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How to Cope with Fear Before a Big Basketball Game

Posted by Jordan Snider on Apr 8, 2024 11:43:21 AM

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Your practices are disciplined. Your skills are solid. You incorporate your coach's directions well.

And last but not least, you live and love basketball.  

Yet, before every game (and sometimes even during the game), you feel that tight knot in your stomach, and you recognize it clearly as fear.  

Why does this happen? 

Let’s talk about pre-game fear and some strategies for dealing with it. 

Where Does This Fear Come From?

Fear is normal for any competitive basketball player who plays with passion and desire to get their team on the right side of the scoreboard!

Fear in competitive sports like basketball often stems from a deep-seated desire to excel. You're not just playing for fun; you're playing to win, make your team proud, and surpass your limits. 

This ambition, while admirable, comes with its own set of pressures:

  • High expectations - Whether they're coming from yourself, your parents, your coach, or your peers, these expectations can weigh heavily on your mind, transforming your passion into anxiety.
  • Previous injuries - If you've been injured before, the fear of re-injury can lurk in the back of your mind, affecting your game and your confidence on the court.

Recognizing these sources of fear is the first step toward overcoming them.

Overcoming Pre-Game (And In-Game) Fear in Basketball

So, how can we overcome fear and perform our best? 

Here are some tips you can use.

Mindset Training

Imagine your fear as that buzzer sounds at the end of each quarter.

Startling, yes, but totally a part of the game. It's because you care so much about playing well and helping your team. Pretty much every player, from beginners to pros, feels this way at some point. 

So, you're definitely not alone!

Start by acknowledging it—like nodding to an opponent before a game. Then, switch your focus to something fun or positive. For example, maybe think about that amazing shot you nailed at practice or the fun cheer your team gives.

By doing this, you’re not letting fear take the driver’s seat. You’re accepting it's there but keeping your eyes on the game, enjoying the play, and remembering why you love basketball in the first place. 

It’s all about making the game more fun and less stressful. Keep the vibes positive and light, and fear will have less room to mess with your game.

Be Present

Picture this: You're on the court, and instead of worrying about the final score or that shot you missed two minutes ago, you're all about this moment. Right here, right now, it's just you and the ball. This is what "being present" is all about. It's like hitting the pause button on everything else and enjoying the game, play-by-play.

So, next time you're in a game, try this: Focus on the feel of the ball in your hands or the sound of your sneakers squeaking on the court. This helps keep your mind from wandering to "What if?" land. 

Being present is your secret trick to playing your best. When you're fully in the moment, there's no room for stress or fear—just basketball and you—having a blast.


Ever noticed how a deep breath can feel like hitting the reset button? When the game gets intense, and your nerves are all over the place, try this: take a big, slow breath in, hold it for a second, and then let it all out, like you're blowing out candles on a birthday cake. This mini chill session is your secret weapon against game-time jitters.

Doing this a few times helps quiet the noise in your head and gets your energy laser-focused back on the game.

Positive Self-Talk

Imagine you've got a tiny coach living in your head, ready to give you the most epic pep talk at a moment's notice. That's positive self-talk! Whenever those sneaky negative thoughts try to crash your mental party, it's time to switch on your inner coach. Tell yourself, "I've got this," or "I'm here because I've worked hard, and I love this game."

These mini pep talks are like your secret cheerleaders, boosting your confidence and kicking fear to the curb. It's all about reminding yourself that you're awesome, skilled, and totally ready to rock this game. So, next time doubt tries to dribble into your thoughts, give it the old one-two punch with some positive vibes. 

Remember, you're the MVP of your mind game!


Think of mistakes as stepping stones, not stumbling blocks. Every slip-up on the court is actually a hint on how to get better. Accepting that errors are part of basketball helps you shake off the fear of making them. Instead of getting down about a missed shot or a turnover, see it as a chance to learn something new.

Next time something doesn't go quite right, take a quick mental note: "Okay, that happened. How can I improve?" This mindset turns every mistake into a valuable lesson, making you a smarter, more resilient player. Remember, even the pros had to learn from their own missteps. So, each time you mess up, you’re one step closer to mastering your game.

Basketball Camp Is a Great Place to Improve — We Can Help You Choose the Right One

For lovers of the game, nothing beats a summer basketball camp!  

If summer camp is on your mind, we can help you pick the right one. The Future Stars Camp Comparison Checklist lets you easily compare and contrast basketball camp costs, activities, dates, and locations.

Access the Camp Comparison Checklist today and find a basketball summer camp your child will love!

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