How To Create A Postive Game Day Mindset

We don’t often talk about the mental health aspect of basketball, but it affects an athlete’s performance just as much as the physical aspects—don’t believe us? Just ask the San Antonio Spurs, whose championship win can easily be credited to having a strong game day mindset, resulting in three nearly-flawless games at the end of their series. Ahead of every game, NBA players listen to music and cut out the world in an effort to focus on the task at hand. Here are five things basketball pros do to stay frosty.

Minimize distractions
Although distractions come in every size and shape, nearly every NBA player participating in playoffs cuts down on distractions, including shutting down their Twitter and Instagram accounts on the first day of the postseason. There’s a good reason for it, too. When ramping up for a major game, leaving yourself open to the inevitable criticisms of the internet can cause you to doubt yourself. Even if you’re certain you’ll put up a W on the big day, feeling the additional, self-imposed responsibility of having to share your daily moments (not to mention the fear of missing out gnawing at your focus) is a distraction that’s best kept at arm’s length.

Keep the challenge fresh
Consider performing a mental warm-up routine of sorts, either by envisioning yourself overcoming challenging scenarios or by putting in some extra practice immediately before the event. This will keep your on your game. Having to go up against a worthy opponent after taking it easy for a while creates complacency. Furthermore, it may take most of the competition before you reach your peak focus and get in your groove—time you don’t have. Case in point: San Antonio had the benefit of grinding through a stacked Western Conference, ensuring their players had a fighting mentality when they faced Miami. The Heat, however, had a much easier run through a weaker Eastern Conference. Guess who won in the end?

Remember your defeats, not your victories
The Spurs entered the playoffs reeling from a 2013 loss, and they were better for it. Remembering the loss carried them through their matchups with a purpose—some might call it a thirst for revenge. Whatever it was, it created an inimitable drive, Tim Duncan told Reuters.Furthermore, remembering your weakest points will help you avoid repeating mistakes. Just take your defeats as constructive criticism, as dwelling on losses too much can work against you.

Get a good night’s rest

Having good sleep hygiene is a simple, yet effective, way to stay mentally fit and improve your focus. A 2011 School of Medicine study found that basketball players netting 10 hours of sleep gained improved focus, increasing players’ free-throw shooting accuracy by around nine per cent, three-point accuracy by 9.5 per cent and decreasing sprint times by roughly five seconds. If you can’t sleep 10 hours a night, don’t worry—in the study, athletes missing a few hours made up for it with daytime naps.

Don’t compare yourself to others
Comparing yourself to your opposition can be a focus-killer. Tim Duncan and LeBron James didn’t go out on the floor wondering how they stack up against each other; they played acknowledging one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Worrying who is better puts the focus on the game’s outcome (losing versus winning) instead of on the process (technique and how you play). Don’t get sucked into that.


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