When you think of basketball training what types of things come to mind? If you're like most people you probably think of things like shooting drills, speed & quickness workouts, developing the weak hand, footwork and etc.
Those are all very legitimate basketball fundamentals that need to be improved and should be part of every players training routine. The point I'm trying to make however, is that there is something else that wasn't mentioned that most players don't even think about when it comes to training. Something that they don't realize has a far greater impact on their ability to succeed than the typical things like shooting, dribbling, speed and jumping do.
What most players don't realize is that the power of the mind is more amazing than any other physical skill they can possess and that they need to take the time and energy necessary to train their mind like they do their body. If they do this they will start to see results ten times quicker than if they relied on just their physical abilities to make themselves a better player.
Think of it like this. There is very little debate about how good of a player Michael Jordan was. 9 out of 10 people you ask will agree that he is the best player that has ever played the game. Since MJ has been out of the game it's accurate to say that there have been dozens of players come into the NBA that could jump just as high, could shoot just as well, could play just as good of defense, etc. But, how many players have we seen that have played the game as well as MJ? That's right, zero. And it has everything to do with what went on in MJ's head, that's where he was different and that's what set him apart. MJ had an amazing will to win, an unshakable confidence in himself and an understanding of how important it was to study the game - especially his opponents.
The fact of the matter is - most players don't have the patience to work on their mind. When they have an hour to focus on basketball they want to get on the court and do something physical. They want to form a pick-up game or work on some aspect of their game and you can't fault them for that, those are good things that need to be done. It takes practice to get in a routine of regularly working on your mind.
The good news is it's not hard to do and it doesn't take very much time. Even if a player dedicates just 15 minutes a day on improving their mental basketball state, they will improve as a player 5 to 10 times quicker than if they focusing on just physical skills. The purpose of this article is to explain the specific things that need to be done in order to obtain a powerful basketball mind.
Visualize yourself succeeding
Players should spend a good 10 minutes a day (at minimum) visualizing in their mind themselves performing well on the basketball court. It should be uninterrupted and it should be taken very seriously. It doesn't matter if it's done while listening to music or in perfect silence, it's whatever environment the player feels most comfortable in. The point of this exercise is for players to imagine themselves executing successfully the types of things they will likely be doing during games.
For example, I'm a point guard that has never dunked a basketball, for me to imagine myself stealing the ball and then throwing down a windmill dunk is silly. Instead I will visualize myself bringing the ball up the court with confidence, making sharp passes, hitting the open 3 pointer, coming off a screen and making a jump shot, things like that. You want to focus on visualizing yourself in scenarios that are very likely for you to be in during a game and visualize yourself doing them well.
If this is the first time you've ever heard of this and don't understand the power of meditation please don't be closed minded to this. IT WORKS. The mind is more powerful than any of us can comprehend and when it is conditioned to believe something, it does whatever it takes to make it happen. Does that mean that a horrible shooter can simply just imagine themselves making 10 out of 10 three pointers before a game and automatically come out and miraculously go 10 for 10 from 3 point land? No. It doesn't work that way. It's a process, not a silly hocus pocus, superstitious, magic act.
When you see yourself performing well in your mind over and over again eventually your body syncs up with the mind and starts perform in harmony with the mind. The opposite is just as true. If you continuously doubt yourself and visualize yourself as a bad player, that's exactly how you'll perform on the court.
Another reason players want to visualize their success is because it builds confidence. A very common reason players don't perform well in games is they don't handle the stress very well. They know that the shots they take all of a sudden mean something and so they get nervous about missing. If you've gone through in your head how you will shoot during a game, it will come much more naturally and you'll shoot with more confidence.
Be a student of the game
It's not enough to simply know the rules of the game. If you want to become a top caliber basketball player you have got to study the game. When you study the game you find all sorts of angles that give you advantages while you play. These little advantages can mean the difference of scoring 18 points a game vs. 14 or averaging 12 rebounds vs. 8.
Instead of just watching a game for pleasure try to focus more and really take away some things that will help you on the court. Watch the player that plays your same position and pay attention to everything he does. Try to pick up on the little things that are going on and if something takes place that you can't explain, write it down and talk to your coach about it.
Buy or rent an instructional DVD. If there is something you know you can improve in, find out what other coaches or successful players have said about the topic. Your coach probably has a whole library full of DVDs, if not they are all over the Internet. Do some searches and really try to study the topic because you aren't the first to have questions about whatever topic it might be.
Study your opponent
Players that take some time before each game to really think about their opposition perform better than those that don't. You can't just take the exact same approach into every game you play. Is the team you're playing going to play you mostly man-to-man or will they zone you? That makes a huge difference in what type of activities you'll be doing in the game and if you take 5 minutes to think about that you'll play better. It's that simple.
Other things to think about are things like how good of an offensive player is the player you'll be guarding? If they are really good you are probably going to get pretty tired guarding them and therefore you may need to adjust your philosophy on offense. If they aren't very good then you'll want to formulate a plan to help out more on defense and look for opportunities to push yourself on offense. The bottom line is this - players that goof around and take no time to think about their opponent before a game under-perform.
Fear can be one of the biggest barriers to success a basketball player can face. Fear of not succeeding, fear of looking stupid, fear of failure, etc. For you to become the player you want to be, you have to overcome your fears by addressing them head on. What I mean by that is taking some time to really think about what you are fearful of. In most instances you'll realize that what you are fearful of is actually kind of silly but you'll never come to this realization if you don't take time to address it.
What's the worst thing that can happen if you miss a shot during a game or perform poorly? Would you be the first one to ever go through that experience? Could you deal with it? Of course you could. Would it be the end of the world? Of course not. And if it's your coach your fearful of realize this - I don't know a coach out there that likes to see their players play tentative. All coaches I know would much rather you play with complete confidence and take a bad shot every once in a while than run around the court so nervous to make a mistake that you never really do anything. Really, what is there to fear?
Basketball players that use their mind to make themselves better are the cream of the crop. You could be the best conditioned and most skilled player in the world but if you're mind is a wreck it will all go to waste. Bad players that understand the potential of their mind become good players. Average players that understand the potential of their mind become elite players.