Basketball Psychology

Sports Psychology for Basketball Players & Coaches

Mental Preparation for Basketball

If you are having problems with your basketball game, your problem might be how you mentally prepare for games. All professional and elite athletes mentally prepare for their games. Even the all time great Michael Jordon get mentally prepared. This is how he gets mentally prepared for competition:

“My mental preparation for the game is very different than most. I try to relax myself. I am a joker, sprankser, if you want to say it that way. I listen to music, I joke around with the guys, I take my whole mind away from the whole game itself, then when the time comes to focus on the game, I focus on my athletic skills and putting it together with the team and somehow collectively going out doing the job each and every day. I challenge myself to be the best basketball player ever moment I am playing basketball. Sometime that means tricking yourself in the mind, you say you can’t do this or your weakness are here yet you still try to work on improving those weakness. A lot of people may say Michael Jordan never had weakness, Michael Jordan had weakness, he just had to dig within himself to see what they were and challenge himself to improve his weakness, so mentally I like to challenge myself to go out and play a perfect basketball game. Although I know you can’t do that, it’s practically impossible to play a perfect game, that don’t mean you can’t challenge yourself to do that”

Mental Preparation is a key ingredient in enhancing your performance in Basketball.  If you want to excel in Basketball you must develop your mental game. There is a saying “the game of basketball is 90% mental and 10% physical. If this is true there is no way around developing your mental game. Your brain is the strongest muscle in your body. It controls everything that you do. It controls how you feel when you wake up in the morning and it controls your knowledge base and the rest of your body. Without a good mental game you will not be able to reach peak performance.

Most basketball players can relate to this: someone is guarding you and they are really tough, and intimidating and as a result they ” get in your head” by taunting you. The moment you hear them, think they are right or doubt yourself, you give up mentally and that’s when they steal the ball from you. This happens because you allowed them to tap into your strongest muscle – your brain; and hence you lost the  mental game; which means they were able to get in your head and affect your game and cause you to “mess” up. Developing your mental game makes you mentally tough.

How do you become mentally tough? It takes practice. Lots of practice. Staying positive and thinking powerful thoughts all the time is not easy. Doing it on a daily bases helps it to become habit. You literally have to work on your mental toughness every day if you want to be a great player. Starting with affirmations is simple but a great place to start. Stand in front of a mirror and say “I am a great basketball player and no one can beat me”. You must also educate yourself in the game, practice by yourself to improve your confidence and play with others who have a better game than you.

Your mind is your most powerful weapon.

Train it!



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  1. my name is shanice, i been playing basketball since i was a little, i nerve had trouble performing on the court.Until, I moved to a different city,and school.Everyone always tell me i have skills and they can see it but i have to stop playinging scared. I been like this for a long time , now iam ready to overcome this problem.

    1. So how did/are you going to do that Shenice? I’m a baller as well, everyone tells me I got great skills and my talent is not to be questioned, it’s my mental aspect that’s holding me back. People say I ‘try too hard.

      1. Being mentally tough is very important and the process to get there is even more important. You want to challenge yourself. The way to realistically challenge yourself so you are not trying too hard in a negative way is to set realistic goals. If you need help setting realistic goals let me know. The Best to you!

        1. I’m one of the best guards in middle school for girls basketball, but to get my game to the next level i have to get my endurance up. Hopefully this helps me at my games tommorow so i can dominate the whole game!

          1. Good Luck! Let me know no with goes. Remember you have to do the preparations consistently so plan to do it for every game and before practice. This way you will get the most benefit!

          2. Hey Delice, I’ve been playing basketball for a while but every time I mess up, I break down and start to cry what should I do?

          3. Hi, how long have you been playing? How old are you? What exactly are you crying about? I need more information to help.

    2. Hi Shanice,

      I am checking in to see how things are going. The key to not playing scared is to build confidence. Have you been working on that? If not let me know and I can give you some tips.

      1. Hello Delice. Although it was not intended for me do mind sharing a few of those tips.

        1. Hi Phillip,
          What tips are you referring to?

  2. I’ve played basketball since ive been 4 in a 6 year ol league I’m 6foot 3 I play point guard I’m currently an eighth grader my whole life I’m getting stronger by lifting weights and protein shakes anyways.
    Just think confident and that nothing can get in your way. Try music hardcore or something.

    If your having problems with aggressiveness try getting yourself angry BUT NOT AT YOUR OWN TEAM STAY POSITIVE!

  3. I was wondering what are some good ways to stay focused in the game, and setting real goals. I get unfocused when i miss a layup. So how do i work on that and taking more shots,but making sure they are good shots. Also releasing that unguardable person i have deep inside

    1. First I need to understand your specific situation to really assist and give good guidance, but in general this is a starting point:
      1. Understand the concept of focus and what it feels like when you are fully focused on a task.
      2. Identify the breakdowns in your concentration. Once you identify them then you can start making goals.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Hey. i play basketball for around 3 years now and i allways practice evry moment i get at the leasure center, there i make 80% of my shots but omething always hapens when i practice with my team. I miss all my shots and i dont know whats goig on. it is affecting my playig time cause i dont do well enough in practice but i know i can do better. i need help

    1. Take a close look at whats going through your mind when you are in practice. Once you figure out what is going through your mind then you can put a plan in place to overcome it. You could be thinking too much, afraid, can’t focus for some reason other or a number of things, but the first step is to identify what’s going on.

