In recent columns, we discussed how High-Performance Mindfulness (also known as Integrated Player Development) has been shown to improve mental focus and clarity.
Let’s shift our focus to shooting. What if this same process could help a player elevate shooting performance?
In this column, we are breaking down how to optimize shooting skills for players. What is addressed herein, is a hybrid approach, combining both mental performance and on-court skill work.
Before we do that, it is important to touch on what the fundamentals of down trending and plateauing shooting percentages actually are.
Players will often put in their on-court work by getting in their shots and by watching film, but the one aspect of their shooting performance that they tend to omit is the mental side.
Mental focus is key to maintaining any type of long-term performance. If players are not consistently focused, this can derail shooting performance for players. The reason, focus promotes confidence, and confidence builds consistency with performance. Thus, maintaining a strong mental focus throughout the improvement process is key.
When mental focus wavers, oftentimes so does shooting performance. From the mental side, down trending shooting performance begets more down trending shooting performance.
This is why it is so important for players to find ways to break the pattern of down trending shooting as soon as they can. It all comes down to mental focus. When the mind is focused it can propel that player over past failures.
Mental Focus Affects Shooting
As alluded to above, players will often lose mental focus when they begin shooting the ball badly. You might ask what comes first, the loss of focus or bad shooting performance?
The answer is, it depends. Bad shooting can affect confidence, which can, in turn, hamper mental focus for the player. When this happens, players can find it very difficult to get back on track.
This is especially true for players who lose their feel from behind the three-point line or at the foul line.
Maybe, one of the most obvious examples of how poor performance can affect future performance 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.
His inability to lock-in mentally at the foul line plagued Anderson’s progression as a player. He admittedly carried this mental baggage with him throughout the rest of his career. “It affected the way I played,” Anderson said in an interview with The Ringer. “It affected the way I lived. It played in my head like a recorder – over and over again.”
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.
In Anderson’s case, an Integrated Player Development lasting just a few weeks could have likely stabilized his shooting ability, and consequently, his career.
Other common examples of why players lose mental focus, confidence, and shooting proficiency are due to off-court situations. There have been many players who have allowed off-court distractions to cloud their on-court focus.
At the high-major college and NBA levels, many external experiences, inputs, and situations that need to be mentally processed through by the player can affect his/her play. If there is an imbalance in the way the player thinks and/or feels about an off-court situation, this can affect on-court shooting performance.
As mentioned with on-court experiences a lack of mental focus tends to affect confidence. Down trending confidence can alter the way players shoot the ball.
Finding ways to reinforce mental focus and build confidence is a great way for the player to supplement on-court work and right the ship when percentages begin to fall off. Building mental skills through meditation, visualization, and breathwork are just some of the ways players can sharpen focus to boost shooting percentage.
Shifting the Paradigm
A powerful way to unleash big-time improvement is through combining on-court skill work with tools to hone the mental focus for the player. Implementing an Individualized Integrated Player Development program is a great way to combine both aspects.
Leveraging tools, such as meditation and visualization, are great ways to sharpen mental focus, boost confidence, and allow players to find balance on and off the court. Mental balance is key for optimizing performance. Approaching shooting performance from this angle gives the player the best possible chance for success.
Integrating mental skills techniques into a pre-existing skill development program optimizes the player’s focus, confidence, shooting feel, and efficiency. When employed consistently over a multi-week period, it has been shown to support the player through their shooting experience.
Approaching player development in this fashion is paradigm-shifting and could be the wave of the future for most efficiently improving in-game shooting.
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