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High-Performance Mindfulness: Solving Russell Westbrook’s Shooting Slump

Jake Rauchbach breaks down how Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook can break out of his slump with four steps.

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It is no secret that over the past several seasons Russell Westbrook’s offensive efficiency has been an issue.

So far, during the current season in Houston, this trend has not changed. Westbrook’s field goal and three-point percentage have taken a hit again, falling to 42.5% and 23.3% respectively, while his free-throw percentage of 75.9% is far below his career average of 80%.

Actually, since the 2016-2017 season, Westbrook’s field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free-throw percentage have steadily decreased year-over-year.

Some analysts are saying that the change in scenery — and playing alongside a ball-dominant alpha-like James Harden — is to blame. Others lean on the theory that, because of the heavy load that Westbrook shouldered in Oklahoma City, offensive efficiency eventually suffered.

Both points are valid and are probably contributing factors. However, there seems to be more systemic and deeper influences now at play. Internal influences have gained momentum and are now threatening to further short-circuit Westbrook’s ability to course-correct his down-trending shooting percentages.

The Mental Aspect

Diving deeper into the internal mechanics of the jump shot may help to shed some light on this mystery.

When players struggle mentally it can throw off on-court performance. There are many reasons why players can struggle to remain present during on-court play. However, if players are not present, this can cause a downtick in shooting efficiency.

Facilitating a player’s ability to become more present in the moment can unlock their ability to shoot the ball better. Mental focus and present moment awareness is the absolute number one most mission-critical thing for improving percentages and resolving a shooting slump. Here’s why.

Consciousness

Science tells us that the mind is very powerful. It remembers virtually everything that we have ever been through. This dynamic can cause problems during a shooting slump.

For a player like Westbrook, the mind can act as a barrier to success during a slump. This barrier can inevitably short-circuit future shooting performance.

Let’s Do The Math

Since the 2016-2017 season after taking into account regular-season games, Westbrook has taken a total of 5,517 field goals, making 2,386. He has also taken 1,429 three-point field goals, making 441. At the charity stripe during this period, he has gone 1,519-for-1,986.

For a player like Westbrook, taking thousands of attempts while leaving the root cause of the slump unchecked is like trying to race a 6-speed Ferrari Testarossa 180 miles per hour while still being stuck in third gear. Yes, you’re going to get somewhere, but you’re going to be super inefficient doing it. Your performance over the long term will continue to decline.

Westbrook could take a million more jumpers, but unless he can become more present-moment focused, he is likely going to be spinning his wheels.

Solving The Shooting Slump

Solving Westbrook’s shooting woes is a simpler process than you might think. Eliminate the cause of the mental buffering and you have the chance of neutralizing the slump.

A High-Performance – Player Development Program that zeroes in on improving mental focus and present moment awareness is the solution. Synthesizing these methods with on-court repetition is the fastest way for players to break out of shooting slumps.

This may be just what Westbrook needs to regain control of his shooting proficiency
Below is a method that could help boost Westbrook’s probability of success.

The Four Steps To Bust A Shooting Slump

Step 1 – Buy-In

The most important element is trust and buy-in. For Westbrook, or any other player experiencing a shooting slump, the willingness to implement a new way to unlock improvement is vital. The absence of this is a non-starter.

Commitment to the process further skyrockets probability for successful outcomes. Players who have tried everything in the book without success are ideal candidates. These players are open to anything that may help them to improve.

Step 2 – Employ Mental Skills

Neuroscience is showing that internal mental and emotional changes in perception influence physiology.

Mental tools like meditation, visualization, and affirmations can clear the way for players to take control of shooting performance by becoming more present in the moment. This work is vital and often must be done first before any substantial on-the-court improvement can take place.

Step 3 – The Player Sees Improvement

Combining off-court and on-court implementation is the fastest way for players to connect the dots with this phenomenon.

For the player, seeing performance improvement is critical. As soon as the player sees that working through the mind to correct on-court performance is a powerful way to unlock shooting improvement, and then you are off to the races. Moreover, improved feeling in one’s shot is also important. As this happens, the door swings wide open to bust the slump.

Step 4 – Consistency

Once the player begins experiencing substantial (5-30%) shooting percentage improvement, what inevitably happens is that the athlete believes the work is done. Disciplined continued application is paramount to form new performance habits.

Along with the element of buy-in, consistently implementing the process is vital.

Conclusion

Outside of the box struggles often require outside-of-the-box solutions. For players like Westbrook who have experienced chronic shooting issues, it probably would not take long for him to begin to experience the improvement that he desires.

This is assuming that buy-in, commitment, and consistency are in place.

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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