Im 15 years old and my coach always tells me that physically im the best on the team. I’m not tryin to brag but im the fastest girl and the best jumper, but I can NEVER keep my head during the game. I can only think about go go go … never actually using my skils. What do I need to do to keep my head?

Hello Taylor,

thanks for your question!
Being good in any sports usually needs at least two fundamental things, like physical fitness and a professional practice environment. Still, this doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be successful in your career. You might be the best in your team, but even then, you aren’t as successful as you could be.

In some cases this has to do with a “mental block” preventing you from truly excelling. For example, if you’ve missed a game-winning shot this may stick in your head for a long time. You aren’t sure anymore, if you will make the shot when a similar situation occurs.

Mental training can help you get over this slump and especially in professional sports it is mental training can support the physical practice.

So, the questions is: How do you get over it?

The Answer:
Well, the answer is quite simple … but not so easy, too. Here are two techniques you may want to try and which will give you immediate success.

Recall the positive moments and create a vision
You have to recall all the successful moments you’ve had in games and practices.

-When did you score the last two important, game-winning freethrows?
-When did you have your last high-scoring game?
-When did you and your team play really great defense?

Take out a sheet of paper and write down when you’ve truly excelled in the game of Basketball. Write down how you felt in detail. Then, pick the 3 or 4 most positive aspects you recall and write them down, too.

This is your Vision of Success. Take it out before an important game and “load” your concious mind with these positive parameters. It will make a difference in the game, just believe in yourself!

Align your Attention
Another technique is to focus and turn your attention towards your inner self. This may be helpful on times, when you are on the bench and need to refocus (or recall the positive moments from 1.).

Focusing on your inner self will help you calm down and will prevent negative thoughts or fear.

Here’s a breathing method commonly used by professionals:
Sit on the bench or chair. Put your feet flat on the ground about shoulder-width apart. Let your arms hang loosely at the side of your body. Close your eyes and breathe in and out evenly. When inhaling you can feel the tension of the upper body, and when exhaling slowly feel it release.

Breathe in deeply from the belly. You’ll feel the tension in the range of the face, neck, shoulders and chest. Release the tension when you exhale and concentrate on the feeling of heaviness in your stomach. Keep breathing evenly in and out, and focus your full attention into the area just behind the navel.

Focused attention on holding this position and breathe as evenly as possible. Now, you should feel a little more controlled and calmed. With each exhalation think of a word which emphasizes your positive emotions and helps you regain the needed mental focus. Use the words and aspects you’ve written down in your Vision of Success.

There are many methods and techniques in getting your head back and refocus, and athletes use them in different ways. For example, players have different rituals before games. Rituals can be very important and support your mental game. Think about freethrows, where players always do the same moves before shooting. Some hear music while warming -up and stretching. Others wear special clothes. Michael Jordan used to wear his North Carolina shorts under his Chicago uniform. Team-wise, before tip-off run out to a huddle and let your opponents hear your battle cry.

Try to find something which is right for you.

Last but not least, talk to your coach about your concerns. He will find a way to help you take away your fears, build up your confidence and help you show the world what great player you are.

Keep up your head, Taylor!