Skip to main content

About this free course

Author

Download this course

Share this free course

Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

7 Self-talk before important sporting moments

When you are learning to drive, you are often taught a bit of self-talk to remind you what to focus on next, for example, ‘mirror-signal-manoeuvre’. Earlier Dave Alred described these as trigger phrases. What do you say to yourself when you face important moments in sport, such as a penalty, tennis serve or golf shot?

Here is more detail in how self-talk is used from a large online study. Michael Johnson used four different types of self-talk in a BBC Lab UK online experiment [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] in which 44,700 people took part (Lane et al., 2016). You are not required to work through BBC Lab UK resource – it is for information only.

In the online study before users completed an online concentration task, Johnson showed participants one of four types of self-talk, each with a different focus. Here are the four phrases with their associated focus:

  • I can react quicker this time’ – the process of completing the task
  • I can beat my best score’ – motivation towards a positive outcome of the task
  • I will stay calm’ – the control of excitement/anxiety during the task
  • I will focus completely on each number I need to find’ – instructional guidance for the task.

In this experiment, a focus on process and outcome was found to be the most effective use of self-talk. If you want to read the full academic study, see Brief Online Training Enhances Competitive Performance: Findings of the BBC Lab UK Psychological Skills Intervention Study.

Now let’s consider how this applies to penalty taking.