For sports performance, you know how to train your body and eat well, but do you work on your mind? Mental training, one of the most underrated conditioning drills, has a large impact on an athlete’s skill set. For instance, the ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand (like shooting a free throw), or not getting flustered in pressure situations (your team down seven points with 1:32 left in the game) are aspects of mental training.
If you want t0 reach the highest level of competency and success, mental skills are just as important as physical skills. Plenty of athletes possess the physical skills, but only the dominant ones have the mental abilities as well. Your brain controls everything you do on the court, from your thoughts to your movements, so mental training is especially significant for the game of basketball. To be an elite athlete on the basketball court, here are three vital mental abilities you will need.
A big success factor in basketball is learning how to think presently. For most players, making a free throw is a fairly simple task; but it’s much harder to hit one when the game is tied with two seconds on the clock and the crowd roaring. It’s harder because you become self-conscious, coach-conscious, fan-conscious or outcome-conscious, as opposed to task-conscious. Negative thoughts start to overtake the simple task of hitting the free throw. Your mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Most players make the mistake of trying to suppress what they don’t want to happen instead of focusing on what they do want to happen Also, they tend to get caught up in things they can’t control, like a referee’s bad call. You cannot afford to waste time or energy or negative thoughts. You have to learn to move on by focusing and concentrating on what you can control.
Visualization is powerful, because imagining success to do great things is so potent. World-renowned Olympian Michael Phelps truly exemplifies “we become what we think about most.” He recognizes that visualization is a key to success, and he visualizes every race the night before, picturing exactly how he wants it to go, down to the finest detail. More times than not, the race happens exactly how he pictured it. He even visualizes what he will do if things don’t go as planned, like his goggles filling with water or his swim cap coming off.
Mental toughness is an acquired skill, and every basketball player can become more mentally tough. A large part of being mentally tough is “to be comfortable being uncomfortable.” Learn to embrace obstacles, difficulties, mistakes and adversity. Don’t expect things to come easy. Failure is a part of life and a major part of sports. If you never fail, you aren’t pushing hard enough or challenging yourself.
With instruction and practice, all of the attributes of mental toughness can be improved: competitiveness, confidence, control, commitment, composure, courage, and consistency. How do you grade yourself in each of these categories?
If you want to be the best player you can be and help your team become the best team it can be, don’t take mental training for granted.
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