Meditation For Basketball Players: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

meditation Aug 12, 2021
meditation for basketball players

Meditation should be part of every basketball player's routine.

If you're a basketball player and haven't tried meditation yet, you are leaving out a key piece of the basketball puzzle.

When I first started meditating, I had no idea the effect it would have on my basketball game. I thought meditating would just help me relieve some stress, but little did I know how much it would improve my game.

My scoring average skyrocketed frscom 8.3 points per game to 20.6. I went from a career high 4 made three's in a game to 13 in a game. And I went from a record 36 made free throws in a row to 240.

But even more than those improvements in my stats, my shooting confidence grew tremendously, I became a more consistent shooter, and I got better at shooting free throws in clutch moments too.

All of these things happened simply because I took 10 minutes out of my day to basically do nothing. I soon learned that there's a reason 11x NBA champion Coach Phil Jackson had his teams meditate before games.

If meditation is not part of your routine right now, then you cannot reach your full basketball potential. 

Do you want to become a fully confident player? Do you want your scoring average and consistency to increase? Do you want to become a more clutch basketball player?

If so, then definitely keep reading to learn some of the many ways that meditation will help you in your basketball career.

Guided meditation: Pregame Meditation For Basketball >>



What is Meditation?

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

There are different methods to achieving this state of stillness and presence. One of the more common methods involves bringing your attention to your breath. You focus on one breath at a time - the inhale and then the exhale.

Your breath is used to become more present in your meditation practice because there is nothing more present than your breath. Each inhale and each exhale are always happening in the present moment. This is why the breath makes for a great anchor. It's always there and always present. 

The longer you focus on your breathing, the more present you become. And the more present you become, the quieter your mind gets. And the quieter your mind gets, the more you are able to concentrate (you'll see how this helps basketball players shortly).

I like to compare meditation to a computer running a bunch of programs at the same time. When your computer is doing a lot at once, the performance starts to slow down. The computer may even get hot.

In order to let your computer rest and cool down so that it can perform well again, you either need to close out some of the programs or put your computer into sleep mode. With sleep mode, the computer is still on, the power is still on, but you're giving it a chance to rest and cool down. 

Our brains are just like the computer in this scenario. We constantly have a bunch of programs running at the same time. We text, we scroll through social media, we check email....all while having a conversation with someone, or listening to music or watching TV. 

Our brains, just like the computer, get overloaded with all the stuff we have going on. As a result, we become distracted, or tired, or anxious, or frustrated, or short-tempered.

Meditating is like our own personal sleep mode. Meditating is closing out all the programs running (all our thoughts or actions) and putting our brain into sleep mode.

This gives our body and our mind a chance to rest and cool down. This allows us to be the best version of ourselves and perform whatever it is we're doing to the best of our ability.

Read also: How to Mentally Prepare for a Basketball Game (5-Step Routine) >>


10 Signs Meditation Can Help You In Basketball

Meditation isn't just for people looking to reduce stress. It helps your basketball career in many other ways too.

Here are some signs that you may want to add meditation to your routine:

  1. You shoot better without any defenders contesting your shot

  2. You play better in practice than you do in games

  3. You can't make a high number of shots in a row

  4. You can't make a high number of free throws in a row

  5. You make careless turnovers

  6. Game action appears really fast for you

  7. You have a hard time remembering plays

  8. You panic in pressure moments

  9. You dwell on missed shots or previous possessions that didn't go well

  10. You get upset with teammates for making a mistake

The more signs you can relate to, the more you need to start meditating. 

You might like: How To Get Better At Basketball - The Ultimate Guide >>


6 Major Benefits of Meditation For Basketball Players

Meditation will help your basketball career in so many more ways than the 6 I'm going to list below. As is often the case with something like meditation, there are profound positive effects on your life and career that are sometimes hard to explain or quantify.

Below are ,in my opinion, the top 6 ways that meditation makes you a better basketball player:

1. Improves Your Focus and Concentration

Imagine trying to stare at one object for 10 minutes without letting your eyes wander. If you attempted this once a day your focus would probably greatly improve. This is basically what you're doing when you meditate (except your eyes are closed), and the object you are focusing on is your breathing.

The more you practice meditating, which means the more you practice keeping your attention on one thing (your breathing), the better you are going to get at focusing. Meditation also helps your focus because it improves your ability to re-focus when you do get distracted.

While meditating, there will be times where you start thinking about other things: what's on your agenda for the day, what's for lunch, how you played the other day, how your upcoming game is going to go, etc. Meditation teaches you how to catch yourself being distracted and re-focus, or bring your awareness back to your breathing. 

