Tag: basketball

Growth Mindset

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

“You can do anything that you set your mind to.” Not quite, but whatever you set your mind to, you can absolutely make better.  There is a mentality called the growth mindset that can be adopted by all people which leads to greater success and overall performance. Having a growth mindset is associated with having the fundamental belief that your abilities and outcomes are influenced by hard work (as opposed to mere natural talent). It is a way of thinking that not only increases your motivation levels, giving you the drive to work towards your goals, but one that also allows for greater bounce-back from challenges faced along the way (otherwise known as resiliency). The athletes who adopt this way of thinking are the ones that tend to stand out from the rest. They are the ones that persistently look for ways in which they can improve their game and work hard to correct mistakes or bad habits. “Athletes with the growth mindset find success in doing their best, in learning and improving” (Dweck, 2006). They don’t need a prize to feel confident, and instead attain it through adopting a growth mindset and focusing on self-improvement.  Not everyone has this same way of thinking, though, for there is another mindset called the “fixed mindset” that people often adopt.

The fixed mindset is associated with the fundamental belief that your ability level is limited by natural talent. Which, in essence, is what makes success and outcomes set at a fixed level determined by said ability.  Athletes that have a fixed mindset have a fear of trying and failing. Instead of working hard to engage in their own improvement (as someone with the growth mindset would), they often get caught up in their failures/shortcomings, comparing their ability levels to other athletes around them. Someone with a fixed mindset may have all kinds of natural talent, but that talent means very little if they lack the motivation to develop it into something better.

They undermine their chances of success by assuming that their talent alone will take them where they want to go. Because talent has allowed things to come easier to them throughout their career, their confidence is quickly put to the test and often diminishes when they run into a set-back of any kind. The truth is, the athlete isn’t always to blame for having this kind of mindset. Coaches and parents have an influence on their athlete’s mindset based on the way that they communicate with them. When their athlete does something well, parents and coaches often fall into the habit of praising their talent and accomplishments, rather than praising the hard work that the athlete put forth to get there. Although praise is what many athletes like to hear, “children need honest and constructive feedback that pushes them towards growth as well” (Dweck, 2006).

That doesn’t necessarily mean that a coach or parent should negate praise altogether, but they should be cautious as to what message they are sending the athlete through the way that they deliver that praise. At the end of the day, “the athlete should recognize the value of challenging themselves and the importance of effort over anything else” (Dweck, 2006).

One athlete who used the growth mindset to overcome failure throughout his athletic career was Michael Jordan. Believe it or not, he wasn’t always the star athlete that people view him as today. Not only was Jordan cut from his high school’s varsity team, he never got recruited to play for his top college team, and was passed up during the first two draft picks in the NBA. BUT instead of viewing these so-called “failures” as reasons to give up (as many people would), he used them as motivators. In fact, Michael Jordan was featured in a Nike ad where he says, “I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots. I’ve lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed, and that is why I succeed” (Dweck, 2006). He succeeds because he has trained his mind to see failure and defeat as a challenge and an opportunity for growth. This should be the mindset of every athlete, for “success is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” (Quote by Colin Powell)


Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. 1st ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006. Print.



March Madness and Focus

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff


March Madness is here, and fans are itching to see which NCAA Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball teams will be the last ones standing. People from all over the United States have made predictions about which teams will advance and which ones will crumble. Logic, however, rarely gets its way when it comes to March Madness. Every year, we witness unexpected upsets and blowouts. So why are some teams more clutch than others when it comes to the games that matter most? The answer may lie heavily in the players’ abilities to exercise one mental skill properly––focus. Every team in the tournament has physical talent, there’s no doubt about that. They are all well-trained and conditioned for highly competitive moments like these, but which teams can truthfully say that they are as prepared mentally as they are physically? Those who can are the teams who will likely wind up advancing furthest in the tournament.

There are two primary ways in which players can enhance their focus on the court. The first method involves concentrating on the processes and actions which have helped them to achieve success during past games. Some athletes almost involuntarily form game-day consistent routines over time as they progress in their careers. These may include things such as listening to pre-game music to calm nerves, taking the same number of dribbles before a free throw, or thinking back to past achievements and attempting to replicate the actions and mindset which aided in attaining those achievements. Players who have not yet created routines could greatly benefit from doing so, as these may help them to focus on the task at hand, as opposed to becoming overwhelmed or letting their nerves get the best of them. By performing dependable procedures and drawing on previous successes throughout each game, players are able to build confidence through consistency. Rather than merely focusing on the score and on wanting to win, they are keyed into the processes which can ultimately help them to do so.

