How to Keep Your Cool on the Court: Strategies for Managing Anger in Basketball

There are many reasons why people play sports — for competition and fun among others.

But when it comes to playing basketball, some athletes have an emotional edge over others because of how they handle frustration or stress while on court.

Some even lose focus entirely and get angry out of nowhere.

However, one example of a player who’s consistently able to keep his cool in pressure situations is the Los Angeles Laker’s LeBron James.

In the not so recent past, James has been known to throw up mid-game due to extreme levels of anxiety and nervousness, but this is something he always manages to control through visualization and breathing techniques.

In fact, these two tools seem like magic bullets whenever there’s pressure building inside him.

That’s where this article now comes in, as we intend to look at how you can learn from James’ example and keep anger under control no matter which sort of basketball game you’re participating in.

Steps to control your anger whilst playing basketball

Playing basketball can be an intense and emotional experience.

Whether you’re competing in a pickup game with friends or representing your school in a championship match, it’s natural to feel a rush of adrenaline and passion on the court.

But when those emotions turn negative, it can be easy to lose control and let your anger get the best of you.

Anger can be a destructive force in basketball, leading to technical fouls, ejections, and even physical altercations.

It can also derail your performance, causing you to make poor decisions and play below your potential.

So, how can you manage your anger and stay composed on the court?

Here are a few strategies that can help:

1. Take a deep breath

how to control your anger while playing basketball - take a deep breath

When you’re feeling angry or frustrated, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and let your emotions take over.

One simple but effective way to calm down is to take a few deep breaths.

This helps to slow your heart rate and clear your mind, giving you a chance to think more clearly and rationally.

When things start going wrong, the first thing most people do is yell, scream or make gestures with hands, arms, legs or feet.

It may be natural to react emotionally, especially if it happens often enough where we’ve grown accustomed to our reactions.

Emotional responses such as yelling or screaming can cause us to miss important details about the game or become distracted by other thoughts.

Ultimately, when things go south unexpectedly, it’s best to take a step back and breathe deeply to relax yourself so you can regain balance.

The key here is to not let yourself get too excited or frustrated about losing points or making mistakes.

LeBron James does this all the time, whether he’s missing shots or throwing up sweat beads.

He knows that taking deep breaths will allow him to remain focused on the task at hand without getting overly worked up.

2. Understand what triggers your anger

Some people argue that negative emotions such as anger come naturally, almost automatically, based on past experiences.

For instance, a player might have experienced rejection from a team mate or received a poor pass from them somewhere along the line.

However, for many others, negative emotions arise from external factors that go beyond the court, such as:

  • Financial issues;
  • A recent breakup;
  • Failure to receive a contract extension; or
  • Being dropped from the team’s starting roster.

Regardless of what causes your anger, understanding what sets it off will give you insight into controlling it effectively.

Once you identify what triggers your anger, you can avoid situations altogether or plan strategies to cope with them in case they occur.

By planning ahead, you won’t end up lashing out at your team mates or opponents.

Instead, you can choose to respond calmly and rationally instead of letting your emotions rule your decisions.

3. Use positive self talk

how to control your anger while playing basketball - use positive self talk for affirmation

Another helpful technique is to use positive self-talk.

This means talking to yourself in a supportive and encouraging way, rather than letting negative thoughts and self-doubt take over.

For example, instead of telling yourself “I can’t do this,” try saying “I can do this.”

This can help to boost your confidence and motivation, and prevent your anger from escalating.

4. Set clear goals and focus on the process

how to control your anger while playing basketball - set clear goals

It’s also helpful to set clear goals for yourself and focus on the process of achieving them, rather than getting too caught up in the outcome.

For example, rather than getting angry because you’re losing the game, focus on making the next shot or getting the next steal.

This helps to keep you grounded and motivated, rather than letting your anger take over.

5. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment, without judgment.

This can be a powerful tool for managing anger in basketball, as it helps you to stay focused and present, rather than getting caught up in negative emotions or worrying about the past or future.

There are a few different ways to practice mindfulness, including:

  • Deep breathing;
  • Meditation; and
  • Yoga.

Basketball stars across the league practice meditation before every season and practice session to prepare themselves mentally for each challenge ahead.

Meditation also allows them to enter a state of mindfulness and awareness, keeping their minds clear and sharp throughout the entire match.

This process alone gives them more mental clarity than just focusing on any one area of the court.

Take a few moments to meditate or close your eyes, inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling gradually through your mouth.

Focus only on breathing.

After 10 seconds of doing this, try opening your eyes again.

You’ll see that your body feels calmer and less tense.

You should feel more relaxed and able to concentrate better now.

If you still find yourself unable to focus on anything else besides those feelings of anger or frustration, then break away immediately from whatever you were doing and head straight for your locker room to cool off.

Remember, your brain releases adrenaline when you experience fear or danger.

So, don’t let your blood pressure rise further!

If you continue to struggle with managing your anger, consider talking to someone who deals with mood disorders such as a licensed psychologist or therapist.

Professional counselling services are available for anyone dealing with depression or bipolar disorder.

They provide guidance and support 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, including holidays.

These professionals can teach you skills to deal with everyday stresses and improve your overall health and wellness.

And remember, seeking treatment doesn’t mean giving up your dreams.

Most qualified psychologists work well with athletic teams, helping them maintain healthy lifestyles.

6. Visualize a relaxing place in your mind

In order to stop feeling upset or anxious while playing basketball, take a very brief moment to visualize a spot far away from wherever you currently are.

As soon as you open your eyes, picture yourself in that peaceful location and imagine enjoying its surroundings, eating delicious food, drinking cold drinks or listening to soothing music.

Once you set the scene, envision yourself relaxing and unwinding completely.

Allow yourself to enjoy the moment for several minutes, allowing yourself to fully immerse yourself in the fantasy.

Try to notice the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures surrounding you in that setting.

As you visualized, did you ever notice your heart rate lowering?

Did you notice that you became filled with positive energy?

Or did you notice that your mind felt clearer?

All signs suggest you used your imagination to replace unpleasant memories with pleasant ones.

7. Seek support from a team mate or coach

Finally, don’t be afraid to seek support from a teammate or coach if you’re struggling to manage your anger on the court.

Sometimes, you need outside assistance to help curb your temper.

Other times, you need to talk through your problems with trusted partners, family members or coaches privately.

Whatever the situation, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek help when necessary.

Sharing your problems with others provides valuable feedback, perspective and advice to help solve tough challenges.

More so, team mates in particular can offer words of encouragement and help you to refocus your efforts.

It’s also important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and gets angry at times, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

With practice and persistence, you can learn to control your anger and stay composed on the court.


You should now have a solid grip on how to deal with your anger whenever you play basketball.

By adhering to the techniques outlined in this article, you’ll be able to keep your composure on the court a lot more often, and that can lead to improved sporting performance which benefits not only yourself but your team mates and coaching staff too!

If you’ve enjoyed reading through this helpful guide, then you’ll no doubt want to take a look at some related content on our blog , such as:

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.