This article is the next of series from Jordan Petersen of our partners at Positionless Basketball. Read the others here. We are very fortunate to work with Coach Petersen as he has tremendous experience as a basketball coach, trainer, and player at different levels.
Coaches at all levels talk about players being mentally tough and wanting mentally tough players. Vince Lombardi defined mental toughness as “A perfectly disciplined state of mind that refuses to give in.”
When I think of mentally tough players I think of MJ, Bird, and Kobe. These three were able to push through tough situations, fight through injuries, stay composed in the clutch, and much more. This helped define them as mentally tough players throughout their careers
I believe players who are mentally tough all share these four characteristics below.
All players make mistakes and miss shots. Some players dwell on these mistakes and let them compound, but mentally tough players move on after each mistake. They understand what they did wrong, learn from it, and move on immediately. Players who are mentally tough know that sometimes they will play poorly, have a bad game or practice, but that is just a minor set back. They come back the next play, practice, or game with confidence and expect to do well. There are a lot of life lessons that sports can teach players, but this is one that has to be one of the most important lessons that translates to life. We all have setbacks and bad days, but having the ability to persevere and move on is a skill all players will need for life.
Players who are mentally tough seek out coaching and want to be coached because they constantly want to improve. Too often players, coaches, teachers, etc. are scared of hearing criticism, but criticism shouldn’t be taken personal. Whoever is being critical of your game is trying to help you improve. It is not a personal attack, but something that is done out of wanting better and more for a player. The old saying is true, “Don’t be worried when a coach is being critical, be worried when a coach stops being critical.” All coaches want the best for their players and will do whatever it takes to help them become their best and reach their goals. If a teacher, coach or leader is silent or no longer being critical it means they have given up and tried everything in there power to reach a person/player and have exhausted all options.
Often times coaches, scouts, parents and fans see players at all levels from youth to the NBA lose their composure and it can be from a multitude or combination of reasons. The most common reason I see players lose composure is because of poor play or a call that goes against them or a combination of both. Another common scenario where players lose composure is if they are not receiving the playing time they feel they deserve. A great piece of advice for players to help with composure is to never get to high or too low. Good things are going to happen in a game and bad things are going to happen in a game, but players should always stay level headed. Another great way to help players stay composed and understand that officials aren’t out to get them is with this saying about fouls:
You always have a foul coming
You get screwed on one foul
One foul call is a 50/50 call and goes against you
This means you have two to play with
Mentally tough players are confident every time they step onto the court. Players who are confident know they have put in the work to be successful come gameday. Players gain confidence through workouts when no one is watching and through experience in games. This confidence is not expressed toward opponents or fans but for personal motivation and to lift up teammates. Teammates feed off of each others confidence and this lifts each other up when times are tough.
Next play mentality, being able to take coaching, being composed and confident are all components of being mentally tough. Mental toughness is a skill all players can have and something that should be worked on to improve. Reflect on these areas to see where you can improve and take your game to the next level.
Once again, we'd like to thank Jordan for his commitment to growing the game the right way. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him and share his work. Make sure to check out more of his work on his website and on Twitter @positionlessbb.
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