“Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will raise” – Michael Jordan
An athlete may come out on top in a basketball game, but it takes a team to get there. Those teams consist of coaches, doctors, family, friends, and many more that help along the way including sport psychologists or mental game coaches.
There is an intense mental toll of reaching and remaining at the pinnacle of a sport. “The top six inches of the body matter just as much the rest,” says Matthew Cunliffe, a sports psychologist. You have to understand that there is a process to your game, and that it is more important early on to get the process right than to worry about the result.
As you get better and reach higher levels of your competition, you put as much importance on the process as on the result. Here is how a sports psychologist for basketball can help you win.
While getting to know players and building rapport is important, a good sport psychologist is primarily concerned with helping you get to know yourself. This knowledge will form the foundation for knowing when to use certain mental skills, in your own way, in key moments.
Mentoring vs. Awareness Building
Coaches use knowledge and expertise to advise, mentor, and encourage certain habits. This approach is perfect for facilitating the adoption of sport specific behaviors, but what about innate perceptions, personality, or motivation in an athlete that may be blocking high performance.
Sometimes, we hear something like that, “I’ve repeatedly talked about this, but nothing is changing. I just think they don’t want to change or maybe they are just not capable.”
Sometimes, change requires to work from the inside out in a way that advice alone can’t initiate. In this case, a self-awareness building approach is required. Contrary to popular belief, sport psychologists are not advisers, they are awareness builders. They are trained in techniques to facilitate this process in the athlete themselves, allowing a deeper self-understanding of their emotions, thoughts, and actions and independently learning how the sport environment influences these things in positive and negative ways.
In this sense, the sport psychologist can be the change agent that opens the door for you to elevate your performance to the next level.
Knowledge vs. Adaptation
There is a distinction between understanding sport psychology concepts in the general sense and creating interventions designed to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of each and every individual. A good sport psychologist for basketball is trained to adapt a singular concept introduced in theories and to prescribe strategies for you that best suits your needs, strengths, and limitations from a basketball psychological stand point.
Mind vs Body
To win basketball championships, everything has to go right, the body, the mind, and a bit of luck. You must learn to cope with the stress and anxiety that builds up before a high-stakes competition.
Sports psychologist use pre-performance routines or rituals that blocks everybody out. In the end, it’s all about hours and hours of practice—both physical and mental.
For any psychologist, it’s about building a relationship with the athlete. This can take time. It won’t happen in one or two hours.
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