There is no denying that mental focus is important when partaking in a fast-paced, pressure-laden sport like Basketball. It allows you to perform in a level-headed manner throughout a match while preventing mental lapses that could disrupt your team’s momentum, tip the scales to the opponent’s favor and cost you the game.
So, having a locked-in mindset on the court is a must, whether you are a starter or coming off the bench. Here are several ways to help whip your mental game into shape.
Develop a pre-game ritual
The grind starts even before you set foot on a basketball court. Yes, what you do before the opening tip can affect the outcome of the game. That is why most, if not all great players, have developed pre-game habits that work best for themselves. Several of these routines include drinking water, taking a pre-game meal, hoisting up shots during warm-ups, and even listening to music for that extra motivation.
Besides that, countless players would even put up unique rituals before the match to switch their heads in game mode. Even in the National Basketball Association, considered as the premier basketball league in the world, pre-game practices are a staple among athletes. Who could ever forget LeBron James’ chalk toss, Steph Curry’s tunnel shot, Dwyane Wade’s rim pull-ups, and Kevin Garnett’s headbangers? If it works for these all-time great, what more for you.
Polish your fundamentals
Put a premium on your basketball mechanics to the point that dribbling, shooting, and passing become second nature during game situations. By doing so, you can turn your full attention to making the right plays on the court. Take for example a point guard, who has subpar ball-handling wares due to lack of training. His focus will surely be on not messing up his dribbling during a match, instead of reading the defense, calling the shots, and finding the open man.
Furthermore, possessing well-trained skills can boost your self-esteem when it comes to performing at a high level. This, in turn, heightens your focus on achieving success on the hardwood.
Stick to your calling card
Every player in a team has a role to fulfill. Be it a center who controls the paint with rebounds and blocks, a shooting guard who torches the net in a variety of ways, or a defensive-minded player who clamps down on scoring threats, you should accept and understand your calling card on the court. This will help you to focus on certain aspects of the game, which culminates in your team’s performance and success.
Make no mistake, though, being a player that can do it all is something that you should always strive for. Still, that does not mean that assuming a particular role on the court will make you any less of a great player.
Maintain emotional control
Sometimes when two opposing sides clash on the hardwood, emotions flare-up. Frustrations over missed shots, botched plays, and even bad calls from referees can build up the emotional stress of any player.
Having said this, do not dwell too much on missed opportunities as it can easily take over your energy in the court. Manage to take deep breaths even when the game is on-going just to tune out the negative energy around you.
Tune out distractions
Distractions are everywhere. From the crowd, teammates, and even yourself. Distractions can come in the form of unwanted noises and cheers that can be quite overwhelming for your mental state. So, as much as possible, do not listen to external factors that are not significant when you are in the game.
Once it catches your attention, try to look for something to divert what you just heard or saw. Maybe you can find your family or fans in the crowd. You can also make grand gestures such as running or jumping to let any distraction out of your system. When you allow distractions to overtake, you will lose control and focus.
Focus On What You Can Control
Knowing what you can and cannot control makes all the difference. In a basketball game, a lot of people have a say in what’s happening inside the court. Audiences are usually divided into two teams wherein one will support you and the other will support the other. Aside from what the viewers think, there are also referees that would call on fouls, travels, and other penalties. These and other factors are something that is beyond your control.
Meanwhile, there is the defense, offense, communication, and support with the team that you can actually control. Therefore, focus your mindset on those factors. When you were called for a foul, think about how you can recover through your defense play instead of focusing on the “foul” itself and the “boos” from the crowd.
Once you get the gist of this, you will notice that you are actually focusing on the game itself and not on external factors that are not helping you win your championship title.
Being physically well can help you concentrate more on the game without worrying whether you will suddenly fall or experience an attack. When you have underlying health conditions that you don’t take medication for, it might cause anxiety which can affect your focus during a game.
Moreover, if you are not well-rested, burnouts may occur while you are in play. When this happens, all you can think of is going home and have a good sleep instead of actually paying attention to the game and playing your best.
Basketball is not just a sport. It’s not just about shooting and winning. It’s a constant battle of mental focus and stability which is not an easy thing to do in an arena where pressure is never-ending and keeps on building up.
However, just like anything, all it takes is practice and discipline. Hopefully, these tips can be of great use to any players out there struggling to keep their minds in the game.