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Basketball Mental Aspects - To Play Smart or Play Stupid
by Anthony B. Lanzillo

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Tone Lanzillo is a mental prep coach to athletes who want to be mentally prepared to play their best game. He has worked with student-athletes, from middle school through high school and into college, in such sports as basketball, football, soccer and lacrosse. Over the past several years, he has written for a number of sports blogs and websites, including FirstDown Playbook, Coaches Training Room, Ultimate Hockey Source, and Lax Playbook.

Contact: Anthony B. Lanzillo

"...bad play, stupid play, nonthinking play will get you beat on any night. To win, you have to be smarter and tougher every single day than the other group. And you aren't going to be smarter and tougher by some magic formula when the game starts. You have to come to practice every day and work on it." - Bob Knight

Legendary coach Bob Knight
Coach Bob Knight

Being a stupid player is someone who is unintelligent, mindless, foolish, unwise and brain-dead. So, you play stupid when you think or worry about what you don't want to do in the game. You play stupid when you think about what happened five minutes ago or worry about what will happen ten minutes from now. You play stupid when you make a mistake, put yourself down, and think that good players never make mistakes. Playing stupid is thinking about anything that will destroy your concentration, composure and confidence on the basketball court. Playing stupid is when your thoughts put you in game-time situations where you make the wrong or bad decisions.

To be a smart basketball player and to play a smart game, you must work on your mental game in every practice - whether you are practicing by yourself or with the team. It begins with identifying and continuously embracing your strengths, and knowing how you are using your strengths to become a better player. Next, it is staying focused on what you want to do or accomplish when you step on the court, as well as reviewing the steps that you are taking to get what you want. Third, it's about visualizing and mentally rehearsing how you want to play and perform when game-time comes. Fourth, it's about reminding yourself of what you actually control in the game, and only think about what you do control - which is simply your own thoughts and actions. Fifth, it's about keeping your mind in the present moment, and only thinking about what is directly in front of you.

Playing smart basketball is learning how to make the right or best decisions when you are on the court. And this can only happen if you are seeing clearly and thinking clearly. If you play the game worried about how you look to others or if the refs will make any calls on you, then you are not thinking clearly because you are thinking about things that you don't control. If you play the game where you keep replaying in your mind a mistake you made seven minutes ago or are worried how the game will end, then you are not thinking clearly because you are thinking of things that are not in the present moment. And if you can't think clearly, then you can not seeing clearly what is happening on the court.

To play smart is to be mentally sharp and strong. This only happens if you take the time in each practice to work on various mental skills that can help put your head in the right place once the actual game begins. So, before, during and after practice visualize and mentally rehearse your role and performance for specific plays that could be called in that game. Identify various verbal and visual cues that you can use to refocus yourself and keep you emotionally balanced. Establish an immediate mental and verbal response to a mistake you make in a game or what you consider a bad ref call that keeps you thoughts positive, productive and proactive. And don't forget to remind yourself what you love about playing the game and what you are playing for.

Copyright 2015, Anthony B. Lanzillo

Contact: Anthony B. Lanzillo

Related page: Basketball Mental Prep Playbook