So many times after a turnover, bad pass, or missed lay-up, by a player, or controversial call by an official, there are inexperienced and reactive players and coaches that will immediately respond negatively. Humans, much like animals, are instinctive creatures. It is normal to get angry at a bad call, excited when your team gets a big “and 1”, or discouraged if shots are not going in. But do NOT play the rest of the game reflecting on this. In the world of sports, this is called “living in the past”, “not playing in the present”, or simply just being reactive. When athletes or teams default their mindset to this instinctive behavior, there are usually a series of unfortunate, seemingly contagious, events that follow. Many great all-around players and teams with no weaknesses in their games, far too often, find themselves wondering why the momentum will not shift back easily. After a loss, coaches think they need to make serious adjustments in terms of X’s and O’s, change the tempo at which their team plays, or even drastically change the structure of their practices, all because things are not working out, and something has to change.
There are 2 things you can control, your effort and your attitude. A bad attitude might be understandable, but it is NEVER acceptable.
Assuming everyone is giving 100%, it is time to take a look at how you are performing mentally in the heat of the battle. With the physicality of the game at an all time high, it is very difficult to be conscious of your emotions, body language, and even the way you come across when you communicate, especially if your endurance and conditioning are not at an extremely high level.
The answer? Forget about it! Move on! It is time to stop being reactive and start being proactive. In order to be successful in this game, or really in life, you must keep moving forward in a positive direction. If you dwell on a mistake or if you continually think about the negative’s in the past, you will not be in the right mindset to do your present job. Experienced coaches and mentally tough players will swear by it. You must continue to “play in the present”. If you pick up a silly foul, huddle up with your team during the whistle, regroup, and stay focused. You have a job to do. It is not going to be easy. If winning was easy, everybody would be doing it. There will be obstacles, but if you remain focused and perform “In the present”, you will be able to change the outcome.
Many times the situation in a game will take a bad turn. How do you respond? Instead of reacting negatively, the best players and coaches know how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. This is a concept that many coaches hammer home at the earliest opportunity. They do this by making practices extremely difficult and see how the players will respond under harsh conditions, knowing if they can keep a cool head when everything is going against them, they will be prepared and able to forget about any negative circumstances. The truth is everyone has to perform their job at high level despite the circumstances. This is true in basketball. This is true in life.
If there was ever an athlete in the game who truly took on this mindset and made it a point not to let the past determine the future, many would immediately jump to the conclusion of Michael Jordan. Yes, “His Airness” has certainly mastered the psychology of mentally being above his opponents. Indeed, Michael was so in sync with his thought process, he had an edge over the entire league. These principles were instilled in him from a very young age by his parents, James and Deloris Jordan. He then burst on to the national scene in Chapel Hill as a freshman at the University of North Carolina, where he would establish himself as an elite all-around player by hitting the game-winning shot against Georgetown in the national championship game in 1981. He would go on to hit many buzzer-beating game-winning shots in his hall-of-fame career in the NBA. One of his career defining moments, according to Jordan, was when he hit “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo of the Cleveland Cavaliers to knock them off in the 1989 playoffs. Do not forget “The flu game”. In the 1997 NBA Finals, for whatever reason, Michael was bed ridden in Utah before the game. Of course number 23 would not be denied, as he played with flu like symptoms, even vomiting before the game and at halftime. During timeouts Michael could not even make it to Chicago’s bench without the assistance of his teammate, Scottie Pippen. Despite being visibly exhausted and dehydrated right from the tipoff, he not only managed to score 39 points, but he led his team to a much needed victory in a decisive finals game against the Utah Jazz. Then, a year later, there was the infamous last shot in a Chicago Bulls’ uniform, as he stripped Karl Malone, the-go to-man of the Utah Jazz. With 17 seconds left in the game, Michael calmly dribbled up the court in front of 27,000 screaming fans at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. He was closely guarded by Utah’s Brian Russell. With the clock ticking down, Jordan drove right, crossed over, and shook off Russell. He then elevated for the the 17-footer, and held his picture perfect follow through. As Russell struggled to regain his balance, he stood up just in time to helplessly see the ball fall through the net, clenching the Bulls’ 6th championship title in the last 8 years. Jordan would then retire as a member of the Chicago Bulls as the greatest player to ever play the game.
How was he able to maintain a superior psychological edge on anyone that tried to stop him? After he gained the physical stamina and endurance, as well as, the strength to withstand an 82 game regular season, plus an even more grueling post-season run, he simply outsmarted his opponents. He knew what he could do because he had done it time and time again in practice and in games. Knowing this, he approached each game with the intent to beat down his opponents, both physically and mentally. Some would even try to beat Michael at his own game by trying to “get inside his head” or get him flustered so he would miss shots, make ill-advised passes, or let his emotions get the best of him. They would do this by “trash talking”, insulting him, or even physically beating him to the ground leaving Jordan bloody and injured. But Mike wanted it more than anyone. His drive to win was unparalleled. As the old saying goes, “To get what you’ve never gotten, you’ve got to do what you’ve never done.” With failure as Jordan’s motivation throughout his entire life, he was far too familiar with this concept.
With this in mind, should a coach make a poor decision in the first half or pick up a technical foul at a crucial point in the game, he or she can regroup and stay focused on the task at hand, allowing his or her team to feed off of their positive energy, and finish the game. Even for an official, should he or she make a costly error, an experienced referee can shake it off and still earn the respect of both teams. This certainly holds true for players that want to know how to gain an advantage on their competition. Even the most consistent best shooters have off nights. They may not be getting any calls going their way, they might have missed their last 17 shots in a row, and they might be on the road. But with 1.2 seconds left, double teamed, and no timeouts, they want the ball in their hands. Because they are not thinking about the last shot. The only shot they are thinking about is the next one. This is what coaches and trainers call “shooter’s memory”.
Basketball is a Lifestyle.
It is meant to be lived in the present.