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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Basketball


Playing Basketball at the Next Level

Andy Louder

Have you ever wondered why certain basketball players don't measure up to their potential? Players that have incredible skills and abilities but then can't make it beyond organized high school basketball are a dime a dozen. There are many possible theories out there why this is so but we feel that the reasons are few and simple. Our purpose for this article is to explain those reasons and give players the awareness they need to stand out from their peers and to make it to the level of competition they desire.

Lack of Focus

For most players it is very easy to get bored with details when it comes to fundamentals and technique. Let's admit, it's a lot more fun to play pick up games than to work on things like proper foot movement, shooting technique, ball control and etc. Because of this most players neglect to focus on small details of their game. All great players have spent countless hours in the gym working on the fine details of their game and have made the commitment necessary to learn the proper drills and fundamentals that will enhance their skills. At the High School level of competition a good player can still stand out and dominate their competition without focusing on the little things. However once they get to the next level, if they haven't developed the proper fundamentals and techniques of every facet of the game they will almost always under-perform and have serious regrets. So when you have spare time during the week, instead of organizing a pick up game start focusing on the small detailed fundamentals of your game and work on perfecting them.

Lack of Drive

Playing big time basketball requires a lot of your commitment and time. Many players think they have the passion it requires to excel at the next level when in reality they aren't even close. Liking to play lots of basketball and pick up games doesn't qualify you for having the necessary drive. Those that really have the drive give up many meaningful things in their life just to dedicate more time to sharpening their basketball skills. It's a tough thing to do because when you're young there are so many things that you want to get involved in. You want to spend time with your friends, you want to go to parties, you want to spend every waking hour with your girlfriend/boyfriend and that's just to name a few. The reality is, the game of basketball has become so competitive that if you don't make it your #1 focus and then back that up by setting your priorities around it, you'll be left in the dust. Certainly we don't feel that it's necessarily wrong to have other interests than basketball, we just want to make it clear that those players that really have the drive make basketball their top priority. Once again a player can actually do very well during high school with a lack of drive but once they get to the next level they will face the consequences.

Lack of Intensity

This is sometimes what people are referring to when they say that a player has the "it" factor. Basketball players that are intense almost always succeed because they absolutely hate to lose or perform poorly. A lot of players are extremely gifted and have tremendous skills but because they lack intensity they can never win the big games and will not be able to make it beyond High School Basketball. Some argue that intensity is something that cannot be taught or learned. They claim that it's something you are just born with. We adamantly disagree with that. A player can learn and acquire intensity if they make an effort to do so. Nobody can do it for them though and that's what is so frustrating for most coaches. You have to make the decision that you are an intense player and then you must perform with aggression and passion over and over again until it becomes a habit. Once you truly develop intensity you will play with a very aggressive attitude and you will not tolerate poor performances by yourself or your teammates. If it doesn't bother you very much when you lose or under-perform you have a lot of work ahead of you.

Lack of Confidence

If you don't think you are going to make every shot you put up you don't have much of a reason to be on the court. Great basketball players have enough confidence in their abilities and skills to take the shot when it's there. When players suffer from poor shooting or poor performance it often times has nothing to do with their mechanics or abilities and everything to do with their head. Do whatever you have to do to develop confidence in your abilities. If it requires you to spend hours and hours in the gym so be it. Also work on your mental preparation. Thinking about your shots and imaging you making them is just as important of a pre-game activity as stretching and warming up. Don't ever go into a game where you haven't spent a good ten minutes meditating about your performance. Go through scenarios in your head and imagine yourself handling them with confidence. Make yourself aware of the fact that you will miss some shots from time to time but that it won't hinder your concentration and confidence one bit. It seems silly to a lot of people and that's one reason why it doesn't get done very often but it's something all great players do.

Lack of Humility

It's one thing to be confident about your abilities but if you're so confident that you deny the weaknesses in your game you've hit a wall that will block your progression as a basketball player. Nobody is perfect. The minute you think you are so good that you don't need to practice is when you start setting yourself up for failure. If you've become better than most players in your school and in your area, rest assured that there are players all over the world that have twice the skills as you and are competing to play at the same level you are.


Good skilled basketball players exist all over the world. With the game of basketball becoming so popular and so competitive only the best of the best have what it takes to play at the next level. Although it can be very difficult players can turn themselves into stars if they have the focus, drive, intensity, confidence and humility that is required to stand out.

For more on basketball skills visit

Andy Louder is the founder and president of a basketball skills website

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