The road from doubt to success
For many players, their first experience of organized basketball can be intimidating. Having picked up the game step-by-step while falling in love with simple joys such as watching the ball go through the hoop, a newcomer often feels like he or she has been thrown in the fire when moving into competitive play. The pace, noise and kaleidoscope of team play can seem confusing, and players who have done well during training can sometimes not show up on game day. Shots start to fall short, and they seem a step slow to every play. Just how do you get over these match day nerves and showcase your full potential?
Practice at game speed: Too many players practice at a leisurely pace, but you rarely get easy or open looks in game situations. Your moves must be sharp, fast and precise. Confidence does not come from arrogance, but from understanding clearly what you are able and unable to do. Practice allows us to develop this confidence and to work on our weaknesses.
Exposure: By joining multiple teams and getting into as many games and competitions as possible, you will get used to the pace and environment. This can act as a form of desensitization in combating nerves. By joining teams of varying standards where you have differing roles, you get to explore who you are as a player as well.
Relaxation techniques: If you are unable to control your physiological reactions, techniques such as deep breathing and meditation can help. By getting you focused and relaxed, you can better ignore extraneous environmental influences and see the game more clearly. Visualizing for success can breed confidence too.
Learn from your mistakes: Ultimately, even if you are able to accomplish all of the above, you will still find yourself making mistakes. And that is fine. In basketball, we often learn through trial-and-error, for instance in understanding which passing angles work best. Instead of being defeated by your mistakes, find out what you can learn from them.