By Madisen Carter
Physical training is just one piece of the puzzle to be successful in basketball. An athlete can spend all their time in the gym focusing on getting their shots up, making sure their ball handling skills are up to par, and making sure their footwork is clean. But what happens when a player can not execute in a game and can not get back into their groove? This is where playing mindful comes into play. This is where a player needs to step back and think about how they are going to react to the situation and overcome the obstacle. Playing mindful is what Unlimited Potential Basketball is all about and what the team wants to instill into the players that step foot inside the UPB Training Facility.
According to the book, Play Present, by Graham H, Betchart, 80% of the game of basketball is mental. This book goes into detail about how an athlete’s number one defender is themself. Although one can prepare themselves by how much physical practice they put in before the game, they can not control the outcome of the game, and that is something they have to learn how to accept.
When a shot is missed or there is a turnover, the basketball player can not dwell over that play and let it get into their head. Betchart wrote that when this happens, a player needs to get back into the “Here and Now.” This is called “Next Play Speed.” A player should focus on their attention and on the next play.
UPB’s CEO, Bianca Turner, is an individual who is passionate about creating an environment at UPB that teaches mental toughness and hard work. Turner first learned the importance of mindfulness in sports from author Graham H. Betchart and Major League Mental Skills Coach and Advisor at UPB, Mike Franco.
Turner grew up playing different sports and she said she struggled with being present as she would focus on her past mistakes and would worry about the next play. She learned how to meditate through Betchart and Franco, and through that she learned how beneficial it is to be present as well as the success it brings.
“I see athletes struggle with their identity all the time and I believe they need to be taught how to separate themselves and their performance from their worth. Being present and in the moment can really help with this,” Turner said. “I know that our gym is the first place many children learn about mindfulness. If incorporating mindfulness into our training sessions helps even just one person I feel like we have succeeded.”
Turner said that visualization was another tool that helped her stay positive. In the book, Play Present, visualization is one of the components of “Play MVP.” Meditation, Visualization and Positive Affirmations. Meditation helps let go of distractions by breathing in through the nose and out the mouth, and also helps with getting to the “Here and Now.” Visualization comes into play when one is thinking about their success and executing their skills in a positive way, building confidence. The positive affirmations revolve around one’s talents, self image and abilities.
Playing mindful is also important for UPB's on court staff. Player development coach, Michael Orlich, tries to ingrain that concept to the athletes he trains when they step onto the court.
“To me, playing mindful is playing free. Not thinking too much, not trying to do too much, but instead living in the moment,” Orlich said. “How I try to instill that in people I train is by just reminding them to be their authentic self and not worry about pleasing other people [and] coaches. Just be yourself, play free but under control and just focus on one possession [and] play at a time.”
Becoming mindful is not the easiest thing to do, and it takes practice and dedication. According to the Mayo Clinic, some exercises one can do to practice mindfulness is pay attention to their surrounding environment using all five senses. Live in the moment and enjoy simple pleasures, take everything in. When one has negative thoughts, they can sit back and focus on their breathing. And the most important one of all, one must accept themselves.
Michael Jordan once said “the mental part is the hardest part and I think that’s the part that separates the good players from the great players.” Take the time to think about how you will react to a situation, learn from your mistakes, grow from them, relax, move on to the next play and be great.