s a great question. So my parents have, when they read my book, they had a hard time with it. They, it was hard for them to read. Right. And, you know they didn’t really know what was going on. And that was just because of me, it wasn’t that they weren’t interested or anything. I just didn’t say anything.

I didn’t really know how to express myself and I didn’t want to make everyone worry back home. So I just kind of kept, kept it to myself for the longest time. But my dad, my, my whole family took my situation pretty hard in college. I think my dad, especially because he was pretty actively involved in the recruiting process and the decision.

And so, and also like my athletic journey and sharing that with him was a big part of his life, like or big joy in his life was my going up through the ranks and sports and coaching and watching me and stuff. So to see me sitting on the end of the bench was. Really tough for him. And I think he, he struggled with that a lot and we had conversations and part of that was the disconnect of like, because I wasn’t honest with th with them about what I was going through.

They assume that the coach just wasn’t giving me a chance in many ways. Right. They probably had some idea that, cause when I went out to play at the end of games, I wasn’t didn’t look like myself, but they still remembered me from high school. They didn’t see practices or anything. So they were encouraging me to like, go ask the coach what I could do to earn more playing time.

And I was like, yeah, maybe I’ll do that. But in my head, I was like, why would I do that? Like, I don’t want to play like this. You know, he obviously is making the right choice not to play me. Like, what am I gonna get? He sees me like going to ask from her more playing time would have been crazy given the situation.

Right. But back home, that was the thing. And I let them kind of think that it was just a bad situation and that I wasn’t having these difficulties. And then when I finally recovered sharing that with my family, with my dad was, was really special knowing that he was watching the streams of the games and my mom came on senior nights and grandparents were always, so, so yeah, the, the, the depths of despair led to a deeper appreciation when it all turned around,

[01:07:30] Mike Klinzing: It’s hard.  It’s a hard thing to share and to talk about, because you don’t feel like you don’t feel like it describes you right. Growing up, that was never who you were. And so you kind of have to reckon with this resetting of. What your identity was, who you are and to, to share that or to admit to that it’s tough, it’s hard.

And it’s not something that you can do easily. And even when you’re talking about your closest relationships that you have with your parents, as you said in your dad’s involvement and joy that he got from, from watching you and seeing you grow up and seeing you play, and then to not really know what you were going through and the struggle, and then say, I’m a boy, maybe the coach doesn’t know what they’re doing, how come, how come he’s not playing.

And that you could see where there’s all kinds of things that are wrapped up in what seems like a simple equation. Oftentimes very much is not. And for you, it sounds like where it’s led you to eventually is to a much better place, a place where you feel like the things that you’ve learned, you’re able to help, or you’re going to be able to help lots of other people.

Some of these struggles. I know one of the things that you talk about as the book moves along is how this whole process has helped you to think about how to build better habits. So talk a little bit about what you’ve learned about building good habits through this process and how you feel like, Hey, that’s going to help you in your life.

And then B how somebody, who’s maybe a part of our audience, whether it’s a player or a coach might be able to help themselves by building good habits.

[01:09:16] Billy Hansen: Yeah. So I think part of the, the change in habits happened organically as a result of some of the meditation practices I was doing. That’s one of the things you notice about the practice is that doing skillful action as they call it, requires less willpower over time.

And it’s not I still struggle with things today. It’s not like I’ve figured all this out, but generally just noticed gradual improvements of say during my senior basketball season, when I felt down or stressed or frustrated, my inclination wasn’t to run to alcohol or junk foods or a party or some it was more of, okay, I really just need a good night’s sleep.

And so that was another thing that really helped my senior year was prioritizing sleep in a way that I never had before. I sort of figured out how important that that was not only for my physical preparation, but also for my mental health. And my confidence on the court was just getting a good night’s sleep.

It was, it was that simple, other things like diet diets. Wasn’t perfect. Still not perfect. I’m not a fan of hyper, you know restrictive diets or anything, but just general easy, better decisions. Too much refined sugar eating at better times of the day not eating right before bed, like stuff like that helped a lot.

And then exercise is built into the athletic experience, but you know, when you get out of sports, making that a priority too, is another pillar on the good habit list in my, in my opinion. So yeah, I think just some S simplifying my experience senior year and since then, and resonating with things that really serve me instead of temporary, jolts of pleasure that come with subsequent lows.

