Emotional Intelligence for Athletes

Emotional Intelligence for Athletes

How often do you hear people talk about a player who has a bad attitude? You probably know a person like this.  This person blames teammates, doesn’t follow the coach’s direction, and gets angry at any and everything, possibly even starting fights. I’m sure you can think of a person like this. I can.

 A bad attitude is, basically, horrible emotional intelligence.  What is emotional intelligence, you say? Emotional intelligence is understanding your emotions, why you have them, and how these emotions make you act. There is a long list of emotions that a human can experience.

 Some primary emotions that we feel are:


1. Fear

2. Happiness

3. Anger

4. Sadness

5. Love

6. Jealousy

7. Anticipation

8. Trust

9. Surprise

10. Gratitude

 The word “emotion” comes from the Latin word “emovere”, which literally means “to move”.  Basically, your emotions make you act. Whether these actions are good or bad, that is up to you.

The amazing thing about emotions is that only you experience them. Outside circumstances may influence your emotions, but only you actually feel it. Let’s do an exercise to prove this.

For every emotion listed below, take a few minutes and feel each one of these emotions to its extent:

 • Fear

• Happiness

• Anger

• Sadness

• Love



 Now, I didn’t make you feel each of these. I suggested it, but you made yourself feel fear, sadness, and love. This shows that at any moment, you can determine what you feel. Most people live by the cause and effect syndrome.

 The Cause and Effect Syndrome:

Something happened ? Now I feel (insert emotion)

 You can live this way, but this is reacting to circumstances, and not being in control of your life. Here’s an example:  A player is angry from the referee’s previous call, as well as the fact that his team is losing by 15 points. Anger and frustration start to build in that player. Suddenly, he is elbowed in the mouth by the opposing player who has been taunting him the whole game.


This player now has two choices:

 1. The normal response would be to retaliate. He is frustrated and angry, and it would be extremely easy to let his emotions get the best of him. However, the consequences of this would be that he may get ejected from the game or sat on the bench by the coach. Who does that help? The team? No. Himself? No. The coach and fans? Definitely not.

2. The unusual response would be to have emotional intelligence. This player would analyze the situation, and realize that he is angry and frustrated. And he realizes that the opposing player may have done this on purpose just to make him angry.

 So what happens now?

 The rest of the story depends on whether the player chooses path 1 or 2. Let’s say he chooses path #2.  In path #2, the player would take a deep breath for a second or two. He would think about the situation, what he is feeling, and shift his emotion from anger and frustration, to being grateful that he is even playing at all, and already has 15 points in the game.

 He will also feel hopeful that his team can come back and win the game, since there is 10 minutes left on the clock. Any basketball player knows that 10 minutes is an eternity, and anything can happen during that time. This gets that player motivated, and he starts to motivate the rest of his team as well, in an attempt to chip away at the deficit.

Inspired by this player, the rest of his team comes together to chip away at the deficit, and eventually they win on a buzzer-beating play. The coach, the fans, and the team are all happy and celebrate the great come-from-behind victory.

 So what caused the chain of events in this situation?

 One player’s choice to take path #2 instead of path #1.

So how can you also make great choices, and motivate your team to victory? In a tense situation that can make you emotional,

Follow these 3 easy steps:

1. Take a deep breath in and then exhale. This will give you enough time to think about the situation, and what is happening. If possible, repeat for two or three more breaths.

2. Be self-aware. Understand and recognize the situation, and what is happening. Know that you

are experiencing these emotional highs or lows, and try to understand why.

3. Get control of yourself and the situation at hand.

We actually determine our emotions, but we constantly think the outside world does. At any moment, you can experience any emotion you wish, so getting in control of your emotions benefits you and everyone else around you.

What to do After Your Sports Career

Once you begin to play sports seriously, you will most likely spend a lot of time at it  Between games, practice, and weight training, more time than you think will be spent striving to become a better basketball player. There is a good chance then, that there will be little time for anything else.  I want to relay a statistic to you. In 2009, Sports Illustrated did a study of former NFL and NBA basketball players.

