In the sport of basketball, achieving and sustaining peak performance can be the difference between fulfilling your potential or being referenced as just another name that graced the sport. After achieving great performances and feeling at the peak of their powers, many basketball players have described a feeling of being invincible and laser-focused on their goal.
It can be quite depressing for a basketball player to go into a season in top shape, clocking new milestones and with confidence verging on stratospheric levels, only to see performance fizzle out over the course of a relentless and unforgiving campaign. By the end of the season, many basketball players feel burned out and only a shadow of their earlier, boisterous self.
So, what exactly can a basketball player do to achieve and maintain peak performance throughout the course of a season? How do you get to that point where producing your best performance week in, week out feels like a breeze? Follow the guidelines below to enjoy a rewarding and peak performance campaign.
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Get Into the Proper Mindset
The link between mental and physical health is often understated. While many view these as separate entities, the two go hand-in-hand. Research and the experience of elite sportsmen/sportswomen have identified that the mental health of an athlete to be more important than their physical capabilities. In order to push yourself to the full limits of your potential, you must be in the correct headspace. Considering that basketball players are humans with personal lives that may hamper their performances, many basketball teams are increasingly embracing the idea of employing the services of a sport psychologist.
A sport psychologist's responsibility is to improve team performance by guiding the team through issues such as handling the pressure of competition, imparting techniques on how to properly focus on training, and boosting the morale of the players. Elite basketball players have been found to even go the extra mile by hiring a personal psychologist to help set them apart performance-wise. If your team does not have a team psychologist, it might be worth investing in your mental health by employing a sport psychologist.
Optimize Your Diet and Hydration
When basketball players dedicate hours upon hours to honing their skills and fine-tuning the intricacies of the sport, nutrition is often overlooked, considered as a secondary item of importance. However, picking the appropriate foods of the precise amount and at the proper time and paying keen attention to hydration can ramp up performance levels and help a basketball player achieve peak performance.
Training before and during a typically hard, long basketball season requires planning and perseverance, especially as players are constantly required to push physical boundaries. An increased training load puts your body under extra stress and increases nutritional requirements. The energy and nutritional requirements of a basketball player exceed that of the average person. Typical caloric needs of male and female athletes average about 2,700kcal and 2,400kcal per day respectively. The amount of energy found within any food is reliant upon the macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, fat) contained in them.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for intense physical activities. Healthy sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereals, pasta and bread. Dietary fat also helps meet energy needs and supports healthy hormone levels. Sources include nuts, avocados and olive and coconut oils. Dietary protein plays a major role in muscle growth and repair. Sources include eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, legumes and lean meats. For balanced nutrition, a basketball player should aim for 60% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 15% fat.
It is recommended to keep a good hydration plan, which also benefits a basketball player by helping maintain and improve performance levels. A good idea is to consume a minimum of two cups of fluid before training and four to six ounces of fluid every 15 minutes of training, if possible. Practicing good nutrition and hydration habits will ensure that your body is properly fueled and energized to train and compete, will recover faster from training and competition, and will help improve your body composition.
Take Proper Safety and Conditioning Measures
A basketball player experiencing intermittent, nagging injuries will likely not achieve peak performance all season. Therefore, you need to put safety measures in place to limit injuries to the barest minimum. Some of the measures you can put in place include:
- Performing adequate warm-ups before switching to intense activities.
- Learn about how to use equipment properly before using it, especially strength conditioning equipment.
- Learn how to properly handle the environmental conditions you are training under. Training approaches under severe heat, cold, and high-altitude conditions require variations. Employing a one-size-fits-all approach may come back to haunt you.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks late in the day
- Avoid late evening exercises except when you have night games.
- Cool down after intense physical exertion such as workouts and games. This helps rid the body of lactic acid, a substance that contributes to joint and muscle soreness. A good cool-down activity for basketball players is riding a stationary bike for 10-15 minutes, followed by a brief stretching routine with a strong focus on the hamstrings and lower back. Low-intensity abdominal training and calisthenics are also useful cool-down activities.
Treasure Your Feet
No matter what you do to improve yourself and conditioning for the game, you should never forget that the starting point for physical activities is the feet! Broadly speaking, per tasks and positions in basketball, players are categorized as guards, forwards, and centers. The diverse anthropometrics of basketball players' positions foster considerations about diverse demands on basketball footwear. These demands are characterized by specialized movements for each position and have been examined in several biomechanical studies conducted by basketball footwear and insole manufacturers. It is believed that the physical build of a player and individual playing styles play a huge role in the type of basketball footwear to be worn.
Basketball places significant and spontaneous forces on the feet, ankles, and lower legs, which requires the footwear and insoles used to be able to absorb and direct. Basketball places huge importance on instant acceleration and deceleration, lateral movement, and jumping ability. Hence, basketball footwear must be designed with the combined features of cushioning to absorb shock, stability, and flexibility.
A good pair of basketball footwear will help reduce the chances of injury and will not be a hindrance to advancing your skillset. The best basketball footwear will supply you with added ankle support, durability, and traction. Invest in quality basketball footwear and insoles for adequate protection and comfort.
Maintain Your Conditioning Through Injury
Except for the lucky few, a few minor injuries during an entire season are inevitable for most basketball players. What is most important during these periods is maintaining your physical conditioning and strength. When the time comes and you have been cleared to work out by the relevant personnel, you must identify the forms of exercise that are compatible with your kind of injury. In a team environment, the medical personnel on the team will draw out a detailed exercise routine.
Be sure that you only engage in what you have been prescribed. Trying to overdo the exercises in a bid to return earlier than scheduled will only affect your performance in the long run. For instance, an injury may prevent you from performing specific exercises in the gym due to pain, while other activities may cause no pain at all. It would be better to engage in the pain-free exercises until you are ready to resume your pre-injury routine. The harder and smarter you work on your conditioning during injury periods will go a long way in helping you return to the game.