Developing Self-Control

It is very important for players and coaches to develop self-control, which is simply the ability to control what they do in response to the situation they are in.

Basketball presents many situations where self-control is important. For example, an adverse decision by a referee, or a teammate making a mistake or being substituted from the game are situations where a player may be disappointed and commonly may “blow up” and complain about the situation.

Coaches must not accept players complaining about referees or team mates or showing they are unhappy when they come off the court. In this situation the player must concentrate more on what they have to do in the next play. Coaches must equally show this self-control themselves, because if the coach is focusing on the referee then their players most likely will too.

The coach can do this through applying a penalty – showing a clear consequence that is linked to not being in “control”. For example, removing a player that complained to the referee from the game and explaining who it is because the player was not focusing on what they have to do.

The coach should also speak to the player about strategies to help them develop self-control.

A particularly successful method for players who get distracted by the decisions of referees is having them tighten their hand in a fist and then “throw the tension away” by quickly opening their hand. This can be done whilst running back down the court.

Other players and teams have successfully used the concept of “next play”, getting athletes to say “next play” to themselves to focus on what they can influence (the next play) not what has already happened and thus can’t be influenced. Having a teammate or coach also use this “cue word” can increase its effectiveness.

Positive, rewarding experiences are important for everyone. In the case of young people, basketball may a source of positive experiences for them. If the positive experiences surpass the negative ones, then it will be more likely that players keep on playing and therefore obtain further benefit from the playing sports.