A New Year has just began and all of us will try to find meaning in what we do in 2009, resolving, at least, to do better than last year’s efforts. Making resolutions of this kind also applies to the basketball court. Understanding the game, especially the mental aspects, is what differentiates a good basketball player from a great one, and making progress in the mental game can yield spectacular results. It will take some work on your part, however.
The best basketball players and coaches are known not only for their success in the sport, but also for the manner in which they display their knowledge and abilities in playing, coaching, and teaching the game. Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Steve Nash, Diana Taurasi, and other great players, past and present, share a special grasp of what is needed in every situation on the court and how to maximize their own effectiveness as well as that of their team. Teams coached by John Wooden, Phil Jackson, Pat Summitt, and Mike Krzyzewski have won many NCAA and NBA championships because of their coaches’ amazing ability to teach, motivate, discipline, and unite players to perform to their potential individually and as a group.
"Court Sense: Winning Basketball’s Mental Game" (Human Kinetics), a new book by John Giannini, currently the head coach of the La Salle University (Philadelphia) men’s basketball team that plays in the NCAA Division I Atlantic Conference, highlights all those qualities that make players and teams great, and he provides practical ways to improve any mental skills that might be lacking. Playing like a winner first requires preparing like one, and Giannini, who has been a winning coach for his entire career, describes how basketball players can raise the level of their game and achieve their true potential. The first half of his book covers all the basics a player must have in place, on and off the court, in order to excel. The second half features the six Cs that are crucial too on-court perforrmance: coachability, communication, cohesion, capacity to lead, competitiveness, and concentration. Coach Giannini brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the subject as a former collegiate player and veteran coach, who has earned a Ph.D. in sport psychology. His insights and advice are combined with real-life examples and supported by stories shared by these top coaches: Bo Ryan (University of Wisconsin-Madison head coach) on the player skills assessment; Steve Donahue (head coach of Cornell University) about the targets that need to be set by an athletes in order to grow and improve, not only as athletes but as people; John Beilein (University of Michigan head coach) describes individual motivations; Sean Miller writes about the improvement that can be made with off-season training; Joanne P. McCall, head coach of the women’s team of Duke University, writes about the importance of mental training; and finally Oliver Purnell, head coach at Clemson University, writes about good habits to cultivate on and off the court.
The second part of the book has interviews with Tubby Smith, head coach at the University of Minnesota, who writes about the responsibilities of the players; Jay Wright, the head coach at Villanova University, looks at the NBA draft as an important moment of responsibility; Sharon Versyp, head coach of the Purdue University women’s team, writes of the value of proper leadership; Tom Crean, head coach at the University of Indiana, covers the development of the competitiveness; while Jamie Dixon, head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, describes the importance of concentration and focus on specific targets.
Coach Giannini has written an important book for any player or basketball coach, who wants to raise the level of his game. Use “Court Sense” to your advantage, learn the valuable lessons that are described within its pages, and you’ll surely be one step closer to cutting down the nets after your championship game.