Individual Player Development – Developing the Mental Game

By Adam Barnes

basketball

As coaches, we must be able to properly translate our knowledge and experience into learnable skills in order to help our players improve. Before any work can be done in regards to the physical side of the game, we must be able to train our players on the mental aspects of the game. Players who do not buy in, do not achieve maximum results. Players who buy in and refuse to settle, cut corners, or take training lightly, see maximum gains. Seems simple, but players do not always see it from our point of view. It is our job to lay out the game plan before we even set foot on the court.

For our program, my list is simple, fair, and straight to the point. Players have to be 100% committed in these areas:

  1. Trust – confidence placed in a person by making that person the nominal owner of property to be held or used for the benefit of one or more others.
  2. Honesty – free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere.
  3. Commitment – the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.
  4. Discipline – the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
  5. Responsibility – the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.
  6. Dedication – the quality of being dedicated or committed to a task or purpose.
  7. Concentrated Effort – One cannot make a “concerted effort” all by one’s self. To work “in concert” is to work together with others. One can, however, make a concentrated effort. The prefix “con-” means “with.”
  8. Character – the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
  9. Steadfast Focus – resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering, the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition.
  10. Communication – the imparting or exchanging of information or news.

Don’t be afraid to print the list out with the definitions included. While we may understand what each word or phrase means, we cannot assume that the players understand the full-meaning of what we are sharing with them. If you are preaching a message, you have to be as clear as possible. A muddy message will get lost in translation. So while it may seem a bit elementary to include the definitions, DO IT! You have a message to get across to your players, do not give them a chance to be confused.

Before a player hits the court, weight room or track, a coach has to know that he or she can trust that player to complete the required tasks. If a coach cannot trust a player outside of competition, a coach can’t trust him when the game is on the line. Trust takes time, give players a chance to earn it. Also, you must demonstrate your ability to be trusted. Do not preach something to your players if you cannot yourself, back it up. If you demand honesty, you have to demonstrate honesty.

If a player shows 100% commitment, a coach can rest assured that the player will be dedicated to the overall objective of the team. In regards to player development, players have to be held accountable. They need to understand that they are responsible for their own concentrated effort, steadfast focus, character, dedication, and communication. Once a coach lays out the framework for success, the player has to understand that they ultimately have control over their personal success.

A few years back I had the chance to listen to a Marine share an amazing story about his time in service to a group of middle school athletes. During that session, he shared with them what is called the “Creed of the Marines”. To this day, I share this with student-athletes who are serious about taking their game to the next level. It goes as follows:

  • TELL THE TRUTH
  • DO YOUR BEST, NO MATTER HOW TRIVIAL THE TASK
  • CHOOSE THE DIFFICULT RIGHT OVER THE EASY WRONG
  • LOOK OUT FOR THE GROUP BEFORE YOU LOOK OUT FOR YOURSELF
  • DON’T WHINE OR MAKE EXCUSES
  • JUDGE OTHERS BY THEIR ACTIONS, NOT THEIR RACE

It is a powerful, precise, and passionate base of principles that players must not only understand, but implement into their daily routines. Today there are more athletes than most coaches know what to do with, so how do players separate themselves? By preparing for success, mentally. Moving forward, it is imperative for coaches to not only understand how to police their team, but more importantly, to build a program where players police themselves. Accountability is huge; teams who buy in, always see more growth than those teams whose players “cheat the grind”.

Bob Knight said it best, “Players will do what you tolerate”

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Adam Barnes
Player Development Specialist (High School, College, & NBA) & Recruiting Analyst/National Camp Director
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