So then, how does all of this help you in basketball?


2. Raises Your Shooting Percentage

By improving your focus and concentration as mentioned above, your shooting percentage is going to increase.

Basketball shooting is one of the most complex skills in all of sports. There are so many moving parts: your footwork, the amount of knee bend, your rhythm, your shot-pocket, your hand placement on the ball, your elbow placement, your release, your follow-through. 

If one of these parts is off or inefficient, it can affect the whole entire shot.

Another aspect of your shot that I didn't mention above is your focus. And also your ability to concentrate. These things affect your jump shot too. In order to perform any skill well, you have to stay focused. Distractions affect performance. 

Have you ever noticed how much better you shoot by yourself in an empty gym vs shooting while you're having a conversation with a friend? When your focus is elsewhere, your performance suffers. So if you're distracted while shooting, or you have a hard time staying focused, then your shooting percentage will suffer.

And as you now know, meditation helps you improve your ability to stay focused and stay concentrated.

By practicing meditation, you will get better at staying focused while shooting a jump shot. You will get better at staying concentrated and ignoring any distractions (defenders, crowd booing, etc.) And by getting better at staying focused and concentrated, your shooting percentage is going to increase dramatically.

Related: The Complete Guide to Getting in the Zone in Basketball >>


3. Helps You Shoot More Consistently

Meditation will also help you shoot more consistently. It will help you limit how many shots you miss in a row.

The reason is because meditation helps you to let go. When you meditate, there will inevitably be times where you get distracted by thoughts. Which is ok. All you can do next is let go of that thought and return to focusing on your breath.

The same holds true in basketball. When you miss a shot, it's easy to get upset or frustrated. Getting upset or frustrated by a miss is ok. It's holding onto that frustration that hurts you. Holding onto that anger and letting it linger into the next play - that's where you get into trouble.

Shooting your next shot with built-up frustration from the last miss is only going to decrease your chances of making your next shot. This hurts your consistency. 

If you want to be a consistent shooter and not let one miss snowball into three or four misses, then it's important to let go of a miss after it happens...or let go of a turnover or a bad play. Experience your anger, experience your frustration, but then let it go and move onto the next play.

Meditation helps you improve this letting go process.


4. Increases Your Shooting Confidence

Consistent meditation will also increase your confidence as a shooter and as basketball player overall.

Meditation helps your confidence in two ways:

1. Brings you into a state of calm and peace with yourself

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that meditation is the act of being still and being present. And by being still and present, you allow your mind to quiet and you bring yourself into a state of calm. This state of calm, this inner peace that you achieve with consistent meditation, it facilitates self-confidence. 

When you are at peace with who you are, you don't care what other people think or say about you. Those things don't affect you. You draw confidence from within. You approve of yourself without needing the approval of others.

Read also: 3 Tips to Increase Your Shooting Confidence in Basketball  >>

And so in your basketball career, you stay confident in your abilities and in the direction of your career no matter what other people say or think.

2. Teaches you how to ignore the noise

Meditation also helps your confidence because it teaches you how to ignore noise. 

There's internal noise - your own thoughts that are fearful or doubtful. These thoughts cloud your mind and they hold you back from being your best. They hold you back from being fully confident.

And there's external noise - other people's doubts about you which can also affect you if you let it.

Noise is a distraction. By ignoring all the noise, you are better able to focus on what you are doing with full confidence and full belief in yourself.

Meditation teaches you how to ignore noise because it teaches you how to become aware of the noise, aware of the fearful or doubtful thoughts. The more you meditate, the more you realize that you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts do not define you. 

And when you realize this, you realize that you don't have to believe the doubtful thoughts that pop into your head. You don't have to listen to the fear. You can just ignore it. You can just let those thoughts float away.

By letting the fear and the doubt float away, you leave more room for confidence. 


5. Helps You Be More Clutch

A common misconception in basketball is that clutch is something you're either born with or you aren't. But the truth is, there is no such thing as a "clutch gene." Clutch isn't a gene. It's a mindset.

To be clutch, of course you have to be skilled, but you also have to have the right mentality. The "clutch mindset." And this clutch mindset is a mindset that isn't afraid of fear, or embarrassment, or letting other people down.

When you're in a pressure moment as a basketball player, it's easy to get caught up in the hypotheticals of what would happen if you miss or you make a mistake. It's easy to get caught up in the fear, the doubt, the potential embarrassment. 

All that stuff is just more noise. And meditation helps you ignore that noise. Just like meditation helps you ignore any noise that would keep you from being confident, it also helps you ignore any noise that would keep you from being clutch (this includes actual noise too, like the crowd going crazy or booing you).

