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Body Language: Your Mental Toughness Billboard

Updated: Jan 30, 2019

Basketball is Psychology V


“Players don’t realize their body language is like a billboard showing their toughness level.”  

—Ron Naclerio

The way you carry yourself is important. Your brain can be chemically changed by the posture of your body. Body language plays a larger role in communication and performance than most people realize, but it’s rarely given the attention it warrants.

Your Body is Always Communicating

Body language is louder than your voice because you don’t have to be close by to hear it, you can see it from the stands, the sidelines, the film, or the court. You can’t hide your body language, it’s a billboard. What is your billboard saying? Your body language reveals how mentally tough you are, how mature you are, and how well you manage your emotions. When you are mentally tough, you possess the ability to exude poise and confidence even when things aren’t going your way. By demonstrating confident body language you are saying with your body I got this, I’ll do better on the next play.

Mental toughness is having the discipline to keep going regardless of challenges.

Mental toughness is broadcasted by your body language when things are going wrong.

Maybe you shot an airball.

Maybe your coach is yelling at you.

The refs might be making terrible calls.

Maybe you’re sitting on the bench and not playing as much as you think you should.

Your teammate might have turned the ball over 3 times in a row.

If you decide to hang your head, roll your shoulders, and drag your arms, you’re ruining the next play before it ever starts. Bad body language brings you and your teammates down.

However, if you decide to puff out your chest, hold your head high, and immediately move on to the next play, you’ve already given yourself a huge advantage on the next play. Great body language is contagious. It’s fun to play on a team where everyone exemplifies great body language because the energy is so visible.

Fighting Human Nature

A study done by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada discovered just how universal body language is in athletes. In this study, olympic athletes and athletes who have been blind their whole lives were studied. These athletes demonstrated the same body language for victory/pride, defeat, and embarrassment.

It’s human nature to stretch out your arms over your head and smile when you win.

It’s human nature to hang your head and drop your shoulders when you are defeated.

It’s human nature to cover your face when you are ashamed.

No matter what you feel, you have to fight human nature with your mind and decide to display confidence, instead of letting your feelings take control.

Body Language Changes Your Brain

When you show confident posture (chest puffed up, head held high, shoulders back), the chemicals in your brain change. Your brain increases testosterone levels and decreases cortisol levels.

By carrying yourself confidently, you gain a significant performance advantage. Increased testosterone leads to higher confidence, better mood, and increased mental focus. Decreased cortisol means your stress and anxiety levels will go down. These chemical changes put you in a much better position to perform at your best.

Reading The Game

Basketball players are really good at reading nonverbal cues. You have to be. Point guards don’t walk down the court and announce who they’re going to pass the ball to and when. You know a simple nod of the head or raise of the eyebrows can tell you who’s getting the ball and where.

So what’s your first thought when you see another team hang their heads like they’re defeated? We got this.

Opponents thrive off of bad body language. Never give the other team the impression that you’re discouraged. It’s fine to feel discouraged, but when you show that you’re discouraged, you’re only helping the other team.

Resilience will frustrate your opponents. You could be up by 20 or down by 20, but when you don’t look tired, still look confident, and the effort is nonstop, you’ll break them down mentally. No matter what the score is, you’re going to frustrate them-- just with your body language.

You can often figure out which team is winning and which team is losing, just by watching body language. Many basketball players have developed a bad habit of letting their body language fluctuate with the score. When they’re losing, they sulk. When they’re winning, they’re more upbeat and energetic.

This is the result of taking too much pride in the results instead of taking pride in effort. Your effort should always be at an all time high. Take pride in your effort, and let your body language reflect that.

Great Body Language Wins

There’s a reason why UConn Coach Geno Auriemma has 11 National Championships; body language is a high priority. You make your team better when you carry yourself enthusiastically.

Action Steps


1. Teach body language.

It’s easy to point out bad body language, but first take the time to teach your players what good body language is, how to carry yourself, and what that looks like.

2.  Praise good body language.

Praise what you want repeated. If a player is quick to recover from a mistake, praise them in front of the whole team. Point out the body language on film, including the bench!

3. Exemplify great body language.

Set the standard for what great body language looks like. Lead by example and your players will follow.


1. Think next play.

Bad body language focuses on the last play, which is a waste of energy because it’s over. You can only control the next play. Go into the next play confidently with your head held high, shoulders back, and chest puffed out.

2. Be aware of the message you are sending.

Your body language is always sending a message. If you want to send the message that you are tough and nothing can stop you, carry yourself accordingly.

3. Don’t fluctuate your body language.

It’s okay to feel defeated, but you don’t have to show defeat. Take pride in putting forth your best effort at all times


Written By: Julie Fournier

Founder & CEO

Basketball is Psychology™️




Olympic Athlete Study Shows That Pride And Shame Are Universal And Innate Expressions. (2008, August 12). Retrieved from

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