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High-Performance Mindfulness: Mental Acuity

Jake Rauchbach breaks down mental acuity and its significance in the player development process.

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One of the most overlooked parts of the performance process is mental acuity. Mental acuity helps players focus in and perform better throughout the breadth of their game.

What is mental acuity?

Mental acuity, or sharpness of the mind, comprises memory, focus, understanding, and concentration.

When there are disruptions in mental acuity, this can hamper a player’s ability to optimize performance on the court during the game.

Let’s talk about the components that make up mental acuity.

Memories

The mind remembers everything it has ever experienced. This means memories are a large part of what gets stored within the deep recesses of your consciousness. In turn, the brain has to work harder to forget memories than it does to retain them.

Memory is vital for the retention, distillation, and execution of important information during high-performance situations. Without our ability to store memories and effectively act upon them, players would likely struggle to be at their very best when it matters most.

When memories from the past are unwanted, it can sometimes hamper a player’s ability to move through situations both on and off the court without emotional dissonance.

This being said, players have been shown to excel on the court when there is an absence of upsetting memories present. Now, when there are memories present that do not align with the player’s overall goals, this is when challenges can arise for the player.

Finding ways to align conscious goals with positive memories is key for producing high-performance for players.

Focus

Mental focus is paramount for any player looking to experience excellence on the basketball court.

Mental focus is the ability to stay concentrated on what you’re doing without being distracted by outside inputs. This is an extremely valuable skill for each and every basketball player.

Mental focus can be the determinant between the good player and the great player. With numerous outside inputs, it is the great player who can let go of those inputs and focus on the task at hand.

A player’s mental focus can be adversely affected by memories, perceptions and beliefs. This means that if parts of the consciousness are not in alignment, than this can affect the player’s ability to focus in on the task at hand during the game.

For players, mental focus is an acquired skill. It is also, maybe one of their most important skills.
Superior mental focus can provide players with average athletic capabilities an edge over the competition.

On the basketball court, optimizing mental focus may be one of the most valuable things a player can do. Below are three ways that players can optimize mental focus:

1) Bring your focus to your breath. Being aware of the breath is a super effective way to bring awareness to the present moment. For players, it does not get much simpler than this when looking to hone mental focus for the game.
2) Notice that your mind has wandered off. When players zone-out, the best thing that they can do is realize that they did so. This allows a level of recognition and promotes awareness so that the player can train mental focus upwards.
3) Disengage from that train of thought. Letting go of thoughts is another way for players to hone mental focus. Disengaging in thought patterns that are not conducive to on-court performance is a great way for players to align mental acuity. Mental focus can be the true equalizer for basketball players and other athletes.

Improving mental focus helps to boost mental acuity.

Understanding

Understanding and comprehending static and dynamic inputs are vital for players looking to optimize mental acuity and improve performance. Players who can take in data sets, synthesize these inputs, and act on them during live competition set themselves apart from the rest.

This skill set is vital for the player looking to access high-performance states when the lights come on.

The level of information distillation that must be employed and mastered for tasks such as scouting reports, film study and walkthroughs is vital for efficient implementation in the game.
Honing mental focus will help improve this aspect of mental acuity as well.

Closing

Improving mental acuity helps to optimize on-court performance for players. To improve mental acuity, memories, mental focus, with understanding and comprehension, must be in alignment and addressed in a way that supports the player’s progression.

The more focused a player is, the faster he or she will be able to apply mental acuity as a value add to their game. When this happens expect performance to rise.

Check out Jake Rauchbach’s High-Performance Mindfulness podcast here.

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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