Sports Psychology Techniques for Athletes
The field of sport psychology involves ways to increase athletic performance and well-being.
This is done through the application of specific sports psychology techniques, either used by athletes alone, or with the help of a sport psychology professional.
In this article, we are going to dive into the different sports psychology techniques you can use as an athlete, and the different areas they help.
But first, let's briefly discuss why sport psychology is important to athletes.
Why Sports Psychology Matters
Sports are fun. That's why we tend to start them in the first place. Except, they can also be cruel, unforgiving, and drive intense feelings of fear and anxiety.
This typically happens because of extreme pressure an athlete feels, expectations placed on them (either by themselves or others), along with adversity, failure, and everything else sports involve.
Knowing this, sports psychology is important to athletes because it improves their overall well-being. It helps to make sure something you enjoy remains something you enjoy, rather than turning into something you dread.
But sports psychology also matters, from a more competitive standpoint, because it is proven to increase your performance.
Focusing on your mental game will have benefits on your mental health, along with your production in your sport. That's why it's important to make use of sports psychology.
And to begin using sports psychology as an athlete, there are specific techniques that can be applied.
Sports Psychology Techniques You Can Use
No matter what sports psychology technique you choose, application is key!
As a sport psychology consultant, I work one-on-one with athletes to build mental skills and overcome the mental blocks they face. To do so, we work together on identifying what's holding them back.
But from there, to actually build the mental skills they need to increase their performance, we use specific tools and techniques. These tools and techniques work, but only if they are applied by the athlete.
The same holds true for yourself if you want any of the following sports psychology techniques to positively impact you or your game. They must be applied, and done so consistently.
If you do, there will be many benefits you can expect.
Now, what I've done is broken down the techniques into different categories, based on the common challenge they work to overcome, or positive mental skill they help build.
Some techniques will fall into multiple categories, and that's okay. The reason I broke it down like this is so you can skip to the section that pertains to you the most and get to work on improving!
Sport Psychology Techniques for Confidence
Building confidence as an athlete is a key mental skill to focus on. In order to become more confident, you want to focus on using confidence building exercises.
Here are some of the main techniques that will help you increase your confidence:
- Mental Rehearsal: this involves imagining yourself performing in your mind. It is a way for you to mentally rehearse your skills which increases the trust you have in them.
- Self-Talk: you can use self-talk to increase your confidence because it works to retrain your thought patterns. The more confident thoughts you have, the more confident you will feel.
- Remembering Past Successes: this is one you can use before a game to fill your mind with times when you've succeeded.
- Identifying Your Strengths: by listing out the strong points of your game and reflecting on them each day, you will work to increase the belief you have in yourself and your game.
- Confidence Resume: here you write a resume (so all the reasons you have to feel confident) and then reread it either each day or before a performance.
- Setting Small Challenges: by creating challenges for yourself (also known as goals) and then accomplishing them, you instill in yourself the belief that you can achieve what you set your mind to.
Sports Psychology Focus Techniques
In sports, there are many distractions you will face during practices and games. The better you can focus, the better you will perform.
Here are some of the best techniques you can use to increase your focus as an athlete:
- Thought-Stopping Phrase: you can use this whenever you notice yourself becoming distracted. Just repeat your thought-stopping phrase to recenter your attention.
- Performance Objectives: these are targets you set for practices or games. Also known as process goals, they help center your focus and keep your thoughts from wandering onto distractions.
- Mindfulness Meditation: being mindful means you have your awareness centered in the present moment. To train this state as an athlete, you can use a technique known as mindfulness meditation.
Sports Psychology Techniques for Motivation
Athlete motivation involves your ability to motivate yourself and find the drive to train and compete.
Sometimes, due to a variety of factors, you may lack motivation. If that's the case, then you need specific tools you can use to regain your motivation.
Here are some techniques to increase your motivation in sports:
- Identifying Your Why: getting clear on why you are competing and why you are training is an important exercise for you to do to increase your confidence.
- Vision Statement: writing a vision statement gives you something you can reflect upon to keep reminding you of the type of player you want to be.
- Goal Setting: having clear goals, and a specific idea of what you're working towards is crucial to give you the motivation you need to train.
- Self-Talk: if you are struggling through training or lacking motivation during a game, using self-talk can help increase the motivation and drive you feel.
Sports Psychology Techniques for Fear & Anxiety
As an athlete, it's natural to face some sports performance anxiety and fear of failure. Which is why it's important to have tools and techniques you can use to counteract the fear and anxiety you feel.
Here are some of the main techniques you can use to overcome fear and anxiety:
- Self-Talk: fear and anxiety are caused by outcome-oriented thinking and worrying about the past. To help, you want to create a self-talk routine that works to build your confidence and center your attention in the present moment.
- Visualization: you can use mental rehearsal to build confidence in your skills which helps against fear and anxiety. Also, you can use a relaxing visualization exercise to calm your nerves before a game.
- Count Breathing: this is where you take nice deep breaths, inhaling for a certain count and exhaling for a certain count. By focusing on counting, you are controlling what you're thinking about.
- Performance Objectives: by setting clear targets and objectives for games, you keep your attention fixed in the present and don't think as much about the past or the future (both of which drive fear and anxiety).
Sports Psychology Techniques for Perfectionism
As an athlete, you want to aim to be your best. However, you want to be careful this does not turn into a need to be perfect.
Perfectionism causes problems in sports because it lowers your confidence, leads to fear and anxiety, and can lower your performance during games.
Here are the main techniques you can use to manage perfectionism in sports:
- Post Performance Questions: these are questions you ask yourself following practices and games to build your confidence and to get something concrete you can improve. These questions keep you from judging your performances and instead allow you to evaluate them.
- Performance Objectives: instead of saying that you must be perfect for this game, you want to set process goals and objectives you will focus on that will put you in the best position to perform your best.
- Self-Talk: creating phrases you will say to yourself during practices and games to keep your focus on the process and attention in the present moment will help reduce perfectionism.
Sports Psychology Coaching for Athletes
All of the techniques outlined above are great ways you can begin making use of sports psychology techniques within your game. As I mentioned earlier, once you choose certain techniques to try, be sure you apply them during practices and games and you do so consistently.
Now, in addition to using techniques on your own, the other option is working with a sports psychology coach.
I offer one-on-one sports psychology coaching for athletes of all sports and all levels.
Our coaching will involve weekly coaching sessions followed by action steps for you to begin applying what you learn directly to your game.
To learn more about sports psychology coaching and to see how you can get started, please fill out the form below.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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