      Hope this helps!

  5. I’m an aspiring 5’9 shooting guard/ point guard. I have an different alter egos on the court so to speak. The first “ego” I’m loud, vocal, and energetic. This “ego” comes about when I’m playing with people on my team who rely on me offensively. I maintain this “ego” even when my competition is real good. I can even have an off day and my confidence is still pretty high. The other “ego” however is tentative, quite and pretty shy with the ball. I play afraid, I pass up shots I’d normally take. I mess up on shots that I do take and normally knock down. I’m afraid to even control the ball for an extended period of time. This happens when I play in a “real” game and if I’m playing on a team that generally has people more talented than myself, this kebab big problem for me. Please help

    1. Isaac,
      Sound like you may be a bit anxious and tense when it comes to “real” games. Having these feelings will make you play tentatively and playing tentatively will led to more mistakes in the games. Spend a some time working on relaxing prior to playing. Let me know if this help.

      All the Best,

  6. I’m 5’9″ and has been playin basketball since 4th grade. Im lead score in pretty much all my games and i belong down low in the post position. I try to be a great moods before every game, but once I let go of the ball when i shoot. A mistake occurs and I tend to miss my shots. My coach takes me out once in a while so I can try to get my crap together but it doesn’t work for me. I don’t know if I’m rushing or too slow. Or if I’m over thinking it too much. I start freaking out and blame myself for everything I did wrong, I never let it go. It’s just hard for me. I try to be the best and work my butt off but I’ve been having to many off and bad games, and I’m tired of coming home all upset over all my mistakes
    Is there anything I can do?????

    1. Of course there is something you can do, but all of your issues will not be fixed over night. This is a start, however there are many more things you will need to do. Learning to maintain composure will be the best place to start. Learning to remain calm, steadfast and in control during crunch-time or competitive will help you from “freaking out and blaming yourself”.

      Keep me posted on your progress!

  7. I’m 5’10 and a high school senior, I’ve been playing since 3rd grade, all my brothers and my sister play basketball or played and they have no problem, they all started for their teams and were offered scholarships. I wish i could play focused and confident like them. Since i was young i never wanted to mess up or get embarrassed, so I don’t even try as hard out on the court or do things i know i can do because i’m afraid that i’ll screw it up. Instead i play safe and by always trying not to mess up i tend to mess up more. I’m told by all my coaches i’ve had all these years from different schools, (I’ve went to 3 schools) that i’m good and i’ve started on all the teams but obviously the coaches dont see what other people see. My sister tells me i think too much out there and that i need to just let loose and play, I cant control my thoughts though.I wish i could just play because my thinking too much and not taking risks is holding me back from a possible scholarship.

    1. It may look like i’m playing confident on the outside but on the inside i’m so nervous and scared, and when i mess up it gets worse. Not once since my first game in 3rd grade have i ever been “pumped”, instead i’m praying i dont screw up.

      1. Hi Hannah,

        I am going through my messages and I’m not 100% sure if I responded. I think it did. If I did disregard this message. If I did not please accept my apology and let me know then we can chat some more.

        All the Best!

  8. Please help because i have a huge tournament(not school related) coming up in 3 weeks and teams from all over the country coming to my state to play in it. I’m also one of the better ones on the team, so i don’t wanna let anyone down.

    1. We won’t be able to solve all the problems in 3 weeks, but I can give you a starting point. Please know that improving your mental game is a process and you have to practice various skills during the on and off season. For starters learn to relax and control your mind by doing deep breathing exercises. After you learn to relax using deep breathing, incorporate visualizations exercises at the same time. This is the foundation to learning and implementing other skills to improve your mental game. The mind controls the body and the body can better respond when it is relaxed.

      Keep me posted on your progress!

  9. I’m from the Netherlands, so forgive me if something I say isn’t correctly! I’ve been playing now for 7 years. but I have never had a really good trainer until this year. He really helps me to improve my shootingskills. I’ve heard some people say that I am the one of the best of the team, but I don’t feel like that. I think my shooting skills aren’t that good, wich is a problem cause i’m a center (183cm / 6 foot).. My team says I need to think more positive, but i don’t really know how. Does anyone know tips to become a better center? I think that will be some sort of an confidenceboost. I ask my trainer, but he’s a guard, so he didn’t really know.

    1. Thinking positive will help. Keep practicing your physical skills because the skill level have to be there. If the skill level is there incorporate imagery and that will help.

      All the Best and keep me posted on your progress!

  10. Hi, iv been playing for 8 years now. Im from the philippines. Im 14 years old and planing to be an exchange student after high school. Ill be graduating at 16 years old.. So here iv’e been to great basketball games in my life. I was selected to play for my state when i was 12 and played at the peek of my game. But now.. Recently i play good games i had the confidence and people tell me that im playing great.. But currently we lost to a different team and for the past few weeks my game went down.. Im too lazy enough and i cant focus. Im scared to commit a turn over cause the coach might get mad. I disappointed some of the people around me my family, teammates and especially my self.. Im left behind now. My teammate now is now eyed to play in different colleges.. But we started together. I want to change and I want to be better to be great and to be unstoppable.. Can you help me? Ive been working hard.

