Regulating your team’s mental fitness like a basketball coach

Getting into a mental green zone is paramount for both mental and physical team performance. Below are a few points struck me when we engaged with Courtney M. Charles, Director for Basketball Operations and Player Development of the Toronto Raptors, the only Canadian-based team in the NBA.

by Lisa Hughes

Sports coaches are renowned for developing team strengths, and being able to unite individual strengths to benefit the team as a whole. We started with exercises emphasizing things like team-spirit, creativity, a culture of celebration and problem-solving.

Listening to Courtney describing his attitude towards teamwork, I was impressed how simple behavior can change how well you lead a team. That is not to say that it is always easy, but it certainly doesn’t have to be complicated. And it starts with us. Courtney says: “We have to take care of our bodies and know how to physically get into a good space. This includes exercise, but it can also mean laughter or going for a walk in fresh air — all good strategies to keep our bodies able.”

He sees similarities between his current job and his time in his previous retail career. He found that no matter where you lead, people need to be in a fit mental space to attack. “In order to help any team perform, you have to act like a coach. It’s personal. The company’s problems will still be there tomorrow, but you and me, we need to be ok. Give a high-five, say something nice, have a short conversation. All of that helps.”

The power of 3-minute conversations

This is something that is backed by neurological science. We regularly run workshops together with our partners at Kintla, who use a neurobehavioral approach to help people learn and apply principles to optimize productivity and to identify and avoid emotional tripwires.

Just one of the many applications of this is the 3-minute conversation, a methodology to change interaction patterns with others. These tools help people reflect on their successes and provide an opportunity for positive communication.

Thank you, Courtney, it’s been great to see how you apply this in your attitude every day!

Read more about Kintla’s neurobehavioural approach here. And check out this video for an episode of the Raptors’ open gym series about Jerry Stackhouse, head coach of the Raptors 905, the most recent champions of the NBA G league:

Originally published at on October 5, 2017.