Basketball Psychology

Sports Psychology for Basketball Players & Coaches

Be A Mentally Tough Athlete

“There have been times when I have failed. But there have never been times when I thought I would fail” – Michael Jordan

michael-jordan-pregame-jittResearch on sports psychology for basketball shows that personality traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your basketball mental game.

The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many mental benefits.

Understanding the interplay of thoughts and emotions can be insightful for your basketball mental game. Thoughts are brief mental events, which can be an observation, a judgment (like how you played), or an opinion. On the other hand, emotions are a state of mind, often the collective impact of our thoughts (feeling upset for a loss.)

At the top of the Prime Sport Pyramid sits emotions. Because emotions will ultimately dictate how you perform throughout a competition. Emotions during a competition can cover the spectrum from excitement and elation to frustration, anger, and disappointment. Emotions are often strong and, most troublesome; they can linger and hurt your mental game long after you first experience them.

Negative emotions can hurt performance both physically and mentally. They first cause you to lose your prime intensity. With frustration and anger, your intensity goes up and leads to muscle tension, breathing difficulties, and a loss of coordination. It also saps your energy and causes you to tire quickly. When you experience despair and helplessness, your intensity drops sharply and you no longer have the physical capabilities to perform well.

Negative emotions can also hurt you mentally. Your emotions are telling you that, deep down, you’re not confident in your ability to perform well and achieve your competitive goal – Win!

Your basketball confidence will decline and you will have negative thoughts to go along with your negative emotions. Also, since your negative emotions are so strong, you will likely have difficulty focusing on what will help you to perform well; the negative emotions draw your attention onto all of the negative aspects of your performance.

Finally, negative emotions can hurt your motivation to perform because you just don’t feel good and it’s no longer fun.

Negative emotions can be provoked by many occurrences during a competition including bad calls, senseless mistakes, making an error at a crucial point in the competition, and just performing poorly.

All of these events share two common elements that lie at the heart of what causes the negative emotions: You feel that the path to a goal is being blocked and you don’t seem to have control over removing the obstacle. You are likely to experience frustration and anger initially.

These emotions can be helpful at first because they motivate you to fight to clear the path to your goal and regain control of a game. But if you are unable to change the course of a game, then you may experience despair and helplessness, in which you accepts that you cannot win, so you just give up.

Be sure that your emotions are proportional to what causes them. Ask yourself whether a few mistakes are worth the ill feelings you might experience. Are you being fair to yourself? When the severity of the punishment exceeds the seriousness of the crime, you have lost perspective on how important your sport is in your life.

Consider the best basketball players in the world. The game is very important to them because it is their life and livelihood. How upset do they get when they perform poorly and lose? Some get very upset.

Overall, considering how important the game is to them, most great athletes handle their mental skills pretty well.

In fact, one reason why they are the best is because they have the ability to control their emotions rather than their emotions controlling them.

*Download the free mental game assessment and get started on Improving your Mental Game in Basketball

Updated: March 12, 2017 — 9:27 am

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