Just like every other area of basketball, we believe that a coach must study mental toughness and have a well thought through plan to help players develop and improve their mental toughness.
There are hundreds and hundreds of definitions of mental toughness. Here is a place to start as mental toughness applies to basketball.
Mental toughness is the ability to control thoughts and actions and maintain a focus on what is truly important in a calm and poised way under competitive pressure.
It is important that your players know and can explain whatever you define mental toughness to be.
Here are some ideas for things you can do to improve the basketball mental toughness in the players in your program.
1. Take time every basketball practice to rehearse different pressure situations that arise in games. Having a definite plan that players have practiced will help them focus on what to do under pressure and less on the pressure itself.
2. Make it a point of emphasis that bad body language, moping, pouting, displays of disgust with officials, and other negative behaviors are training the players for failure. Correct them any time they occur in practice, games, or in the locker room.
3. Be a role model of poise and self control. Players will feed off of you and draw confidence from your mental toughness.
4. Use the fact that the subconscious mind does not know the difference between a real and an imagined experience. Work with your players on visualizing success and performing skills the correct way.
5. Do not allow anyone in your program to accept or make excuses.
6. Point out times in your game films or games you record on TV when a lack of poise and mental toughness by an individual cost a team a chance to win.
7. Have some type of phrase you can use when a player makes a mistake to focus them back on mental toughness and what is happening next in the game. A simple phrase such as "Play through it!" can be your signal to them that we need to get on to the next play.
8. Teach players when they make a mistake to recognize it, admit it, learn from it so that it doesn't happen again, and then forget it so that it doesn't affect any more plays.