Getting in the Zone in Basketball: The Complete Guide

basketball mindset Nov 01, 2023
get in the zone in basketball

How to get in the zone in basketball on command. Is it possible? Yes. But it's not easy

Every basketball player dreams of getting in that flow state that we call "The Zone." Because it is in this mental space where peak performance occurs.

If you've ever played in a basketball game where you were able to get into the zone, then you know exactly what I'm referring to.

It's where time slows down, where you're completely locked in and unfazed by distraction, where you feel like you can do no wrong. You're in a mentally great place with full confidence in yourself.

What is this "zone" state exactly? How do you get in it? How do you stay in it for longer? And can you get in the zone on command?

Read on to learn the answer to each of these questions and more in this complete guide on how to get in the zone in basketball.

To watch my Youtube video on this topic, click here

5 Ways To Get Locked In Before A Game: Read | Watch >>

 

What Is The Zone?

Most players know what the zone is, but it can be hard to explain. Because it's one of those things where you don't always know you're in it when you're in it. You usually realize it after the fact.

To me, the zone is a mental state where you are 100% focused and 100% present in whatever it is that you're doing.

When you're in the zone, you are totally in the moment. You get lost in what you're doing.

With basketball, when you're in the zone the game sort of slows down for you. You are totally in the moment and you aren't distracted by anything, you don't hear the crowd, you don't feel the pressure of the moment, nothing can break your focus.

Now, this isn’t to say you aren’t thinking at all. You might not be. Or, you might be doing a little bit of thinking.

At the very least, when you're in the zone you keep your thoughts to a minimum, and those thoughts are all on the task at hand. They are all in the present moment.

You aren’t thinking about what just happened on the previous possession, and you aren’t thinking about what might happen on the next possession, or any other hypothetical scenarios.

Your concentration is on the current possession, the current play, the current moment, always.

And as you certainly know, when you're in the zone you unlock another level of performance. It's like a multiplier boost for your game.

You shoot better, dribble better, play defense better, see the game unfold and execute better. Being in the zone takes your game to the next level. 

Guided Meditation: Pregame Meditation for Basketball Players >>

 

How To Get In The Zone

You might be wondering, is it possible to get in the zone on command? If so, how?

Well, the answer to the first question is, yes, you can totally get in the zone on command. It's not easy, but it's possible.

And at the very least, you can certainly get better at getting in the zone and increase your chances of it happening by getting good at what I'm about to share with you.

Let's go back to the definition of the zone: "A mental state where you are 100% focused and 100% present in whatever it is that you're doing."

When you're in the zone, you are fully focused and fully present.

So, to get in the zone on command -- while playing basketball, while watching a movie, while doing anything -- you need to narrow your focus and you need to become more present until you reach this mental state where you are 100% focused, and 100% present.

Ok, let's take that a step further. So then, how do you narrow your focus and how do you become more present?

Well, these go hand in hand. You really can't narrow your focus if you aren't present, and you can't become more present if you aren't focused.

Here are some specific ways to achieve both of these things and, as a result, get in that coveted zone state.

To narrow your focus and become more present, you need to quiet your mind, ignore distractions, and be fully engaged in what you're doing.

And, if you find yourself slipping, use an anchor back to the present moment.

Let's break each of these down.

You might like: 24 Motivational Basketball Quotes to Build Confidence  >>

 

1. Quiet Your Mind

To narrow your focus and become more present, you have to quiet your mind.

Now, again, this doesn't mean you're not thinking at all. Quieting your mind doesn't necessarily mean shutting out all thoughts completely, the key is to just minimize your thoughts. The key is to not overthink.

Here's an example of a loud or overthinking mind. Let's use the example of doing a shooting drill:

"Darn, I just missed 3 shots in a row." "Ah, there goes another miss." "Man, I'm off today." "Hmm what're people thinking right now? They probably think I'm a terrible shooter." "I have to make 4 out of the next 5 shots to complete this drill I'm on."

Versus a quiet mind. If you miss a shot:

"All good, I got this." Maybe you give yourself a quick reminder: "Hey, I need more arc on this next shot. There we go."

Far less thinking and analyzing going on. The quieter your mind, the better.

The other key difference here is whatever thoughts you do have, keep them in the present moment.

"Darn, I just missed 3 shots in a row." That's thinking about the past. "Man, I'm off today." Thinking about the past. Thoughts like these are taking you out of the present moment. They're taking you out of the zone.

"What're people thinking right now? They probably think I'm a terrible shooter." Those are thoughts of the future. "I have to make 4 out of the next 5 shots to complete this drill." Again, thoughts of the future.

When you're thinking about the future, those thoughts take you out of the present moment. They take you out of the zone.

But instead: "I got this." A thought in the present moment. "More arc." Present moment.

You want to just stay focused on this moment, and then this one, and then this one.

When you quiet your mind and you keep your thoughts in the present moment, you narrow your focus, you become more present, and you get in the zone.

 

2. Ignore Distractions

Second way to get in the zone: ignore distractions.

When you get distracted, you take yourself out of the zone.

Think about when you're watching a movie. If your phone keeps going off because you're getting texts or notifications, well then you're not going to get in the zone while watching that movie.

The same thing goes with basketball. In basketball, there's external distractions to deal with like:

  • the crowd
  • fans booing
  • opponents talking trash.

There's also internal distractions like:

  • your own doubts
  • fears
  • thoughts of the past
  • hypothetical thoughts of the future

You have to ignore these things. All of it takes you out of the moment. It's not always easy to do but the more you practice ignoring distractions, the better you'll get.

