Goal Thinking and Process Thinking for Basketball Players
by Mike Phelps

By Dr. James Gels, From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

For basketball players in a practice environment or in game conditions there are two types of the thinking that are important to understand.

Goal Thinking

The first type is Goal Thinking. Everything in the game of basketball, from doing drills and skill development in practice situations to all aspects of game situations there needs to be a clear goal attached to what a player is attempting to accomplish. Or it could be said a desired outcome that a basketball player is aware of and has set for themselves.

An example in a skill development practice session would be to make a certain amount of shots from one spot before moving to the next spot. In a game situation when a player goes to the free throw line, the obvious goal is to make the free throw.

Process Thinking

The second type of thinking is called Process Thinking. After a goal has been set the player must then focus on the process it takes to accomplish the goal not the goal itself. When the process is done correctly the goal will be accomplished.

Let's use the example of a player going to the free throw again. This could be in practice or in a game. The goal for the player is to make the free throw. Many players before taking a free throw shot think thoughts like "I hope I make this" or "I hope I don't miss this free throw." Those are actually goal thinking thoughts because they are about an outcome and a goal is concerned with a desired outcome.

Instead the player must shift his/her focus to the process or using and performing the correct shooting form it takes to make the free throw.

free throw attempt

The key is for the player to have a clear understanding of what that process actually is. Unfortunately many players do not understand the process of making a free throw or for the matter the process of doing many other fundamental skills in the game of basketball.

As an Offensive Scoring and Shooting Specialty Coach my job is to help the players learn the process for each of the skills that are being worked on.

It is important that a player be willing to study the game of basketball and the fundamentals skills that are involved. They will then begin to develop a clear picture of what they need to focus on when working towards accomplishing the goals they have set for themselves.

Goal thinking and process thinking are two different types of thinking, but they should both be understood and utilized by every basketball player at the appropriate time.

Remember to set goals but to focus on the process it takes to accomplish the goal. When the process is done correctly the goal will be accomplished.

Mike Phelps
Offensive Scoring and Shooting Specialty Coach

Mike Phelps
Coach Mike Phelps