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Basketball Intangibles

Basketball Intangibles Elevate the Great from the Good

Intangibles: not tangible; incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch

What are basketball intangibles? If you follow college or professional basketball you’ve more than likely heard someone refer to a player’s “intangibles”. But what does that mean? Male and female athletes in general are always graded by physical attributes such as speed, strength, or size because these are much easier to see and track with metrics.

Intangibles are the opposite of physical characteristics: They are the qualities of a player that often go unnoticed by the untrained eye and are relatively difficult to keep track of.

However, basketball intangibles heavily affect the outcome of not just games, but entire seasons. With this being said, intangibles are obviously an important part of a player’s game and without a doubt the most neglected. This is simply because most intangibles are not cool; they often don’t have a column in the box score nor do they have a segment at the end of SportsCenter. But that stuff is for the people who are on the outside looking in. Intangibles are cool to a true hooper. They are cool to that college coach recruiting five different players for one spot on the team.

Whether you are a player or a parent, by the time you have finished reading this series of posts you should definitely be looking at each workout, practice, and game through a new lens.

Basketball Intangibles #1: Love What You Are Doing

So what are some of these basketball intangibles and how do I work on them? Well first, there is an umbrella that they all fall under and that umbrella is love. You have to love the game. You have to eat, sleep, and breathe it.  You have to constantly be around it and want to get better. These skills known as basketball intangibles aren’t all necessarily something you can work on like your ball handling. You have to pick some of them up piece by piece from experiences you have with basketball. You have to earn them.  Others come from good coaching and training. They can be taught as a concept, but will only transfer from teacher to player if the player fully buys into his teacher.

Basketball Intangibles #2: Have Mental Toughness

The first of the Basketball Intangibles that I think every player must have, if they want to be successful in the game of basketball, is mental toughness. If you have read Coach Nick’s blog post on mental toughness you know that, among other things, mental toughness is your ability to recover from a mistake.

You are going to make mistakes. What matters the most is how you play after you make those mistakes. If your mistake becomes three mistakes then it is evident you need more mental toughness.

Mental toughness is also your ability to push through tough situations even when you feel you may not be able to. Once you get to a certain level of your basketball career, tough situations become the norm. Only the mentally tough survive. Your coach will push you to the brink to test your limits because it is most likely you have never gone that far before. Players who are not mentally tough are often afraid of the temporary pain and suffering that they must go through to become successful. Long story short, they are not ready to play and contribute at a competitive or high level.

So how do you get more mentally tough? The first step is to understand that things that have already happened cannot be changed. You have to learn from your mistakes and move on because the game keeps going.  Dwelling on a mistake will take your mind out of the game which will result in your body getting taken out of the game when the coach benches you. Shake it off and get your head into the next play.

Basketball Intangibles #3: Be Your Own Motivator

The next step is to be your own motivator. No matter the situation, you have to mentally keep telling yourself positive things to keep you on track.

Negative thoughts will lead to negative outcomes. If you shoot an airball tell yourself “I’ve got the next one.” If you turn the ball over on a bad pass, calm down and think, “that won’t happen again.” Letting small mistakes get to you will eventually deteriorate your confidence. Assess the error quickly in your head and re-focus on your next objective. This is by no means easy, but it is necessary if you want to prolong your basketball career.

The lack of mental toughness is probably one of the driving forces behind the rarity of high-level players. If you can leap this hurdle you have opened the door to many other valuable intangibles.

Basketball Intangibles #4: Demonstrate Consistency

Mental toughness is the key to many doors in the game of basketball. One of those doors is consistency – The ability to come into a game and perform night in and night out rain, shine, or zombie apocalypse.  Consistency doesn’t just mean averaging 20 points per game. Don’t get me wrong, if you can average 20 points per game you’re not in bad shape. However, consistency goes a bit deeper than the box score.

  • Do you set good screens EVERY TIME?
  • Do you box your man out?
  • Do you sprint back on defense after every missed shot?

If you can find a way to be consistent you are every coaches dream because they know exactly what they are going to get from you any time you are on the floor. I have heard some players ask, “How is that guy at a high major school? He doesn’t do anything!” If you look closer you will see that he does EVERYTHING. Talent can only get you so far in this sport. Eventually, your talent level will tap out. If you don’t bring something else to the table you may find that the guy on your team with less talent but more consistency will be playing over you.

Basketball intangible consistency

So how do you become a consistent player? Details!

If you train with us at M14 Hoops you have heard us say it a million times: YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS!

Setting up your cut, sprinting low, shoulder-to-shoulder, hands ready, call for the ball, inside pivot, jump straight up and shoot!

That is the formula for the proper way to come off of a screen and shoot. Now how many times a game do you do that and complete every step in that formula? That is consistency and that is how you have to develop it.

Pay more attention to details and you will find yourself becoming a more dependable and consistent player.

Practice makes perfect! Or close, I guess. Nobody will ever be perfect, but when you are in practice or working out on your own, your goal should be to complete every drill near perfect.

Again, these are difficult intangibles to attain because you must first have mental toughness and then you must be able to execute over and over again without failure.The next time you watch or play a basketball game start figuring out how to initiate a shift in your basketball intangibles. Put your mental toughness to the test. Go as hard as you can for one whole workout and see where you stand. Don’t be afraid of fatigue or failure. Go at them head on and see who wins the battle. If you lose, big deal do it again until you win. Once you win you should never lose again. That will help build your mental toughness and your consistency. It will be a process, but it will be well worth the journey.

See you in the gym!