Having trouble getting out of a shooting slump? It feels good, but it’s just not falling! Well, guess what? You’re in good company. Arguably one of the best shooters of all time, Stephen Curry, finds himself in the history books for the most missed threes without a make in a single game going 0-11. At the end of the day, it’s all about maintaining confidence and trusting the process.
The truth is the art of shooting has everything to do with how you train your mind to perform when it matters the most. Shooting slumps and poor performances are a part of the game.
What separates the elite players from the good players is your ability to remain mentally tough despite the ups and downs of performance.
Mental toughness is your ability to stick it out and not give in! When the mind experiences loss or failure we tend to jump into a preventative mindset, which results in us playing with fear, second-guessing shot selection, having doubts, and negative thoughts. We need to lock into our purpose mindset, which is focusing on your game plan, your strengths, why you’re here competing, and just going for it. Too many athletes allow their poor performances and shooting slumps to define them. I encourage you to not even to use the word “slump”. When Curry was asked about his shooting slump, he said, “I never really use that word because a slump, to me, means that you lose a little bit of confidence and what not”.
There are specific mental skills that are absolutely necessary to overcome shooting slumps and poor performances. There are several but I’ll share a few that you can immediately start practicing to implement during games and in between games:
- Next play mentality
- Mental rehearsal
- Positive self-talk
- Practice shooting routines
In Game Techniques
Elite athletes master the ability to be mentally present in the moment. When we experience consistent misses or mistakes in games we tend to fixate on the past and worry about the future. This state of worry keeps us from focusing on the present moment. How many times have you missed a shot and noticed yourself thinking about it while running back on defense or in between dead balls?
Elite athletes have what is called “Next Play Speed”.
It’s the ability to mentally move on to the next play and let go of mistakes quickly. One way to do this is by using your breath. The breath is the one thing that can bring us back to the present moment. So as you run back on defense, as your teams resets the play, or during a timeout, take a breath and focus on that breath for a second to bring yourself back to the present moment. Making sure to take deep breaths in between shots and possessions is also going to keep your muscles from getting tight and keep plenty of oxygen flowing to your brain, which will help your mechanics stay solid and enhance your decision making ability. You have to train your mind to have a short memory and see each shot you take as an individual event. You have to believe that before you take a shot, nothing before that shot matters anymore.
Positive self-talk is a huge mental technique that can keep you focused and emotionally stable. Self-talk is everything you say to yourself out loud or in your head during the game. It can be extremely frustrating when shots aren’t falling. But, if you choose to react with negative body language or say negative statements to yourself, you’re giving an opportunity for doubt and distraction to creep in. You want to use positive self-talk to direct your focus to the next play or shot. Using cue words like “next play”, “stay confident”, or “I got the next one” will keep doubt from coming in and keep your confidence from being affected.
In Between Games
In between games is where you can address frustrations and figure out what needs to be worked on. I want to make it very clear that if you are experiencing a shooting slump you should not drastically change your shooting routine in practice or training. Make set routines at practice or during training sessions and stick with them. Don’t change how you are preparing. Use film to double check mechanics, but stick to your routines otherwise. Your training is where you should be getting your confidence. Even through poor performances or shooting slumps, you should never feel like you have a false sense of confidence because your confidence comes from hours of perfecting your craft. Trust your training and your shots will start falling again.
One of the most powerful mental skills that you can practice in between games and during your pre-game routine is mental rehearsal. This is when you visualize yourself performing in your mind’s eye. Mental rehearsal requires you to use all five of your senses. The truth is when you use mental rehearsal your brain actually can’t tell the difference between real training and imagined training. Research has shown that our body experiences real reps in practice the same way it experiences mental reps. Before or after practice and before games you want to imagine yourself making shots and making moves you want to make in real game situations.
Take about five minutes and imagine these scenarios and include what you are seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling. Be patient with yourself if you are new to this. It will take some practice to get good at including all senses. Start with a few senses at first. You want to make the visualization as real as possible. Coupling mental rehearsal with shooting drills helps build your confidence and helps you gain your rhythm back. You need to see the ball go through the net as much as possible to build and maintain that confidence. Also, you want to imagine yourself making mistakes and missing shots and responding positively and confidently in the next play and during the next shot. The idea here is to visualize realistic game situations so that when you are there in the moment you know how to respond and nothing really surprises you.
Take time to practice these mental skills and techniques and trust the process. Don’t let a shooting slump or poor performances define your abilities and who you are as a player. Remember, mental toughness comes from your ability to stick with it and not give in when things get tough. Mental skills can be learned and must be practiced as consistently as physical skills. Your mindset can either be a weapon or a weakness; the choice is yours.
Contact Coach Brittany if you are interested in working 1 on 1 with a mental performance coach to strengthen your mental game and take your game to the next level!
Founder of Heart & Soul Consulting | Mental Performance Coach | Youth Counselor | Teacher