Dec 22, 2022 | TAGGED MOTIVATION
Basketball for youth is a fun sport that is packed with physical and mental health benefits. Some important benefits include better stamina, endurance, flexibility, agility, speed, strength, heart health, motor skills, coordination, confidence, and concentration.
But it is also a high-pressure sport as players typically play in high-stress situations and need to make the right decisions in an instant. This calls for a better baseline of mental health practices that can ensure players perform effectively in all kinds of challenging situations on and off the court.
Mindfulness is a popular tool that can help players take their game to the next level. If you are curious about what mindfulness means and why it is important for youth basketball players, we’ve dealt with the topic in detail.
We will also cover nine simple ways to improve mindfulness so you can become a better and stronger basketball player.
Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your thoughts, emotions, feelings, and bodily sensations while staying in the present moment. It is the capacity to step back and notice these different aspects as a neutral, uncritical observer.
This moment-by-moment awareness helps you understand the workings of your mind, body, and different areas of your life.
Mindfulness was a literal game changer for the NBA team Chicago Bulls and its star player Michael Jordan in 1993. The team’s head coach Phil Jackson brought in sports psychologist and meditation guru George Mumford to teach mindfulness practices to his players.
Jackson believed that mindfulness could help his players manage stress better, stay in the moment, and maintain focus while playing. The results supported his belief as the Chicago Bulls became the season’s champions while Jordan won four awards for his incredible feats on the court.
In fact, wherever Jackson went, championships followed him. Not only did the Chicago Bulls win six times when he was head coach from 1989 to 1998 but the LA Lakers also won five championships with him from 1999 to 2011.
It was as Jackson told Oprah Winfrey in an interview in 2013, “As much as we pump iron and we run to build our strength up, we need to build our mental strength up so we can focus … and so we can be in concert with one another in times of need.”
Mindfulness has gained even more importance in recent years as many NBA players and coaches have been opening up about their mental health issues. DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Love, and John Lucas are some eminent basketball personalities who have brought attention to their mental health struggles.
Here, we will dive a little further into the importance of mindfulness for youth basketball players to help you understand why it is crucial to your game:
As a basketball player, playing high-pressure games with many pairs of eyes on you can be stressful and even intimidating. The ability to observe your experience with a more neutral attitude can help you understand how you’re feeling and respond to it healthily.
Mindfulness practices can help us get in touch with our body and mind so we can better understand how we react to stress. This makes mindfulness a powerful tool for dealing with a high-pressure sport and the success that comes with it.
To offer you some strong evidence, in 2013, George Mason University (GMU) researchers studied the effects of mindfulness training on GMU’s men’s basketball team. The 13 team players voluntarily participated in eight 90-minute sessions of mindfulness training for five weeks.
They learned simple mindfulness techniques and exercises such as mindful breathing and observing how their body reacted to stress. They were also told to count backward from 100 by sevens while their partner told them a story as a way to improve their concentration. In addition, the players did an hour of yoga after each training session.
After receiving training, the players reported greater mindfulness, lower stress levels, more energy, and more enthusiasm in the pursuit of their goals.
Mindfulness is a wonderful way to sharpen one’s focus and shift one’s complete attention to the present moment in the game. It helps basketball players stay in the zone while playing on the court without getting distracted by teammates, opponents, fans, and even their own thoughts and feelings.
Essentially, it helps players keep their mental chatter in check and not let it wreak havoc on the game by keeping them focused and centered.
Many mindfulness researchers have studied the effects of mindfulness on free throws as a way to understand how it affects performance on the court. Considering that free throws require a lot of mental strength and skill, this does not come as a surprise.
Mindfulness heightens the senses of basketball players and syncs their bodies and minds to the point that they can sometimes sink a free throw even with their eyes closed.
A 2009 study reported that Division I college basketball players who had higher scores on a mindfulness survey enjoyed greater free-throw success during matches.
A 2015 study backs this research with its findings that even when blindfolded, skilled free-throw shooters have higher levels of proprioception or a greater sense of body positioning.
The growing body of research on mindfulness in basketball suggests that it has meaningful benefits for the athletic performance of individuals and basketball teams.
If mindfulness can help Michael Jordan learn how to focus as he dunked from the free throw line, it can surely help you level up your game. Here are nine simple ways you can harness mindfulness to manage stress and fine-tune your performance on the court:
Paying attention to your breathing is an incredible way to help you enter into a mindful state. This fundamental technique helps you watch and observe yourself rather than react and respond to your feelings, emotions, and thoughts. The more aware you are of your breathing, the more anchored and centered you will feel.
When you practice mindful breathing regularly, you can center and ground yourself anywhere — even amid chaos and stress. You’ll find your breath flowing like the tide which naturally moves in and out while connecting your body to your mind and vice versa.
If you’re curious about how mindful breathing works, here’s the explanation: At times of stress, our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) produces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin (epinephrine). A build-up of these hormones in our bodies weakens our immune system and our capacity to think and respond clearly.
Mindful breathing calms the SNS and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). The PSNS lowers our heart rate and blood pressure and helps us slow down and relax.
To focus on your breath, close your eyes and sit comfortably on a cushion. Draw attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale. You can also focus on your breath while doing an internal body scan. This involves scanning your body from head to toe for stress responses such as tension, pain, relaxation, and so on.
Here’s a simple stress-busting breathing technique you can try for greater mindfulness:
With your mouth closed, quietly breathe in through your nose for four counts.
