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Tips: The Mental Game

One afternoon in 2005 or so, I was in the Fort Washington LA Fitness playing some games of 21 and 1-on-1 with a couple of kids who were probably 19 or 20 years old. After the last game an impromptu dunk contest broke out between me and one of the kids, who was quite athletic and could jump just as high as me. He also had a few dunks in his bag that I didn't have in mine.

As we talked on the sideline later, the kid told me about how he had played sparingly in high school and had no real intentions of playing in college. Based on what I had seen from this kid that day, he clearly had the talent and physical gifts to at least be on some college team's roster. But as with any of us who may not be reaching the potential our talents hint at, there was something missing.

This kid did not possess the mentality to want to go out and be one of the better players on the floor.

The mental game is to the physical as 3 is to 1 (or 4 to 1 or 10 to 1, depending on whom you ask). This applies to sports, warfare, Broadway acting, any performance activity (basically, everything). Meaning, the mind state with which you approach a task will either enhance or offset what you bring physically.

To get better at the mental game, think about your approach and how it can be better. Are you mentally placing yourself above or below where you are physically? Former Chicago Bull Horace Grant once said that having Michael Jordan on his team was a huge weight off of the rest of the Bulls, night in and night out. That was because of the way MJ approached the game mentally -- with MJ on your side, you were going to either win, or come pretty damn close. Every time. The mental approach is all that more important when you are in a position of leadership in your group. Everyone's watching and feeding off of you.

The best way to get better at something is by doing it. Think about your mind set in your best and worst performances, and how it led to what you did. Remind yourself to concentrate on your mental approach from now on and reap the rewards.


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