Two Key Elements of Sports Psychology: Developing a Performance Statement and Managing Emotions

Athletes often reflect upon their past and many see that part of their problem was that they focused more and more on results rather than on staying in the moment and executing one skill at a time, one routine at a time.  Performance statements, a specifically designed form of self-talk, help athletes stay in the moment and less focused on the outcome.  Did you know that the average person has up to sixty thousand thoughts per day? That’s a lot of self-talk.  The unfortunate things about those thoughts is that the majority actually embody self-doubt or negativity.  If we do not choose our thoughts carefully, they can have a negative impact on performance.   Therefore, athletes should practice positive self-talk and develop a performance statement.  A baseball player may have performance statement to emphasize hitting (track the ball, smooth and easy) and defense (set, stay down, watch it into the glove) while a basketball player may choose to combine offense and defense into one performance statement (hustle every possession, attack every rebound; drive, drive drive)  The key is to identify the single most fundamental idea of what it takes for you to be successful to allow you to simplify your game.   It is advantageous to create your performance statement before facing problems in training or competition.  The reason for this is so you can better identify the best way to think when you aren’t already in a negative emotional state.

If you fall into a negative emotional state and don’t practice positive self-talk regularly, all is not lost. You can still resort to utilizing skills and techniques to get you out of that negative emotional state.

Here are some tips when you are in the heat of battle:

  • Slow down your pace
  • Visualize placing the disturbing thought or emotion on a leaf and let it float downstream
  • Utilize an attentional shift technique
  • Do a body check: correct posture, stretch finds, breathe with a soft belly
  • If angry, imagine holding a hot coal and dropping it
  • If frustrated, substitute curiosity
  • Don’t think ahead. “It isn’t over until it’s over.”
  • Remember positive past athletic experiences

After competition, when you have time to reflect:

  • Embrace the difficult emotion and transform its energy. Let it fuel you to train harder and become better.
  • Utilize the ability to cognitively reframe.  Challenge the evidence of your extreme thinking and make it into a more realistic statement.  This will have a positive effect on transforming your emotional state.

None of these techniques will be absorbed by an athlete’s brain unless these tools are practiced.  You have to develop your know-mind awareness and train your mind to be more zone-like.  This is not only invaluable in sports, but in all of life!  If you’re an athlete and reading this and haven’t done any of this type of work, I’d be happy to put a plan together for you and get you on the right track.

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Ryan Long, MSW, LICSW


verified by Psychology Today

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