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Mental Toughness Training for Basketball

Article from basketballismypassion.com:

Professional basketball players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and the current NBA champion LeBron James are true warriors when it comes to winning games. Mental Toughness is what makes them so hard to beat. I found the following ideas to improve your mental toughness:

1. The mind does not know the difference between a real and an imagined event, that is why visualization and self talk are so powerful.

2. The ideal performance state is calm on the inside and energized and alert on the outside.

3. Two factors that seem to be consistent for athletes “in the zone” are i) preparation (both mental and physical) and ii) the ability to maintain concentration.

4. Statistics show that locker room pep talks don’t seem to do much good.  Low keyed suggestions and stories do seem to be of some benefit.

5. The most powerful motivators come from within.  Team spirit and expectations are extremely powerful motivators.  This takes place when there’s commitment to a shared goal.  The goal is an internal decision to do something rather than to wait for external forces to make something happen.

6. Emphasize performance goals as well as outcome goals.  Performance goals are things like being ready to play, giving 100%, having a great attitude, and always looking confident.  Outcome goals are things such as individual shooting percentage, or number of assists or rebounds.

7. Two points about goal setting:  goals should always be written down and athletes must be committed to attending to the details of accomplishing the goals beyond their comfort level.  Great athletes practice beyond their comfort zones.

8. Determination with regards to achieving your goals is a major key.  Players need to commit to doing whatever it takes to reach their goals and not be distracted.

9. Once realistic goals are set, the next step is preparation for competition.  Aside from previous success in competition, nothing gives an athlete greater confidence than thorough preparation.

10. John Wooden model:  Practice the physical skills until they are so automatic that you can perform them without thinking under stressful competition.

11. The key to consistency is concentration.

12. Five keys to maintaining concentration in competition:

  • Stick to performance rituals before and during the game.  Load your players with performance rituals.  It keeps their minds from wandering.
  • Eye control.  Great players keep their eyes on the court.  If a player is looking into the crowd that player is losing focus.  The mind follows the eyes.
  • Emotional control.  Nothing blows up concentration more than losing emotional control.  Just as the mind follows the eyes, the emotions follow breathing.  If someone is upset, their breathing is shallow.  Players that lose emotional control must take slow deep breaths and regain control of their breathing.
  • Make use of visualization during competition.
  • Stay in the present moment.  The most important play in basketball is the one that is happening right now.  Human beings tend to not be in the present.  We’re either worrying about the past or worrying about the future.  Those projections into the future are almost always negative.  For example a player standing at the free throw line is thinking “what will happen if I miss the shot?” All these projections into the future are 90% negative and 90% untrue, but it really affects performance.  Players must keep their minds in the present because that’s where the action is.

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