So like seeking sustainable happiness rather than quick highs that come with lows that come out of like hangovers, right? Whether it’s from shitty food or drinking or distraction on social media, it’s resonating more clearly over time. Habits that serve you and where you want to be in life. If that makes sense.

[01:11:35] Mike Klinzing: It absolutely does. How important do you think it’s been for somebody who may be experiencing something similar to what you’ve experienced to have guys like Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozen NBA players to come out and talk about how they’ve struggled to some degree with whether it’s depression or anxiety and just made it something that people can talk about, especially at the highest levels where the culture usually, or at least in the past has always been that macho type of stance where I’ve got to get through it.

I’ve got to tough it out. And I know that that’s the culture that I grew up in, at least in my own mind. And I think that’s something that. I have to fight to overcome. I mean, my first instinct, when something isn’t going well is I just got double down on what I’m doing and I’ve got to, I’ve got to push through it.

And in a lot of cases, especially when it comes to the mental side of the game, pushing through it sometimes can just make it worse. So how important do you think it’s been to bring that to the public eye through, through guys like love and DeRozen

[01:12:52] Billy Hansen: Yeah, I’m really happy to see that. I think it’s really brave of them to open up about that, given that people are going to look at them a little bit differently because of it, whether that’s other NBA teams or contract negotiations.

Like I imagine that there’s some of that stuff going through their heads when they decide to share that stuff. Right. And so seeing people at the highest level. Be open about those struggles, I think gives younger athletes who look up to them and opportunity to reflect on what they might be coming through.

And you saw some of that with the Simone Biles stuff, this, this last summer, or I guess it was this last summer that was a huge worldwide moment where all of a sudden, everybody had an opinion on athletes and mental health. For sure. That was interesting to see. So it’s definitely becoming more of a topic and it’s becoming less stigmatized.

I’ve thought a lot about this obviously. And you know, I think that there are, we can maybe get to this whenever you’re ready, but there, there is. I still think there’s something to the stoicism and quiet courage of pushing forward, but it’s like we have to find the balance between not being ashamed or shaming people who go through it, but we also have to acknowledge.

Yeah. Like part of the reason why we admire the Michael Jordans or the Tom Bradys or these amazing athletes who perform under pressure is their mental toughness. Right? So it’s, it’s, it’s finding this balance between we need to make it something that we talk about and make if you’re having problems, it’s okay to be open about them, but then figuring out ways to support athletes so that they can recover.  Right?

[01:14:37] Mike Klinzing: I think absolutely. And part of it too, is that you can get help and you can talk with someone and you can relate to someone else who’s maybe going through a similar experience, but ultimately when you stepped out onto the basketball court, or I stepped up to the free throw line, it was still just you and your own mind.

And it was still just me and my own mind and that inner. I guess battle, if you want to call it that of being able to calm your mind to the point that you could do the things that you knew that physically you were capable of doing things that you had done for long stretches, long periods of your life, and yet, no matter how much help you get, you ultimately have to be able to handle that and control that and get your mind in the right place.

And I think what, what we’re seeing is that athletes can be more open about it, which then allows them to, to be able to do that inside of their own head. And they can get help from whether it’s a sports psychologist, whether it’s a concern and caring coach, whether it’s a spouse or somebody who’s that they have a relationship with, and they can talk to your dad, anybody that can allow you to get to a place where.

You can overcome that anxiety and that block, whatever it might be, that’s preventing you from being able to perform at a way that you are capable, because ultimately, like I said, you it’s just it’s you and your mind and whatever task it is that you’re trying to perform. And sometimes the more thinking tasks it’s inserting, it’s interesting how you talked about free throws.

And I talked about free throws where it’s slow. It should theoretically be the easiest shot, but yet it was probably when I was at my lowest low, it was probably easier for me to come sprinting off a down screen and hit a three with a player right there on me than it was for me to step up to the free throw line and to anybody who hasn’t experienced it hard to, hard to relate to.