Because meditation helps you improve your focus, this strong focus will keep you locked in when all eyes are on you and the pressure of the situation is great.

Meditation helps you stay focused and present in these moments of chaos. And by staying calm amidst chaos, you are better able to succeed in these moments. 


6. Helps You Wire in Any Basketball Mentality You Want

Finally, and I've alluded to this already, meditation allows you to wire in any mindset that you want to have.

Because another thing that comes as a result of a consistent meditation practice is you realize that you are not your thoughts. You realize that your thoughts do not define you. And you can change them. And you first change your thoughts by changing your beliefs. 

If you want to have a clutch mindset, you take on the beliefs of the clutch mindset. If you want to have the Mamba Mentality or a killer mentality, you take on those beliefs. If you want to be a fully confident basketball player, then you take on the beliefs of fully confident players.

And then all of a sudden your thoughts start to change too. Your thoughts start to reflect your beliefs, they start to reflect that mindset that you chose to have.

And when your thoughts change, your actions change. When you start thinking like a clutch basketball player, you start acting like one too. You start shooting game-winners with confidence and without fear. 

And when your actions change, so does your reality. When you shoot game-winners with confidence and without fear, you make more of them. 

And all of a sudden, you are clutch. And it all started with meditation and a realization that you are not your thoughts. 


How to Meditate

You now see how beneficial meditation is for basketball players, but how do you actually go about doing it?

Sitting or laying down

Your meditation practice should be what works for you. If you'd like to sit in a chair, sit in a chair. If you'd rather lay down, lay down. The important thing is to do what's comfortable for you in a way where you can really relax and let go.

Also, find somewhere that's quiet and free of distractions.

Focus on your breath

Next, close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. You might be wondering, well wait well how do I do that? How do I bring my awareness to my breath? 

And there’s different ways to do it. You can follow your stomach rising as you inhale, and then flattening as you exhale. Or you can focus on the air coming through your nose, then leaving either your nose or mouth.

It’s really up to you, there’s no right way to do it. The point is just to focus on your breathing as much as you can.

You’ll probably find yourself getting distracted by thoughts, which is ok, you don’t have to perfectly focus on your breath for the entire duration of your meditation. You should try to do that as best you can, but it’s going to take practice to really master it.

And the idea is to not get frustrated at how “bad” you’re doing either, or how distracted you get. The important part is that you’re there doing it. And trust that you will get better at it over time. Because you will. Meditation is just like any other skill, and with repetition, you will get better at it.


How long should I meditate for?

If you're a total beginner, 5 minutes is a great starting point with the goal to increase it to at least 10 minutes eventually.

There is no right or wrong duration for your meditation. Any meditation is helpful in some way, no matter how long it is. But what I will say is the longer you meditate, the deeper your relaxation can get and the quieter your mind can become.

When I first started meditating, I could barely get through 5 minutes. But I stuck with it everyday and eventually I was able to increase it to 10 minutes. And now, years later, I meditate for 30-45 minutes at a time.

So again, don't worry if you're not "good" at it right away. You will get better over time if you stick with it. The only way to not get better at meditating is to quit doing it.

When should I meditate?

Here are some good times to meditate for basketball players.

  • in the morning
  • on the bus before game
  • in the locker room before game
  • at halftime to reset
  • before a workout

How often should you meditate?

Any time I hear the question, "how often should I ____," my answer is always the same: 

How good do you want to get? 

Do you want to be ok at meditating and get some of the benefits? Meditate once a week.

Do you want to be good at meditating and get more benefits? Meditate a few times a week.

Do you want to get elite at mediating and get all of the benefits? Meditate everyday. Or twice a day.

As with anything, the more you meditate, the better you'll get at it and the more benefits you'll receive. 

The choice is up to you.

By the way, if you'd like a visual explanation of how to meditate, here's a good video explaining how to meditate in more detail. 


Free Guided Meditations For Basketball Players

Here are a few of my top guided meditations for basketball players. You can find even more basketball meditations on my YouTube channel.

These are some of the many benefits of meditation for basketball players. If you add meditation into your daily routine, your development as a basketball player will reach a new level. Guaranteed.

You will undoubtedly evolve as a player. 

By the way, be sure to check out my basketball-specific guided meditations on YouTube. Here's the playlist.

I hope this article brought you clarity as to how mediation can help you as a basketball player.

Happy meditating. Namaste. 

More articles by Basketball Mindset Training:

• How to Boost Your Confidence in Basketball | 10 Tips  >>

• The Complete Guide to Getting in the Zone in Basketball >>

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