In a new analysis of 32 sports psychology studies, scientists discovered that how a player uses their inner self-talk can create significant improvements in their sports performance. The study will be available in an upcoming issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science.
The analysts also looked at a few of the specifics of inner talk that can boost player performance. Some of these discoveries included:
* For aspects of player’s games needing fine-tuned skills or better technique, “instructional self-talk” was identified to be better than “motivational talk.” For example, when about to hit a golf ball onto the green, it would be more effective for the player to use inner talk such as “keep your knees bent” or “swing with your hips” rather than motivating speech like “you can do it!”
* However, motivating self-talk was said to be powerful during tasks “requiring strength or endurance, boosting confidence and psyching-up for competition.” So those motivating talks your soccer coach gives you before a huge match can certainly lead to better results, especially if those motivating words stay in your mind during the game. In this situation, “Let’s get ’em!” can be a valuable inner mantra.
* A number of experiments discovered that inner self-talk is better for unfamiliar tasks rather than familiar tasks. This is likely because during initial phases of our sports development we are absorbing a lot of new information, and self-talk can aid us to become more effective learners by reciting important information to ourselves as we perform. But if a player is already a regular soccer player (where everything is already habit), forced self-talk may mess up the flow of their performance.
* Players consistently use self-talk by creating scripts that they recite to themselves before all games. They also integrate visualization exercises where they mentally visualize different components of their game. Sports psychologist have found that this helps prepare individuals to perform better during a game.
Sports psychologist Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis who led the analysis with his research team at the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Thessaly states, “The mind guides action. If we succeed in regulating our thoughts, then this will help our behavior.”
It will be really interesting to see future research on athletes and self-talk. Clearly, most if not all sports have a mental component to them. How an athlete preps themselves before a game, and the attitude they have going into a game, can greatly affect their performance.