How to apply psychology to the game of basketball
With the advancements in basketball over the years, NBA teams are eager to seek any edge over their rivals. This is neatly aligned with the development of psychological sciences in the past decades, particularly in sport psychology and decision-making. Together, these trends have resulted in the employment of sport psychologists by some franchises and players. Here are some ways we can adopt psychological knowledge in improving our own games.
Analysis paralysis: Somewhat counter-intuitively, a field focused on the mind has de-emphasized the active role of thought processes in sporting performance. ‘Overthinking’ has been shown to hinder performance, with most sporting maneuvers (such as shooting a basketball) requiring automatic processes instead of effortful or controlled processes necessitating attention. One way to combat the ‘analysis paralysis’ from overthinking is to utilize routines, for instance in free throw shooting. These allow a player to focus on the act itself, instead of potentially distracting thoughts.
Delayed gratification: This is an attribute that has been linked to long-term success in multiple fields. Individuals who are able to set aside immediately satisfying rewards for a bigger long-term goal show greater self-control. This level of focus is essential in sustaining the hard work necessary for success in basketball. For young players, this can often be encouraged through goal-setting. By having a series of attainable ‘mini-goals’ that lead up to your eventual aim in basketball, you are able to keep your eyes on the ultimate prize.
Visualization: Imagery has been shown to be useful in many domains, beyond just sport. Mental visualization of a process can often activate the same neural regions as the act itself. In basketball, this is often used to build self-confidence. By imagining the ball going through the basket, or even imagining the specifics of your upcoming big game, you are able to visualize for success and perhaps even react more decisively, when game time comes around.