What the study showed:

  • After only 2 years of retirement, 78% of NFL players were either broke or struggling financially
  • Within 5 years of retirement, 60% of NBA players are broke

Source: Toore, Pablo S. How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke,

March 23, 2009. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1153364

To me, these statistics are staggering. How does a person make millions of dollars over their careers, yet they are broke within 5 years of leaving their sport? How is this even possible?

You want to know why this happens? Because once their careers are over, they have no idea how to manage their money or any idea about what to do outside of their sport. Their minds are so hard-wired for training for their sport that it takes a lot of time and energy to cultivate new areas of expertise. Basically, once their careers are over, they have no idea what to do with themselves. They spent the prime years of their life training to be a world class athlete, yet didn’t realize they have over 40 years left to live once their career is over.

This is why you will hear from everybody you know to “get an education”. And if you have the opportunity to get one, make the most of it. I know lots of basketball players who receive a college scholarship, yet do horrible on their grades or do something stupid, and either get

kicked out of college or drop out on their own. It is hard enough to receive a college scholarship of any kind. But when somebody receives that scholarship and blows it all away? That’s the worst possible thing they can do.

So, basically, make the most of any opportunity that you get. Excel in school, but you can only learn so much from the classes you take. Learn about lots of different subjects, and become an expert in what you are passionate about. Read books, magazines, listen to audio books, and start to cultivate your mind early, because the life cycle of most basketball players ends at age 25. Maybe age 30 if you are really good, and really lucky. However, the life expectancy of a human is 70 years. After 25 years of playing a sport, you will have about 45 years left to live.

You can ask lots of athletes who have played professionally, and they will say they never thought their careers would end. They thought they would be in the NBA for 10 to 15 years, and couldn’t even fathom their career ending.

But the average NBA career is less than 3 years. And a player can get injured at any moment, or be called into the coach’s office and told that they are being released from the team. Unless another team picks that player up, they are without a job. This is the career of a professional basketball player. It is unstable, ever-changing, risky, and short-lived.

My advice:  Prepare yourself in all aspects of your life so you don’t become a one-dimensional person.

Dealing With Expectations in Sports

Young Athlete Development – Dealing With Expectations in Sports


Expectations are a hard thing to deal with. They can come from other people or they can come from yourself. But when they come from yourself, they are usually labeled as goals. And these goals were created by you, for you. If you don’t reach your goal, at least you know you tried, and you worked your butt off in the process. Outside expectations are a lot more toxic, and this article discusses dealing with expectations in sports.
Outside expectations come from what other people want you to do. This can create a lot of pressure by knowing there will be another person, or dozens of other people, looking at you if you fail. This can make a player stressed, which will not allow that player to perform at their peak potential. Whether these expectations come from family, friends, or coaches, expectations can be devastating if not handled properly.
Let’s say a coach has high expectations for his starting point guard this season.  The player works very hard in practice and in games, but doesn’t play well. Therefore, as the season goes on, she doesn’t live up to her coach’s expectations. If this is not addressed, the player will feel horrible about herself knowing that she let her coach down. And as the season progresses, her game will suffer from fear of playing worse and letting her coach down even more. Playing with fear is a sure way to play bad.
The best way to deal with other’s expectations is to be open with your coach or family by asking them if they have any expectations of you and what they are. Tell them you want them to be completely honest, because it could get awkward when a father has high expectations for his daughter, yet doesn’t want to tell her.  There needs to be a strong link of communication so everybody can be on the same page, and all expectations can be addressed. Once everybody is on the same page and all thoughts and feelings are expressed, keeping an open line of communication throughout the season is necessary so the player is not stifled by fear of what their friends or family are thinking.
If other expectations come from outside your family, like the media or people you don’t even know, my best advice is to not even worry about those people. Everybody will talk, and have their own ideas and opinions, but only you can affect the outcome. People love to gossip, so let them.

