Updated: Jan 21
Basketball is a mental game. Take a look at some of these tips to instantly help you play better on the court.
As someone who has played basketball their whole life. I can say confidently that the biggest separator between good and great players is their mindset and mental approach to the game. Growing up, I struggled on the court. I had confidence issues, played tentatively, and could never find consistent success. I later learned that these problems had nothing to do with my physical ability. Most of my limitations on the court were actually mental.
Based on my playing experiences and research in Sports Psychology, here are my 9 most important tips on the mental game when it comes to Basketball:
Tip #1 - Have a Consistent Pre-Game Routine
The game starts before you even step onto the court. Whether it be going over the scouting report, or simply clearing the mind and listening to music, try and keep your routine consistent to promote consistency on the court.
Some of my most beneficial pre-game routines included meditation in the locker room, visualizing myself succeeding and responding well to mistakes, and thinking of things I'm grateful for right before I step onto the court.
Tip #2 - Be Aware of the Environment
If you're playing in a playoff game, you probably want to focus on calming your nerves and emotions. On the other hand, if you're playing a meaningless pre-season game, you probably want to generate more energy. Every situation requires a different mindset, so being aware of this before you step onto the court is necessary to build awareness.
Tip #3 - Don't Focus on Making Shots/Scoring
Some might not like this one, but think of it like this: The best shooters in the world only shoot about 45%. They miss more than half of their shots. So if you put all of your focus on making shots, you're going to fail over half the time. This will cause you to get down on yourself and think you're not playing well, when in reality you're probably not doing as bad as you think.
Shooting and scoring are also very instinctual skills. The more thought or focus you put into it, the more your mind gets in the way of what your body already knows how to do. Instead of focusing on something that's bound to produce failure, redirect your focus onto something else.
Tip #4 - Focus on What You Can Control
Instead of focusing on making shots, focus on getting yourself in position to have an open shot. Instead of focusing on rebounding, focus on boxing out and crashing the glass. There is a big difference when you focus on something that is a result or an outcome rather than something that is a choice. You can choose to crash the glass every time, but you can't choose to get every rebound in every game. By focusing on the things you can control, you don't go on the rollercoaster of results. Maybe you'll shoot 10/10 and things will feel great. But what if you shoot 1/10? This is why focusing on results is a trap.
Tip #5 - Use Your Breath to Stay Present
Basketball is a very fluid game, so any time spent focusing on that turnover you just had, or the game winning shot you want to make is taking away from your game. By simply taking a breath after every mistake, you can get yourself back to the present and use it as a cue to move on.
Being able to stay in the present is a skill. The more you find yourself in the past or in the future, try and re-center yourself back to this moment right now.
Tip #6 - Stop Looking at Your Coach/Parents During Games
If you look at your coach or your dad in the stands, you're not focusing on the game. This will only add stress as well, as most players do this after making a mistake. This compounds the mistake by continuously living in that moment that has already passed. Focus on the game itself rather than the distractions around the gym.
Tip #7 - Don't Overanalyze Slumps
Everybody has bad games, but "trying harder" to get out of your slump usually doesn't help because the problem isn't usually a physical one. Peak performance is controlled by our non-thinking, subconscious brain. Instead of trying harder or focusing on shooting when in a slump, redirect your focus onto something more in your control.
In a shooting slump? Focus on defense/offensive rebounding instead.
Tip #8 - Watch Film
Most people don't watch film because of fear. Never let fear control your behavior. It's good to balance out watching film of what you need to work on with film of you playing well. Use film to increase your confidence and to see your game from a 3rd person point of view.
Tip #9 - Practice Gratitude to Stay Focused on the Process
If you have a bad game or shoot poorly in a workout, it's very easy to lose motivation. That comes from being attached to results and over-identifying yourself with your performance. In reality, improvement is a long process and results aren't always visible. So instead of focusing on all those misses, be grateful you're able to play the sport you love.
It won't last forever! Would you rather spend your hoops career sad and angry all the time? Or would you rather smell the roses along the way and enjoy the process?
Use These Tips at Your Next Practice or Game
For more tips on the mental game, follow @FindJoeFlow on Instagram.