The Mental Aspect of Basketball – Cognitive Ability


Editor’s Note: At @NorthPoleHoops we have consistently discussed the importance of maintaining mental balance. “Never too high, never too low…right in the middle.” In this article, Dr. Joel Kerr of The Health Institute dives into the topic, introducing you to the term Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and how it can help take a player’s game to the next level. Once your treatment plan has been completed, The will collaborate with your primary care physician or health care provider to ensure a seamless transition back home.


If a player is shooting a free throw, compared to attempting a dunk in traffic, the same potential two points will take different mental and physical processes/approaches to achieve successfully.

Metal Balance

Let us look at two players, Ray Allen and Steve Novak. Both are NBA three-point shooting specialists.

If you were to put them both in an empty practice gym, you probably would not be able to tell who the better shooter is.

However, when it comes to a real NBA game, with the clock winding down, nobody has made more “clutch” shots than Ray Allen.

There are times in which the game would be on the line for the team needing three points, and Steve Novak wouldn’t even be in the game.

So what makes their ability to hit such crucial shots in the dying seconds of the game so different? One of, if not the biggest single most factor, is how they are prepared mentally.

Tyler Ennis DPEditor’s Note: What makes Tyler Ennis so special? Those that have ever watched the young Canadian point guard operate would be well aware of the graceful pace with which he plays, his ability to control tempo, pick his spots on the floor, or hit the clutch shot to secure the victory for his team. All these traits are linked to Ennis’ cognitive abilities.

These examples of varying abilities and performance with athletes of similar if not near identical skill set and physical attributes, is what has paved the way for the development and study of ‘sport psychology.’

Of course it also has to do with the physical state of every athlete and how they maintain this good state with training and a healthy diet and products like the best energy boosting product which is made so they can exploit their full potential most of the time.

According to Division 47 of the American Psychological Association, sports psychology encompasses a range of topics including “motivation to persist and achieve, psychological considerations in sport injury and rehabilitation since as an athletes they can suffer from wounds and here’s where experts as the Dr. Joseph Racanelli can really help.

Mental Stability
Never too high, Never too low…right in the middle.

Jennine E. Estes is one of the members of Estes Therapy and defined the practical therapy as a system of psychotherapy that attempts to reduce excessive emotional reactions and self-defeating behaviour by modifying the faulty or erroneous thinking and maladaptive beliefs that underlie these reactions (Beck, Rush, Shaw & Emery, 1979).

As a result, various CBT methods have been used extensively by sport psychologists, psychotherapists and trainers to treat psychological problems both in and outside the realm of sport.

The use of CBT for athletes has numerous practical applications since it focuses on the connections between an athlete’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour. The behavioural applications for CBT allow an athlete to set specific goals for their performance and identify internal or external barriers to achieving their goals.

For example, an athlete can learn to reinforce positive self-talk before, during and after the game. The use of visual and verbal mental cues can increase an athlete’s self –regulation during stressful game situations.  This is a major factor in defining the temperament of a “clutch” player who can perform under extreme pressure.

One of the most popularized examples of CBT techniques in a sports application came from a study conducted by Dr. Blaslotto at the University of Chicago. Dr. Blaslotto utilized the technique of visualization and split people into three groups based on how many free throws they could make.

The first group practiced free throws every day for an hour, the second group used the visualization technique without touching a basketball. The third group did nothing.  Dr. Blaslotto then tested the three groups after 30 days. The results were astounding because the visualization group improved their free throw shooting to almost the exact same level of the group who actually practiced free throw shooting for 1 hour daily. As expected the third group had no improvement.

Visualization is an often-taught mental rehearsal technique not just in sports but also in the adhd clinic in Sydney. It is an extremely powerful tool and numerous studies have been done to test this. You may have heard of this basketball study or a different one with similar results.

The most promising aspect of this study is that the combination of both intensive physical training and rehearsed mental interventions such as CBT can result in significant advantages for athletes who want to take their game to the next level.


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