One of the greatest challenges coaches face is getting their players to buy into the program, and believe in themselves and their teammate’s abilities. There is a distinct difference between the players who play with a great deal of confidence, belief and trust compared to those who simply go through the motions trying to get an occasional victory. Players and teams, who truly believe they are going to be successful, carry themselves with poise, while approaching every battle with a calm approach. These players believe there are no situations too big, no accomplishment too large, no task too small and no goal out of reach. However, as coaches, finding these special players is a difficult task. How can teams such as Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville and Michigan State compete for national championships every single year? How do their players, even freshman, compete on the biggest stage of college basketball and make it look easy? Yes, a great deal of these programs success comes from having premier talent and landing the top recruits. It is no secret that talent is a key ingredient to winning. However, one essential and powerful technique that is often over looked is visualization.
Close your eyes, picture yourself walking into Cameron Indoor Stadium, getting dressed in the locker room, putting your Duke jersey on. You are getting ready to play North Carolina. Both teams are tied for 1st place in the ACC. The winner of the game will claim the Regular Season ACC Championship. As you tie your white and blue shoe laces, you picture yourself getting fouled with 10 seconds left and going to the foul line in a 65-65 tied game. As you step to the line you take a deep breath and sink both foul shots. As the ball is inbounded by Carolina, you lock up their best player and force him to turn the ball over in the final seconds of game. This is an example of visualization. In your mind you are picturing success in potential pressure situations. You are tricking your mind into believing these imaginary moments are real, so much so that if a similar situation occurred in real life, your mind will already be accustomed to having a favorable outcome.
Visualization is not only the images your mind creates, it is in the objects and people which surrounds you, your speech and your general approach to life. Henry Ford said it best, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – You’re right!” Our job as coaches is not only to make players believe they can, but to show them as well. But let’s go back to the previous example where you were inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. From the moment you walked into the door, you saw NCAA Championship banners, National Championship trophies, ACC Championship banners, Final Four appearances, and many all-time great players listed in the Hall of Fame area. As you walked into that arena, you were surrounded by success, and more than likely visualized yourself being the next great player to come out of Duke. The program is built on a tradition of excellence, where every player who is a member of the program instantly believes they are the best team in the country. This type of visualization has no regards to talent, rather it is based 100% on what the surrounding environment, people and culture force your mind to visualize.
Success is created before an event ever happens. Just like a student taking an exam, coaches and players have to be prepared for all situations. Visualizing success before it occurs, putting yourself and others in a variety of situations and allowing your mind to experience a “fantasy” moment is preparation for when/if that moment actually occurs. On the contrary, visualization can also have the opposite effect. If you think negative thoughts, you will most certainly draw negative results. What you visualize is what you force your mind to believe, both good and bad. This is the exact reason coaches have such an impact on student athletes lives. We have the power to bring out the best in our players through positive visualization techniques, or the absolute worst through creating a negative image in their minds.
HOW TO INCORPORATE VISUALIZATION IN YOUR PROGRAM AND TEACHING TECHNIQUES:
- Talk in the positive as often as possible.
- Recreate big moments or accomplishments with your players. If one of your kids hits a game winning shot, continually remind him of how calm he was in that moment.
- Create the image in your gym, locker room, office etc. that bleeds success. What people see is what they believe.
- Prepare your mind for moments before they happen – Think success
- Always have a reason WHY something is being done
- Listen to your players speak, do their words have a positive or negative feel?
- Set goals and work to achieve them
- React how you want your players to react. If you want them to be calm then be calm yourself.
- Listen to your verbiage – How are you getting your message across?
- WORD CHOICE, WORD CHOICE, WORD CHOICE!!!
BAD WORD CHOICE: “Stop shooting from the perimeter, you are never going help us that way. Play inside like we ask you to do.”
GOOD WORD CHOICE: “Let’s try getting our shooters the ball, you are most effective playing in the post. If we can avoid the perimeter and keep you down low, both the team and you will have more success”
KEVIN R. NOON