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NBA Daily: The Mystery of Dante Exum

Despite the frequency to which players experience downtrending performance, it seems as if there is still no clear cut consensus answer as to why players go through slumps, or a trusted way to systematically and repeatedly break players out of shooting slumps once they occur.

In the second installment of High-Performance Mindfulness, we will dissect the shooting slump and discuss the fastest way for breaking players out of one. We will also discuss how incorporating High-Performance Mindfulness techniques into an overall player development program has been shown to obliterate shooting slumps, by supercharging statistical performance through unlocking the subconscious mind.

Providing systematic and repeatable ways for players to move through downtrending performance, I will share techniques that have been proven to help NBA, professional and college players break slumps, improve shooting percentages and elevate offensive and defensive efficiencies on both ends of the floor. We’ll also discuss working parameters and best practices for incorporating a Mental Performance resource into the overall structure of an organization.

First, let’s start by breaking down what a shooting slump is! Here we go.

Shooting Slumps Are?

Unprocessed thoughts, emotions, feelings and images from intense past experiences that become trapped and stuck within the subconscious mind or muscle memory of a player. When these barriers to performance are left unresolved, they seep in from the subconscious mind and begin to permeate all levels of a player’s game. When this happens, confidence, mental focus and even shooting mechanics can be adversely affected.

Often, a combination of traumatic on and off-court experiences create a formidable barrier to success on the subconscious level of the mind for the player. And, in most cases, it’s only a matter of time until these unresolved unconscious blockages jump up to short circuit an athlete’s performance.

Take an example. Say a player goes through the experience of missing game-winning free throws, and/or going 0-11 from the field in a crucial game. If left unresolved, the thoughts, emotions and feelings from those experiences will act as performance blocks for a player.

This can have the effect of throwing a wrench into something as refined as a player’s shooting motion. This phenomenon is especially prevalent during crunch time moments when players’ nerves (unresolved unconscious blocks) can tend to get the best of them.

Sound crazy? Sound too far out there? It shouldn’t. Most players intuitively understand that bad performance sometimes lingers with them. Further, it can affect future performance until fully processed through on the mental and emotional levels.

During this past NBA season, players like Russell Westbrook, Markelle Fultz and Danny Green
all experienced downtrending shooting performance. Their struggles were well-documented.

Based on my experience in working with NBA, college and national team players, Westbrook, Fultz and Green could likely have neutralized – and quite possibly preempted – their chronic shooting struggles. Integrating a High-Performance Mindfulness process into an overall player development curriculum could have had the effect of eliminating the performance-inhibiting unconscious patterns likely holding them back.

Maybe one of the most obvious examples of how unconscious performance blocks can directly affect performance is the curious case of former Orlando Magic guard Nick Anderson, whose career implosion, self-admittedly, can be mapped back to Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals versus the Houston Rockets. Unresolved unconscious mental blocks ensued.

Anderson’s Magic were up three points after blowing a 20-point advantage. After being fouled twice, Anderson stepped to the foul line. He proceeded to miss four consecutive go-ahead free throws, sealing the Magic’s fate that year as the Rockets swept the series in four games.

The unresolved mental and emotional discord stemming from this experience consequently derailed Anderson’s progression as a player. He admittedly carried this mental baggage with him throughout the rest of this career.

“It affected the way I played,” Anderson said in an interview with The Ringer. “It affected the way I lived. It played in my head like a recorder – over and over again.”

The tape recorder Anderson is referring to is his subconscious mind unsuccessfully trying to process out the upsetting thoughts, emotions, feelings and images previously experienced. Anderson’s free throw percentage went from 74 percent to a 40 percent in a matter of a few seasons. His three-point percentage, effective field goal percentage and several other statistical categories also worsened throughout the rest of this career.

A High-Performance Mindfulness Program lasting just a few weeks could likely have helped Anderson regain the reins over his unconscious mind, shooting percentages and, consequently, his career.

The Fastest Way To Eliminate A Shooting Slump

No, it’s not tinkering with shooting mechanics, getting additional shots up or watching more film. The fastest way to break a player out of downtrending shooting is by working through the unconscious mind to eliminate the slump at its core.

How do we do that? By neutralizing a player’s unresolved unconscious blockages stemming from past on and off-court experiences that have yet to be processed through.

Approaching slump-busting from this angle oftentimes has the effect of freeing up the player’s physical shooting motion. As years of limiting mental baggage clears, the subconscious mind no longer acts as a burden on the player’s performance systems. In this space, a player’s muscle memory and subconscious mind are instinctually able to shoot the ball without the clutter of the mind getting in the way.

Mindfulness methods such as High-Performance Tapping, mental focusing methods and other leading Edge Energy Psychology techniques – deployed within a multi-week program that systematically zeroes in on neutralizing subconscious blocks – are ultra-effective when addressing shooting slumps. This is especially true when integrated into a pre-existing player development program.

In this scenario, the potential improvement that occurs can be massive, as aligning the deep mental piece with skill development oftentimes unleashes big-time statistical increases.

Taking this one step further, from my time working as an embedded High-Performance Coach within the context of college and professional coaching staffs, it has been my experience that operating from the inside of an organization provides the best possible probability for helping players bust shooting slumps and statistically improve performance over the long term.

Sitting on the bench in the middle of the player rotation during games, reinforcing performance processes in practice and consistently knocking out bi-weekly one-on-one High-Performance Coaching sessions off the court – those are the best practices when it comes to systematically breaking players out of shooting slumps while unleashing big-time statistical improvement.

The Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks are two of the first teams to blend Mental Coaches into the overall coaching staff, with Dallas Director of Mental Performance Don Kalkstein acting as a pioneer in this regard.

When approached in this manner, players begin to view the Mindfulness Coach like any other coach, allowing the building of trust, rapport and credibility to take place. As this happens, the High-Performance resource has the requisite opening needed to implement the player specific, customized mindfulness programs mentioned above.

As for shooting slumps, as High-Performance Mindfulness techniques and the role of Mental Performance Coaches are understood more thoroughly, the way players tackle downtrending shooting percentages and slumping performance will likely begin to change drastically.

With this increased efficiency in the player development department, expect shooting slumps to soon be a thing of the past.

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