“Greatness is always in the moment of the decision.”
Jeff Olson – The Slight Edge
“Greatness in sports is born in the moment”
Sam Sheridan – The Fighter’s Mind
Earlier today, I was watching Rafael Nadal win his 10th French Open tennis tournament. Nadal has been one athlete whom I have followed for some time now. It’s because of how he mentally prepares himself to play and his mental game on the court when he is playing. In his book, “RAFA”, Nadal stated…”I would take each point as it came, in isolation. I’d forget everything else, obliterate the future and the past, exist only in the moment.”
In his book, Nadal talked about the importance and challenges of keeping his attention and focus on what was happening right in front of him. “What I battle hardest to do in a tennis match is to quiet the voices in my head, to shut everything out of my mind but the contest itself and concentrate every atom of my being on the point I am playing. If I made a mistake on a previous point forget it; should a thought of victory suggest itself, crush it”, said Nadal. For this tennis player, he wanted to keep playing in the moment.
For any basketball player, it’s all about being in the moment. When you step out of that moment, and find yourself being mentally or emotionally pulled back to what has already happened or pushed to wonder or worry about what will happen, then you’ve taken yourself out of what is happening right now. And when this happens, you can’t play smart. You can’t make good decisions. You can’t stay focused. You can’t maintain your poise.
When you’re on the basketball court, here are three simple things that you can do to keep yourself in the moment. First, play with your eyes. You must clearly see what is happening in the moment if you want to make the right decisions. Too many players simply focus on what they want to happen, or play with their feelings, without taking into account what is actually happening in order to make the best decision for that moment. You may want to take the shot. But do you notice that two of your teammates are wide open and you have two players trying to defend you? And you may feel like a failure because you missed your last three shots. But do you notice that you have an open lane to make a routine layup?
Second, use the verbal cue – “check” – the moment that you feel as if you are losing your focus. Saying “check” to yourself is a mental reminder to “check yourself” back into the game and into the present moment. It’s a simple wake-up call. You can say “check” when you get distracted by a comment from the other team on the sideline. You can say “check” when you find yourself continuing to look up to see who’s winning and who’s losing on the scoreboard. You can say “check” when you start thinking about how many points you will score or how many rebounds you will pull down by the end of the game.
Third, just take a deep breath. Very often, you will begin to feel as if the game is moving too fast and you can’t catch up. And when this happens, you start feeling more stress and anxiety. Then you begin rushing, lose control of yourself and begin making mistakes in situations that you normally don’t make mistakes. So, take one deep breath. Just focus on the air going in and coming out. Nothing else. This will help slow the game for you, regain your composure and bring you back in the present moment.
Remember. To play in the present moment, you want to play with your eyes, say “check” and take a deep breath. Three simple things that will keep you in the moment every moment you are on the court.