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High-Performance Mindfulness: Improving Decision Making

Jake Rauchbach discusses mindfulness and on-court decision-making.



The underlying cause of any on-court performance issue inevitably maps back to a player’s mental focus. Mental focus dictates whether or not a player will outperform and or underperform throughout a game, season, and career. When there exist impediments to focus for players, this is when you see down trending performance occur. This is especially true for players who cannot get over or come to peace with past experiences.

A lack of mental focus and confidence can adversely affect a player’s decision-making and execution process during the game. Confidence, poise, and the ability to process through split-second reads during the game can also be thrown off.

When these elements are present, a player’s on-court decision-making can be directly affected.

Considering that most ball handling and facilitation responsibilities reside with the point, combo, and wing guards, this sort of dynamic is often observed most from these positions.

A point guard’s inability to consistently and confidently run the team, make correct reads out of pick and roll, and take care of the ball directly maps back to the level of mental clarity and focus that that player possesses.

This being said, the fastest way for improving on-court decision-making is through employing tools that work to sharpen focus and confidence.
Let’s discuss techniques for how to supercharge on-court decision-making and outline examples for how to apply these tools for the player.


Meditation is probably the most well known mental tool. It is like an anchor for all other mind-based methods. With the increasing number of options for meditation, players should have no problem finding resources in this regard.

There are many different types of meditations and many different permutations for how to implement it. It does not matter which one a player chooses. The most important thing is that he/she is consistent.

The underlying goal for any meditation is for the individual to become more present in the moment. Present-moment awareness facilitates a stronger mental focus. This can in turn boost confidence.

Consistency moves the dial, and that is super important. Players who consistently train the mind during their time off the court give themselves an edge once back on the court.


Affirmations have long been used as a way to affirm mindset. For players, whose seasons have abruptly come to an end and where on-court time has been limited, training mindset to stay sharp is VITAL.

Consistent use of affirmations helps players hone their very own personal mission statement. If players can stay on a mission now, they can perceivably do so through any future experience.

Regular check-ins help to keep players on a mission and headed in the right direction.

There is a connection between thoughts, emotions, and the body. This means that when players are working and training, there could be no better way to practice than through incorporating visualization. Players, who have employed visualization, have often produced mirror-like on-court results.

For instance, it has been shown that players who picture themselves stealing the ball in the full court and then going down to dunk the ball, end up executing the same sorts of plays in the game.

A real example from the college ranks is when one player, before using visualization for an exact play, had not completed this play during the game in-season. After doing so, he began to repeatedly complete this play during the games. This is just one example of how powerful visualization can be. This type of phenomenon is becoming the new normal for many players. Making this strategy a part of the player’s daily routine should be a no brainer.

Breath As A Focal Point

Using breath to increase awareness and performance is a foundation of virtually every type of self-help method.

Focusing on breath promotes awareness. Like meditation, this acts as a vehicle to bring an individual into the present moment. The present moment produces high-performance experiences. This is why players of all levels should be training themselves to be present.

This is a chance for players to work on improving decision-making through present moment awareness. The breath is a pathway to the present moment. When players are more present in decision-making situations, this can accelerate their efficiency.

Decision-making skill sets are directly linked to present moment awareness. Without a strong handle on this aspect of consciousness, players will struggle to consistently make strong decisions in PNRs, in transition and will tend to turn the ball over at a higher rate than those players that are more present-moment.

Shifting The Paradigm – Decision Making

Cutting right to the chase, one of the most powerful ways to unleash big-time improvement in a player’s decision making is through the implementation of mental skills as a part of an ongoing Player Development program. Programs incorporating mental skills can help players focus better, can boost confidence, and can help give players the best possible chance for success.

Integrating mental skills into a pre-existing on-court skill development program has been shown to optimize a player’s poise, decision-making, confidence, and on-court efficiency. When employed consistently with on-court skill work, this has been shown to help players really move forward in this department.

Mental performance tools often have the effect of sharpening focus for the player. With stronger mental focus, generally comes an uptick in on-court confidence.

When the mind is trained in a very specific way, it often has the effect of improving decision making for a player. Approaching player development in this fashion is paradigm shifting. Yet, it may be exactly what is required to better serve the NBA player.

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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