A second way players can amplify their level of focus is by thinking about the controllables of the game rather than the uncontrollables. Within the sport of basketball, uncontrollables may include factors such as expectations from others, qualities of the opposing team (e.g., size, speed, skills, reputation, and character), playing time, and calls made by the refs (Competitive Advantage, 1999). Concentrating on these aspects of the game takes mental energy away from a player’s own actions and from what they as an individual can do to perform optimally. If a player cannot change something, then the only way to get around it is to deal with what they can change. Doing so inevitably helps them navigate the unchangeable factors of the game, thereby giving them a better shot at winning. Controllables such as communication, hustle, drive, aggressive play, and encouragement of teammates are all examples of factors which can have significant effects on the outcome of a basketball game.

The games during March Madness are not the only ones for which focus is paramount. In fact, this idea is not at all exclusive to basketball. No matter your sport, it is advantageous to concentrate on the processes which have helped you to be successful in the past. Additionally, everyone can benefit from allowing themselves to let go of what they cannot control, because doing so frees up the mind to focus on the things which can be done to maximize success. It is a waste of time and energy to think about and dwell on how you could change something that you do not have power over. In the same light, concerning yourself only with the aspects of the competition which are within your control can substantially help you in bringing your A-game during those clutch moments. Focus is key for all of us, because if your mind is not where you need it to be, then it is very likely that your results won’t be, either.


Competitive Advantage. (1999, October). Staying Cool and Calm in the Clutch. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.competitivedge.com/staying-cool-and-calm-clutch

Coach’s Corner. (n.d.). 7 Keys to Becoming a More Focused Basketball Player. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.ussportscamps.com/tips/basketball/7-keys-focused-basketball-player



In a Slump? Turn to Your Team

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff


Slumps are inevitable. Every athlete, every coach, and every team experiences them at one time or another. They occur for a myriad of reasons: chronic injury, inability to maintain focus, or a combination of the two and more. No matter the cause, our first and foremost priority is escaping the slump. However, while doing so, many athletes press, leading them to an extended and possibly worse slump.

The Minnesota Lynx have lost five out of their last nine games. Not a horrific slump—they’re not on a nine game losing streak—but still, for a team that has been known to excel, playing below .500 is not where they want to be. Recently Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve was asked about how her team plans to improve:

“We’re going to try to keep perspective about things,” Reeve said. “We know what our challenges are. We’re working really, really hard to be a good basketball team. Every day. Every moment we spend together is a step forward.’’

Every moment they spend together is a step forward. Often in slumps we get stuck in a bad rhythm and try to pull ourselves out of it. We stay late to practice, spend more time visualizing, and do everything we can to make ourselves better. However, we sometimes forget that we are not alone in the situation. Even if the team is succeeding and individuals are slumping, we are not alone. Utilize your team. It doesn’t matter if you play an “individual” sport; you may not have “teammates,” but you have a team. You have a team of people who strive to help you reach your full potential. Leaning on other people for support is a necessity—we can pick each other up. Your team knows your skills as well as you do; they work with you day in and day out to help you improve. As the old adage goes, two heads are better than one. You don’t need to solve your slumps by yourself. Much of the work may need to be done by yourself, but you don’t need to go through them alone. Your team is there to help and support you. As Coach Reeve said, every moment you work with each other is a step forward. Next time you’re in a slump, reach out to your team. Chances are they’ve been in a similar situation and know how to help you out.

Karl-Anthony Towns’ Want to be in Minnesota Should Impact the T-Wolves’ Decision

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff


Tonight, all eyes will be on the Minnesota Timberwolves as they make the first overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Reporters and analysts have been trying to figure out for weeks who the Wolves will select with the No. 1 pick—most settling on either Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns—both excellent players who would improve the struggling Timberwolves. Okafor is a 19-year-old center for Duke who has won multiple National Player of the Year awards at the collegiate and high school levels. Towns, just one month older than Okafor, is a center for Kentucky who doesn’t fall short when it comes to his list of awards and accolades. However, the two have one key difference heading into the 2015 draft—Okafor has no interest playing for Minnesota and Towns does.

Now, it’s not really fair to say that Okafor has absolutely no interest in playing for Minnesota. However, multiple reports have surfaced that Okafor would ideally like to be bypassed by the Timberwolves and instead be drafted second by the Los Angeles Lakers. While he’s denied the reports, it’s not hard to see why he could have that opinion. We Minnesotans will support the Timberwolves through and through, but it’s no secret how they have faired over the past few years. Duke’s a perennial champion and so are the Lakers, so it’s not far-fetched that he would want to continue on that path. On the other hand, Mr. Towns has expressed his delight for possibly playing in Minnesota:

“It would be a blessing and an honor to even have a chance to play for Minnesota and be able to have the chance to play for a great organization and learn from a great mentor like Kevin Garnett, he said to SNY.tv just over a month ago.

Towns’ desire to play for the Timberwolves makes him someone fans will want to root for. He’s a name you want on the back of your jersey. He’s someone you’ll want to head to Target Center to cheer on. Bringing back that fan connection is extremely important to a struggling team—especially since you could recently get four tickets to a Timberwolves game for under $50 which not only includes a free popcorn/ice cream but also includes free tickets to shoot a free throw on the court after the game.

