By Dan Ninham (Oneida)
Elite athletes have a mental toughness component as a part of their total training plan.
One of lessons of this plan is the 'here and now' principle. Do not focus on what happened during the previous competition or even the previous play in team sports or a specific situation that happened in an individual sport. Focus on what is happening this second right now.
"I keep a positive mindset all the time and never let past decisions and actions affect what I have going on right now," said Cecelio Montgomery. This is a great strategy when to use the 'here and now' thinking and action.
Cecelio Montgomery is on his way to become one of the elite junior college basketball players in the country. He is a 5-10 freshman shooting and point guard for United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, ND. He is averaging 21.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 3.2 apg for the 6-4 Thunderbirds.
He is Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota and is from Rapid City, SD. Caroletta Rodriguez is his mother, Sharon Lizotte is his grandmother, and both are Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota and live in Rapid City, SD.
"I went to the South Dakota AA state basketball tournament my sophomore and senior year. I won the 6th man award as a sophomore," said Cecelio.
There was an open time period during his junior year. Cecelio had an eligibility issue that kept him off the court his junior year into his senior basketball season. He attended Rapid City Central HS and then transferred to Cheyenne-Eagle Butte HS after his senior year. He led the CEB Braves to the South Dakota Sweet 16 with a 17-3 record.
"I let some decisions outside of school affect my eligibility my summer going into my junior year, it took forever to follow up and it surprised me I didn't play most my senior year," said Cecelio. "It kind of lingered around and I only played the last five games of our 25 my senior year."
"I went to NABI (Native American Basketball Invitational) after senior year with some Eagle Butte players and that's when a door opened up for a second chance," said Cecilio. "I was granted another year of eligibility and played my fifth year at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte HS."
When Cecelio is in a program, coaches can accomplish more advanced playbook tactics. "His leadership on and off the court helped me as a coach to implement the things we needed to do as a team," said Lance Eaglestaff, Head Boys Basketball Coach, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte HS. "Great kid … loved having his drive to win on the Braves. Just wish he could have been in Eagle Butte for more than a year."
"I want to represent my tribe in a good way," said Cecelio. "I want to give back to the students and younger kids by being a good role model on and off the court, in the classroom and in public."
The 'in public' words are always evident. There are not only little eyes watching all the time belonging to the youth but there are also bigger eyes watching that could belong to four year college recruiters. Student athletes don't know when the eyes are watching but they are watching.
"I was raised by my grandparents and they've always wanted me to strive for something greater and pushed me to become self motivated. I know that basketball doesn't last forever so I need to keep myself just as focused in the classroom as I do on the court," added Cecelio.
"Get good sleep! Have a good schedule to go by day in and day out. Get your class work and homework finished before anything else. Be a student before an athlete. Always show up to practice trying to be better than the day before, and improve as a team and individually every practice," added Cecelio addressing what needs to be done to be most effective.
"Cecelio is the definition of leading by example on the court," said Pete Conway, Head Men's Basketball Coach at UTTC. "He is a great teammate who always stays positive. All the extra work he puts in has led to on court success early in the season. I think his year in Eagle Butte helped him mature and now being on his own here in Bismarck. I think he realizes the opportunity he has been given and is determined to use it."
"I have a strong influence on younger kids," said Cecelio. "I can either make it a positive one or a negative. But I think that as long as I strive for what my dream was since I was little and the more I realize it along the way, I can be a really good influence to my people and give back to kids and give kids that never had a chance the opportunity to follow their dreams with hope and faith."
"At all times I need to be a good role model and present myself as a kind young man, responsible, respectful, humble, fair, and approachable," said Cecelio.
Indigenous athletes train holistically to prepare for peak performance. The holistic areas include the dimensions of being physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual focused and sharp.
Cecelio addressed his emotional preparation: "I like to stretch after a good day of workouts and practice even in the morning after a good ball workout. I'll stretch for a good 20-30 minutes focusing on different muscles in my legs and my lower back. I was doing yoga for a bit at the beginning of the season and I really liked that. My friend from a D2 college in 'Rapid' sent me this yoga routine, and it was something I was always interested in. Another way I would mentally train is sitting in the sauna with intervals of about 10-15 minutes about three times."
Cecelio addressed his mental preparation: "That is something I would like to focus more on, my mental strength and composure. That is one thing I really want to have under control, to stay composed during certain situations and be a good leader. By breathing, always going back to taking deep breaths' like I do when I stretch or do yoga. To stay cool, calm, and collected when I imagine myself in certain game situations when I work out by myself," added Cecelio.
Cecelio addressed his physical preparation: "I do my best to get in the gym everyday between 5-6 am to 8:30 am before my first class. I start off with warming up by running up and down the court with a ball then I dynamic stretch. After that I do a small body workout then ball handling with two balls into one-ball drills then I start around the rim and make my way out to do free throws. Then I start on game-like shots, the pull up off the dribble and sometimes my teammates are in there so we do a lot of off the catch. I really like to work on my off the dribble and just having a lot of options out of that. I'll do that shooting workout for the majority of the time but I do my best to warm up as good as I can so my blood gets flowing."
Cecelio addressed his spiritual preparation: "I think I just tend to remind myself why I'm doing this. I love the sensation I get during the game and while I play, while observing and talking about it and the way it's played. I listen to music during workouts and before games these get me in the mood. I most of all remember my grandparents while I play and work out. I just want to make them and myself proud and always remember where I came from. I have people in my family who Sundance and have sweat lodge but I know it's a lot deeper than that so I just need to find more time to spend it with them and actually learn."
During his lengthy time being ineligible in high school, Cecelio used his time wisely to work on the next phase of his basketball playing days. He knew there would be a time when he would play competitive again. He thought it was going to be during senior year but that didn't happen according to his hope.
"I thought I was going to for sure play my whole senior year but after my senior year and not graduating, I began planning to finish out at the alternative HS in Rapid and try out the following year at Tribes," said Cecelio.
Cecelio met personal trainer AJ Zolicoffer at the end of his season last year. "Cecelio walked into Rapid SkillZ Sports Complex in Rapid City and found an environment he had always wanted," said AJ Zolicoffer, owner/operator of Rapid SkillZ Athletic Training, Rapid City, SD. "He spent 3-4 hours a day developing every aspect of his game. He became confident in his strength, speed, and ability to sustain high levels of performance for long periods of time. His operating level is most players max level. 'C' wanted to know how to score at all three levels while on and off the ball. His basketball IQ went up substantially his first month of training to a point he knew he was ready to play at the next level. He is the hardest working athlete I've met in South Dakota. His competitive nature and skill set makes him a star on the court. He trains like a professional."
To make the team better the proficient players that need to be counted on need to make teammates better every day and night and they will become better as well. That is one of the main points of the 'here and now' principle to peak performance for Cecelio Montgomery. Cecelio is moving onward and forward.
Cecelio Montgomery's profile at UTTC is located here: https://uttcthunderbirds.com/sports/mbkb/2019-20/bios/montgomery_cecilio_ajyx
The UTTC Thunderbirds Schedule is located here:
Photo Credit: LuAnn Poitra