Basketball Psychology – Worrying About Mistakes?

Basketball Player:

I am a college basketball player in the San Jose, Ca area and I really have a problem of just playing freely in games. I get nervous and second guess my ability. I think it is because the coach is very intimidating and gives me mixed messages. She gets stuck on a mistake I make and then can’t let it go no matter what I do. I usually am very afraid of failure in this situation. I don’t take many shots because I am tentative and afraid to miss. Rather than shoot I will pass and potentially miss a good opportunity to score. I am afraid to drive because I don’t want to turn the ball over. If I turn the ball over I get subbed out. Help! How can I get beyond this issue?

Coach John’s answer:

It sounds like you have high expectations of yourself, feel the same from your coach and have fear of failure as a result. Listen carefully, you cannot control the coaches expectations for your performance so – let them go as they only add to the confusion you are already feeling. Coaches thoughts are not your own and cause you to be self conscious and therefore you second guess your actions.

Mistakes are natural and you will make them in practice and also in games.  Mistakes are a part of the learning process so rather than fear them make the commitment to accept them. If you can’t accept mistakes you will be carrying the burden of fear with you.  As a result you will not play free. If you do not play free your focus will be affected, and your confidence will take a big hit. You are not perfect and cannot be perfect.  One approach is to allow a certain number of mistakes per practice and or per game without self judgment.

Your mind needs to be totally focused on successful execution. To have successful execution your mind needs to be focused on manageable tasks like “good on ball defense” or “taking opportunities to shoot” when they present themselves. When you focus the process of execution, your mind is free to get into the zone.

FREE and uncluttered focus is not possible if your mind is focused on avoiding mistakes. This approach almost certainly will cause tentative play. Alternatively, you must focus on what you want to have happen, like seeing the openings to shoot. When the mind is focused on successful execution and trusts in skill mastery you will have a success and uncluttered approach to your game.

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