And we’ve talked about Ben Simmons a couple of times, but a guy who has been the best his entire life, and suddenly the ability to step up. What do you shoot in the playoffs? 32% last year. I mean, to be able to do that is to overcome that it takes a lot. Let’s put it that way and you hope that anytime I see a guy struggling you hope that they can overcome it, but Jason, I’ve had this conversation, this part of the conversation, a bunch of times that it’s hard because even today there’s still moments where that anxiety will flash.

And I don’t think it, I don’t think it ever, at least not in my experience. I don’t think it ever completely completely disappears. I just don’t. Yeah.

[01:17:39] Billy Hansen: I’ve had some big free throws to hit and my city league washed up league in the last couple of years and I have to summon the same skill set for sure.

Absolutely. So the same stuff comes back. Right. Does even know there’s nobody there.

[01:17:53] Mike Klinzing: Exactly. Yes. I can be sitting. I could be sitting sometimes just on the couch. And think about something or go back, travel back in time and it will definitely conjure up those feelings. There’s no question about that.

All right. I want to wrap up Billy by asking you one final question, which is, if you had to summarize a self-help paragraph for somebody who was experiencing some type of sports, performance, anxiety, what advice based on your experiences would you give them? And then after you answer that question, we’ll give you another opportunity to share where people can find out more about the book, where they can buy it and then we’ll go from there.

[01:18:41] Billy Hansen: Yeah. So I guess the advice I would give is to start with some kind of daily contemplative practice. That for you that might be meditation might be visualization. That might be prayer, whatever it is, it’s something that your phones away. You’re not doing anything that suits a little bit different from like cooking or walking or it’s something where it’s just you and you have some kind of deliberate contemplative quote, unquote mental training exercise.

Even if that’s two minutes a day to begin with. I think that getting into the habit of taking a little bit of time, like you spend so much time on your physical skill sets, right? Strength, conditioning, skill, work, strategy, film to, to, to put a minor investment into your mind. I think we’ll have a huge return on investment.

If you put in the time consistently, again, it’s not something that you can, I liken it to like you don’t want to be the high jumper who waits to sprain an ankle to go practice, right? You don’t want to be in a, in a mental crisis to then, oh, now I need to start meditating. Right. So if you w wherever you’re at, whether you’re dealing with issues that were similar to some of what I was dealing with, or if you’re, if you can relate to them, or if you’re having.

Time, but you’re moving up in levels and you might be nervous about when you go to college or what’s going to happen at the next level. My best advice is just a daily, simple routine that is some kind of deliberate mental training regiment. And I think that that can go a real long way in reframing your experience on the courts and giving you a little bit of distance from it and building some mental skillsets.

[01:20:29] Mike Klinzing: Okay. I would agree. I would add to that just from my own experiences. I’m been thinking more about this as we’ve been talking is try to be just in the moment and don’t think about the consequences, positive or negative of what happens as a result of what you do. Just try to do what you do, and don’t worry about what’s going to come out of that.

Whether that’s my field goal percentage is going to go up or my free throw percentage is going to go down. Instead, just focus on what it is that you’re trying to do and be in that moment and trust yourself, trust your mind, trust your body. They can do what it’s been trained to do. And somehow some way that’s what I was able to figure out.

And like I said, it never, it never got back in my college career to where I was before it happened to me. But I did get back to where I was. I was functional, which was, and probably a little bit better than functional in all honesty. So, which was good, Billy, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule to jump on and join us.

The book is called harder than I thought easier than I feared again, tell people the website where they can find it, how they can reach out to you. If you want to share your social media, share your website again, just so people know where they can find you, where they can find the book. And then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.

[01:21:50] Billy Hansen: All right. Yeah. Thank you, Jason and Mike, it’s been a pleasure being on the show. Really appreciate the opportunity. So thank you. The book is you can find it at That’s Hansen with an E if you’re looking it up and you can also find it on Amazon or wherever you shop for books online the best way to connect with me, you can send me an email

I’m not very active on social media. So my newsletter, is where I give updates on my work and everything else I’m up to. So you can find me there,

[01:22:25] Mike Klinzing: Billy really appreciate it. It was a lot of fun for me to have this conversation and take a trip back down memory lane, not always memories that were great ones, but certainly when I think about my experiences overall tremendously positive and the.

Gave me something to think about today as I read through it and having our conversation. So again, thank you. We are truly appreciative and to everyone out there, thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks