5 Ways Self-Talk Increases Athletic Performance

5 Ways Self-Talk Increases Athletic Performance

Athletes are always looking for ways to increase performance. This typically occurs on the physical side. Questions regarding mechanics, strength, and other physical characteristics are at the forefront of their minds when it comes to leveling up performance.

However, this only covers half of the resources at your disposal. 

By adding in mental training, you can increase your performance. There are many mental training skills available for athletes to use, with one of the most impactful simply being the voice in your head. 

Through taking control of this voice, known as your internal dialogue, many positive benefits will be experienced. Combining to increase your athletic performance. This control happens by learning a skill known as self-talk.

 

What Is Self-Talk

An article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia gives three designations for what makes up self-talk: 

  1. Self-talk is directed towards yourself.
  2. It is either spoken out loud or within your mind. 
  3. It is a self-statement.

To put it simply, self-talk refers to the phrases you say to yourself about yourself

We all have internal dialogue that goes on constantly. When we use self-talk, it’s just turning that dialogue into a direct statement about ourselves. 

Now, another important piece to keep in mind is that the self-talk we are referring to that increases performance is performed consciously.

What do I mean by consciously? Well, all the time there are thoughts running through your mind. During competition, sometimes these thoughts aren’t exactly ones you’d like to be having. These feel almost automatic, as though they are coming from your unconscious mind. 

With self-talk, we are taking control and speaking to ourselves in a conscious and deliberate way. That’s how we can take certain phrases and leverage them to increase performance. 

 

How Self-Talk Leads To Greater Athletic Success

Taking control of your self-talk is powerful for any athlete. When it comes to our minds, sadly, we cannot subtract thoughts. Therefore, the negative thoughts you experience during a game or practice cannot be eliminated.

But what they can be is substituted. Through more positive and productive self-talk, you can alter the way you speak to yourself during game day. 

Not only does more conscious self-talk substitute out the negative phrases taking place during a game, but you can also use it to boost focus and motivation while training.

Self-talk is a powerful tool, and one that will increase your athletic performance if used consistently. To see just how impactful it is, let’s take a deeper look at five benefits of self-talk that lead to greater success for you as an athlete. 

 

"Through more positive and productive self-talk, you can alter the way you speak to yourself during game day." 

 

Increased Confidence 

It’s no surprise that higher confidence equals greater performance. But did you know you can actually talk yourself into being more confident? To understand this better, let’s take a look at what happens when you talk down to yourself. 

When your self-talk goes unchecked and you speak down to yourself or doubt your abilities, your confidence can quickly plummet. This even happens if your thoughts are not directly targeted at yourself. 

Let’s say you see your opponent and start thinking about how good they look. Or you begin thinking about how good your teammate has been playing and you start to compare yourself to them. 

Both of these are going to work to lower your confidence. 

Inversely, use the right language and you can elevate your confidence. This is done by choosing a mantra that is simple but uplifting. Here are a few examples of self-talk phrases that could boost your confidence:

  • I’ve got this. 
  • I believe in myself.
  • I trust in my skills.
  • I know I am talented. 
  • You’ve got this.
  • You can do it.
  • Believe in yourself.

Self-talk statements do not need to be complicated, and the ones I’ve listed are good foundations to build off of. You can make them more specific to your situation and sport. 

No matter what statement you choose, if it’s one that empowers you and helps to instill a sense of trust in yourself and your abilities, your confidence will rise. The more confident you are, the more your athletic performance will increase.

 

Improved Focus

If you’re searching for ways to improve athletic performance, focus needs to be on the top of your list. 

Focus allows you to center your attention, drown out distractions, and increase the amount of effort you are giving to your actions.

But just how can the voice in your head increase focus?

Our attention and thoughts are directly correlated. Focus is deterred through distractions. These distractions occur because your thoughts become fixed on them. 

For example, if someone in the stands is distracting you, it’s actually your thoughts about them which are getting in your way of being focused. Take control of your thoughts and you take control of your focus

Once again, this will occur through the use of a certain mantra or set of phrases you repeat during practice or competition. You want to say something simple that recenters your attention in the present moment, on the task at hand.  

