It happened more than once that players shared with me the information about not playing well in certain games. When I am trying to enquire about the reasons, their response is usually identical: “I do not know.”
Then I ask: “Did something happen in your recent trainings? In your last game? Are there outside court circumstances that affect you?
The reply which I recurrently hear is: “I did not have confidence, I was not concentrated.”
In most cases, the reasons that a player showed up for the game lacking confidence or not concentrated can be attributed to his mind set and precisely because of that he can do a lot to change this situation
Before I move forward, I am asking from each of you that are interested in making a change to make a pause in this stage and write down the thoughts that usually go through his mind few days before the game
Finished- leave the paper aside and only then move on reading.
Thoughts which come across players’ mind before a game
A. This is one game that we have to win
B. If I won’t score 15 points, then I did nothing
C. It’s time to give a show people will not forget. I need to rise up to this occasion.
D. A lot of crowd will attend; I mustn’t let down my parents, friends, etc.
If the above examples represent your thinking pattern, it is probable that these goals – instead of boosting your confidence, make you fail. The reason for that is simple:
The goals that you have set depend on external factors, which you can only partially control and as such they are not reasonable goals.
Dynamics of discouraging thinking
A. This is one game that we have to win – If the team loses a game which I marked as a must-win (this may well happen), will it really help me going confident and concentrated to the next game… or only more anxious?
Does winning depend just on the motivation of me and my teammates? Doesn’t the other team want to win? Is it possible to play well and lose anyway?
B. If I won’t score 15 points, then I did nothing – If you score 5 points, do good defense, stills and catch 3 rebounds… did you really not contributed to the team’s game? Maybe the opponent ordered his best defender to guard you and in this game he gives you a hard time to score, but this situation makes other player more open to shoot – Will you identify this and do the adjustment, or stick to your game plan for the points you are supposed to score?
C. It’s time to give a show people will not forget. I need to rise up to this occasion – Every game is a show on its own. You aspire to lift up your performance in each game. There is no reason for you to change this approach in this game or another.
D. A lot of crowd will attend; I mustn’t let down my parents, friends, etc. –
Does it really matter what your friends, parents or other people, sitting in the crowd or at home, think of you during the game? Will this really help you get more focused in the game?
The principal of individual control
Every player wishes and aspires to win the game. But if the individual player has no way to control the game’s atmosphere (home game or away game), injured players, the judging, the motivation of his opponents, the number of points he scores, other people thoughts about his game, so what is the point of wondering about all these issues before the game?
Once we are focused at goals which are beyond our control, we in fact intensify our own stress level and by this way we make ourselves fail
The legendary NCAA coach, John Wooden* said, that he had never pointed to his players that they had to win a game; he only required from each of them to make the most in order to be focused and play with confidence. This involves first practicing, sleep, nutrition, being strict with the small details and goes on to the thoughts in the days prior to the game.
Setting reasonable goals will help you appear to the game concentrated and with confidence. The difference between reasonable goals and unreasonable goals derives from the extent you can control fulfilling these goals.
Examples of Positive Thinking
A. I am a tough defender. I give no easy shots.
B. I am positioning for the rebound every time the ball is thrown to the basket
C. I jump on every loose ball that is rolling near me
D. I keep moving all the time and cutting to the basket
E. I pass the ball a lot without extra dribbling
All the above are meaningful actions that a player can be accountable for, because he is the one in control. If a player performs these actions, he will become a factor in the game. As such they can be held as confidence building and help the player stay concentrated. A player who catches 3 rebounds, passes an assist or two and defends well – will also penetrate to the basket and shoot whenever he sees a chance.
Dynamics of success promoting thinking
A. I am a tough defender. I give no easy shots. – This is only up to me. It will make the opponent lose his confidence and it will affect his whole team
B. I am positioning for the rebound every time the ball is thrown to the basket – This is only up to me. Each rebound that is won by my team is one ball less for the rival team. I can influence the game’s outcome by this way.
C. I jump on every loose ball that is rolling near me – This is only up to me and reflects my character
D. I keep moving all the time and cutting to the basket – Doing that will significantly increase my chances to score.
E. I pass the ball a lot without extra dribbling – I concentrate in the team’s favor and contribute to the good atmosphere. My teammates will support me back later on.
To summarize: Instead of thinking about the game’s outcomes before it even starts and get yourselves overly pressured, concentrate in the right actions, which will lead you to feel confident and concentrated in the game.
This is all in your hands!
Earn the right to be proud and confident
(Coach John Wooden)