How to Play Basketball in College

How to Play Basketball in College


Everybody wants to play basketball in college and get a college scholarship.  If you’re playing basketball, or sports at all, this is the only thing on your mind, and the only thing you’re working towards.  It seems complex, but it’s actually simple.  Here is how to play basketball in college and get that scholarship.
First, you have to put the work in.  Watching YouTube videos of drills isn’t going to do anything unless you do those drills nearly every day.  Daily, weekly, however much you can, get into the driveway, street, or gym, and just do it.  If you need drills, here are a few:  Basketball Drills
Second, you have to reach out to schools and get them to know you.  If nobody knows who you are, you won’t get any love.  You have to be on their radar.  And you get on their radar by putting yourself on their radar.  Don’t wait for them to contact you.  Send them your videos, stats, and highlights.  Call them, email them, tweet them, find them on Facebook, and let them know you are a great player.  Talk to the assistant coach and invite them to your games.  Do this, and they won’t be able to ignore you.
Third, destroy your competition.  When they come to your games, put on a freaking show.  Prove to them you’re the real deal and that you deserve the scholarship at their school.  After the game, follow up with them, smiling and making them know you are a great person, as well as a great player.  
Do this with enough colleges, and eventually they will want to talk to you as much as possible.  By senior year, you will have multiple scholarship offers and be able to decide which one you like best. 

The Mental Abuse of Young Athletes

Society’s definition of abuse is mainly physical. If we can see a slap or a punch, we can replay it over and over, analyzing every move. We have concrete evidence of who’s at fault and who’s the victim. When it comes to mental abuse though, there is rarely evidence.

From my perspective, young athletes are some of the most vulnerable people to work with. They have dreams of college and the future, and they will do anything to get there. They haven’t seen life for what it really is and will trust most people.

What happens when a coach dangles the carrot of future success in front of an athlete’s face is that the coach feels like he has the liberty to treat the athlete however he wants. They could mentally and emotionally abuse them, justifying it with, “I’m the only person who can help you get that scholarship.”

When coaches tell athletes, “You’re being selfish,” or “You’re making excuses,” they are reaching the heart of the player. Instead of critiquing their game, they are going straight for the kids’ character. After practice, that kid may doubt himself, which will make him play worse during the next practice. After a few bad practices, a coach may divert his attention to another athlete who he says, “has the passion and drive.” In reality, the coach initiated it all along.

I’ve seen this scenario play out in the workplace, too. A manager or boss will subtly manipulate the employee into thinking he is wrong and a bad person. When that employee’s confidence slips, that’s when the manager blames the employee for not “being positive and hard-working.” This is happening all across the world right now to thousands of athletes, but they don’t know exactly what’s going on. They know something is wrong, but they can’t put their finger on it.

If you look around sports, you will see coaches getting fired from different schools for “mentally abusing their players.” On the outside, one may think, “Oh, that’s not real. The athletes need to suck it up.” But in reality, it’s more real than being punched in the face. A bruise or slap will heal. A young athlete hearing that he is “selfish and not good enough” will last much longer. I can still hear the terrible things my high school coach told me, and I’ve been out of high school for years. Honestly, I’d rather he punched me… the pain would only last for a minute.

The problem with mental abuse is how subtle it is. I had an AAU coach growing up who would curse at us every practice, but he did it in a productive, improving way. We would deal with the curses because we knew, deep down, he wanted the best for us with no ulterior motive. He was getting us into shape and we appreciated it.

My high school coach was the opposite. He was thought of as a legend in his little town from his history of success, and nobody would challenge his authority. This gave him free reign to act however he wanted. If he didn’t like a certain player, he would not play them, and that player would be forced to attend another school to get playing time. The parents who sucked up to him were shown the most attention, and their child would get the most minutes. In the end though, many players hated playing for him, and plenty have said he destroyed their passion for basketball.

Young athletes are scared to talk about mental abuse, and parents have no idea how to handle it. There’s no physical evidence, and phrases can be altered to mean something completely different than initially intended. There are no official laws against it unless it’s taken to an extreme. A coach will get fired for punching a player in the face, but nothing will happen when they subtly abuse their hard-working, trusting athletes for years.

Once we start to address this issue, that’s when change is able to occur.

Overcoming Depression

Overcoming Depression

The first time I heard about depression, I was in 7th grade in homeroom, and we were watching the morning news. There was a documentary talking about how serious depression was, and how it wasn’t just sadness. It seemed intense, and I didn’t really understand what it was all about.

Today, I completely understand what it is. After dealing with depression for a while, I haven’t completely learned to overcome it, but I’ve learned to manage it. Like in the movie A Beautiful Mind, when he still sees the visions of the people, but they are off to the corner, not affecting his daily life.

