Author: Elliot Dean

basketball mind and sport psychology

4 Sports Psychology Techniques to improve your basketball

Practice goes a long way in improving your basketball skills. But it’s not just about improving physically that makes all the difference. Mentally tough athletes also have a big advantage over their opponents – they can handle the demands of training better, cope better under pressure, can visualise winning, set goals, focus better, and have the ability to motivate others.

Sports psychology has evolved massively over the years and all professional teams utilise a range of strategies to optimise their performance. But you don’t have to engage a sports psychologist to become tougher mentality. There are several techniques the experts recommend which you can implement yourself, leading to a noticeable improvement in your basketball.

Here are 4 strategies from sports psychologists that you can practice and implement throughout your basketball career.

1. Visualisation

Visualisation is similar to “positive thinking” and used widely in basketball. We are often faced with difficult tasks out on the court and rehearsing these in our heads is a great way to practice them, so we are suitably prepared when they really happen.

Using visualisation allows us to improve our skills in these tough situations by repeating them over and over in our minds and increasing our confidence on game day.

Here are some visualisation techniques to practice.

  1. See the environment: the court, the teammates, the opposition.
  2. Picture yourself relaxed, confident, and in control.
  3. See yourself prepared and ready.
  4. Imagine what it is like to make each play successfully.
  5. Imagine winning the game.

2. Relaxation techniques

One of the biggest roadblocks in sports performance is anxiety. Everyone can get nervous (especially in big games such as grand finals) but if not managed effectively it can lead to anxiety which can impair your play.

A way to manage your anxiety is through controlled breathing. It can help improve your circulation, calm the nerves, improve concentration, and increase energy.

Here are some steps for controlled breathing:

  1. Take a deep, slow breath.
  2. Gently exhale fully.
  3. Inhale again, this time counting 1 to 4.
  4. Hold your breath, counting 1 to 4.
  5. Exhale completely while counting from 1 to 8.
  6. Repeat step 3 to 5 four times.

3. Motivation

Being in the right frame of mind is crucial to success on the basketball court. Wanting to play your best and wanting to win is the motivation that can drive athletes to be better than others.

Studies have shown that “intrinsic motivation” is better at sustaining commitment than “extrinsic motivation”. In simple terms, this means you should focus on doing something for the sake of accomplishing a task, rather than for the sake of the rewards.

Here are some strategies to help motivation:

Goal setting – this provides meaning and direction while also energising players to work towards their objectives. These goals should be broken in to specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART).

Self-talk – Speaking to yourself (either internally or out loud) can increase both power and endurance. Saying to yourself “I can keep going” when you’re tired or “I know we can win” when the game is on the line, helps boost motivation.

Change the environment – Having a positive mood is crucial and music is a fantastic way to help achieve this. Making different playlists depending on the situation (ie. before a game, during recovery, etc) can tailor the most optimal music to your circumstances and put you in a positive mood when things might be feeling tough or overwhelming.


Being able to reflect on your performance is crucial to being able to control your performance. And honesty is vital. Accurately identifying your strengths and weaknesses allows you to dedicate resources to make the necessary improvements.

Create a list of different skills or qualities, and rate yourself out of 10 based on right now. Then choose a realistic future rating of where you want to get to. Add in ‘action needed’ with what’s required to help you lift to that future score.

FocusNowFutureAction needed
Endurance69Go for a 1km run twice a week.
Free throw shooting48Take 50 free throws every day.
Defence38Get private coaching to teach me better fundamentals.
Cope with pressure59Visualise games where I am playing confident and successfully.

All the above techniques will go a long way to improving yourself as a basketballer. Being mentally tough will not only help you on the court but also throughout other aspects of your life.

coaching basketball communication

The importance of good communication with your coach

Over the years, you will likely have a number of basketball coaches, some good, some bad. One thing that remains constant, however, is that your coaches will be some of the most influential people on your basketball career.

Whether or not you see eye to eye with a coach, there are a number of actions you can take to ensure you get the most out of the relationship and maximise your chances of success.

