What if we told you something that takes less than five minutes a day could improve your basketball performance? Journaling for basketball can actually lead to more wins on court. Writing things down in a basketball journal will help you see your progress and build on your success; follow through on building new habits; and be more grateful, so you can thrive on the court and off.
As a result, many WNBA and NBA pros use basketball journaling as a technique to help them prepare for play. Minnesota Lynx sharp shooter Kayla McBride turned to journaling to overcome anxiety a few years ago.
“I remember when my anxiety was really, really terrible. When I was waking up it’d feel like there was like a weight sitting on my chest. And I know that when I’m releasing these things, you know doing my journal, my meditation, doing the things that allow me to kind of free myself from these small weights, that’s when I find myself in these really great spaces.” said Kayla McBride.
Though it took her a while, and trying a few different things, to figure out the type of journaling that worked best for her. “I’m not necessarily the type of person that’s going to journal every day, not for 20 minutes or things like that. But that’s something I had to learn. Because there was a point where I was writing stuff down and then I was like ‘Man, first thing in the morning trying to write things down!’ Well, now I found this 5 minute journal where it’s like ‘OK, 3 things in the morning, 2 things at night.’ But that’s something I had to learn about myself.” she said.
Just like Kayla emphasized, there’s no right way to journal. The only method that matters is the one you’re able to add to your routine so you can begin to turn journaling into a consistent practice. All of the benefits from journaling will add up slowly over time, when you regularly do it – no matter how you’re feeling that day.
So today, we’ll explore how to use a journal to maximize your results including progress against basketball goals, de-stressing and increasing your gratitude, and keeping track of other notes such as plays. We’ll also provide a few quick links to journals so you can get started right away. Let’s get after it!
There is something about the brain to pen to paper connection that helps you sort out how you are feeling. After journaling, you might feel more organized, confident, better able to deal with the drama, and maintain positive vibes. Consistently journaling can help you: get more organized; set ambitious goals; think more clearly; improve your creativity; boost your self-esteem; increase your mindfulness; and learn about yourself and your patterns.
How can you objectively evaluate your progress and build on your success? As a way to spark creativity and generating new ideas for improving your performance, debrief your game play on a regular basis. Be sure to evaluate the mental, technical, and tactical aspects of your performances and practices.
Golden State Warrior’s Klay Thompson started journaling when the Warriors were shaping their championship dynasty. “I love to write,” the sharpshooting guard told NBC Sports Bay Area at Warriors Media Day on the Dubs Talk Podcast. “I started documenting how I feel on the court. What adversity the team is facing. How I’m feeling mentally,” he explained.
“I just think when you write down your thoughts on paper, it’s like a decompression method. To be able to read and write is an incredible gift, and I’ve been trying to sharpen my mind in the times where I can’t be my athletic self,” Klay said.
Specifically ask yourself these questions to think broadly about each area of your game:
Record your responses to these questions within 48 hours of your game, recommends The Champion’s Mind. Examine what’s not working for you, and decide what to do differently. Give yourself credit where credit is due. And start working on the right things in practice so you can take your game to the next level. Review your journal periodically – at least once per month – to track your progress.
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.” Several studies in the field of positive psychology demonstrate that expressions of gratitude can encourage individuals to thrive. Being thankful is one of the strengths most strongly correlated with well-being. Numerous studies have confirmed the mental health benefits of keeping a “gratitude journal” or regularly listing things you’re grateful for.
Try recalling and writing down five good things that happen every day. For example, a teammate gave you a compliment, a drill you enjoyed, a moment in the car when a great sone came on, a sandwich you loved, or getting helpful feedback from your coach. This will give you the chance to briefly relive, savor, and appreciate the experience.
As you list out those things, really think about why you’re grateful for them. What impact did it have on you today? How did it make you feel? How did it feel when it happened?
Feeling gratitude sets the tone for improving and enjoying your game and life experiences. It can also create positive relationships with family, friends, teammates, and coaches, which in turn have a positive impact on you.
That’s all you have to do! It’s probably the most straight forward journaling there
is. It only takes a few minutes each day and definitely will have you feeling more positive.
A basketball journal can also help you keep track of all the other things that can impact your performance too. Here are just a few other ways a journal can come in handy;
Maybe something happened at practice that’s really bothering you. You can try ‘inquisitive’ journaling, where you write about your day, situations that happened, or feelings that occurred to figure them out, get new insights, learn about yourself, and uncover your thought patterns. This method takes about 25 minutes because you’re going to try to go deep into how you feel.
Begin by writing about a situation or feeling that has been replaying in your mind. Commit to being honest about how you’re feeling, no one is going to read this but you. Leave shame and judgment behind. Write how you feel no matter how imperfect it seems. Follow this process as you assess the situation: Incident –> Feeling –> Why do I feel this way? –> But really, why?
Here’s an example: My best friend decided to play soccer with other people instead of basketball with me at recess –> It made me feel confused and sad –> Sometimes I feel insecure about our friendship when she hangs out with other people –> Instagram makes me feel like I don’t have enough friends. It seems like everyone has these huge girl groups and I just have my core group and my bestie. When she sat with other people, it made me feel triggered by that insecurity.
If you’re ready to start seeing how writing things down can make you a better hooper, here are a few journals to pick from:
If you’re still not sure where to start, here are a few stories and prompts that might inspire you to action!
“I went to boarding school when I was in first grade. My mom wanted me to go so I could get a better education, but I didn’t understand and was very upset. I was being sent to sleep away school! Looking back, I understand that all those painful feelings were normal. I was a young kid going to live at school when I really wanted to stay at home with my family.” shared WNBA All-Star and Champion Kahleah Copper.
