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High-Performance Mindfulness: Erasing The Mental Health Stigma

Jake Rauchbach details how the conversation surrounding mental health will affect teams in the near future and what resources they’ll utilize to focus on the mind.

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The Old Stigma

There has been an archaic stigma and misperception attached to mental health over the past several decades. This especially holds in the basketball world. In a results-driven space like professional basketball, there has been little value placed on mental health or player mindset.

Less value has been placed on how a stronger mindset can equate to improved statistical performance, more wins and the team’s bottom line.

There is movement in this space. Every NBA team is now required to have a mental health resource on staff. The NCAA is requiring that all Power-5 Conferences house a mental health resource within their athletic departments. The tide is slowly turning.

However, despite these developments, there still exists a substantial misunderstanding across the basketball landscape about how training the mind to feel better can directly influence on-court performance. This misunderstanding has helped perpetuate the old mental health stigma.

The idea that mental health resources only really need to be applied for preventive measures, or when players experience more serious clinical issues such as depression, anxiety and /or substance abuse, is outdated. The old storyline roughly interpreted says that only players with mental issues should see a mental health professional.

This is an oversight. Here’s why.

Reframing the Conversation

Firstly, players who tackle mental health issues head-on act from a position of power, not weakness. Addressing mental health issues straight-on is bravery in action. Through actions such as these, players can proactively shift their wellbeing and career trajectory upwards.

Secondly, players employing High-Performance Mindfulness within their player development curriculums have the potential for sustaining massive improvement. There are enough case study results out there now to indicate a positive correlation between increased mental focus and on-court performance improvement.

Omitting this dynamic within the mental health conversation is like leaving money on the table for both the player and the team. Reframing the conversation to include these dynamics may be what is needed to fully deconstruct the old mental health stigma.

The New Normal

Players are generally the ones that drive innovation within the professional basketball space.

This being said, players are already identifying that a healthier mindset leads to on-court statistical performance improvement.

The stigma around the mental health conversation is already undergoing a full-on assault. Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan have made it safer for others to share their stories.

As players like the Aaron Gordon’s, Jaylen Brown’s and Ben Simmons’ of the world continue to launch performance into the stratospheres, look for the vibe surrounding the mental health conversation to change. When this happens, the archaic mental health stigma is likely to fully crumble.

Looking forward as this happens, organizational decision-makers will catch on quickly, and working parameters for mental health and integrated player development resources could drastically change.

Mental health resources embedded within the coaching staff – whose responsibilities include sitting on the bench during games and providing input during practice – may likely be the new normal.

Teams already pushing the envelope in this space, implementing best practices such as these, are the Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

The Integrated Player Development Model

With organizations such as these placing more and more value on the mental side, the writing is on the wall for the old mental health narrative.

Furthermore, the installation of mental health resources within player development departments applies pressure to this old tag line. There is an implied statement being made by teams that integrate mental-skills. This lends further validity to this space.

Moreover, as performance issues such as diminished confidence, shooting slumps and/or the inability to translate practice repetitions into game-time improvement are more readily addressed this way, look for players to utilize hybrid player development resources more readily.

Similar to how skill-development coaches swept the basketball landscape – inundating NBA coaching staffs over the past two decades – the same could hold for High-Performance Mindfulness resources in the near future.

Player Development coaches who blend High-Performance Mindfulness and skill development could be the next major personnel addition for NBA, European professional and high-major collegiate coaching staffs.

Bold statement? Not really. The proof is in the pudding and numbers don’t lie. There is an inherent value in a repeated process for optimizing performance that moves the dial on individual and collective success.  The hybrid player development resource could be the next hotline item for NBA, College and European professional ball clubs.

Once the connection between the mind and the body is more fully accepted and continually quantified, watch for this new hybrid resource to emerge onto the scene. Head-scratching player improvement could soon follow.

At this point, the stigma will be a thing of the past.

Jake Rauchbach is an Integrated Player Development Coach, specializing in High-Performance Mindfulness. He has coached professional and Division-1 basketball. He is the founder of The MindRight Pro® Program and consults on the Olympic, collegiate and professional levels. Follow him on Instagram @mindright_pro and twitter @mindrightpro

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