Basketball Players and Peak Performance

Is Your Head Getting in Your Way as a Basketball Player?

 There’s 5 tics left on the clock and your team is down by one point. The coach calls a time-out and goes over the last play of the game. The coach tells you he’s going with YOU! It’s in your hands! The whole season comes down to this one basketball game, to this one final play. Win here and your team goes on to the next round in the tournament. Lose here and the season’s over. The crowd is going crazy. Both benches are on their feet. The air is electric…and you? Where’s your head at a pressure-packed time like this? Do you really want the ball in your hands with the game on the line or are you quietly freaking out inside worrying about blowing it and embarrassing yourself?

Your basketball skills and moves on the court are only as good as your head. YOUR PHYSICAL GAME IS ALWAYS LIMITED BY YOUR PHYSICAL ONE! 

Are you mentally tough as a basketball player? Can you step up to the foul line and stay calm, loose and focused enough to block out all those razzing fans who are desperately trying to get into your head? What kind of free throw percentage do you shoot now? Want to dramatically improve it? Then don’t just practice physically. Start practicing mentally too. Foul shooting is a good 90% mental. Learn to relax under pressure, focus on what’s important, block out distractions and let go of missed shots.

How about your role on the team? Are you a super-star and on the court most of the time or are you a support player who comes off the bench and gets limited minutes every game, the most difficult position to play on a basketball team? Anybody can act and feel like a winner and keep their head in the game when they get to play all the time. However, it takes real MENTAL TOUGHNESS and character to act like a winner and keep your head in the game when your time on the court is short. Do you know how to mentally stay with it so that when you finally get the coach’s nod you’re able to play well and make the most of your opportunity? Far too many basketball players sit on the bench and stew about not getting enough PT. When the coach finally puts them in, they’re mentally not ready and can’t get in the flow! As a result they play poorly and are quickly benched again.

Can you handle your mistakes out on the basketball court? Do you know how to quickly bounce back from missed shots and blown assignments so that these screw-ups don’t follow you around the whole game? The true mark of a champion is how he/she deals with mistakes. When the coach yells at you for blowing it, can you separate his message from your self-worth? Can you correct the mistake and confidently put it behind you. I’ve seen far too many talented basketball players perform way below their potential because they couldn’t tolerate making mistakes and never learned how to let them go. When they messed up they would mentally beat themselves up for it and kill their self-confidence. Or they’d dwell on the coach’s criticisms and let that erode their self-confidence. Players like Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were so great because they could quickly let go of their mistakes and bad shots.

Think about a game when you played “out of your mind”, you couldn’t miss. Remember how easy it felt? How effortless? You’ll always play your best when you’re trusting yourself and letting the game come to you. Too many basketball players get into trying too hard and pressing, forcing themselves to play well because “this is a big game.” Maybe the varsity coach, or a college or pro scout is watching. Maybe you’re trying to move up from JV to varsity and need to make a good impression on the varsity coach. Understand one important thing here. “Trying” to play well will always get you playing terrible! Your game will not come to you if you press or try to force it. You have that great game inside of you but it will only come out if you relax, trust yourself and “let it happen.”

Mental toughness training can teach you how to focus, block out distractions, manage competitive stress, maintain a positive attitude, develop confidence and handle hardships like a champion. It can also teach you to rebound quickly from mistakes, bad breaks and tough losses, and effectively prepare for big games.  

I can promise you that if you begin to commit yourself to strengthening your “mental muscles” you will lift the overall level of your game and maximize your chances of reaching your basketball dreams.

Are you in a shooting slump? Do you get too nervous to play your best when it counts the most? Let me help you get your game back on track with my One-On-One SKYPE consultation services. Call me today at (413) 549-1085 or email

Dr. Alan Goldberg is the former Sports Performance Consultant for the 1999 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champion UConn Huskies and has worked with NBA, Collegiate and High School players. He specializes in helping athletes overcome performance fears and slumps and perform to their potential. He is the author of "Using Your Head To Play Championship Basketball" and his newest audio training program, Basketball with the Competitive Edge