“I’ve felt upset a lot of other times in my life, too, but sports always helped me feel better. I think it’s because when I played I felt important. I knew I was good at what I was doing. To this day, sports makes me feel good about myself. Even now, when I’m upset or frustrated, I usually go shoot some hoops or work on drills. It really brings me joy, and it distracts me from everything else going on in my life.”
“I also like to talk to the people I’m closest to when I’m having a hard time dealing with feelings, whatever they might be about. Sometimes I talk to a friend, sometimes I talk to someone in my family. All depends on what the feelings are and who I think will understand them. But there’s usually somebody in your life who will understand, or who will be there for you just to listen.”
“Of course, sometimes I don’t want to talk to anybody at all! When that happens, I usually just write down my thoughts or listen to calming music. Some people do art, which is another great way to express how you feel if you’re not ready to talk about it. The important thing is to deal with your feelings, whatever they’re about. It doesn’t matter if you’re sad or worried or guilty or angry or all of the above. It isn’t healthy to keep negative feelings locked up inside of you.”
“Point is, find the right way for you to deal with difficult feelings when they come up—and don’t feel bad about feeling bad. It’s totally normal.” Kahleah concluded.
Journal your reflections:
“You can be good at sports and you can be a “good sport”—the best athletes are both. Being a good sport means always playing fair, and always showing respect to everyone. That means your teammates, the referees, the fans and, yes, even players on the other team. When you’re an athlete, people are always watching you. That’s why it’s important to me to be an example of a good sport. For me, that means doing all I can to play my best while also helping other people when they need it. Being a good sport means having a positive attitude, too. I won’t play sports forever, and having a positive attitude wherever I end up can make my life better—and even someone else’s.” said 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier.
“Being a good sport isn’t always easy. When you’re on a team, you spend time—a ton of time!—with people whose opinions and personalities are different than yours. It can be hard to get along. But I have found that when you talk to those people, you can find things you share and even understand where they’re coming from. And that really helps.”
“I also think you learn a lot from spending time with people who are different from you. In life, you will need to get along with all kinds of people. Being part of a team, or any type of group, teaches you to do that really well.”
“Sometimes it can be hard to be a good sport, like in a championship game. Or any game when the score is close! We all want to win, and sometimes people don’t act their best when the game is on the line. But even if you’re not an athlete, it can be the same way in situations where people feel stressed or emotional. Those are the times when it’s hardest—and most necessary—to act like a good sport.”
“Here’s a helpful rule to follow: Treat others the way you would want them to treat you. It’s called the Golden Rule, and it’s a valuable piece of advice because it’s so important to show respect to teammates, to opponents, to coaches—to everyone, really. Being respectful is how you show a person that they matter. And everyone should feel that they matter.” she said.
“If you want to play sports for a long time, you should practice playing fair and being a good sport now. Get used to it. Make it a part of who you are. Coaches don’t only look at your skills as an athlete. They also look at your attitude. They want to see that you’re a good teammate, that you treat people well, that you play fair, and that you show everyone the respect they deserve.”
Journal your reflections:
“I have a lot of self-confidence, but that doesn’t mean I always feel confident. I know that sounds confusing, so let me explain. I’ve always known that I have the skills and talent to reach all of my goals, but sometimes obstacles make it harder to believe in myself.” revealed dynamic Washington Mystics’ guard Brittney Sykes.
“For example, only 144 women get to play in the WNBA. It’s a big deal to be able to say that I’m one of the best female basketball players in the world. But when I was first starting out, I felt like a little fish in a big pond. There were so many other amazing players and I felt small, like the new kid in school. Then I decided to change how I was looking at the situation. There was a reason I was in the league, and one day I would be just as good as the other players—maybe better. It was all about adjusting my attitude.” she continued.
“Many of my struggles have come down to me not pushing myself enough. For example, I might start to lose confidence in my shooting if I miss a few baskets in a game. So when this happens, I work extra hard in the next practice because I know that practice builds confidence. Of course, I’m human. Sometimes I don’t feel like practicing! I’d rather do something else, something more fun or less hard. But I know that putting in the work will lead me to be a better player and person. Practice is also a time to explore your other talents. After I got injured—twice!—in college, I had to practice a lot more than usual, which was really frustrating.”
“I knew I would play again but also that things would be different. Instead of focusing on making baskets, I discovered other strengths. Like playing defense — it’s fun stopping players on the other team from scoring! I also worked on being a better teammate. Now I always make sure to pass the ball and cheer on my teammates when they make a shot. I celebrate their wins even more than I celebrate my own. It’s exciting to help them make a good play— and, of course, it boosts everyone’s confidence.”
“My eighth grade coach—Coach Fee—was one of the first to tell me that I had the talent to play basketball for a really good college team. She quickly became like a second mom to me, and has been my mentor ever since. A mentor is any older person in your life who you look up to and learn from. And the more mentors you have the better. They help you believe in yourself.”
“In the end, though, other people can’t give you self-confidence. That’s why it’s called SELF-confidence. It has to come from within you. And I know for sure it’s something that is already in every single person. Instead of comparing yourself to others, you have to believe that you are awesome—just as you are. And if you want to get better at being you, well, I can promise that you have the ability to do that too.”
Journal your reflections:
Now you know how to begin keeping track of your basketball progress and how to continue improving it. And it’s as simple as taking a few minutes each day to write things down!
Of course, starting a new habit isn’t always easy. You may not always be in the mood for journaling. Sometimes your routine might get messed up and you will forget. Life will definitely get in the way. And that’s okay. The most important day when building a new habit is the day after you missed it. Say it’s a Thursday night and you rushed to go hang out with your friends and missed your journaling practice. Pick it back up again on Friday and keep rolling. No practice is perfect, but it does take a little commitment.
Up next, learn how positive self-talk in basketball can enhance your performance too.
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