A couple of months ago I got a e-mail from a young athlete requesting information on how to stay consistent in a game. He said he’s slow to start at the beginning of the game and then starts playing better as the game goes on. Sometimes he felt this delay in his ability on the court hindered his team’s chance of winning.
Preparing yourself physically for a game is only half of the preparation. You also have to prepare yourself mentally. As soon as the ball is tossed up at half court to begin the game, you must be all there physically AND mentally. This is not an easy task. In fact, I truly believe it’s the hardest part of being an athlete — preparing yourself mentally.
Before I use to perform, I prepare myself mentally and physically. I warm-up, stretch and then visualize myself succeeding. I focus completely on the task at hand. What I need to do and what I have to do to get there. There is one meditation exercise that I do a lot that helps me, especially when I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind. This meditation exercise helps me think about the exact moment I’m in. Not the past, not the future.
Sit in a comfortable position where you will not be disturbed. Take a note of the time on your watch. Close your eyes and focus on one thing (for instance, your breathing). Pay attention to your breaths in and out. Do this for as long as you maintain only this focus. Open your eyes when your focus moves and note the time on your watch. How much time passed since you began this exercise? One minute? Twenty seconds? Perhaps you were able to maintain a focus on your breathing for five minutes?
Try this type of exercise before your game starts. Focusing on the task at hand will help you maintain consistency in your game. This is not easy. You’ll need to practice this over and over again. But the athlete who works on the mental part of the game, as well as the physical part, will become that athlete that all coaches would like on their team.