In 2019, during Kawhi Leonard’s championship run with the Raptors, I learned about the term, “Load management.” The British Journal of Sports Medicine defines the objective in 2016: “The aim of load management is to optimally configure training, competition and other load to maximise adaptation and performance with a minimal risk of injury. Load management therefore comprises the appropriate prescription, monitoring and adjustment of external and internal loads, for which a number of key practical guidelines can be provided.” I won’t claim to be a huge basketball fan (I like the business!), but it’s definitely interesting to consider the role load management played in the Raptors winning its first championship.
Injury, of course, is the bane of existence for any athlete. Many of the most excellent professionals have previously had to learn to play with injuries, adapting to chronic pain or fatigue with pre-game and post-game rituals (LeBron and the ice!).
Similarly, I once heard an artist manager say that the mark of a professional artist is one that can create amazing work on demand. It’s breaking through the sophomore slump. The first mixtape or album tends to contain the artist’s best work; are they able to follow it up when the market presents them with the opportunity to? When they’re tired from touring? When they’re overwhelmed with other business opportunities? When they’ve exhausted the life experience that they’re the most familiar with?
Most of the time, what’s most important actually isn’t actually the work; it’s what enables the work. In other words, your health and your team’s health. “My health is no. 1 and that’s gonna make us a better team,” Leonard has said. If you need to sit a couple of days out of work—or to work just an hour or two maximum—to give yourself a rest, then that’s what you need to do.
When you’re a professional, you need to work like one too. That means knowing when to take on heavier loads, and making time to lighten it.