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Mental Toughness on the Basketball Court

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This was my greatest nemesis as a young player. I could score from almost anywhere on the court, except I had a problem with the breakaway lay-up. I know what you are thinking. I missed these shots at will when I was growing up until I was near 8th grade.

It got to the point that instead of laying it up, I would stop near the basket and shoot a little jump shot. It had to have been terribly embarrassing for my father as he watched from the sidelines. I hate to think how many points I could’ve scored if I could’ve hit a simple breakaway lay-up.

As I was able to get past that I realized it was a problem with my mental toughness and mindset. I write about this often because it is that important.

Basketball, I believe, is a game of perfected repetitions. Many players are great dribblers or ball handlers because that is the most common thing done on a court. Big players aren’t very good dribblers typically because common sense says that they don’t practice as much. Watch a good point-guard handle the ball and look at his face. That is a confident player who knows that he has that skill down. This player believes in himself. But focus on that same player two passes later when he has an open shot and you may find a completely different face.

The forehead rises and crumples a little and this player is unsure of himself. I say this because this is a form of mental toughness. A good basketball player always believes that he can do anything on the court well. He believes he will make any and every shot, just like he knows nobody will take the ball from him while dribbling.

You need to focus on being confident. Confidence is created from perfected repetitions and practice, practice, practice. Watch Shaq shoot a foul shot and you’ll see a player who is completely lost at the line. Each shot is completely different from the other one. No confidence. When he makes it, it seems like an accident. Be confident and get there by completed perfect repetitions of what you are working on.

Watch games with a purpose. You’ll hear me talk about this all the time. Watch games on television or go to high school games and college games. When I was 5 years old I remember my dad taking me to high school games and asking me if I could see myself out there one day. That stuck with me for years as it moved on to college.

Watch instructional videos. When I was younger I would go through the Pistol Pete set, the Steve Alford set and anything else my dad could get his hands on. Was it worth it? To my father it was and to me it was. It’s a minimal investment worth a potential scholarship. If you can get one source to get a light to go on and help you realize the type of player you can become, you’d want it wouldn’t you? I would think so. Just like people pay for education and dance classes and such.

Don’t be afraid of the competition. Push yourself and play against players that are better than you. Sure, you may be intimidated at first, but that is something that goes away with practice and repetition. When I was in 7th grade I was chosen to play with the 9th graders and it was a big deal to me. I was very small and at first I was very intimidated. That passed as I realized what my strengths were and what I needed to work on.

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I mentioned in other articles about going to camps and this I would highly recommend. Great players want to play against great players. When I went against Jason Kidd I learned that I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought. When Travis Best scored 10 points on me in 4 possessions I was pretty humbled. When that happens, you have two choices, quit or get better. Anyone reading this should pick the get better part. Learn from experience and move on. Those players were pros and I knew they were going to be pros then.

Basketball, golf, hockey, and football are truly gamesBasketball Tips of perfected repetition. I got over my lay-up phobia by hard-work and practice. It wasn’t easy and I faltered at times, we all do, but the best players learn from mistakes and improve on them. In life we will all fail at something but what determines the type of player and person we are is how we act when we fall down. The best way to be mentally tough is to put yourself in situations and overcome them. That doesn’t happen while you’re playing video games.

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