Analysing The Mental Side Of The Game

30 July 2012

Aysim Altay
Aysim Altay has been an FECC lecturer since 2008

Tangibility is a familiar thing to every basketball player.

Setting screens, shooting the ball, drawing fouls, grabbing rebounds are all basics of the game. They all can be physically felt.

And they are all part of a player's comfort zone. This might not always be the case with intangible things.

The psychological aspect of the game is important by all means, but working on it in detail has yet to become daily business.

Hiring a mental coach is not a big deal to companies. In sports, there might still be doubts and hurdles to overcome.

Aysim Altay has experienced both worlds. The 49-year-old has worked as a mental coach for renowned companies and with athletes as well as teams in the sports area.

A graduate in Computer Engineering, Altay has worked as a computer engineer for 15 years. Besides the job, she has educated herself in Behavioral Sciences.

The topic took centre stage in Altay's career. She left her old job behind and headed for new shores.

In 2008, Altay joined the FECC (FIBA Europe Coaching Certificate) programme as an external expert, focusing on mental coaching.

"I am very happy to be a part of it," she said in an interview with "The programme is well-planned and has a great structure. In the three years, on-the-job training and lectures are put on top of each other.

"Every year, there is something new. There are different approaches by different coaches, which is critical for the development of a basketball coach."

Altay's contribution to the programme is much appreciated and well-respected among the FECC participants.

"We are very happy to have her on board," confirms Michael Schwarz, Head of the FIBA Europe Coaching Department.

"The cooperation has been perfect in the past years. The feedback we get is positive.

"She touches topics that are new and interesting to most of the participants, and she grabs attention with her positive personality and enthusiasm," Schwarz added.

Tennis, speed racing, sailing and volleyball are sports Altay has already coached in. But the Turkish mental coach admits that there is a special interest in basketball.

"First of all, I love basketball. Secondly, basketball is a brain game," she said.

"Basketball is a sport with plenty of action. The destiny of the game might be changed within seconds. Intelligence plays a major role; many parts of the brain are affected."


Aysim Altay
Communication and a trust relationship are crucial for Altay's work


Analysing the players and their different brain types is a great part of Altay's job. 

Altay gets to know the players non-verbally. She spots the different learning types and can give the coaches advice on how to motivate, communicate and get in touch with the players.

The reaction she gets in the first meeting after monitoring is mostly the same: "How did you know by just watching?"

When Altay gives her summary on the things she saw, she is facing a combination of surprise and fascination.

She can tell whether there is hesitation or fear within a player, or where problems in team-chemistry are laid in.

"Our body talks a lot. When my comments match the reality and the experience of the coaching staff, my job gets much easier.

"In sports, people are ready for tangible things. It is maybe scary to have something intangible," Altay added.

According to Altay, trust is the cornerstone of her work. Getting to know the players and the coaches is crucial.

Coaches react differently when an external consultant joins their basketball family.

Communication and confidence are key.

"I express myself. I always explain the area I'm working in and define the borders. I stay away from the technical part and make sure I don't interfere with the coaches' work. I do everything not to spoil the confidential level."

Debriefing and regular feedback are important to stay on the same page. Altay is not trying to convince the coaches, but to show practically what she does.

After a while, the coaches see and understand her approach.

Her effort and good work have not gone unnoticed. Besides her involvement with the FECC, the Turkish mental coach has made a name for herself in basketball.

Several basketball teams and organizations have already put faith in Altay's skills, amongst others the Turkish senior national team, the Swedish Basketball Federation and Besiktas Istanbul.

With some players of Fenerbahce she has done individual coaching.

The past season Altay has been cooperating with German champions and cup winners Brose Baskets Bamberg.

But her work does not stop here.

Altay has already published three books and is working on a fourth one, trying to make mental coaching more popular. And maybe even tangible.



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