You have incredible skill and talent, but you can’t seem to get out of your own way. Honestly, you have the potential to really go far in your basketball career, but the one thing that’s holding you back is yourself. Your mindset works more like a roadblock or a hurdle, instead of a weapon or advantage. If this is you, you’re not alone. Strong competitors have a huge desire to dominate and be the best they can possibly be. But is it possible that you want to be the best so bad, you’re actually getting in your own way in the process?
If you find yourself in this boat I’ve got two words for you that could improve your mental game drastically:
Straight up – be more kind to yourself. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture and the process you are enduring. Take note of these characteristics found in elite athletes.
- Mentally tough athletes leave room for mistakes and failure.
- Mentally tough athletes might be frustrated by failure, setbacks, and mistakes, but they don’t let their minds or emotions sit there for too long. They know how to let go and move on.
- Mentally tough athletes have a strong sense of identity that is consistent in the face of adversity
- Mentally tough athletes know how to evaluate their performance without over-identifying with it.
A lot of athletes shy away from the idea self-compassion because it sounds soft or like they’re cheating themselves. Maybe you fear self-compassion would lead to less motivation or a feeling of settling for being average. When done correctly, self-compassion can actually work in the opposite direction. Let’s break down the three components of self-compassion and how it improves performance.
Extending acceptance and a nonjudgmental understanding to yourself when you encounter adversity, failure, setbacks, injuries, or any kind of hard challenge or disappointment. There’s a huge difference between harshly criticizing your performance and emotionally reacting to it versus constructive evaluation. It’s very important for you to analyze your performances to figure out strengths and areas of improvement. But you must remain objective as possible. Failure is simply data. We use that data as feedback to adjust. Also, don’t let the mistakes blind you from the positive – Your confidence depends on it.
- Common Humanity:
No athlete is perfect. I don’t care if you’re Steph Curry, you can still go out and play a whole half without scoring a point. We’ve seen it happen. But how did he respond? Well, with 33 points in the second half of course. But how did he respond mentally? With self-compassion. Steph evaluated himself during half-time, adjusted, and came out with a mindset focused on his opportunity to do better instead of dwelling on past failure. Every athlete makes mistakes and you have to accept it as part of the game. No one has a perfect game. If you’re getting frustrated about missed shots, tell yourself “you’re going to miss some before you make some. Keep shooting with confidence.” It’s all about perspective and knowing who you are as a player. Use your self-talk to direct your focus.
Maybe you have heard of the practice of mindfulness or meditation. To be clear, mindfulness is both a practice and an active mindset. Essentially as a mindset, it’s the ability to not suppress feelings while at the same time not exaggerate emotions. It’s the ability to take a step back and observe your thoughts and feelings without having to become them. I can feel frustrated by a missed shot, but I don’t have to become frustrated and dwell in that emotion for the rest of the game. We can learn this type of approach through the practice of mindfulness. Check out the app “Headspace” or “The Mental Minute EP” on any music streaming platform for guided meditation.
- Journal about your last practice/game
- Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses from your performance
- Write about the thoughts/emotions you experienced
- Write a few sentences on how you can extend kindness and patience towards yourself despite mistakes/disappointments
Contact Coach Brittany if you want to start a 1-on-1 mental training program this summer. She puts together a customized program based on your strengths, needs, and goals. She works with athletes in the Sacramento , Ca area and all around the country through her online program.