From the mental performance side, one of the most underexplored and underutilized parts of the game is bench time. The period during timeouts and when players wait to go into the game presents a huge opportunity to prime performance. Using this time inefficiently is missing a great opportunity.
Beta Mind to Higher Flow State
The number one reason that players do not get off to fast starts during the game is that they are not mentally focused and/or do not bring positive energy. Whether they are starters or rotation players, priming performance through training these two elements can help to propel players into high-performance states.
How does this relate to bench protocols? When players are substituting in and out of the game, the faster a player can move from a Beta state of mind (analyzing and thinking) to the effortlessness of being in the flow of the game, the greater probability for higher-performance outputs to take place is.
Employing effective mental performance techniques can help players reduce the buffering time that occurs from sitting to actively accessing the flow of the game. When players FEEL in the flow of the game, individual and collective performance over the long term has been shown to move upwards.
This is when you see categories, such as shooting percentages, scoring efficiencies and analytics ratings improve.
Bench Primers (Mental Performance Tools)
Bench Primers can help players refine mental focus and energy to boost performance.
Some of these tools are MRP® Grounding, Refocusing and Affirmations & Tapping. When waiting and/or preparing to go into the game, implementing individually customized tools like these give players the chance to maximize their potential for success.
Waiting at the scorer’s table to go in may be one the most critical times for the player. It is a transitional period from sitting to performing. Refocusing techniques employed during this segment of time help to ease the player back into the flow of the game.
Players and player development departments, who craft individualized mental performance routines, specifically for these periods, are winning the game of mental inches. The more these processes are implemented, the greater the chance for gaining an edge in performance on-court is.
Another supercritical period is when players come out of the game. This is also a transitional period for players. When a player comes out of the game due to poor performance, there may be nothing more valuable than to reground, refocus and lock-back-in on the task at hand.
The problem is, many players either don’t remember to do this when they come out of the game, or they do not have consistent or reliable mental performance process to dial focus and confidence back in after the emotional volatility of the poor performance.
When coaches first huddle among themselves before addressing the team, it is a great time for players to regroup and clear the mental and emotional hiccups that could still be lingering from the previous segments of play.
It is important to note mental performance techniques such as these are meant to seamlessly integrate with the natural flow of the game. Layering mental performance techniques in the background of a team’s concept are best practice so as not to interfere with the directives coming from the coaching staff.
For optimal onboarding, individual player processes that run in the background and that become engrained and unconscious habits are most effective. These habits can help generate greater mental focus and higher energy while doing so naturally.
This is a great time to regroup, refocus and reenergize. Generally, at halftime, there is more time for the player to dive down deep into the psyche to find that grounding energy that helps provide balance.
When players struggle in the first half of the game, halftime presents a valuable opportunity to reset and release any lingering thoughts emotions or feelings that could be hampering performance for the second half. A collection of players who do this at the same time creates a synergistic effect that can help to positively move the dial on team culture.
Interestingly, coaching staff that also dial in mentally and have the tools to clear release past upsetting experiences, may provide their players and organization/program with an added advantage as well.
At the foul line, players who have a process for focusing-in and bringing great feeling energy, have shown to improve their free-throw percentage over the season.
Free throw attempts are one of the only times during the game where a player goes from static or very little movement to having to successfully execute a play. The free throw is much like a shot in golf, where flow must be generated into the shot, even though the golfer is not perpetually moving.
Combine this with the element that all eyes are on the player to succeed, and this sometimes creates a challenging scenario.
Employing mental performance processes that create flow, relieve nerves and sharpen focus on the charity stripe helps players manage those free-throw-island moments more effectively.
In most overseas markets, it is generally not a lane violation for opposing players to walk in and out of the lane during a free throw attempt. This makes executing free throws in overseas markets quite possibly more challenging than those in the domestic market.
Here is an example of a refocusing technique, called MRP® Foul Line Tapping. It helps to supercharge focus prior to the shot. The above example comes from Finland’s top league.
After the game, it is always good to celebrate wins and high performance. However, after poor performance and losses, it’s crucial to have a way of letting go of the negative thoughts and emotions from the game. If they are allowed to linger, they can potentially affect future performance.
Players and coaches that employ mental skills and processes for neutralizing these potentially-impeding psychosomatic elements have the edge.