Developing Mindset and Resilience

Developing the personal competences described previously does not just happen automatically because the players are playing basketball.

Coaches need to help young players acquire and develop the psychological resources to learn, cope with adversity and maintain positive self-esteem and confidence.

Perception of Control

People need to feel like they are in control of the things that concern them: this notion of control is the foundation of self-confidence which constitutes a decisive aspect of our psychological strength.

The opposite of feeling in control is feeling helpless. A helpless person feels like they cannot work on the things that concern them and as a result they may come to the conclusion that whatever they do, nothing comes as a result of their actions.

In a sporting context, there will also be situations where an opponent outperforms you, or a referee makes a mistake, and both can be out of the control of the players.

Focusing on what can be controlled helps ensure that players do not lose confidence, even though they may have lost a particular contest.

In practice, when a coach uses an activity with an appropriate level of difficulty and if the players know what they have to do, then the players will feel in control. On the other hand, if the difficulty of the drill significantly exceeds they skill level of the players, they may feel helpless. This will undoubtedly negatively affect their performance.

Unfortunately, many young players feel helpless because they cannot do as much as is expected of them, or because they have not been told exactly what it is that they have to do, or because they cannot perform to the level that other players in the team are able to.

For example consider a coach providing feedback to a young player:

  1. The player receives the first pass and shoots. The coach advises them that even though the shot went in, the player should not shoot so soon; the ball should move around a bit more.
  2. On the next possession the player receives the first pass when they are unguarded close to the basket and instead of shooting they pass. The coach tells the player to shoot!
  3. On the next possession the player receives the first pass, close to the basket, shoots and misses. The coach criticizes the player for missing the easy shot.

After these three incidents, the player is almost certainly going to be unsure as to what they should do. They may feel that it is impossible to do it right and please the coach. This is an example of a feeling of helplessness.

To give the player confidence the coach needs to define what is a good shot and what is a bad shot. If a player takes a good shot, but misses, the coach should reinforce that it was a good shot opportunity. In this way, players will feel in “control”.

Helping PLAYERS to feel in “control”

Coaches must help their players to feel in control rather than to feel helpless. With this in mind, coaches should:

  • spend time on fundamental skills in each training session;
  • allow players to practice skills “in context”. For example, repeatedly having two players pass the ball back and forth does little to prepare either of them to successfully make a pass in a game. Instead, coaches may introduce a skill with a repetitive activity (for a very short amount of time) and then design various activities where they get to practice that skill in a variety of contexts (e.g. passing on the move, with defenders on some players, defenders on all players etc);
  • establish attainable goals based on the level of their players;
  • have clear principles of play for the team to follow and emphasize these in each training session;
  • focus on whether the team has followed its principles of play, not whether or not they scored, won the match etc;
  • be consistent about what they want the players to do.

One of the hardest skills to develop in young players is their understanding of the game because there are many factors to consider when making decisions.

For example, taking a 3 point shot can be a good or bad decision, depending upon a range of circumstances.

Perhaps one of the hardest things for a coach to do is to allow the athlete to determine whether or not they made a good decision instead of always telling them.

Asking the player open ended questions like “where was the help defender before you decided to drive?”, or “what was your teammate doing?” will lead them to decide if they followed the appropriate principle of play.

It is vitally important that coaches take the time to listen to the player and not to assume why the player made the decision that they did.

It might be that having regard to what the player saw, they made the right decision but executed the skill poorly. They may have made the right decision on what they saw, but the coach needs to give them feedback on the need for them to have taken something else into consideration (e.g. position of a “help” defender).

Alternatively, it may be they saw the situation correctly, but did not follow the principle of play.

Defining Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is closely related to a person’s perception of control. Self- confidence is the trust that the players have in their and their team’s ability to be able to achieve a certain goal.

A player with self-confidence, knows approximately what their chances are, and what actions they must perform to make those possibilities come true. They also know the difficulties that could prevent them from achieving the desired objective, and what they should do to neutralize those difficulties.

A person’s self-confidence may not be the same in every aspect of their life, however increasing self-confidence in one aspect (for example, basketball) may help them to feel more confident in other areas of their life.

To develop self-confidence requires:

  • a realistic analysis of both the situation to be faced, and the person’s resources;
  • setting realistic goals and having realistic plans to achieve those goals;
  • placing an emphasis on what is in your control above anything that does not depend upon your own actions (as these are out of your control);
  • an objective and constructive evaluation of your experiences – not simply looking at whether you won or lost and instead focusing on whether or not it was a situation you could control. This is closely aligned to how players must take responsibility - accepting when a situation was in their control and the impact what they did (or did not do) had on the outcome.

Being in control does not guarantee winning, it simply means that your destiny was in your own hands.

A Controlled Success is where a good result is obtained (when players accomplish their goals) and players associate the achievement of those results with following their “process”.

Similarly, a Controlled Failure occurs when the result is not what the player wanted to obtain (e.g. they missed the free throw) but the player still feels that they have controlled the process in trying to attain those results. In this case, they will learn from their experience of failure and they will apply this knowledge to future games.

An example of this is a team being two points down and taking the last shot. If they are able to create the shot that they want to take then they are “in control”. They may miss the shot, but accepting that they were in control will give the team confidence, particularly when they face the situation again.