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Positive Self-Talk in Basketball

ByQueen Ballers Club|@queenballers| February 25, 2022
positive-self-talk

Did you know how you talk to yourself can make a big difference on how you feel and perform? Practicing positive self-talk in basketball will help improve your confidence and your performance.

It’s not always easy to keep your self-talk positive and many pro athletes have struggled with overcoming their own negative self-talk. Los Angeles Spark’s dynamic guard Katie Lou Samuelson said, “My self-talk, especially from a younger age used to be so negative. It would always make myself feel bad, as if the things I was doing wasn’t good enough or it was never good enough. Since I recognized that, I had to change the refocus the way I talk to myself. It’s really made a huge difference in my life and in my mental health.”

The good change in Katie’s life came from making the switch to being her own hype man. “What I did to kind of repurpose my negative self-talk, instead of being negative it’s more to challenge myself to accept that I’m saying it and change just like, ‘No, there’s no reason to be negative.’ Just like I would never say negative things to someone else. So why am I saying it to myself? Every day I try to look in the mirror and say two or three things that I’m happy about in my life…Try to continuously hype yourself up.”

“To me positive self-talk is being your own hype man, and not needing other people’s validation to feel better.” Katie concluded.

What is self-talk in basketball?

Self talk is saying words or phrases to yourself prior to or during playing basketball. Performing these techniques can improve focus and slow your brain down. This gives your brain the ability to devote more power to the specific task at hand. Self talk can be positive or negative. It can be encouraging or hurtful. The goal is to keep your self-talk positive.

Positive self-talk can be:

  • Motivational – This is self talk that tends to boost confidence and belief in one’s ability helping to raise performance;
  • Instructional – This tends to divert focus of attention on to certain elements of a movement to increase attentional focus and help task execution accordingly.

Why is self-talk important in basketball?

Self-talk in competitive basketball situations serves cognitive functions (regulating cognition and behavior), motivational functions (promoting mastery goals) and emotion and activation-regulating functions (creating activated states) according to a study by Alexander T Latinjak and others.

Motivational self talk has been found to be more effective for tasks requiring strength and endurance. For example, once you’ve hit overtime in your basketball game. Self-talk can also be more valuable for novel tasks than for well-learned tasks, and both beginner and advanced athletes can benefit from this technique.

How to use positive self-talk in basketball

Have the attitude of a season ticket holder about yourself, recommends The Champion’s Mind. A casual fan is loosely involved with their team. But a season ticket holder is all in through the ups and downs, and shows tons of passion. A casual fan might boo their team when things aren’t going well. But a season ticket holder will still cheer on the team no matter what. Don’t be a casual fan in your own game and life. Remember to stay upbeat about what you know and what you can do, whether you happen to be on a hot streak or have just had a tough loss.

Andrea Padron, a Performance Lifestyle Practitioner, at NBA Academy said, “You want to talk to yourself like you’d talk to someone you love. For example: ‘I can do it!;’ ‘I am good enough;’ ‘It’s OK if I make a mistake.’ You should also give yourself positive affirmations – expect to win, have fun, do it big – because these inspiring words and image can be enough to change your thoughts. Post reminders in your room or anywhere you spend a lot of time – maybe even as your phone background!”

During your game your can get even more specific with your self-talk about what’s happening in the moment. For example, you can say, “I’ve just fouled. I’m getting nervous because it’s a foul we couldn’t afford, I’m dwelling on it. Stop. Breathe. I’m pressing the reset button and deleting that memory from my mind. It’s over. I’m going to take a fresh, confident look at the next play in front of me.” Or if you don’t have time to say all that, just shout to yourself, “Next play!”

Minnesota Lynx sharp shooter Kayla McBride puts lots of practice into maintaining her mental health, from journaling to affirmations, which has helped change her mindset and results. “It is about winning and losing, because as a competitor I love to win. But it’s so much more about the growth that I see in myself on a daily basis. It’s so much fun for me, and I don’t ever want it to stop being this fun. It’s not about the anxiety part or making or missing shots. So if I miss my first two shots, I’m just going to shoot the next three. I probably didn’t have that mindset three years ago.” she said.

Pre-game pep talk

A quick pep talk to yourself can help you get your mind geared up before performing on the day of competition. Here are five keys to an effective pregame personal pep talk from The Champion’s Mind:

  1. Keep it simple, clear, and powerful.
  2. Evoke previous success for confidence.
  3. Tell yourself what you need to focus on to play your best.
  4. Remember that there is noting to lose and everything to win.
  5. Make a decision to enjoy each moment.

Ask the right questions

Because thoughts determine feeling, and then feeling influences performance, ask yourself questions that lead to positive thoughts and problem solving, especially when you are worried or distressed.

Good questions: These help you focus on the situation – at the moment – decide, and act.

  • What do I want to happen?
  • What would help me now?
  • What would [a person you admire] do here and now?

Bad questions: These questions lack satisfactory answers and bring bad consequences.

  • Why is this happening now?
  • What’s wrong with me?

On game day the key question is: What do I need to do to perform my best?

Use positive self-talk in basketball

As always, the mental challenge is to stay in your own zone by focusing on your performance and what you want to accomplish. Now you know how to use self-talk to give yourself your best shot of hitting your basketball goals. Up next, learn about how visualization for basketball can also take your game to the next level.

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