From what I’ve experienced, depression is like a big wave that just overcomes you. You don’t see it coming, and you don’t really know it’s hitting you until you’re experiencing all kinds of terrible thoughts, as you dread the future. Everything seems bleak, and nothing or nobody seems able to rectify your feelings. While everybody is laughing, you’re just in a daze, putting on a fake smile so nobody asks you what is wrong. With everybody telling us to “Be Positive” and “Be Happy”, with smiling faces all around, it all seems like a big joke.

There are plenty of schools of thought on depression, some saying it’s genetic, while others saying it’s a symptom of circumstances. I agree with both to an extent, but just marking it up to genetics then taking a whole bunch of pills may be just masking the problems. From experience, I believe circumstance has a lot to do with it.

The scary fact is that anybody can be swallowed by depression. Whether you’re rich, poor, successful, a failure, or anything in between, nobody is spared. I once read that Paulo Coehlo, the famous author of the Alchemist, once he become rich and a huge success, became deeply depressed. He started going to therapists, and they suggested pills and different remedies, none of which worked. Finally, he spoke to someone who got to the heart of the problem. The fact is that once Paulo reached the heights of success, he didn’t have any more challenges. He achieved everything he wanted in life, and didn’t have anything to work for. This person told him to really look deep into himself, and to figure out what would give him satisfaction, and a sense of purpose. It was actually something completely different than writing, and from that point on, he regained a purpose and excitement to his life.

Depression can be debilitating because we feel completely stuck. We are in a situation or environment, and we feel like there is no out, and no reason to keep on going. The truth, though, is far from that. You have unique skills and talents that nobody else has. You have a way of looking at the world, with your own experiences, that nobody in the history of the world has ever or will ever experience. Too often, we focus on the next temporary fulfillment, instead of really getting a sense of our purpose and what we were placed on this earth to accomplish.

A way out of depression is getting in touch with that. What gets you excited? What gives you hope, a purpose, and a challenge? What scares you, and is something you think you never could accomplish? Find out one of these things, then pursue it. How can you live your life striving to accomplish one of these? If you must have a full time job, pursue these things at nights and on weekends in your free time, using your day job to fuel your fire.

Life is vibrant, flowing, and beautiful. If you’re feeling depressed right now, the first way out of it is to get yourself a good meal. Treat yourself, and show yourself some love. Second, write down a few goals you want to accomplish in the coming weeks and months. Figure out a plan to reach these goals, and figure out a long-term plan for yourself, too. Look at these, and realize that you do have a purpose for your life, no matter what emotional state you are in right now.

Robert Greene wrote in his book Mastery, “Alienating yourself from your inclinations can only lead to pain and disappointment in the long run, and a sense that you have wasted something unique.” Depression is tough, but we can overcome it. We just have to have a strong sense of who we are, and realize that the future is beautiful.

Developing Confidence with the Basketball

Developing Confidence with the Basketball

Recently, I asked what your weakness was, and how you would make it a strength. I got a good amount of responses back not about how to jump higher, not about how to make every shot, not about how to make the NBA… But what to do when you get the ball.

To paraphrase a response, “When I get the ball, I get scared that I will make a mistake. I don’t want to take a bad shot or turn the ball over, and let my team down. Can you help me with that?”

To answer that question, I must say that I can and I can’t. Have you ever heard the saying, “You can show a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink?” That’s what this situation is.

Growing up, even when I was in college at the Division 1 level, when I got the ball sometimes, I got scared as well. These were high-pressure situations where if you made one mistake, you were straddling the fence. If you made 2 mistakes, you were out of the game, possibly for the rest of the game. To be honest, sometimes in these circumstances, I wouldn’t even want to touch the ball, or when I got the ball I would immediately pass it, for fear of making a bad mistake.

In order to get over your fear, you must face it head on. What are you scared of? Missing the shot? Not playing? Not knowing what to do with the ball? Recognize what the fear is. Now, realize what your strength is. Are you a shooter? If so, when you get the ball and shoot, you shouldn’t feel scared. Are you a point guard and scared of getting the ball stripped? Work on your ball handling a little more, and focus on making smart decisions.

