How Visualization Will Change Your Game

It is imperative that you develop a successful consciousness for yourself. You do this by first seeing yourself in your mind’s eye, playing the best basketball you can play. When you act the way you want to be, you will soon become the way you act. This does not mean being arrogant and un-coachable. However, if you act like the best point guard in the country, that means you will train like the best, and eventually, you will become the best.

Your mind cannot differentiate between your actual ability and your visualization, so you will become more and more comfortable with your talents. This is not a joke. Once you convince your subconscious that you are a confident basketball player and recognize that it is ok to be great, the mind will manifest these feelings.

To accomplish this, you must use a present-tense positive affirmation, something short and sweet. If you need guidance, here are some examples:

I am a great shooter

I am a great ball handler

I am the best player on the floor

I focus on the task when I step on the floor  

I am committed to being better than I was yesterday

Here are a few steps to get you started:

  1. You will begin each morning sitting up comfortably and closing your eyes.
  2. Imagine you are on a beach (This is my happy place but, you can most definitely choose your own).
  3. Slowly inhale through your nose as the water washes onto the shore, and exhale through your mouth as it goes back. Repeat this 10 times, watching each number disappear into the sea.
  4. Repeat your powerful affirmation to yourself three times.
  5. See yourself playing the best basketball of your life, attacking the rim under control, stealing the ball and going coast to coast, hitting your free throws, making a great decision in a two-on-one situation, and being unstoppable on both ends of the floor.
  6. Keep breathing slowly.
  7. When you are ready to go ahead with your day, open your eyes.

This is the concept of positive versus negative thinking, and now is the time to start using it. Most people believe negative thinking is feeling sorry for oneself, giving up or quitting, and positive thinkers only want to win or are unrealistic. If you consider what you have thought about, and realize you are a negative thinker, I want you to take three deep breaths and exhale those old thoughts. Then inhale this new way thinking.

This is not a hoax to make you rely on miracles. I want to help you recognize the problem and work meticulously to find a solution. Negative thinkers focus on everything that can impede their goal, while positive thinkers recognize the problem but understand that it is part of the process. Pain and failure need to happen to succeed, and you must push through, without ever giving in to your fatigue or lack of focus.

Your life is a series of the choices you have made. You have been creating your life this entire time, and blaming others for it. You have the power to figure out your ideal life and create it right now. It is your choice. You can do anything you want, but will you? It's not too late to let go of the past and move forward.

My first professional season was in Israel, and I had the absolute time of my life. I met so many people, many of them WNBA players. I visited new places, tried new food, and learned so many things. I enjoyed every moment of being in a new country and being a professional athlete. The only problem was that we were near last place in our league. For four years in college, my role had been to be a distributer. I scored when I needed to, ran the offense, passed to my teammates who were in position to score, was our defensive stopper and the captain on the floor. Now, I needed to be a scorer, and never look to give the ball up unless it was necessary.

Those are two extremely different players. Not that I wasn't able to score, but I was not used to always needing to score. Still, my coach was confident in me. He wanted me shooting threes, although in college I probably only attempted 20 of them in my whole career. That three-point player had been out of commission for almost five years, but for the first time, I was not worried about running an offense all the way through. I had the green light to create in-control opportunities for not only myself, but for my teammates.

I visualized myself scoring more, because although great passes were satisfying, I had to shift my mentality. In college, I had a goal of leading my team in assists, and I did. I meditated every day about dishing the ball to my shooters and post players after drawing two defenders to me. So, when I set a record with 15 assists, I was not surprised. I was doing it all the time in my mind.

In Israel, one week before a game, my coach asked me when was the last time I scored 30 points. I knew I had a 27-point game in high school, but that was a long time ago.

When I could not answer, he said, “This is the game you have 30 points.”

I laughed. However, every day in practice, he said, “Get ready for Mercedes’ 30-point game.”

I was embarrassed every time he said it because I could not imagine myself scoring that much, which to me meant no one else would be touching the ball and I liked getting my teammates good shots. However, as the week went on, the more he said 30-point game, the more I bought into it, and the less embarrassing it sounded.

During my visualization every morning, I saw myself attacking the rim more, shooting open shots, and making smart plays in transition. To be that player, I had to see myself the way I wanted to be because when I was younger, I was that player. I loved to score, I loved to make the crowd “oh and ah” but my college coach did not. One day in practice she said, “What is the point of a million dollar move with a 10-cent shot? It’s still only two points.” Who says that? I thought. But, I tried to tone it down. Until it happened again. I shook my defender and passed the ball behind my head to an open teammate that wasn’t ready. She stopped the play and yelled, “This isn’t a circus!” So, while explaining all of this to my new coach he never interrupted. He stood with one arm across his chest and his other hand on his chin. When I was done all he said was, “I believe in you more than you believe in you. Today is a new day Mercedes, be great.”

One week passed and on January 4, 2010, against Hasharon, I ended up scoring 33 points, and I was not taking wild shots or even hogging the ball. When I watched the film that next day, everything came in the flow of the game, and I looked calm and focused. I was not tense or forcing anything. And in the game after that against Hapoel, I scored 30 points.

Until I realized visualization was the answer to everything, I had been limiting myself. That night, I emailed my sports psychologist from college, Jerry Lynch, to let him know how grateful I was. He changed my life the moment I met him. Still to this day, I meditate and use visualization all because of him.  I cannot help but to think that if I had never went to Oregon State or if I transferred after my first year, I may not have ever met Dr. Jerry Lynch nor learn how to meditate and visualize my game and life into existence.

Much like visualization, sleep also has a great effect on your success. Before you sleep, it's important to think and see your next day—you accomplishing your tasks with a positive mood, being around people you enjoy, doing the things you love, nourishing your body with food and physical activity, and giving yourself mental stimulation. While you are sleeping, you are creating your future. You rid your mind of worry, stress, jealousy, hate, and guilt, and experience love in everything you do.

This concept of mindfulness will help in every aspect of your life. It gives you more confidence to do everything you want to do, because you have control.

Let’s reflect:

  1. When you quiet your thoughts and visualize before each workout, how did those visualizations go?
  2. What is your affirmation?
  3. All week, focus on living in the moment. How has focusing on living in the moment changed your game?
  4. What is the hardest part about meditation? What have you done to make it easier?

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