Get superstitions working for you.
A lot of athletes have superstitions and rituals they go through before a game. Not too many would expect to lose if a black cat crossed their path on the way to the gym, but a lot of athletes do concern themselves with what they wear, or the order in which they put on their clothes, or whether they make their first warm-up shot or their last one, and so on. Probably most of this is merely to fine-tune concentration (though the player himself may not be aware of it) or to reduce nervousness.
In these situations, your particular ritual, if you have one, is fine. You are free to enjoy it and go ahead with it.
But some players carry this way of thinking too far, and they begin to believe and let their game performance be affected by statements like, “I can never hit in games if I’m hitting in warm-ups” or “I never play well in a game if I’ve done well in practice the day before.” The statements can even become things like, “I just can’t play well on that court,” and “I just never play well on Saturdays.”
When your harmless superstitions and rituals get you to the point that you are trying to have a bad day in practice (so you will play well in the game the next day) or trying to miss in warm-ups (so your game shooting will be on), you must realize that you have gotten carried away in your thinking. You have become not merely a bit superstitious, but allowed something other than your preparation, give you confidence. A mind does seem to have the tendency to bring about the things it believes in; therefore, you need to realize that you are causing your own poor performances by a faulty way of thinking.
Whatever your superstitions, you can alter them to work for you instead of against you. For example, take the matter of warm-up and game shooting. If you are hitting in warm-ups, think, Wow, I’m hot tonight. There is no logical reason why your hitting should stop once the clock starts. If you’re hitting now, there is every reason to believe that this will be one of those nights you can put in everything. If you are missing in warm-ups, think, I am almost certain to hit well in the game. I’m too good a shooter to keep missing like this. Either way, you should be able to think when the game starts that you are likely to shoot well. You have every right to think that, provided you have practiced diligently and have become a good shooter.
If on any summer day you can walk to a court and pop in nine or ten out of ten free throws, superstition should play no role in how you shoot during the season. One game you may go only eight for ten, and the next game ten for ten. But every game you are going to shoot well, because good shooters shoot well. That’s all there is to it, and that is how you should think about it.
Don’t talk yourself into some negative situation under the guise of superstition. Under the guise of intelligence (if you don’t really have it!) use your mind to work for you, not against you. Black cats notwithstanding, good players will outplay mediocre players a huge majority of the time regardless of how anyone dresses, what day it is, what court it is, or who hits or misses in warm-ups. Let the other guy wear the same lucky arm sleeve every game if he thinks it will help him win. Because it won’t do him a bit of good after you fake it off him.
—Excerpted from the book, “Stuff! Good Players Should Know.”
THINK THE GAME
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