Whenever I go to watch a high school or club game I try to sit across from the team benches so I can watch the coaches coach while checking out the attitudes and reactions of the players who are not in the game.
However, I recently found myself in a very tiny gym with limited seating and so ended up sitting right behind one of the team benches. I obviously couldn't see the faces of the players or coaches but I could hear much of what was yelled from the bench and discussed in timeouts.
After calling out specific offenses and yelling "Get a stop!" the next most common topic of instruction was focus. In fact, 17 times either the head coach or one of his assistants told the players to concentrate or focus on what was going on during the game!
The problem is that most players don't really know how to improve their level of concentration and so the instruction is often ignored. (Although I couldn't help but notice that some players would nod their head in agreement but then make an obvious mental mistake soon afterwards.)
The ability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand is a skill that can be improved with practice if a player really wants to strengthen that part of his or her game.
Here are 3 things to consider while you are on the court:
1. Stay in the moment
How many times do you see a player miss a shot, make a mistake, or be on the bad end of a questionable officiating call lose his focus for the next several possessions? Or have you ever seen a player make a great shot and then scream or thump his chest while his opponent streaks by him to get a layup at the other end? No matter what happens you need to be constantly reminding yourself "Next play, next play."
2. Practice eye control.
What you look at is usually what you concentrate on and think about. Do you look your coach square in the eye during timeouts or are you scanning the stands for your friends? Every time you take a shot do you look over to the bench to see your coach's reaction? Are you constantly looking at the clock during practice to see how much time is left? If you do any of these try keeping your eyes glued to the action on the court. Watch the ball, your defensive assignment and the other players in the game and nothing else!
3. Don't wait until game day.
Start increasing your concentration level in every team practice and individual work out. Approach every shot you take like it's the potential game winner in the state championship game. You probably don't do a lot of joking, clowning, laughing, and frivolous chatting during games so why do those things while practicing or working out.
Off the court try using these phone and tablet apps to improve your overall focus and concentration:
Lumosity Mobile. One of the most popular brain training apps with over 50 million users. Allows you to have a different 15-20 minute "workout" every day and lets you keep track of your progress. The app also lets you compare your scores with the scores of other users which is great for those who are motivated by competition.
Memory Matches 2. This is the classic memory game where you flip over one card and then try to find/remember its match. There are over 100 different levels so this app isn't just for little kids. There are 4 different board sizes for iPhones and 7 different board sizes for iPads.
iMimic Says & Memory Block. These two apps are "Simon" type games where you try to duplicate a series of sounds and lights. The more you improve, the longer the sequence. I really like this app for basketball players because it incorporates sight, sound, and reaction time. This is bound to help those players who remember vital information just a little too late to be effective.
You undoubtedly spend hours working on your physical skills each week so why not spend just a few minutes each day working on your mental skills as well? It could be the difference between being average and good or between being good and great.