Keep your breath held for seven seconds.
Exhale fully through your mouth while you make a “whoosh” as you count to eight.
As a basketball player, your mental state is as important as your physical state. By practicing mindfulness, you can also learn proper body posture since it requires you to be more aware of your physical body and how you’re holding yourself.
Know how your body is positioned, including your limbs and joints. Carry yourself properly at all times. This helps you develop a better mind-body connection and allows your breath to travel freely through your body.
To unleash better performance on the court, it is important to learn to be in the moment. Living for the moment will help you experience greater happiness instead of focusing on the past or the future.
This simple but crucial technique will keep you from worrying about the errors you might have made during practice, a game, or an upcoming match. It prevents you from getting distracted and improves your concentration.
Learning to be in the present moment also helps you quiet your mind and body as you focus on a single object instead of too many at a time. This creates a synergy that leads to better performance.
To give this technique a try, focus on a thought in your mind or the activity you’re currently doing. Maintain focus on your chosen object for a minute. If you can do it without your mind wandering, increase the session to two minutes and keep building gradually as you go.
One of the top reasons for the success of elite players, besides their skills and resources, is their intention and desire to succeed. Intentions are excellent motivators that push players to achieve what they want.
Setting intentions with a positive mindset and combining this practice with visualization, outcome expectation, and training helps players accomplish great feats on and off the court.
While engaging in this practice, it is important to focus on who you want to be and not on what you wish to accomplish. For example, your goal should be to become a better, more well-rounded player and not to sink a certain number of baskets.
Also, consistently take small, incremental steps in the right direction to achieve superior results. Build habits slowly and steadily that help you reach your goals. Drills and regular practice along with a healthy lifestyle are key to becoming a strong and skilled basketball player.
You must also plan for success. Adjust your routine and environment so that you can incorporate your new lifestyle habits easily and set yourself up for success. Your habits and environment affect your mindset and can thwart or support your intentions. So, you must stay mindful of them.
Besides setting intentions, you must also learn to use outcome expectation and kinesthetic imagery to your advantage in basketball. Outcome expectation is deciding on the outcome that you want or expect. This outcome can be positive or negative.
If you believe in a positive outcome, you will perform with a positive mindset and a high level of confidence. On the other hand, if you expect things to go wrong, your brain will take those cues and accordingly alter your actions which creates the outcome you expected.
To give you an example, if you think everything will work out in your favor, you will have more confidence while approaching a free throw. This will help you adjust your throw so that you achieve your goal.
Many highly talented and skilled players often don’t play at their best because they don’t recognize their talents and skills. They lack self-trust and do not have a clear sense of purpose. They fail to understand that their reality depends on how they see themselves.
If you think that you’re lacking in something and keep comparing yourself to others, you need to reexamine your self-talk. You must not pin your success and accomplishments on luck alone and must instead be more cognizant of your hard work, skills, and talent.
Basketball players need to build physical and mental strength which may make them view self-care as overrated or dramatic even. But caring for your team and most importantly yourself — just as coach Phil Jackson has been exhorting since the early nineties — is essential for improved performance in games.
Players need to reframe macho masculinity and understand that it does not make them weak when they care for themselves and the people around them. Self-care and self-love ignite the spirit and bind basketball teams together.
When you do drills, make sure you do them with intention. Zero in on a specific aspect of your play that you wish to work on and practice it with focus and purpose.
The intention-setting practice that we talked about earlier will prove useful at this stage. Think about the intentions that you set and visualize them mentally while you practice. This will create a mental and physical shift that affects the way your body moves so it performs better on the court.
The brain will send messages to your body about the specific goal that you want to experience and will help you play in a way that achieves it.
Get out of your comfort zone and become comfortable with the unknown to elevate your game. Keep challenging yourself mentally and physically and embrace a little discomfort for the sake of the sport.
Constantly pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone is a scary process fraught with fear and uncertainty. But it will help you grow as a player and improve your skills and moves on the court.
A coach or teammate can help you learn how to play outside your comfort zone and push yourself. You must also learn to take risks and stretch your limits to attain new knowledge and skills so you can access flow more readily even in difficult situations.
But make sure you stretch yourself just enough to see incremental growth and not so much that you exert yourself more than necessary or injure yourself.
Mindfulness is a fantastic way to harness the power of your mind to help you level up in basketball. Incorporate the practices and tips we shared with you in this article to help you stay more mindful and powerful in your game.
Also, combine these mindfulness techniques with basketball programs for youth that will help you achieve greater skills development and success in the sport. If you’re looking for a program for basketball near me youth, Royal Basketball School has some excellent classes where you can send your child.
Our basketball camp offers group classes, private one-on-one coaching sessions, top-notch collegiate-caliber facilities, and the best coaches in the industry. Our programs also draw top athletes of all ages and experience levels to help players up their game.
With Royal Basketball School, you can be sure that your child will attend a premier program and learn from top basketball coaches. This will help your young player master all the skills and knowledge they need to play well while having fun. The best part is the school offers access to elite-caliber instruction and great coaches at an affordable price.
So, unlike other basketball for-youth programs that charge per practice, Royal Basketball School’s most popular Advance Plan ensures you get superior value and coaching for your money.
Register your child at any of the school’s locations in Sherman Oaks, De Toledo High School, Westside JCC (Jewish Community Center), and Sinai Temple and help them begin their journey to excellence in basketball.