Basketball Mental Skills Article

Anxiety and The Athlete

“No matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day.” DeMar DeRozan.

While Demar DeRozan was playing for the Toronto Raptors, he reported that depression and anxiety got the best of him during the game.

He went on to say, “it’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day.” “We all got feelings … all of that. Sometimes … it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world’s on top of you.

Feelings of anxiety such as tremors, muscle tightening, high blood pressure, sweating, and panic attacks can result in low performance.

When a player experiences feelings of anxiety, they cannot play to their full potential.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.

They may avoid certain situations out of worry.

Statistics show that 35% of elite athletes struggle with their mental health. This could be in the form of anxiety, burnout, eating disorders, and depression.

In recent years, athletes have been speaking up concerning their mental struggles. Here are a few athletes that have done so are:

• Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps
• USC volleyball player Victoria Garrick
• MLB player David Freese

In the world of basketball, some NBA players have shared their struggles with mental health. They are:

• Kevin Love
• DeMar DeRozan
• Markelle Fultz
• Paul Pierce

Just before a game, it is expected that a player may get feelings of nervousness, this can be beneficial as it gets their blood racing, and it can result in a good performance.

But this is not so in most cases; the battles that go on in a player’s mind can significantly reduce the performance and may cause the player to withdraw completely.

When a player is anxious, they may have thoughts like:

• “I have to score at least four three-pointers, or I have achieved nothing.”
• “I made a violation last game. If I’m not extra careful this time, then it’s over.”
• “If we don’t win this game, we will let down many people.”

These few, among others, are the thoughts that run through a player’s mind.

Many players hide their struggles and develop a sports mentality that the game to be won is all that matters. They do not concern themselves with their mental wellness. They focus on getting the job done instead of their mental health.

Why Athletes are Hesitant to Seek Help

The reasons players are reluctant in seek help are not different from the average person.

  • Fear that they may be mocked.
  • Fear that they may get benched.
  • Fear of the stigma associated with seeing a professional

Whatever the player may be afraid of, they can be reluctant to seek help. Some may go as far as denying that there is a problem.

Here are some strategies to help athletes struggling with anxiety.

• Identify and acknowledge feelings of anxiety
• Talk to people – a friend, parent, or professional
• Develop a positive mindset
• Make and stick to a mental wellness plan
• Get adequate sleep

Know that it is okay to experience anxiety. As a basketball player, know that you are not alone.

If you are struggling with anxiety, consider taking the anxiety assessment at drdcoffey.com/mentalhealth.


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