    1. The very first thing you want to do right away is let go of those past experiences that were not good! If you continue to focus on the negative it will continue to interfer with your game. Do some imagery and relaxation before your practice and games. Working on focus and confidence will help as well. Keep me posted and let me know how your are doing.

      1. How do i keep calm? Can you give me any tips?

        1. That’s a loaded question and there is no one simple answer. To really give you a good answer that will help you I need specific information about your situation. Sometime athletes have mental game breakdowns and that cause them to loose composure or they may be tense and very anxious before games. If it was one of these the plan to get pass it will be different and of course a process. You may consider taking the free mental game assessment to give me more information about your situation and we can schedule a time to talk about it.

  11. I’m a freshman in high school, and I recently got moved up to varsity. I got moved up because the coach had watched me practice and play and I was tested before I was asked, by playing on varsity. He thought I did good and I got moved up. But my problem is, for me to pay well for a team, I tend to, like Mike, joke around w/ my friends. I had friends on JV. I don’t have any friends on V. And I try to be friends, but I guess I’m just not cool enough for them, and I don’t feel like I fit in at all. I can’t be me around them. I’m affected by it in the game and I can feel myself not playing well. What do I do?

    1. Continue to be yourself, however, it’s may take some time for the team to embrace you because you are the new kid on the block and you have to prove yourself. Be mindful and don’t let it effect your game.

      Keep me posted.

  12. I’ve been playing basketball since I was 13. At first I wasn’t all that good but it didn’t stop me from keep playing. I’m 18 now and the coach told me to come to try-outs for the college team. Basketball is truly my life and I pray one day to play for the UConn Huskies but I’m nervous. None of my HS coaches really gave me a chance to show them what I can do. I don’t want to make a fool out of myself trying out. A lot of people are encouraging me to do it. I really want to impress my JR & SR V coach. She really didn’t give me a chance but she didn’t give up on me either. Basketball is her life, & she can play her a** off. I’ve been practicing off season, but I don’t know I guess I’m just scared.. What should I do?

    1. Take some quality time and figure out what you are afraid of. Whatever it is you can work through it, but the first step is to uncover the fear. Let me know how things go!

      All the Best!

  13. I’ve been playing since I was twelve, I’m 6’0 and 16 and still growing and played Post and Center every year but I’ve always had problems with how I mentally prepare for ball handling and dribbling and I’m afraid that’s what is going to hold me back this year is my anxieties with it. The reason this makes me anxious is because I’ve always been told to focus on my shots and rebounding and had barely any practice with ball handling and bringing the ball down and also I didn’t play last year so I’m very rusty lol. To make matters worse I also have generalized anxiety and asthma so that is holding me back as well but this is the only sport I’ve ever stuck with and I love it but I’m holding myself back mentally and have a hard time relaxing when at practice or games and I have to handle the ball.
    Help or advice?

    1. The first thing I would recommend is to seek professional help from a psychologist or psychiatrist to deal with your anxiety. Since you stated you have “general anxiety” my guess is you have already sought help in that area. If that’s the case I suggest you continue that therapy while working on your mental game.​

      Secondly – Put in some extra time in working on the fundamentals. If you can not execute the fundamentals well, then the problem is not your mental game it is your skill level.

      Third – To start working on your mental game it’s important to relax. You can learn to relax by meditating or doing deep breathing. I suggest starting with deep breathing. In haling and exhaling on the count of 5. When you are in a relax state start visualizing the things you want to improve and the way you want them to improve. This is a start. There are a lot more things to do to improve and have a strong your mental game. Keep me posted!

      All the Best!

  14. My name is Darriom and I just had my 2nd high school game of the season and I played pretty bad I didn’t score and I was trying to force shots. I wa thinking about giving up but I’ve came to far to right? So I think that I’m not preparing right for my game and I’m overthinking everything and my nerves are getting the best of me.

    1. The best advice I can give you is don’t give up! Improving your mental game is a process. A quick way for you to get on track is to learn how to relax and trust your abilities. Go to the product section on my site and get the Relaxation and Imagery download and that will help you a lot. Once you do that for a month or so email me back for more help.

      All the Best!

  15. Hello, I need help, please.. My really big problem is a confidence, I don´t know, how to improve it, everytime, when I come on the court, I am scared of getting to the basket and others. When I train alone, it´s really different, I have skills, I know that, but confidence is hollding me back. Please help me. 🙂


    1. Hi,

      A good place to start is with visualization and imagery. First you much see yourself confident and you will be come more confident when you are playing; providing the skill level is already there. There is a guide on my site that will really help you with this. What level of ball do you play?

  16. Hey, im 13 yrs old i dont play bb alot but i got selected in the house basketball team im 6’1 any tips on how to become a better player? i need advice ASAP

    1. I will need more information to better help you. What are your challenges?

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