The Hoops Whisperer on Nerves, Preparation

by February 21, 2011

He’s back. After a successful string of columns, we took a couple more of your questions and posed them to Idan Ravin, a.k.a. The Hoops Whisperer, for his column in SLAM 146. Below, are the answers from the man who’s trained LeBron, Carmelo, CP3, KD and many more elite NBA players. Enjoy!

Comment below or email him at and you could appear in next month’s column.

Q: I’m afraid. It seems like no matter how hard I try to get loose and just play the game, I always get caught up in my own nervous emotions. Not one game this season have I really just let loose and played. I’ve tried approaching my games in a way where I’m joking around a lot and then I’ve tried where I put on a pair of headphones and listen to music, and neither of those methods work. I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m afraid of something. It’s super hard to get rid of, too. I’ve even had thoughts of quitting, it’s horrible. Any advice?
Idan Ravin: First and foremost, you are not crazy or weird for having these thoughts. At some point in our lives, all of us feel some kind of anxiety when faced with high-pressure situations. Once you develop a coping mechanism, you can better handle these stressors. I often see young players mimic the pre-game rituals of NBA players because they think this is how they are supposed to prepare for the game. Headphones and chest bumps might work for KG to focus and relax pre-game, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you, too. Stop mimicking and start figuring out what works for you. Discipline your thoughts like you do your basketball training. You pay attention to your diet and carve out time each day to work on your game. Now let’s apply this same discipline to your thoughts. Set aside time each day to simply close your eyes, imagine “good” thoughts and visualize where you want to be. Rather than focusing on a turnover or missed shot, visualize things like making a clutch shot, beating a defender off the dribble or earning a scholarship to college. Eliminate the negative thoughts and replace them with “good” thoughts.

The next step is to apply the “Idan So What Theory.” Ask yourself “So What?” when the negative thoughts begin to bleed into your conscious. So What if the coach yells at you? So What if you make a mistake and feel embarrassed? So What if the kids at school make fun of you? Every person on this planet who has achieved their goals will happily show you the bruises they accumulated along the way from tripping and falling again and again while chasing their dreams. Remember, you will trip and fall when chasing your dreams. But So What? This is why we have band-aids. Onward!

Q: Hey, Idan. At the beginning of games, I come to play all amped up and ready, then rush my shots, passes, etc. It takes me until the second half to play calmly and make smart decisions. I have trouble adjusting to the flow of the game early. Can you give me some tips on how to prepare for a game so that my first half can be as smooth as my second?
IR: This is common with players and it is something that can be addressed with some additional practice. I encourage you to treat shootaround, warm-ups and halftime as a chance to get physically loose, yet mentally focused. The more intensity and mental sharpness you apply to these “pre-game” situations, the quicker and more effective your transition will become to the actual game. In other words, run hard, sweat, listen, focus and treat each situation as if it is game-time. Apply these tips and it will be smooth sailing.

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