“Basketball is a complex dance that requires shifting from one objective to another at lightning speed. To excel, you need to act with a clear mind and be totally focused.” — Phil Jackson
Great players don’t worry about a missed shot or a bad call; they’re not distracted by thoughts of winning or losing. These athletes play in the moment, because that’s all they can control. Follow these tips to improve your basketball game by learning how to “Play Present.”
Just like shooting and ball handling, the ability to play in each moment takes practice. Constantly remind yourself to focus on the task at hand. By building your self-awareness, you’ll begin to recognize immediately when your mind starts to drift. Over time, you’ll sustain focus and concentration during the chaos that occurs during a game.
Another mental training exercise you can do is called “100.” Find a quiet spot to sit and relax. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. When you breathe in, say “one.” When you breathe out, say “two.” Perform this exercise all the way to 100.
In the beginning, your mind will have all sorts of distracting thoughts. Your goal is to “Play Present,” focusing only on breathing and saying the next number. Try to do this exercise every day when you first wake up or right before you go to sleep. It only takes a few minutes.
The MVP (Meditate, Visualize, Positive Talk) is another powerful mental exercise, perfect to do before your team’s pre-game talk or warm-up.
Meditate: Sit in silence with your eyes closed. Focus on the moment by taking 15 to 20 slow breaths. Let go of the day’s distractions with each exhale.
Visualize: Use all of your senses to recall a time you played in the zone. See it and feel it.
Positive Talk: Repeat your favorite motivational affirmations and quotes to yourself.
To “Play Present,” don’t focus on your last play, whether good or bad. Move onto the “Next Play.” The last play doesn’t matter, it’s over, so let it go. Learning to move to the “Next Play” is the foundation of how to “Play Present.”
I learned about the concept (as well as the above exercises) from my colleague Graham Betchart, the founder of GB Performance Coaching.
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