Basketball Psychology

Sports Psychology for Basketball Players & Coaches

Mastering Your Mind

“It’s not about the number of hours you practice, it’s about the number of hours your mind is present during the practice” – Kobe Bryant

mental-toughness-perfromanceAt the top of the Prime Sport Pyramid sits your mind. It’s closest to the top of the pyramid because your mind will ultimately dictate how well you execute you mental game in basketball.

During a competition, it can cover the spectrum from excitement and elation to frustration, anger, and disappointment. They are often strong and, most troublesome, they can linger and hurt your performances long after you first experience them.

In any competitive situation, it’s only natural that your adrenaline starts to pump. Your heart may beat faster. Your palms may sweat. You may feel butterflies in your stomach. But when you’re in the middle of a high-stakes game, are you able to stay connected with the present moment? Or, does your mind flood with thoughts of previous errors or jump ahead to future outcomes like a missed goal or a slow finish time?

“When our brains get caught up in thoughts from the past…or thoughts of the future…it creates a stress response, and we can’t use the part of the brain that keeps us engaged in the moment,” says Dr. Kristen Race, Ph.D., an expert on brain and mind. This mental chatter can make it difficult to maintain perspective and focus.

Not only can our thoughts and internal dialogue create a stress response, it also impacts your basketball mental toughness.

One major study on sports psychology for basketball found that athletes who sense a greater control of their mind were more likely to experience a higher state of flow (the feeling of being totally in the moment which has been linked to enhanced performance). These individuals also scored better in terms of control of attention and emotion, goal-setting and positive self-talk.

By bringing your attention inward, you activate the insular cortex of the brain. As a result, you experience a heightened sense of awareness of your body and improve the communication between the body and mind.

According to Dr. Race, this helps you sense physiological changes, like less anxiety, calm under pressure, improved confidence, and focus and make split second adjustments even before you are consciously aware of what’s going on (before those factors have a chance to impact your performance).

Mental Imagery can also help you alleviate stress and anxiety, improve self-confidence, help you visualize success, and enhance our ability to perform.

Well-known athletes, including LeBron James, have been frank about their use of imagery to improve their games, and with good reason. The power of imagery can be helpful with regard to motivation, self-esteem, and reaching goals. Often, our emotions and behaviors follow our beliefs, so it’s vital to be aware of the images you hold of yourself and shift them if necessary.

Many athletes believe that they are the way they are emotionally, have little control of their mind, and there is nothing they can do to gain control of them. If their thoughts and emotions hurt them, they feel like they have to accept the situation because they can’t do anything about it.

Sports psychologists call these athletes emotional victims, where their emotions control them, they possess unhealthy and unproductive emotional habits, and their emotions hinder their ability to perform well and achieve their goals.

Despite these perceptions, research on sports psychology for basketball has clearly shown that athletes are capable of becoming the master of their own mind.

You can gain control of your thoughts and emotions.

You can develop healthy and productive basketball psychological habits. And your emotions can facilitate your ability to perform well and reach your full potential.

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

Updated: July 2, 2017 — 9:29 am

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