There's a famous clip of Kobe Bryant where Chris Rock was courtside and trying to talk to Kobe and Kobe just kept staring ahead. He didn't acknowledge Chris Rock at all. That would have been a distraction. That would have taken him out of his zone.

When you ignore distractions, you narrow your focus, you become more present, and you get in the zone.

Read also: The 24 Best Kobe Bryant Mamba Mentality Quotes  >>

 

3. Be Fully Engaged

The third tip for getting in the zone: Become fully engaged in what you're doing.

When you're fully engaged in what you're doing, you are fully locked into whatever you're doing. You sort of get lost in what you're doing.

You're not overthinking, which we've already talked about. You're not getting distracted by anything, which we also just talked about. You're in a flow.

All of your attention is on whatever it is you're doing.

This shot. This play. This game.

Here's a great trick for becoming fully engaged with what you're doing if you're having trouble: use your senses.

Really focus on using your senses. When you're fully engaged with what you're doing, you're really seeing what you're doing, you're really feeling it, really hearing it, smelling it or tasting it if that applies.

So in basketball, if you want to get locked in on command, think about using your senses (when you can).

When you're on the bench or during a dead ball situation, really watch what's going on around you. Really see the action unfold. Really see the action unfold when you're in the game as it's happening.

Another good one is to feel. Really feel your feet on the ground. Really feel the ball in your hands. This will lock you right back in. 

When I find myself struggling with my jumper or struggling to stay locked in, I love to just focus on the feeling of the ball in my hands, and that feeling of the ball leaving my hands as I shoot.

You can use your hearing to help you get fully engaged too. Really hear the sounds of the game, the shoes squeaking, the net swishing.

Consciously thinking about using your senses will help you become more engaged with whatever it is you're doing.

And when you become fully engaged with what you're doing, you narrow your focus, you become more present, and you get in the zone.

 

4. Use An Anchor

To narrow your focus and become more present (which will get you in the zone), you want to quiet your mind, ignore distractions, and become fully engaged with what you're doing.

What happens if you're struggling to do these things though? It's hard. It takes consistent practice. What should you do if you just can't focus?

Well, a great hack is to use an anchor back to the present moment. Here's what I mean:

An anchor to the present is something that's going to bring you right back to the present when you place your attention on it.

For example, what's something that's always in the present moment? Your breath. Each breath you take is always in the present moment. It can never not be. 

So if you ever find yourself struggling to get focused and present, bring your attention to your breathing for a little. Just like in meditation.

If you're working out or in practice, when you get a chance, take a quick 10, 20, or 30 second break and just focus on your breath. 

If you're in a game, when on the bench or during a timeout or even during a dead ball, bring your attention to your breath.

Focus on this inhale, and then this exhale. Hear yourself breathing. Or feel yourself breathing. 

By placing your focus on something that is always present, your breath, you will become more present yourself.

Your breath acts as an anchor to the present moment.

The second thing that can be an anchor to the present moment is a mantra.

You can set the intention: "When I say ____, I'm going to come back to the present moment immediately."

"Lock in." "Be here now." "Be present." These are just a few examples.

Whatever you want your mantra to be, just set the intention - "When I say 'lock in,' I'm going to instantly become present."

And then, the more you say your mantra and get locked back in, the more effective it's going to become over time. The more you use your mantra, the more your body and mind will know exactly what you're trying to do and you'll re-focus quicker.

Quiet your mind, ignore distractions, be fully engaged with what you're doing. This is how to get in the zone. And if you find yourself struggling to do these things, use an anchor to bring yourself into the present moment by either focusing on your breathing or using a mantra.

Listen: Guided Meditation for Increasing Shooting Confidence >>

 

The Key To Getting In The Zone More In Basketball

When you practice quieting your mind, ignoring distractions, and being fully engaged in what you're doing, you will start to get in the zone more.

But here's the biggest key to getting in the zone on command:

If you want to get in the zone more in basketball, you have to get in the zone more outside of basketball.

 

 

You have to get in the zone more in your day-to-day life. Your day-to-day life is an opportunity to practice getting in the zone. It's an opportunity to get better at getting in the zone on command.

So then when you step onto the court, you'll be able to get in the zone easily because you've done it so many times outside of basketball. You've gotten good at it. You've gotten good at narrowing your focus and becoming fully present.

You've gotten good at quieting your mind, and ignoring distractions and staying fully engaged in whatever it is you're doing. And that will carry over onto the basketball court.

Listen: 21 Shooting Confidence Affirmations >>

 

How To Practice Getting In The Zone

Here are some ways you can practice getting in the zone, both in your day-to-day life and in basketball.

Basketball:

A great way to practice getting in the zone is when you're doing shooting drills. Try to catch yourself if your mind starts to wander. "Oh, there I go thinking about what's for lunch or that thing that happened yesterday. Let me just be here."

Try to focus on each shot you take, one shot at a time.

In your day-to-day life:

  • when watching TV or watching a movie 
  • doing homework or studying
  • reading a book
  • reading an article online
  • watching a YouTube video
  • eating
  • having a conversation with someone

When doing these things, try to "get lost" in whatever it is you're doing. Do your best to ignore distractions. Avoid multi-tasking.

Put your phone in a different room. Put it on silent. Try to just be in the moment.

None of this is easy to do. It's hard. But this is what it takes if you want to get in the zone more. This is what it takes if you want to get good at getting in the zone on command.

It's not easy, but with dedication, self-discipline, and motivation to really work on everything I shared with you here in this guide, then you're going to get in the zone more without a doubt. And that will take your game to another level.

That will have you playing at peak performance more often, and you're going to separate yourself from other players as a result. You're going to stand out.

 

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