Negative internal thoughts and feelings are a major factor in pre-competition jitters, competition anxiety, and poor performance. In mental skills training, the goal is to replace negative self-talk in your inner voice with more positive thoughts and mental images so that you experience more positive thoughts than negative ones.

An important factor in positive self-talk is that the athlete must believe that what they are saying to themself about how they want to perform and what they want to achieve is doable and believable. When this happens, there is strong evidence that using positive self-talk improves performance. Giving in to negative self-talk produces a destructive frame of mind that reduces the chances of an athlete getting into the zone, performing well, and winning.

You can improve your ability to use positive self-talk by creating simple mantras to deploy in different sporting situations. Examples of mantras are “Stay patient”, “Take one shot at a time”, “Don’t get ahead of yourself”. Create mental images of these different situations and practise using the mantras.

Self-Talk Tips
1 Pay attention to your inner voice and act quickly to prevent any negative thoughts and feelings leading you to be very hard on yourself.
2 Use your inner voice to stay in control of and focused on your game and prevent you acting impulsively.
3 Say positive things to yourself such as,"I need to get out of this mind-set" to stay fresh and refocus.
4 Rehearse personal positive affirmations about your strengths such as "I am having a lot of fun" to use before, during, and after competing.
5 Practice positive cue statements in combination with deep breathing to refocus and decrease muscle tension caused by anxiety.
6 Develop and practice techniques for noticing and countering negative thoughts, for example, the rubber band snap technique.

What experts say

The only difference between the best performance and the worst performance is the variation in our self-talk and the self-thoughts and attitudes we carry around with us.

Dorothy Harris Sport Psychologist

Positive self-talk is to emotional pain as pain pill is to physical pain.

Edmond Mbiaka Writer

Do the SPQ20 and find out where you stand on self-talk