  1. Always be clear

Being clear on your goals and your expectations is crucial for an optimal relationship with your coach. Letting the coach know what you’re hoping to accomplish and what you believe your strengths and weaknesses is crucial to help avoid conflict. It will also open the lines of communication with your coach, so he or she can easily portray what their expectations of you are, and what their ultimate goal for the team, and for you as an individual, is.

2. Always show respect

Perhaps the most important part of good communication with your coach is respect. In the majority of cases, your coach isn’t trying to make you go through hell or punish you. They have a master plan and want to get the best out of you and the best out of the team. Sometimes, the team goals will mean your individual goals will be put off to the side, but this shouldn’t give you fuel to be rude or disrespectful to the coach. Ensure all conversations with your coach are polite and considerate. This is important whether it’s a coach who oversees your game or a coach who manages private training sessions for your basketball.

3. Honesty is the best policy

Similar to always being clear, being honest is another critical part of maintaining a good relationship with your coach. If something is bothering you as a player, then it’s important to be upfront about it. Don’t hold a grudge and let it build up inside you. A coach isn’t a mind reader, and they will actually value and appreciate you expressing your views. As above, make sure you do it in a respectful way. Being honest with your coach will also help ensure the conversation flow both ways is opened, and you will receive honesty from them in return.

4. Trust the process

This mantra became synonymous with the development of Philadelphia 76ers big man, Joel Embiid. After sustaining a serious injury prior to debuting in the NBA, the 76ers organisation asked both the fans and Joel himself to ‘trust the process’. And the same can be applied to players of any standard. If your coach isn’t giving you as much court time as you feel you deserve, trust that there is a reason for this.

Many players have to earn their dues to get the court time they desire. Don’t get disheartened or angry, but rather keep working hard and taking care of the things within your control. And most importantly if you DO need to speak up about any concerns, do it in an honest, respectful way.

If you can apply all the aspects mentioned above, the communication with your coach will be optimal. And no matter whether you are perfectly matched or have struggles getting on the same page, you will see a relationship form that benefits both player and coach positively.

different positions basketball

What are the Different Positions in Basketball

During a game, there are 5 basketball players on the court for each team at any one time. While younger teams and those just starting off might not have any specific role for each player, more competitive teams have different positions for the 5 active players. This effects what jobs they perform on the court and where they stand on both offense and defence.

Here is a rundown of the 5 different positions for basketball teams.

1-Point Guard

The point guard is considered the on-court leader of the team, as he or she usually controls the offense. This includes dribbling the ball up the court and starting the plays with the first pass. They need to have good ball handing skills and good court awareness.

Normally, the point guard is one of the smallest players on the team, however in recent times we see taller players like Lebron James 6’10 playing the point guard position.

2-Shooting Guard

The shooting guard is normally the second smallest position on the court. The player in this position can also help to bring the ball up the court so they need good dribbling skills as well. They are normally good shooters from long distance, so do a lot of moving off the ball to get open for jump shots. Some of the best shooting guards in recent times include Klay Thompson, Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant.

3-Small forward

Generally, the player at this position is the most versatile on the team. They are usually medium height and do everything from passing, rebounding, scoring, and dribbling. A lot of their time is spent on the wings. Notable players in the small forward position include Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant.

 4-Power forward

One of the strongest players on the team. The power forward spends a lot of time inside the key, and focuses on inside scoring and defence, as well as rebounding. They will also set screens to free up other players. Some of the best ever power forwards who dominated their position include Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.


The centre is generally the tallest player on the court and will live inside the key. They will focus on interior defence and rebounding as well as scoring close to the basket. Blocking shots, setting screens, post moves and tip ins are usually their main strengths. The 1990’s were loaded with quality centres including David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon.

In modern basketball, we have seen a lot of professional teams move away from the 5 defined positions. A lot of the time we see “small ball” where a team takes to the court without a true centre. More and more we are seeing utility players, including big players who can dribble, pass, and shoot three pointers. Nikola Jokic from the Denver Nuggets and Joel Embiid from Philadelphia are two of many in the NBA right now.

But at the junior level, it is important to still have 5 defined positions on the court, as it teaches players to learn a specific role, and helps them focus on what they need to do to contribute to the team success.

To develop your skills, check out our private training services and get involved Tomorrow’s Stars Basketball today.