Sport Psyching

Coaches should help them work through several drafts so that the narrative contains all the essential elements of positive self-talk. It also should contain a strong, personal meaning for each athlete. Then each athlete can make a recording of the narrative and this mastery tape can be used for game preparation. Many athletes come to appreciate these tapes as their “secret weapons” and may want to make a different tape for each game.

Positive Coaching-Talk

Successful coaches usually model the behaviors that they want their athletes to exhibit. Coaches should not only monitor their own self-talk to build their confidence, they should also be conscious of the feedback that they give to their athletes in practices, meetings, and games.

Does your feedback give your athletes a constructive focal point that is under the athlete’s control? Does your feedback send a message to the athletes that you are confident that they can improve? You might want to have your assistant log your feedback that you give in a practice, just to see.

Does this scenario sound too familiar? A player commits a costly turnover and the coach screams in disgust, “Don’t throw away the ball.”

All this feedback does is show that the coach is upset with the athlete’s performance. Where is the instruction? This non-instructive, emotionally-charged feedback can also be an open invitation for the athlete to engage in negative self-talk: “I really blew that pass and I think the coach is going to take me out. Maybe I just don’t have what it takes to be a starter.”

Negative coaching can be devastating to an athlete’s confidence and motivation. Positive coaching conveys instruction for improvement and reassurance to the athlete that not only is success achievable but that a mistake is not fatal.

A more effective response to the athlete’s mistake might be, “Make sure that you use a bounce pass next time, play tight defense now… We’ll have plenty of chances to score.”

Some athletes and coaches might take the approach that John McEnroe used when he was the number one player in the world of men’s professional tennis — using his anger to get psyched to try harder. While this worked some of the time for McEnroe, he did lose important matches and he fought major injuries over the course of his career.

If research shows that negative self-talk decreases confidence, fuels hopelessness, and creates muscle tension that can impede performance, why not develop the habit of positive self-talk? Who couldn’t use a boost in concentration, motivation, confidence, and muscle efficiency when the pressure is at its greatest?

Dr. Susan Langlois has more than 20 years of experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sport facilities consultant. She is currently the Dean of Sports Science at Endicott College. Her undergraduate education was at the University of New Hampshire in physical education. She earned her Master’s and doctoral degrees from Springfield College. She is active in several professional organizations including NASSM, AAHPERD, ISCHPER, AAUP and NACWAA.

Sharman Hayward has directed sports camps at every developmental level, and has coached intercollegiate field hockey and lacrosse for 11 years. Sharman earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business from Colby-Sawyer College and has a Master of Science Degree in Athletic Administration from Springfield College. Sharman currently serves

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