What is the Most Important Individual Offensive Mental Skill to Teach Players?

Happy New Year!

As the New Year is among us,  I want to help you learn something new. Many of you are students of the game like myself, so if not new, then at least I want to STRETCH your mind and get you thinking about how you can make your team, athletes and yourself get better. 

Let’s review the previous blogs on the subject:

1) What is the most important individual skill?

Answer: Creating off dribble and driving 

2) What is the most important team offensive physical skill to teach players?

Answer: Spacing

3) What is the most important individual offensive mental skill to teach players? 


This is the topic of today’s discussion, let’s get after it! 

I want to start with the mental side of the game because neurological scientists say that the human brain has :30 seconds to keep a thought or let go of a thought before it becomes a FEELING. A feeling is an emotion that comes from the heart and soul. So if you want your emotions and body to be right, you have to get your MIND right first! 

Get your mind right and your body will follow!

My first instinct is to say GRIT and toughness! Jay Bilas wrote a best seller on grit. Angela Duckworth did research on it and turned her findings into a wonderful best seller. Do yourself a favor and read both. GRIT is important because after mistakes and adversity, grit allows you to get to the NEXT PLAY. That’s the ability to get to the next possession/game /practice to stay locked in.


As a player, you can learn GRIT and apply it to your game/life. Here’s how. When you face pain, discomfort or a problem, don’t quit, run away or complain. Instead, compete, find solutions and keep working harder. Eventually this will become a habit. Do this in the little things, the big things, but embrace failure and keep moving forward. Please know that PAIN IS PART OF THE PROCESS, so expect it and then you won’t be disappointed, scared or shocked when you face it, because you know it’s coming. 


As a leader, coach, parent, we can teach grit by first and foremost modeling it. 

Secondly, do not enable your players! Do not fight their battles for them. Do not be so concerned about their happiness, that’s their responsibility and choice. TEACH them solutions, teach them HOW TO THINK more so than WHAT to think. Here are two great sayings to add in your practices from time to time when your players or team face pain and trouble: 



If you always baby, spoil, save, enable, sanction and allow them to be weak, complain, let up effort, focus or quit, then they never learn the SKILL of GRIT. 

I believe this could easily be the MOST IMPORTANT, however before GRIT, the MOST important individual mental skill to have is: CONFIDENCE.


If a player/Coach does not believe in who they are and what they are doing then they are finished, done,  over. Man, you gotta have hope, confidence, faith that you are gonna go out every drill, practice, game and DAY to do your best and “a little bit more!”

Confidence is the oxygen to your destiny!

But let’s be CRYSTAL clear, no one can GIVE you confidence, that’s your JOB! You control your own thoughts and emotions and that’s where confidence begins. You control your own choices, however, I do think coaches and leaders can help. We can create an environment to help foster that. My goal for this blog is to give you ideas on how to help. 

Here are some practical ways to build confidence daily:

The #1 Rule to Confidence:  PUT IN THE WORK.  Preparation is the #1 remedy baby! Fact! Go sweat!

 Repetition is the mother of successes! It always has and it always will be. The more a person practices their craft the right way, with correct form and fundamentals as a foundation, the better they will be. They start to LEARN, then they GROW, this breeds JOY, visual success (they actually see and feel themselves get better), then the learning becomes addictive. 

It’s HARD to learn

It’s EASY not to learn

BUT learning is addictive 

Learning leads to GROWTH 

GROWTH leads to JOY

Now life is a fun filled TOY 


Here are some ways you can trust your work: 

A) Positive Thoughts: 

Once you put any amount of work in, now you have to have faith that it will pay off. Take away the thoughts of  “what if it won’t work,” or “what if it does not pay off.” 

Instead, I speak the words “what if it DOES work, it WILL work, it HAS to work, it MUST work, it will WORK this time!” Fill your thoughts with these mantras. 

B) Stay Present (NO MATTER WHAT):

To alleviate the stress and anxiety of competition and pressure, focus on the moment and the task at hand. Whether it’s pressure in practice because you want to play more or succeed at a certain role OR you want to “kill it in the game.” Focusing on the present and that exact play.

For example: In practice, I tell players all the time to focus on THIS rep only! Don’t get bored, lock in and focus! 

Qui-Gon Jinn said to Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode I:

“Your focus determines your reality!” 

Staying present in a game setting(offensively): 

  • slow breathing
  • Let your INSTINCTS take over. Be efficient with your activity. 
  • Focus on what your team is doing this possession, but don’t think too much The more you think the slower your feet. 
  • Locate the defense and make a decision without hesitation
  • Always have an “ear” to: 
  1. The game (the defense or opponent)
  2.  Time & score 
  3. Your Coach
  4. Your point guard 

Focusing on this will help tell you what to do. Focus on that! 

Part two of this blog will focus on Factors that Affect Confidence. Stay tuned for next week’s blog! 

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