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How to Control Your Temper While Playing Basketball

If you know about basketball history, you know all about Bill Laimbeer and the Motor City Bad Boys. Arguably the most aggressive, hotheaded team in the history of the NBA, the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys in the late '80s were hated. This bench clearing epic brawl (skip to 1:30 in the video) between Bill Laimbeer and Charles Barkley is the quintessential example of what happens when basketball players lose their heads. 

When Ron Artest won his first championship, he thanked his therapist. He was regularly seeing a therapist to help him reduce his number of flagrant fouls and ejections and he had made progress. Kevin Garnett, DeMarcus Cousins, Rasheed Wallace, and Dwight Howard collectively have hundreds of flagrant foul calls and ejections. It is clear that controlling ones temper is a challenge at every level of basketball. 

Improve Mental Calm as a Basketball Player

control temper in basketball

Arguably one of the world's greatest basketball players, LeBron James, has partnered with the meditation and sleep app, Calm, to raise awareness about the importance of mental fitness in sports and in life. James regularly speaks about the importance of playing a mental game, especially when a player may not be as physically strong as his opponent. He stresses that his mental fitness and focus has always been as important to his mental game as any physical training he has done.

Anger can diminish a basketball player's attention, fine motor skills and cognition when not harnessed. Here are some ways to put this into practice and actionably improve your mental strength and control your temper while on the court.

Identify Your Triggers

Is it usually the same thing that angers you every time? Whether it is a bad call from a ref, a missed shot, or constant trash talking from an opponent, it is important to identify these triggers when you are calm with a cool head. Try to work out why you are triggered and practice an alternative response. 

Practice Focused Breathing 

control your temper in basketball

Competing in basketball at any level is a stressful situation. Unmanageable situations cause anxiety which can manifest into anger. Controlling our breathing when everything else feels out of control can help. Our bodies experience an immediate physical response to calm breathing exercises including:

  • Lower heart rate
  • Release of muscle tension
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less oxygen consumption

Explore Hoops Mind's mental trainings for examples of guided focused breathing trainings designed to prepare you to better handle anger during basketball games. 

Recognize Signs of Anger

The typical signs that you are about to lose your temper are increase in heart rate and excessive sweating. Obviously, recognizing those signs will not work for a basketball player since you are already sweating and working your body to its max. Instead, pay close attention to your focus and your thoughts. If you find that you are having trouble focusing on the play and your thoughts are straying to violence, it is time to reign yourself in. 

Enlist Help

Everything in basketball is a team effort, even anger management. Ask teammates to help you identify when you are about to lose your cool. Let them know how they can help when you are about to blow up. 

Basketball players who have the ability to tap into their mental strength to successfully navigate high levels of stress will excel every time. Having the ability to harness the power of mindfulness and use it to advance your play is an asset that most athletes never claim.