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Basketball Mental Skills Article

Perfecting the Free Throw

“I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot…when you think about the consequences, you always think of a negative result”. Michael Jordan

The successful basketball player understands the critical role that free throws play in the strategy to win games.

A player with basketball confidence uses mental toughness to maintain consistency both in practice and during pressure situations of games.

Free throws clearly indicate the ability to transfer success in practice to points in the game.

How To Be Successful At Free Throws

Successful free throw shooting requires mental focus and controlling outside distractors that may affect performance.

Fundamentals are essential to proper free throw shooting. However, at the collegiate and professional levels, all basketball players comprehend the fundamental of shooting a free throw. They have practiced and made thousands upon thousands of shots from the free-throw line.

Problems arise as players lose their mental focus and confidence, which results in reduced shooting percentages and sometimes streaks of missed shoots.

Sports psychology in basketball claims that maintaining a positive mental outlook and focus plays just as significant an impact as physical practice in the successful athlete’s preparation.

Legendary coach Bobby Knight stated it best: “Mental toughness is to physical as four is to one.”

Causes of Poor Free Throws

In my interview on ESPN’s Wisconsin radio program “Jump Around,” I discussed the causes of poor free-throw shooting while offering positive exercises that improve mental focus.

I stressed the importance of incorporating mental imagery and deep breathing exercises as a facet of an athlete’s training preparation.

Any athlete can benefit from the mental aspect of their training, but for those experiencing a slump in free throw shooting, rebuilding a strong mental focus is crucial to improving their shot.

Mental Strategies for Improvement

One feature of basketball confidence stems from the ability to remain relaxed during the pressures of a game.

Deep breathing allows the body to relax and regain its mental focus.

Players suffering from a mental block experience a disconnect that keeps their minds out of alliance with their physical performance. These players worry about the consequences of a missed shot or the reactions from coaches or teammates.

The mentally tough players focus strictly on making the shot. Taking a couple of deep cleansing breaths before any free throw, whether in practice or a game, allows the body to regain relaxation, which improves the ability to make the free throw shot.

In conjunction with the deep breathing exercises, I promote the idea of mental imagery as a component of keeping mental focus positive.

A player with basketball confidence believes they will make the shot before their hands ever touch the ball. The successful player envisions success before every single practice and every single game.

Finally, routines offer relaxation through familiarity and muscle memory. “It is important to have the same pre-game routine because consistency helps the body relax more, and consistency helps the body perform better.”

Understanding the power the mind plays in the success of any athlete is the first step to gaining mental toughness.

Incorporating mental exercises into practice and game routines exponentially improves a player’s ability to achieve optimal performance.

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