I say I can help you and I can’t because I can tell you what to do, but you have to actually put it into play. Trust that you are a great player. Basketball is simple. When you get the open shot, shoot. If you get trapped with defenders, pass the ball. If you have an opening, drive to the hoop. You know how to play the game, now you must execute. Trust in yourself to make the right decision in the circumstance, whatever it may be. And if you make a mistake, learn from it and don’t make the same mistake next time.

You’ve got two options: One, is to keep passing the ball, never making a mistake, but never doing anything of meaning, either. Always being the mediocre player who maybe gets a few points per game. The second option is to shoot when you’re open, having confidence when you get the ball, and taking it aggressive to the rim. Maybe you will make mistakes here and there, but your coaches and teammates will know you are working your butt off trying to produce. They will trust you with the ball to make plays, and that’s where your confidence will develop.

The great thing about basketball is that there is always a “next play” and “another game”. These are the opportunities we have to prove to ourselves how good we actually are.

The #1 Drill to Become a Lock-Down Defender



Defense sucks. When was the last time you told a friend, “Yo, let’s go to the courts and do some defensive slides”? Never? It’s okay, because those words have probably never been uttered in the history of human kind.

However, defense is half of basketball. Look at never practicing defense as drinking soda every day instead of water. Yes, you can do it, but it will slow you down, and it’s not going to benefit you in the long run. Practicing your defense is like drinking pure water filled with electrolytes. It’s going to keep you in shape, and provide a huge boost to your game.

The only thing worse than a cocky player is a cocky player who doesn’t play defense. Don’t be that person. I told someone that I was doing defensive slides at the courts this weekend by myself. They said, “Tyson, you’re probably the only person who does that without a coach screaming at you to do it.” I said, “True.”

In order to be great, you have to do what nobody else will do. When the other players have their Beats headphones on looking at Instagram photos with each other, be that person who will be working on your game.

These are the drills I was doing this weekend: Full-Court Defensive Slides

Do you want to be the best? Or do you want to be average?? It starts now. I used to always finish my workouts with these. Do the same.

Why Upper Body Strength in Basketball is So Important

Why Upper Body Strength in Basketball is So Important

Young athlete training for basketball

To stay updated with Tyson Hartnett’s new book about his experiences playing professional basketball overseas, check out HoopDreamsFulfilled.com

We all know that one person.  They’re strong, they barely lift weights, and you wonder how they got that way.  But it’s not just a “yea I work out 3 time per week” strong.  If you tried to move them, you would have absolutely no chance.

Growing up playing basketball, there were a few guys like that in my town.  They weren’t the best players, but they were rock-solid.  Getting them out of the post would be impossible, and they definitely pushed me around when I tried to drive by them.  It was annoying, and I didn’t like it at all.  So what did I do?  I did everything I could to match their strength.

Having a strong upper body in basketball is so important.  Obviously, everybody wants to have a great vertical jump, and be the quickest person on the team.  What’s underrated, and very subtle, is having a strong upper body.  No matter how high you can jump, or how quick you are, nobody will be able to push you around.  You’ll be able to hold your ground on defense, and can back your defender down more easily to the hoop on offense.

I was at a basketball tournament in Los Angeles in high school.  It was a high-profile tournament, with lots of college coaches everywhere.  Around one court, there were a bunch of coaches, but I didn’t recognize any of the players.  I said to my teammate, “Who are all those coaches here for?”  My teammate said, “I don’t know, probably that guy.”  He pointed to the strongest guy on the court.  Not the tallest guy, but the most muscular person.

This is what being stronger than everyone else does.  It sets you apart from the other players on the court, even before you start playing.  Obviously you have to be a great player to get noticed, but being stronger gets everybody looking at you before the ball is even tipped.  I played against an NFL player recently.  He was huge.  Our whole team kept saying, “Who’s gonna guard him?”  “He’s gonna kill us!”  He ended up being a pretty bad player, but before he even stepped on the court, most of our team was intimidated already.  That’s what being the biggest guy on the court does.

Getting strong isn’t easy.  It takes lots of work, and lots of training in the gym.  You can take all the creatine, supplements, and protein shakes you want, but if you aren’t actually training, the pills, powder, and shakes aren’t going to have any effect at all.

