Between all the domains where psychology and coaching can help, sport is one of them that is taking more and more attention nowadays. Newspapers are talking about it and
But what can we concretely work on? I’ll partially answer to this question through this article by explaining you the different types of self-talks that can be used to improve your performance.
What is self-talk?
It simply corresponds to what an athlete says to himself before, during or after his physical activity. This is something that we instinctively do when we insult ourselves after having made a mistake (negative self-talk) or when we cheer ourselves up after having scored a point (positive self-talk). So why would you ask a professional to help you if you already do it by instinct? The effects of self-talk on performance are important, so it’s imperative to use a self-talk that is adequate to your activity and your goals. A self-talk used poorly could damage your performance while one used properly could make miracles. A psychologist will allow you to build a self-talk adequate to all your situations.
Instructive self-talk is focused on instructions concerning specific movements to do, tactics to respect, etc. It can be sentences like « hit the ball strong », « bend your knees when you hit », « get in front of your opponent when he’s close to the basket ». Using self-talk follows the principle that focusing on an adequate thought will bring an adequate behavior, and so, self-instructions of movements, behaviors and attitudes will lead to their execution. A study showed that tennis players using positive instructive self-talk increased their serving performance compared to a group that didn’t use this technique. It has also been shown that using self-talk could increase attentional focus by reducing thoughts not linked to the chosen task as well as orientating focus to a specific stimulus. It also allows to better control cognitive and emotional reactions as well as trigger automatic reactions.
Motivational self-talk is more used in order to influence the emotional state of the athlete. It consists in self-addressed “pep talks” and positive injunctions like for example « keep on going, you’re on the right track! » « nobody can stop you » « you can do it! », etc. It has shown positive effects in enhancing motivation, self-confidence as well as for the effort regulation. A study showed that rowers using positive self-talk performed better than those using a negative one. Finally, tennis players significantly increased their self-efficacy feeling as well as their performance.
It’s not worth training all year long if your mental collapse on D-day. The efficiency of psychology and mental coaching in sport is proven, now it’s time for athletes to step in and decide to give as much importance to their mental training than their physical training.
If you want to book a coaching session to work on your stress management, focus, self-talk or the setting of your goals, contact me directly to find a date.