How to Mentally Prepare for a Basketball Game (5-Step Routine)

basketball mindset Sep 24, 2022

Get your mind right before a game with this simple 5 step basketball mental routine.

Adding these mental exercises to your pregame routine will help you feel more confident, calm, and focused going into your game.

Before games, you probably have some sort of routine. Maybe you nap, you eat the same meal at the same time, you loosen up/stretch, you practice the same shots or do the same ballhandling drills.

This routine helps you prepare physically for your upcoming game. But what about a pregame mental routine? Do you prepare mentally for your upcoming game?

Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation.

By warming up mentally, you go into your game with more confidence, less worry, and more poise. Which means playing better, more freely, and calmer under pressure.

Read on to learn a simple, 5 step routine to use before games to help you get your mind right for your next game. 

If you'd rather watch a video on this topic, check out my youtube video >>



1. Meditate for 5-10 Minutes

The first thing to do to mentally prepare yourself for your basketball game is to meditate for 5-10 minutes.

Meditation is the simple act of being still and being present. By being still and present, you allow your mind to quiet and you bring yourself into a state of calm.  

This state of calm will help ease any worries you have about your game. It also carries over into the game and helps you play with poise and thrive even in the face of pressure - whether from your opponent or from the magnitude of the game or moment. 

What to do:

  • close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath
  • pay attention to each inhale and each exhale
  • try not to let your mind wander, but if it does that's ok, just bring your attention right back to your breath
  • do this for 5-10 minutes either at home before the game, or on the bus or in the locker room

If you're interested in learning more about meditation and it's benefits for basketball players you can check out the resources linked below. 

Read: Why Every Basketball Player Should Meditate Daily (Ultimate Beginner's Guide) >>

Guided Meditation: Pregame Meditation for Basketball >>



2. Set Goals

With your mind clear, the next step in your mental preparation is to set a few goals. You want to set a few challenging goals that you can strive to achieve in your upcoming game.

Why set goals?

Setting goals before each game has a few benefits:

  • Goals can give you an extra ounce of motivation 
  • They are a good way to make sure you're constantly trying to play better. They give you something to focus on and strive for.
  • Without goals, it's easy to get complacent/stagnant in your development as a player
  • Goals give you direction

What types of goals should you set?

Performance Goals


  • score 20 points 
  • get 10 assists
  • grab 10 rebounds

It's okay to set stat-based goals like this. The important thing is to not let achieving your goal get in the way of playing the right way. 

If your goal is to score 20 points in your next game, don't just chuck up 30 shots in order to make that happen. Don't take bad shots and hurt your team just so you can achieve your goal. Aim to score 20 points the right way, in the flow of the offense, taking shots or getting to the basket how you normally do.


Process Goals


  • shoot with confidence, without hesitation
  • be unselfish and look to make the right play
  • box-out on every play

Notice how the examples above are an extension of the performance goals. Process goals take performance goals and break them down into smaller parts. Process goals help you to achieve your performance goals.

Mindset Goals

Set a mindset-related goal for your upcoming game too. 


  • Today I'm going to play more decisively and with more confidence
  • If I find myself in a clutch situation, I'm not going to be afraid of the moment.
  • I will move on from any mistakes/turnovers quickly
  • I'm not going to worry about what other people are thinking of me

To improve your basketball mentality, identify an aspect of your mindset that you struggle with in games and set a goal that will help you improve it.

Goal-setting Tips

  • set at least 1 performance goal, 1 process goal and 1 other mindset-related goal
  • make it challenging, yet achievable (if you average 15 points a game don't make your goal to score 10, aim for 20 or more)



3. Visualize Your Success

Now that you've set a few goals, the third step in your pregame mindset routine is to visualize yourself playing well in your game and achieving your goals.

What is visualization?

Visualization is when you close your eyes and you imagine yourself doing something in your mind's eye. 

In basketball terms, it means closing your eyes and picturing yourself playing basketball, imagining yourself on the court practicing or playing in a game.

Studies have shown that getting mental reps through visualization is an effective way to prepare for and get better at something. So picturing yourself playing in a game before you actually play in it is a great way to warm up and increase your chances of success. 

What to do:

For your pregame mental routine, take 5 minutes to close your eyes and imagine yourself playing in your upcoming game, and imagine yourself playing well. Imagine yourself making shots, playing good defense, whatever it is that you do on the court. 

Also imagine yourself being confident, being fearless, not being afraid of the moment or any pressure.

Finally, visualize yourself achieving the goals that you set in step 2. By visualizing your success, you will increase your chances of actually achieving that success in your game. 

Read: How to Lock in Before a Basketball Game >>



4. Positive Self-Talk with Affirmations

What are affirmations?

Affirmations are powerful statements that you read or say to yourself that program your subconscious mind. They are used to help you rewire your mindset to be more positive, confident, fearless, grateful, etc. 

For basketball, your performance on the court is a reflection of your mindset.

When you are confident, when you are fearless, when you are positive, when you embrace pressure, you play better on the court. Which is why reading affirmations before your game is a quick and easy way to improve your basketball mentality and get your mind ready for success on the court.

Here are a few examples of pregame affirmations. All you have to do is read these to yourself out loud or in your head. 


  • I am a great basketball player.
  • No one can guard me.
  • I am fully confident in my basketball abilities
  • I believe every shot I take is going in
  • I play with zero hesitation
  • I do not fear failure

Affirmations are one of the easiest ways to improve your basketball mindset and it only takes a few minutes to do.

Guided meditation: 21 Affirmations to Increase Your Shooting Confidence >>



5. Express Gratitude

The last part of your pregame mental routine is to express gratitude. Expressing gratitude or keeping a gratitude journal has been proven to increase happiness and wellness which means an improved quality of life.

When you express gratitude before your basketball game, it can ease any worries you have about your game because it puts things in perspective.

You remind yourself of how lucky you are to be playing this game and you remind yourself that it is just that, a game, and it's meant to be fun.

With this positive perspective, you free yourself to just play and have fun. Not to mention you increase your chances of success too.

What to do:

Think of at least 3 things that you are grateful for regarding basketball.

Some examples:

  • I am grateful for the game of basketball
  • I am grateful for my school/team for giving me the opportunity to play
  • I am thankful for my body for allowing me to play this game
  • I am thankful for my coaches and teammates who bring out the best in me

If you'd like to listen to a guided meditation where I walk you through expressing gratitude, you can check out the video below.

Guided meditation: Post Game Guided Meditation for Basketball Players  >>


Do this 5 step mental routine before every game, establish a positive, calm, confident mindset, and play better in your game as a result.


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