For example you may say, “Be present, focus on your breath.” 

It’s good to have something you switch your focus onto, and your breath is always a safe option. The reason is because once you begin focusing on your breath, you automatically place yourself in a mindful state. 

No matter if it’s during a game or practice, you can use self-talk to increase your focus. By doing so, your performances will improve.

 

"Our attention and thoughts are directly correlated. Focus is deterred through distractions. These distractions occur because your thoughts become fixed on them." 

 

Helps With Training

Self-talk can act as guidance while you’re training. Just think about the instruction a coach provides. Similarly, you can give yourself the same kind of instruction. 

When you’re training on your own or during practice, self-talk can serve as a way for you to cue certain mechanical aspects of your game. 

One example is a basketball player who tells herself to hold her follow through for one second on her shots. She also keeps reminding herself to look at the back of the rim when she shoots. What she’s doing is giving herself direction during training.

Another example is a baseball player who tells himself, “Hands back, swing down on the ball,” while he’s hitting off the tee. 

Both of these show how you can use self-talk to your advantage while training. 

What happens when you start to use a certain phrase during practice is that it will be linked with a mechanical movement you want. Now when you get to a game and repeat the same statement, your mind knows what to do and it helps with your muscle memory.

 

Increases Motivation

Motivational speeches, music, and videos all come and go. But the voice in your head always remains. 

When you are searching for motivation as an athlete, you need to look no further than your own self-talk.

Motivation is needed during practices, games, times when you don’t feel like giving it your all, moments of adversity when all hope seems lost, and many other times as an athlete. In fact, motivation is so valuable that you cannot rely on others to provide you with motivation.

You must learn how to pull motivation from within. Self-talk allows you to do just that. 

You can choose one phrase that really encompasses your passion and the reason you play. By repeating it to yourself, you are reminded of just why you are willing to put forth so much effort. 

Or maybe you work better with more of a conversational style. Think of this as a pep talk you give yourself. 

Either way, use the right language for yourself, and self-talk is a valuable tool to increase your motivation.

The more motivated you are, the harder you will train and perform, leading to greater levels of performance. 

 

"Motivational speeches, music, and videos all come and go. But the voice in your head always remains." 

 

Reduces Stress & Anxiety

Stress and anxiety wreak havoc on peak performance. When you find yourself overly worried and concerned with what may or may not happen, your mind is taken out of the moment. 

For athletes, this type of worry manifests itself as nerves, and if it gets too bad, performance anxiety. Before, during, and after a performance you are full of anxious thoughts. These do nothing but hold you back. 

Practices can also become moments where stress and anxiety creep in. Since you are so concerned with how you’ll perform come game time, you feel as though practices must go perfectly. Now you’ve placed added pressure on yourself each training session. 

But all this can be reduced through practicing self-talk.

Anxiety is a result of anxious thoughts. Anxious thoughts cannot be eliminated, but they can be substituted for more positive and productive thoughts. Ones that will reduce the stress you feel and promote a confident and relaxed state. 

You can think of this as having two sides of your mind. There is the anxious side (the one which is currently in control) and then a more positive side (the one you want to have in control).

Your goal is to have the more positive side speak in a comforting and calming way to reduce the anxiety felt by the anxious side. When you land on phrases and statements that work for you, stick with them and repeat them whenever you feel anxious. 

By doing so, your stress and anxiety will be reduced, allowing your mind to be more present and focused during games. The result will be an increase in your athletic performance.

 

Final Thoughts

Emotions and actions stem from thoughts. When your thoughts go unchecked and uncontrolled, they can easily turn negative. Leading to a decrease in your performance, and frustration for yourself. 

By taking control of your mind, through the utilization of self-talk, the opposite becomes true. You will actually increase your athletic performance. 

Self-talk increases your confidence, improves focus, helps with your training, increases motivation, and reduces stress and anxiety. All of which lead to great levels of athletic performance for you.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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