Integrating the Mental and Mechanical Aspects of Shooting
By Hal Wissel

As important as confidence is, accurate shooting requires more than positive thinking; it also requires shooting skill. Neither mental confidence nor mechanics alone is enough. Success results from integration of the mental and mechanical aspects of shooting.

When you think, you are in a sense talking to yourself. That talk can be either positive or negative. A technique called positive self-talk can help you integrate the mental and mechanical aspects of shooting, speeding the improvement of your shot. Positive self-talk uses key words to enhance performance. Select words that reinforce correct mechanics, establish rhythm, and build confidence. The key words should be positive, concise (preferably one syllable), and personalized. A positive word that you associate with a successful shot is called an anchor word. Select your own personal anchor word that allows you to visualize your shot going in, such as yes, net, whoosh, swish, in, or through.

Words that key the correct mechanics of your shot are called trigger words. Some examples of trigger words are

• High! Start your shot high and avoid lowering the ball.

• Straight! Make your shooting hand go straight to the basket.

• Front! Trigger the position of the shooting hand facing the rim.

• Point! Trigger the correct release of the ball off your index finger.

• Up! Key a high arc.

• Through! Key any part of your follow-through, including shoulders, arm, wrist, and  fingers.

• Head in! Trigger the follow-through of your head and shoulders toward the basket and  eliminate leaning back or stepping back.

• Legs! Trigger the use of your legs; and

• Down and Up! Key the down-and-up action of your legs that provides rhythm and force for your shot.

Identify two words that trigger the correct mechanics and one anchor word to reinforce shooting success. Sometimes a word can be both a trigger and an anchor word. For example, through as a trigger word can key the follow-through of your shoulders, arm, wrist, and fingers; through can also be an anchor word for the ball going through the basket.

Say your words in rhythm, from the time your shooting motion starts with your legs until you release the ball off your index finger. For example, if legs and through are your trigger words and yes is your anchor word, you would say in rhythm with your shot: “Legs-through-yes!” It works better if you say your words aloud rather than to yourself.

Saying your personalized key words in an even rhythm establishes the rhythm of your shot and enhances your mechanics and confidence. Devote time to mental as well as physical practice. Relax and mentally practice saying your key words in the rhythm of your shot as you visualize shooting and seeing the ball go in the basket.

Your goal is to reduce conscious thought and promote automatic execution of your shot. Trigger words help make the mechanics of your shot automatic, and an anchor word, which reinforces a successful shot, helps build your confidence. As your shooting improves, one trigger word may suffice. Eventually, an anchor word may be all you need to trigger the automatic action of your shot.

Integrating the Mental and Mechanical