Online, you can find thousands of different workouts for when you’re in the weight room.  Bicep curls, bench presses, tricep extensions, etc.  These are all important, but one of the best ways to get stronger is through body weight exercises.  If you’re still in high school, or under 17 years old, you shouldn’t be lifting weights 3 or 4 times per week.  Your muscles are still growing, and the strain of weight training puts you in jeopardy of getting injured.  Also, too much weight training will mess with your shot.  One of my friends lifts weights all the time, but he can’t shoot very well because he doesn’t stretch much.  Because his arms are so tight from lifting, his form is messed up, and he doesn’t have a consistent jumper.

Here are a few body weight exercises to help you get stronger naturally, won’t mess up your jump shot, and you can do these anywhere you have a chair or a bench.  No weights necessary.

Tricep Dips

When you do these, do them until you can’t do them anymore.  They work your triceps, along with your forearm.  Keep your hands evenly spaced out, and lower yourself down to the ground.  If you want to make it more challenging, speed up or slow down the movement.


These are more for the full body, but the upper body definitely gets worked here.  Do 10-15 to start, then progress into more.  For an extra challenge, do a pushup when your hands and feet are on the ground.

Slow Pushups

We’re all accustomed to doing things fast, but when you slow things down like this, your body isn’t used to it.  Count about 5-10 seconds when you’re pushing up, and 5-10 seconds when you’re lowering down.  Eventually, your muscles will start to shake.  That’s what we’re going for.  Try 10 to 15 repetitions, then add more as you get better at it.

Pull Ups

If you have a bar, a tree, or any stable thing you can pull yourself up on, get in the habit of doing pullups.  In New York City, they do these on the construction bars and stop lights at the intersections.  Also a staple of every Navy SEAL training program, pullups are effective for basketball training as well.  Pull your chin above the bar, then slowly let yourself down to a full hang.  Repeat.  5 is a good start, but 10 is better.  It takes a long time to get to a high number of pullups, so practice is necessary.

Explosive Pushups

Unlike the slow pushups, these really challenge the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your arms.  If you can clap in between, try it, but focus on getting as high off the ground as possible, then smoothly bringing yourself down.

Obviously, these are basic, but they are a start.  All you need for these is a will to do them.  There are no excuses here.  Everybody has a bench, and you can find a pullup bar anywhere.  Start these now, and, consistently done, you will see a transformation in your upper body in the coming weeks and months.

If you have any questions about this or want more information, reach out to us.  That’s what we’re here for.

Dealing With an Injury

Basketball Training — Dealing With an Injury

It happens to everybody.  At one point, you’re going to experience an injury.  Whether you break your hand, sprain your ankle, or anything else, an injury sucks.

But don’t let it discourage you.  It’s just a setback.  Blake Griffin couldn’t play for the first year or so in the NBA, now he’s one of the best.  Here are a few tips to get through an injury:

1.  Keep a mindset of hope.  When you’re home icing that ankle, do everything right.  Know that you’re doing everything that you can to get back onto the basketball court.  An injury is temporary, but your spirit is forever.

2.  Cheer your team on.  When you’re at the game in street clothes, act like you’re one of the team.  Don’t just get jealous because everybody is playing.  Your team and the fans will see that.  Your coaches will definitely see that.  Then, once you get better, they will remember that you had a terrible attitude when you were on the sidelines.  That doesn’t help your situation… Trust me.

3.  Accept the fact that you have an injury, but do nothing different.  Show up to practice on time, help your teammates, be engaged, and do what your coach wants you to do.  Its the tough times that determine the type of person you are.  If you show that you won’t let an injury ruin your passion, your team will respect you.

4.  Work on your weaknesses.  If you broke your right hand, start shooting with your left hand, or dribble constantly with your left hand.  If you broke your foot, shoot hundreds of free throws.  Figure out what you can do, and just freaking do it.

5.  Finally, don’t complain.  Complaining does nothing.  Instead, focus on where you will be after your injury is healed, and get everybody around you excited for when you get back.  Say, “It’s okay, it’s just a roadblock.  I’m going to come back better than ever.”  Say it enough times, put in the work, and it will be true.

An injury is tough to deal with, but fortunately, it’s temporary.  Focus on what you need to do to get back on the court, and you’ll be good to go in no time.