Mental game

The mental game: Staying positive and present

I am coaching a ninth grade travel team this spring through the Pro Skills Basketball (PSB) organization in Charlotte. They brought in renowned workout expert Alan Stein to share his drills and ideas with all of the players. I am usually skeptical of these “workout experts.” I see too many players spending too much money and time on getting in “shape.” The emphasis on skill development seems to take a back seat.

Alan addressed my concerns right off the bat by telling the players that the most important area of basketball development is still their skills; it was great to hear, and I hope the players took notice. Alan also spent some time planting seeds for the mental approach to the game. I have always felt that sports, and basketball in particular, lay the foundations for great life lessons. Alan emphasized several areas.

There are only two things we can control:
1. Attitude

2. Effort

His message could not be more important. We all spend too much time focusing on things we cannot control. As coaches and leaders of young people, we need to continue to preach this fact. Every day in practice, and even in my business career, I remind folks of the importance of focusing on attitude and effort. It seems simple, but it is hard to do. During my playing time at UNC, John Cohen — one of our managers — would write in small letters each day on the board, “PMA.” It stood for “positive mental attitude.” It was a great reminder then, and it has stayed with me through all these years.

Staying in the present
Alan spoke about the importance of living your life and playing games in the present, not the past. Again, a simple idea that is not easy to accomplish. Great coaches emphasize the importance of the next play. This is why I think Coach Smith reserved most of his corrections and criticisms for practice time. Though strategies could change during the game, he remained positive about the next play and future outcomes. Staying in the present is not just about forgetting the distant past, but the past six seconds. We cannot change any part of the past. We must remain in the present.

This is a great reminder for aspiring basketball players and all of us living life! As coaches and mentors, we need to be reminded that the most important thing we can give our players is not the best play or drill, but life lessons that will serve them on and off the court. Those lessons will outlive any great play or strategy.

Continue to lead and use these ideas from Alan Stein and John Cohen:
1. Stay present — focus on your attitude and effort
2. PMA — keep a positive mental attitude

First Easy Pass is here to cultivate and share these types of ideas. If you have any words of wisdom to share, please do! Visit the discussion board or contact me.