Thursday, July 2, 2015


The following comes from "How Champions Think" by Dr. Bob Rotella.  Rotella is a renowned sports psychologist that has garnered much of his reputation for working with golfers.  But the mind is the mind and the ability to help someone with the mental aspects of athletic skill has carry over as shown in Rotella's story of his time with LeBron James:

It may surprise some readers to learn that the suggestions I gave to LeBron involved a lot more of what most people would perceive as plain hard work than they involved what most people would consider sports psychology. I did tell him that I thought he could benefit from one of the standard methods of sports psychology, visualization. I wanted him to see himself making three-point shots. I suggested that he ask the Cavaliers’ staff to make a highlight video for him, about eight to twelve minutes long. This video would be a LeBron James long-range shooting montage. It would have LeBron making threes off the dribble. It would show LeBron catching the ball and making threes spotting up. It could have some of LeBron’s favorite music in the background, helping him to attach the good feelings associated with that music to the act of shooting threes. He would watch it every night. As he fell asleep, he could conjure up images of himself making three-point shots against tall, quick, tenacious defenders. He could let them fill his dreams. All of this would help him improve his three-point shooting, because it would feed the right sorts of images to his subconscious, helping him become a more trusting, confident shooter. But if improvement were as easy as watching videos, the NBA would have a lot more great three-point shooters. It isn’t. The mental game is a big part of sport, but it must be combined with physical competence. So I suggested that LeBron hire a shooting coach and work with that coach every day. I told him he needed to make maybe two hundred three-point shots off the dribble every day, imagining the best defender in the league guarding him. I told him he needed to make another two hundred catch-and-shoot three-pointers. I told him I didn’t care how many shots it took to make those four hundred three-pointers, or how long it took. If he wanted to be great, he would find the time and find the energy. The actual number of shots I suggested was not as important, in my mind, as the idea that LeBron would set a practice goal for himself, commit to achieving it every day, and wait patiently for results. I told him patience was essential because I had no way of predicting how long it would take to see improvement in his shooting statistics if he took my suggestions. But the patience and tenacity required were factors that could help him separate himself from his peers. A lot of athletes might undertake an improvement regimen like that one I suggested to LeBron. But not many would stick with it. After a few weeks, if they weren’t seeing immediate results, they’d find a reason to quit. Maybe they’d decide the extra practice was wearing them down. Maybe they’d decide that they just didn’t have the talent to be a great outside shooter. They’d find a way to talk themselves out of it. To encourage LeBron to persevere, I told him about my belief that great basketball shooters, like great golfers and great baseball hitters, are for the most part made rather than born.

With LeBron, I also talked a lot about Bill Russell and Michael Jordan. Unlike golf, basketball is a team game. An essential part of being a great player is, in my mind, playing and conducting yourself in ways that make your teammates better. That, far more than scoring average, is the hallmark of a truly great player. Jordan and Russell were the players LeBron was Chasing, because in addition to being great individually, they were players whose teams won many championships. They were great leaders. I suggested that LeBron read about Russell and Jordan and talk to them about leadership whenever he had the chance. I was very impressed with LeBron James. He was attentive. He asked insightful questions. It was clear that he was disciplined and that he set very high standards for himself. He was more than just a superstar. He was a very coachable athlete on a mission to see how great he could become.

I have noticed a few things since I spoke with LeBron. One is that his three-point shooting has improved dramatically. It’s now roughly 40 percent. A one-third improvement over his rookie year.