By Dylan Tehada
Sports psychology has become a hot topic in the sports industry and especially in basketball in recent years. Players more than ever are prioritizing their mental well being and acknowledge how important training the mind is to their overall performance and growth. There have been many pioneers in the sports psychology industry who have paved a way to normalize mental training and offer accessible resources for athletes to hone their mental skills. Mental skills coach Graham Betchart is one of these pioneers who have pushed this initiative forward and have spread awareness about the importance of fine tuning mental skills. His overall goal is to normalize mental training in sports and help athletes elevate their mental skills.
“When I found out about sports psychology in 2002, I was like that's what I want to set out and do. This stuff is so important and my goal was to normalize mental training. And I consider myself a proactive mental skills coach,” Betchart said.
While his focus has been on mental training in the game of basketball, he also points out that what he teaches are life skills. Mental training in sports offers techniques and tools that are transferable to a variety of different aspects in life and this is what inspires Betchart to do what he does.
Despite the recent surge in discussion about the importance of the mental side of the game of basketball, there are some athletes who may not know what resources are available and how to begin their mental training journey. Betchart’s mission is to normalize mental training whether it be through his palms down online mental training service or writing books like Play Present.
“Training your mind is like training your body. Gotta get the reps and you got to do it every day. There's no quick fix. There's no overnight success,” Betchart said.
Here at UPB we strive to help our athletes train their mind in addition to honing their physical skills because we know firsthand through individuals like Betchart how important the mental side of the game is. We know that training the mind is no easy task and that a support system is crucial to developing good habits, which is why we encouraged parents to join their athletes in our first ever Mental Skills Camp which took place on August 12th.
According to Betchart, it is important for parents to get involved in their athletes’ mental skills journey because it allows both athletes and parents to communicate in the same language and hold each other accountable. In addition to being on the same page as their athletes, Betchart encourages parents to practice their own mental skills in their lives. He states that it is important to recognize the impact that training the mind can have, so that parents can best support their athletes in their own respective journeys. Furthermore, he stresses the importance of not coaching an athlete on their play after a game and rather helping their athlete reflect on how their mind was operating.
“Do the work on yourself first. As a parent the best way to help your kid is doing this on yourself as well, so you're recognizing the impact of the mind and all this stuff to deal with yourself,” Betchart said. “Secondly, in the car, don't start coaching your kid after games. If you're going to talk to them in the car, talk to them about how to focus on what [they] can control,”
Betchart puts an emphasis on conversations after a game in the car because it offers athletes a way to reflect on their mentality in different gameplay situations. As opposed to coaching their kids and focusing on specific plays during a game, Betchart encourages parents to ask open ended questions that are conducive to growth. He also notes how it is important for parents to use the same language as their athletes in these conversations, so that there are no miscommunications or misunderstandings.
As a professional in the field of Sports Psychology, Betchart provides a plethora of different tools and techniques that parents can help athletes reflect on in the car and apply while playing. His most famous method is what is known as the palms down technique which entails choosing your response to adversity and intense emotional situations by focusing on body language.
Another skillset he helps people with is playing present, which entails being where one’s feet are and trusting their skills despite what adversity they may face. Lastly, he uses a reflection technique known as MVPs, which stands for meditation, visualization, and powerful self talk. This is a practice that both parents and athletes can implement into their daily routine in order to reflect on their mindset in different situations and how they can best react to obstacles.
Here at UPB we are committed to learning more about the mental side of the game and helping our athletes fine tune their mental skills. Through our peers like Betchart, we seek to expand our knowledge and continue the push towards normalizing mental skills training.