There is a whole litany of things we can do to help improve our skills on the court. Improving our physicality through sprints and resistance training, along with drilling basketball specific skills like dribbling, various types of shooting, and running plays are things we can all agree upon that will help us improve on the court.
But what about off the court? Or even when we're alone and on the court training our physicality? What else can we do to help sharpen our skills?
By using our creative imaginations we can tap into the art and science of sports visualization. In the video below, Kelly Oubre Jr. of the Phoenix Suns speaks briefly about using our imaginations when running through drills or plays on our own on the court. Check it out below.
Sports visualization is a training tool. It can be used to put our mind in the right scenario as we work through plays alone on the court, as Kelly Oubre stated in the video. He imagines himself fighting off defenders as he makes his way to the basket.
Whether we like it or not, we all use visualization. Because human beings have a tendency to think in pictures or images, the things we typically focus on are the negatives, the missed shots or opportunities--the plays that did not work for us.
By using this latent ability to visualize and run through situation specific scenarios, we can sharpen our minds and essentially put ourselves on the court at any time. Think about world-class Olympic athletes who train their entire lives for a performance that, at best, only comes around once every 4 years. By using sports specific visualization, the athlete is able to put themselves on the big stage over and over, training their minds and also their bodies to be better prepared for the high stakes main event.
Michael Phelps, one of the world's most decorated Olympic athletes is said to have been directed by his coach to visualize a perfect race from start to finish every morning and every night. Sports psychologists postulate that our minds have difficulty distinguishing the imagined event from an actual event. Therefore, as Michael rehearses the perfect race day and night for 4 years, imagine how many victorious moments his minds eye has seen. This constant repetition of positive visualization helps train the mind and body.
There are three easy steps to begin using sports visualization to your benefit to improve your skills on the court. Give these a try for a month and watch how much you are able to accomplish.
The first step would be to visualize the complete performance of what you're trying to accomplish. For Michael Phelps, he visualized the moments before the race started while he was standing on the starting blocks all the way to coming out of the water victorious. For you, it might be as simple as visualizing a particular play that you are learning, or perhaps you're working to develop a specific shot or dunk.
The goal in the first step is to visualize yourself completing the entire process from start to finish successfully. If during any time, your mind drifts or thinks negative thoughts or about negative outcomes, stop the process and immediately start over from the beginning to ensure that the mental tape you're creating is all positive.
The second step of this process would be to flesh out this rehearsal to include as many senses in your rehearsal as possible. Think about how sounds and smells can sometimes elicit memories. By imagining the sounds of the high tops on the court, the sweat on your forehead, the smell of the gym, you will go a long way towards embedding this rehearsal deep into your psyche making it more effective.
The third step would be to repeat the process as frequently as possible. Make your downtime more effective. Waiting in line at the drive thru, you can run through your plays and be working on your basketball while most people are just staring into space.
Give this process of incorporating your creative imagination and the science of sports visualization into your training, your warm ups and even your daily commute about a month and watch the improvements start to manifest themselves in your basketball skills.
For more from Kelly Oubre Jr., the 2015 1st round pick, check out his new series Fundamental Finishing and Ball Handling Workout from EffectiveBasketball.com. You can get your copy here or at the Buy Now Link below!