Tommy Cunningham



Steph Curry has always been an athlete that has shown continued progress and the will to turn adversity into an advantage. In his first collegiate game the nerves were high and he committed 13 turnovers. In his very next game, he put it behind him to score 32 points against Michigan. After this, he found continued success to lead his conference in scoring and he was 2nd in the nation among all freshman. By his junior season, he was leading all of college basketball in scoring. 

Steph found success his first year in the NBA by making the NBA All-Rookie First Team. It was soon after this that he began having trouble with his ankles. Continuous sprains leading to surgery to repair torn ligaments. He ended up missing 40 games in the 2011-2012 season due to injury. He had a choice. Steph could plea that it isn't fair and he could spend the time feeling sorry for himself, or he could spend the time improving. The 3x NBA champion, 2x NBA MVP, and x6 NBA All-Star chose improvement. 

As an athlete the farther you want to go the more you have to develop all aspects of your game. The physical piece can take you far but the great athletes know that their mental approach to their development, preparation, and mindset is what sets them apart. 

Steph could have said, “the pressure is off, no need to work during my time off because I’m injured,” but this wouldn't of fit in with his overarching goals to be one of the best basketball players of all time. So instead, he looked at all aspects of his game and he improved what he could improve during the time where he couldn’t compete in games. He would work on his balance where he would continuously do an airplane pose which was hip hinge on one leg strengthening his core and his ankles. Not just doing the rehab exercises, but mastering them. Steph would not only come back from injury, but he would come back to the game better after the injury than he was before the injury. 

An aspect that doesn't get talked about as much is the development he did with his mind. Steph is well documented in using visualization techniques and meditation. Something that he developed outside the basketball court to give him an edge. After missing 40 games, Steph came back the following season to set an NBA single season 3 point record. Some people thought his circus shots that he would make were crazy or were lucky. Steph knew it was something he developed by improving both his balance and his focus through his time off the court.

Visualization has been a technique used by many in sports as a tool to develop better neural pathways to a skill. You get the right mental representation in your head and then you repeat it over and over again. The best athletes can see the whole picture/video any time they close their eyes to think about it. 

They did a study on free throws where they set up three groups.

  • Group 1 would practice shooting free throws for an hour a day.
  • Group 2 would visualize shooting free throws with perfect technique for an hour a day.
  • Group 3 did nothing.

They set up a baseline and then retested 30 days later. 

  • Group 1 improved 24%.
  • Group 2 improved 23% without touching a basketball.
  • Group 3 didn't improve.

While we may be out of the water during this time there are still many ways to improve.

How to use visualization to better a skill?

Get a visual mental representation of the skill you want to do. Use videos/pictures of the technique you want.

  • Watch it or look at it enough times that you can visualize it with your eyes closed.
  • Visualize yourself doing the technique in the water. You can use different points of view. A swimmer’s perspective but also being able to see yourself doing it as if you were watching yourself swim from the pool deck.
  • Repeat it enough times to whenever you close your eyes, you can see yourself doing this technique.

Practicing visualization is a skill that takes time. Steph Curry had the time during his ankle injury and turned his adversity into an advantage. We can do the same.


Tommy Cunningham