Winning All In The Mind

06 September 2013

EUROBASKET 2013

Great Britain psychologist Bill Beswick
Great Britain psychologist Bill Beswick

By Mark Woods

Inside Tivoli Arena, Bill Beswick is watching intently but often his attention is focused as much on the bench as on the court.

Great Britain's team psychologist was once the coach of the England team but he has long traded drawing plays for winning mind games, working with the likes of football clubs, Manchester United and Middlesbrough, as well as international rugby sides.

FIBAEurope.com caught up with Bill in Ljubljana and asked him for some insights on the mental approach to producing victories and his work in coaching the coaches.

You're around a team, watching, observing and listening, before feeding back. Assess, in general terms, the psychological side of a basketball player?

"You look at a team's experience in trying to produce high-level performance. When you start playing it's a physical, tactical, technical battle as a game. But as you get more experience, you learn it's a mental and emotional battle, especially when you come into an environment like a EuroBasket. The higher you go, the more the mind controls the body. Every game provides a challenge. So I think every team in the future will have someone like me who is monitoring players, like coaches do, but whose focus is on them having the right mental state to produce a good performance."

You've coached basketball at an international level. How does that help your work with British Basketball?

"It helps, in the sense that it allows me to have a more detailed conversation with players about their role on the court. Although I'm focusing on mental and emotional issues, I understand how that translates. As a very poor point guard many years ago, I have a little understanding of that position. But I've worked in other sports and the psychological and emotional issues are very generic."

Given the immediacy and the speed of play in basketball, does it differ from other sports?

"Team sports are momentum activities, including ones like soccer and rugby which I deal with. But basketball is the greatest example because of the continuity of play. You can score a dunk at one end and concede a fast break at the other within three or four seconds. You have to be switched on constantly, and focused and alert. It's very important.

"You're riding the wave. You need to understand when you're in a good rhythm and how to keep it going. And when the other team has it, you learn how to break it down and take it away from the opposition. That's intelligence. And that's where the really great players understand the stages of the game."

You see a player you've worked with accomplish something unexpected. It's clearly been all in the mind. Can you share in their achievement?

"Definitely. Just like a coach gets pleasure when you see a well executed play, I took tremendous pleasure in seeing Great Britain come from nine points down against Israel and come back to win. Although it's a physical battle, it's a mental thing too: that unwillingness to lose. Having that mentality. And you can teach that, how to be a fighter, how not to be a victim."


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