5 key factors for winning the state title

March sparks the madness of nonstop basketball showcasing nail-biting buzzer beaters and overtime battles. A winning record combined with determination and heart gets your team a shot at the state title. My 2002 Washington 3A state championship ring is a little dusty but the memories are crystal clear.

I remember, at the sound of the buzzer, I sprinted to halfcourt and dove on the floor. At the bottom of the dog pile, my body turned numb as I laid in shock from winning the state crown. I will never forget the feeling of joy watching my teammates climb the ladder to cut down the nets from the rim.

The road to state is not as glamorous as you would think. Teams are hungry and out for blood. Games are physical, emotions run high, and no one wants to be sent home riding the losing bus. The last one standing will be crowned a state champion and a sea of smiles and index fingers will flood the court.

Five main ingredients for a state championship team:

1. Teamwork
It takes a team to win the "ship" and not just the MVP. Don't be a ball hog with a "get mine" attitude. Play for the name on the front on your jersey. Riding the bench is tough, but you're just as important as a player scoring the points. Go crazy on the sidelines. You have the best seat in the house and the team needs your energy.

2. Mental Toughness
You have to be mentally tough to play back-to-back games at a high level in a short period of time. One has to visualize themselves throwing a dime, shooting lights out, or setting a solid screen. Don't get frustrated and show your emotions. A missed layup or bad pass can make the ultimate goal look a little blurry but you have to stay focused.

3. Heart
It's not about who has the most hops, tightest handles or killer crossovers. The question is who has the biggest heart? State champions leave their heart on the floor every night from the 3-point line, middle of the key or on the bench. A burning desire and deep passion is essential to finish on top. Make the beat of your heart felt by every team you play.

4. Swagger
Your game swagger should be set to "high" at all times. Don't be a cocky team which looks lazy -- like walking all through warm-ups. Keep your head in the sky but your feet on the ground. A certain level of confidence, with a dose of humility is needed to win games. Your team should thrive under pressure and embrace different challenges.

5. Leadership
The final and most important component is leadership. A commander-in-chief is needed to lead the troops in battle. One of the great characteristics of a leader is knowing when to lead and when to follow. Sometimes you have to ride the coattail of a teammate instead of putting the team on your back.

Whether your team is crowned a state champion, just remember to play hard. Ending the season on a high note doesn't always mean winning a title. Walk off the court satisfied you played your heart out.

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Joy Hollingsworth is a first-year assistant women's basketball coach at Seattle University. A native of Seattle, Wash., she was a standout guard at Seattle Preparatory High School, earned WCC Freshman of the Year and honorable mention freshman All-American at the University of San Francisco and was a two-year starter and honorable mention All-Pac-10 at Arizona. Hollingsworth played professionally in Greece and earned an M.Ed. from the University of Washington. She can be reached at hollingj@seattleu.edu.