Basketball Mental Skills Article

Mental Prep for Adversity

Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.” – Kobe Bryant.

If these words are anything to go by, then adversity just may be one of the best things that could ever happen to a basketball player. Unfortunately, the truth is not that simple.

It takes a specific mindset to thrive in times of hardship. Without it, adversity will not make you stronger; it could break you instead.

The good news is there is something you can do about it. There are several ways to improve your mental fitness and prepare for adversity

Prepare Your Mind

Preparing your mind is a four-step process that requires clarity, introspection, resolution, and action, as explained below.

1. Find clarity – What is the problem? What are you afraid of? Define the issue – make break it down to its simplest form. If it is more than a single problem, write clear definitions of all the issues that collectively constitute what is worrying you.

2. Introspective – Be honest with yourself. For each of your problems, ask yourself, what is the worst possible thing that could happen? Are you worried that you would underperform at critical moments, make mental mistakes, or miss shots? If any of these events were to occur, what is the worst thing that could happen?

3. Resolution – Accept what you cannot change. Once you’ve identified the worst possible outcomes, accept that they are going to happen, regardless of what you do. It might seem counterintuitive, but it is not. Interestingly, the moment you stop fighting it, you will relax, and your thoughts will clear. Your ability to address the situation will improve significantly.

4. Take Action – Take steps to mitigate the worst-case scenarios that you have already accepted are going to happen. Put all your physical and mental strength at work to minimizing the problem or resolving the difficulty. Do not think about who is responsible; focus on the steps you can take to mitigate the consequences.

Tips For Mental Toughness

Positive self-talk – There is clear scientific evidence that internal dialogue is a powerful psychological tool. Every thought in your mind is a seed that could grow into a mindset or attitude.

Your attitudes guide your actions or behaviors, which yield results or consequences. The results of your actions reaffirm and strengthen your thoughts, and the cycle continues.

If you want a positive outcome from your game, you will need to divert your mind from negative, gloomy thoughts to positive, conquering ones. Using cue words and affirmations both silently (in your mind) and externally (aloud) equips you with the mental toughness you need to overcome the obstacles, thus helping you achieve a desirable result.

Visualization – Visualization requires you to see yourself in the place you want to be. It is all about taking your positive thoughts and using your imagination to create mental projections of what you want to achieve. By imagining yourself successfully overcoming the challenge and believing in yourself, you will unlock the mental energy necessary to overcome any difficulty.

Talk to a friend – One of the most beautiful things about basketball is that it is a team sport. The encouragement and synergy that come from others pushing you to do your absolute best can take you farther than you could ever go on your own. A relevant saying here is that “iron sharpeneth iron.” encouraging words from someone with whom you have a great relationship will propel you past any obstacle.

In Summary

Successful athletes are not without personal challenges.

They respond quickly and positively to their problems. They think through them in advance and anticipate them. When this is not possible, they use strategies like the four-step method to resolve them.

Making it through the season requires quick and positive responses to your problems and anxieties. It is not easy, but you can certainly do it.

Learn how to elevate your game by taking my FREE mental skills assessment. Download the assessment at


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