The game was close with each team trading off the lead.
With the clock ticking down, we were losing by two points.
I got the ball, glanced at the clock. Four seconds. I gave my defender a head fake, he bought it. I took a large step around him and went for the score and got hammered by what felt like the entire opposing team.
Time had run out but I had a two shot foul.
I went to the line. I felt good. I had a high free throw percentage. I wasn’t concerned.
Then the other team called time out and my coach did one of the worst things you can do to a player in a moment like this.
On the bench, he leaned over me and in a rough, booming voice, said,”For God’s sake kid, don’t miss! Ya hear me? Do not miss!! You miss these and our season is over!! We’ll never make it to the playoffs!!! You got that!! Huh? Do ya!!!”
I felt my confidence drip out my head along with my sweat leaving it in a puddle on the floor as I walked to the foul line.
The gym was silent. I went through my pre-shot routine but something was off. I could feel it. What was that? What? Who? Huh? I couldn’t focus.
The first shot hit the rim a lot like a Shaquille O’Neal free throw. As I recall someone had to duck.
The opposing team’s fans roared.
And then I missed the second shot.
Had I known then what I now know, perhaps I wouldn’t have missed. But I was a kid. A sophomore in high school playing in, at the time, a high stakes basketball game. I needed help not threats.
The technique to use is self-talk which maybe you already do and don’t know it. Most people talk to themselves (I have been known to talk to myself out loud in public which makes for some interesting looks).
For most people, the self-talk is negative and just below the level of conscious awareness. That’s what happened to me at the free throw line. I was talking myself into missing the shot because of the pressure my coach.
Psychologists already know that self-talk works in sports performance but recently have discovered that the type of talk you use depends on what you’re doing.1
This quote from the research summed things up well.
“The mind guides action. If we succeed in regulating our thoughts, then this will help our behavior. The goal of being prepared is to do the best you can do.”
– Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis
That’s all I have for now.
Thanks for reading.
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