The practice of "getting in the zone" before a big game applies to amateurs and professionals alike. It typically refers to a state of mind where basketball is in the forefront and confidence, relaxation and preparation combine to make you a better player. While physical practice helps you increase your preparation before a game, so do certain mental practices, which put you in the right mindset for competition. Experiment with different strategies to learn how to better get in your zone before game play.
Practice physically in the weeks before a game. While a mental game is vital to getting into your zone, knowing that you've done what you can to increase your abilities helps give you the mental confidence necessary to become a better player. Proper practice and improvement helps to bolster your mental efforts to help you become a well-rounded player, so your head is in the game without doubts and worries about your physical performance.
Create or adopt a motto for yourself, which you repeat before games or while playing to help you feel more powerful and confident. Any number of quotes or slogans from basketball greats will do: Longtime-NBA-player-turned-coach Doc Rivers adopted the motto of "Mental toughness!" throughout his career. You might also create your own motto based on personal experiences and the type of words that help energize you and give you confidence.
Take time to mentally relax before a game. When you're high-strung and nervous, you might not be as receptive to your instincts on the court. Whether it's listening to music, meditating, taking a quick nap or spending time with friends, taking 20 minutes for yourself before the game preps your body and your mind to getting in the zone when your feet hit the court.
Visualize yourself in the game. Envisioning the way you'll react to certain plays and problems gives you the power to plan ahead and become more excited for your overall performance. Visualization also helps maintain muscle memory, which makes for faster reflexes and quicker decision-making during the game. Try visualization exercise after practice, before the game and even during timeouts and breaks in the game.
Forgive yourself for making mistakes during game play. Even the greatest basketball players miss a shot, fumble a pass or let their team down now and again. By letting failure get into your head, your confidence on the court becomes compromised. Instead, seek out what you can learn from a mistake and then move on so your mistakes eventually help you become a better player.
- "Mind Games: Inspirational Lessons from the World's Finest Sports Star"; Jeff Grout, et al.; 2010
- "Boston Globe"; Routine Excellence Is Allen's Secret; Jackie MacMullan; April 20, 2008