So, there are two potential draft picks: Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns. Both are 19. Both are centers. Both will be great additions to any NBA team. Towns would love to play in Minnesota, Okafor’s not dead-set on the Twin Cities.

Who do you want for the Wolves?

The Rarity of Feats Like Horseracing’s Triple Crown

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Horseracing’s Triple Crown has only been achieved eleven times since its first winner in 1919. Of those twelve, only four have occurred since 1948—3 in the mid 1970s and then American Pharoah this past weekend. The media has been talking about how rare the Triple Crown is, but just how rare is it? Compared to other sports, is winning the Triple Crown really as profound as we all make it out to be?


The Triple Crown has been won 12 times in 97 years, or once every 8.0833 years.


In Major League Baseball’s modern era, (1900-present) pitchers have thrown only 21 perfect games. That’s 21 perfect games in 115 years, or once every 5.476 years. Think about it this way, there are 4,860 chances for a perfect game in each year that has 162 games, meaning that there have only been 21 out of approximately 780,000 chances, or 0.00269% of the time.


Only 60 times (44 players) has someone scored at least five goals in a single NHL game. Over the NHL’s existence, that’s one every 1.324 years.


With four major tournaments each year, you’d think this would occur more often, but only 25 times has a golfer won back-to-back majors. That’s 25 since 1860, or once every 6.16 years. 


The NBA quadruple double, or when a player records at least 10 in four of these categories—points, assists, rebounds, steals, or blocked shots—in a single game has only been achieved four times since steals and blocked shots began being recorded in 1974. This is one quadruple double every 10.25 years.


The Heisman trophy has been awarded each year since 1935, but only once did the same player win it in multiple years. Archie Griffin, who ended up playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, won it twice—1974 and 1975.

Achieving any of these feats would require different time, talents, and skill, and no one team or athlete is guaranteed at having equal chances of them occurring. We should consider the perceived rarity of this one incredible endeavor—the Triple Crown—and perhaps lend some of that awe, spectacle, and inspiration to others.

Congratulations to American Pharoah and his team on winning the Triple Crown!

What Creates Athletic Success?

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff


What’s the secret to athletic success? People attribute their success to many things and it’s a helpful query to keep in mind when pondering greatness on a playing field. Kemba Walker, the University of Connecticut’s superstar point guard who helped win this year’s NCAA Championship, isn’t just a fantastic basketball player. Ask Kemba’s father, Kenya, the secret to his son’s success on the basketball court and he has an unusual answer, writes Aditi Kinkhabwala in a recent Wall Street Journal article“The dancing.”

Kemba danced throughout his childhood, taking modern, jazz, and hip-hop classes as a youngster, and performing with his dance troupe throughout high school. Watch him move on the basketball court, and look for the dancer within. “It shows up in the way Walker contorts his body on reverses, shimmies through traffic and tap-steps around picks. It’s partly the net result of thousands of hours of practice, but it’s also a byproduct of his lithe feet and the flexibility that allows him to do the splits—something Walker always hated practicing in Patterson’s dance class,” writes Kinkhabwala.

Maybe you won’t rush out and sign up for ballet to improve your tennis game. But this is a point to ponder. What creates athletic success? While Kemba’s dancing had an impact on his success, we have to look deeper at his dancing to see what was really going on through it that contributed to his success. For Kemba, it appears his dancing was a path to helping him build his core fundamentals. We know that core fundamentals influence elite performance: hard work, good balance, intrinsic motivation, perfect practice, and confidence. Dancing for Kemba wasn’t just about the footwork and physical flexibility, it was also about the mental side of performance. While people want to attribute success to many things, and there is no doubt those things play a role, success for elite performers is truly about building the core fundamentals.



Every Success Is Gravy

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff


If you have ever played on a losing team and hated it, you probably just needed a coach trained in sport psychology. Caltech Coach Oliver Eslinger makes good use of his sport psychology doctorate from Boston University, says a recent article online at timesunion.com. Eslinger begin coaching at Caltech three years ago, taking on a basketball team with a “deeply embedded culture” of losing, with not one winning season since the year 1954.

“Last year we had 11 freshmen on the team, and we were 0-25, and we got absolutely hammered in conference,” says Eslinger in the article. “You gotta have good heads. Luckily, that’s where the psychology background comes into play. It’s tough to keep losing. That can get at you.”

This season, Caltech won a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game, marking the first time the team scored a conference victory in 26 seasons. Eslinger always tells his team to stay in the moment, which is helpful during so many defeats and a great feeling when you finally win.

This “in-the-moment” philosophy helps players put losses behind them. Eslinger admits that he is encouraging the team to reveal in this conference win for longer than a mere moment, and he is busy helping his team envision a fantastic future. “We are going to win the league,” Eslinger says in the article, “and we are going to win the league and go to the NCAA Tournament year after year.”