Play Positive

Often times, players focus on the physical aspects of the game, and forget about the mental. However, as most elite players understand, the mental part of the game is as important (if not more important) than the physical, which is why most of the players take products from to have better concentration when playing. Kyle Julius of A-Game Hoops and former CIS star at Guelph University drops in to provide his insight on the concept of “Playing Positive”
  • The slower you play the faster and quicker you become
  • The less you hunt for shots the more open shots you get
  • The less you worry about the referees the more calls you get
  • The more energy you give to the team and your teammates the more energy you will have to make a big play when needed.
Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls | Courtesy: Chicago Sun-Times

There is so much talk about playing and living in the moment or playing present but nobody actually explains how to do so.

Here is what has worked for me and the elite players I have been around on my Journey:

Playing in the moment is a unique concept. In fact, I really don’t think it’s possible to play in the moment and don’t think playing in the moment is something that will help your game.  I think it’s something different…we call  it PLAYING POSITIVE.

PLAYING POSITIVE requires countless In-Game minutes and an understanding of yourself that comes from STUDYING the effects of adversity and some failure related to your performance. In other words, you have to know yourself and study what makes you think the thoughts you think in a game or workout. Ask yourself: is my thought process helping me or hurting me today?

Often times, the root cause of a mistake on the basketball court is not the decision or action you see the player make… Its what’s going on in his mind before the mistake even happens.  The same can be said for a great play!

Why is it that so many players spend endless hours in the weight-room, gruelling hours on the court and even more time on the track but when you see them play it looks as if they haven’t spent a moment working on their game?  It’s because they haven’t spent anytime working on their minds and their ability to create and sustain a positive mindset.

In players who haven’t spent any time working on their minds you see emotional outburst, negative body language, weak handshakes, turnovers, misreads, missed assignments etc.  These  mistakes are rare to players who have positive energy and playing with a positive fire.

It doesn’t matter how much time you spend on your game or how talented you are, if you cannot control the thoughts in your mind you are defeated before you start.

Playing present or in the moment does not exist because it means your thoughts begin and end instantaneously – no anticipation just reaction which reduces control.


Time does not stand still and if you spend your time trying to be in the moment, the moment will pass you by.  If you PLAY POSITIVE you will be ready for the next play and your teammates will feed off of the energy you exert.

The current moment is done… it’s gone…the only thing that matters is the next play and you have to be in A POSITIVE MIND SET to attack it.

Playing Positive requires serious dedication and practice. In order to do so we use TRIGGER WORDS, as soon as a negative thought or a weak thought comes into mind we want to have a word we can use to kill that negative thought or emotion immediately.  These are words you keep to yourself, they should have significant meaning to you and kill any negativity the second you say them. PULL THE TRIGGER ON NEGATIVITY.


Once you are positive, you are ready to attack the next play.  You must have that positive energy rushing through your veins and you must work hard to keep it there day after day.

I’m not saying you have to be all happy and sappy.  For some people some anger, hatred and fire can be channelled into positive energy and become effective for performance. However, too much anger can lead to more negative energy and become detrimental to your performance. You have to know yourself and be able to reflect on past performance to make a change. You have to know what makes you angry and what happens to you when you get angry. Once you have identified your source of anger you must learn to eliminate it and OR turn it into positive energy.

For me, referees have always been a major source of anger.  I hate them!!!  Their calls have caused me to play poorly and lose focus in big games. Referees have forced me to lose focus and play poorly many times.  Once I identified that, I learned to turn that anger into positive energy and not only did I play better, I found myself getting more calls.

  1. Eliminate the source of anger from your mind.  REFEREES-> No eye contact, no conversation, they do not exist.
  2. BAD CALL -> I would immediately call out “my fault, lets get the ball back fellas and clap my hands 5 times”
Zack Novak and Trey Burke Showing positive energy on the floor
Zack Novak and Trey Burke of the Michigan Wolverines Showing positive energy on the floor | Courtesy: Melanie Maxwell-

By doing that, one of the biggest distractions for me was gone… I now had more energy to concentrate on the next play.  Even better, that approach led to more positive energy from my teams and the vibe on the floor was better and we were able to execute better as a group. I became the positive energy force!

Great players will fight, bite, claw and scratch their way to victories.  PLAYING POSITIVE doesn’t mean you play soft.  You should still want to rip your opponents head off and do whatever it takes to stop him. PLAYING POSITIVE is about taking that fire and energy and using it to help your teammates and yourself to bounce back immediately from mistakes, disappointment and eliminate distractions.

For me, my basketball career was 75% failure and disappointing.  I was cut from the National team five times before I made it on my sixth attempt and as a player in the Canadian University system I was completely misunderstood, deemed selfish and difficult to coach. As a pro, I bounced around seven teams in 3.5 years and found it difficult to find my rhythm and get comfortable.

BUT, through that 75% of failure I was able to learn just how hard you have to work to experience that 25% of elite success and how being positive was the main factor to success. Throughout the experiences I had I was able to identify that positive energy was the contributing factor through all my success.

When I look back on the 25% of success I achieved I realized that my head was in a great place for all of it. I was only concerned about being the best teammate I could be, making sure I was a leader and focusing on the next play.  Throughout that process I achieved more individual success than when I was trying to play well individually.

It’s all about giving energy. In order to give energy you must learn to play positive.

Having the ability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand regardless of the situation, regardless of the environment, regardless of the time regardless of the score is very difficult and a significant challenge for many athletes.

You must practice being positive:

  • Pump your fist and cheer when your teammate makes a play
  • Point and acknowledge the guy who assisted your basket
  • Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk on Defense
  • Take 1 charge per quarter – Two per half.
  • Acknowledge great screens, set great screens
  • When on the bench, call screens, call shot clock and be positively excited for great plays and baskets by your teammates.
  • Be the first guy to help up a teammate who dove on the floor or took a charge
  • Positive talk to teammates is as good as an assist or even a made basket.
  • Body Language is key.  The way you look is the way coaches, teammates and your opponents perceive you.  If you look engaged and confident you will play that way.

The list goes on and on…I know that when you concentrate on things like this, your ability to absorb adversity, failure and disappointment is powerful and you will find yourself in the zone rapidly taking steps towards your goals and dreams. Coaches love positive energy, coaches love when they can see a guy is willing to fight for the win, coaches love when they can see that you are ready to attack and nothing will stop you. Coaches trust positive energy and guys who are upset and out of control make coaches nervous and frustrated.

Think back to the best game you’ve ever played in your life and then think immediately to the worst game you’ve ever played.

You must show your teammates, your coaching staff and yourself that you are ready to attack the next rep. Otherwise; you will find yourself on the PINES watching the guy who is PLAYING POSITIVE.

The difference between your best game and your worst is not on the stat sheet…it’s in your heart and shows in your body language. When you have positive body language, positive energy and a positive outlook it’s very easy to play well.


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