High-Performance Mindfulness: The Shooting Slump

Jake Rauchbach breaks down the shooting slump and ways to support players experiencing them.

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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Despite the frequency to which players experience down trending performance, it seems as if there is still no clear cut consensus answer as to why players go through slumps, or a trusted way to systematically and repeatedly break players out of shooting slumps once they occur.
In the second installment of High-Performance Mindfulness, we will dissect the shooting slump and discuss the fastest way for breaking players out of one. We will also discuss how incorporating mental performance techniques into an overall player development program have been shown to obliterate shooting slumps, by training the mind.

Providing ways for players to move through down trending performance, I will share techniques that have been proven to help NBA, professional and college players break slumps and elevate offensive and defensive efficiencies on both ends of the floor. We’ll also discuss working parameters and best practices for incorporating a Mental Performance resource into the overall structure of an organization.

First, let’s start by breaking down what a shooting slump is! Here we go.

Shooting Slumps Are?

They are ALL mental. Mental clutter gets in the way of shooting mechanics during shooting slumps. This dynamic creates thought patterns that are not conducive for effortlessly shooting the ball. When these mental challenges arise, they can affect all levels of a player’s game. When this happens, confidence, and mental focus can be adversely affected.

This can have the effect of throwing a wrench into something as refined as a player’s shooting motion. Sound crazy? Sound too far out there? It shouldn’t. Most players intuitively understand this. During this past NBA season, players like Russell Westbrook, Markelle Fultz and Danny Green all experienced down trending shooting performance. Their struggles were well documented.

Based on my experience in working with NBA, college and national team players, Westbrook, Fultz and Green could likely have neutralized, and quite possibly preempted, their chronic shooting struggles. Integrating mental skills into an overall player development curriculum could have stopped the slump in its tracks.

Maybe, one of the most obvious examples of how the mind can affect shooting ability is the curious case of former Orlando Magic guard Nick Anderson, whose career implosion, self-admittedly, can be mapped back to Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals versus the Houston Rockets.

Anderson’s Magic were up three points after blowing a 20-point advantage. After being fouled twice, Anderson stepped to the foul line. He proceeded to miss four consecutive go-ahead free- throws, sealing the Magic’s fate that year as the Rockets swept the series in four games.

Anderson’s free throw percentage went from 74 percent to 40 percent in a matter of a few seasons. His three-point percentage, effective field goal percentage and several other statistical categories also worsened throughout the rest of this career.

Eliminating The Shooting Slump

No, it’s not tinkering with shooting mechanics, getting additional shots up, or watching more film. The fastest way to break a player out of down trending shooting is by training the mind.
How do we do that? It is by bringing players into the present-moment. Training mental focus and teaching players to be more present has a big-time effect on shooting acumen.

Approaching slump busting from this angle oftentimes has the effect of freeing up a player’s physical shooting motion. This is especially true when integrated into a pre-existing player development program.

Taking this one step further, working as an embedded High-Performance Coach within the context of college and professional coaching staffs, it has been my experience that operating from the inside of an organization provides the best possible probability for helping players bust shooting slumps and statistically improve performance over the long term.

Sitting on the bench in the middle of the player rotation during games, reinforcing performance processes in practice and consistently knocking out bi-weekly one-on-one High-Performance Coaching sessions off the court – those are the best practices when it comes to systematically breaking players out of shooting slumps while unleashing big-time statistical improvement.

The Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks are two of the first teams to blend Mental Coaches into the overall coaching staff, with Dallas Director of Mental Performance Don Kalkstein acting as a pioneer in this regard.

When approached in this manner, players begin to view the Mindfulness Coach like any other coach, allowing the building of trust, rapport and credibility to take place. As this happens, the High-Performance resource has the requisite opening needed to implement the player specific, programs mentioned above.

As for shooting slumps, as High-Performance Mindfulness techniques and the role of Mental Performance Coaches are understood more thoroughly, the way players tackle down-trending shooting percentages and slumping performance will likely begin to change drastically.
With this increased efficiency in the player development department, expect shooting slumps to soon be a thing of the past.

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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