With the Olympic Games having recently begun, there seems no better time to discuss some of the psychological techniques employed by athletes to improve their performance.
One such technique is known as ‘self-talk’ which reflects the link between our thoughts and performance. Self-talk uses self-addressed words or phrases to guide action.
Different types of self-talk work in different ways. It can benefit both beginners and more experienced athletes when they practise the technique. However, self-talk is believed to be most effective for novel tasks. This is because it is easier to fine tune the early stages of learning, and tasks involving fine skills (such as sinking a golf ball), because it improves concentration. Instructional self-talk (such as ‘elbow up’ for a beginner swimmer) works better for tasks involving fine skills as opposed to motivational self-talk (e.g. ‘give it all’) which works better for tasks requiring strength, endurance, confidence and psyching-up.
Another approach used by athletes to improve performance is ‘The Inner Game’ which is a method of coaching established by Timothy Gallwey in the 1970s. This technique is based on the idea that we all possess two types of engagement. The outer game involves overcoming external barriers to reach an external goal. The inner game takes place within our mind and is played against obstacles such as fear, self-doubt, loss of focus, and limiting concepts or assumptions. Therefore to learn and maximise our performance, we must let our minds be quiet and focused and master our inner game by reducing the self-imposed complications so we can reach our full potential.
In addition to sport, both techniques have been useful in a variety of other fields. Indeed, Gallwey’s work forms the basis for other types of coaching such as business coaching, life coaching and executive coaching.
For more information about coaching or to book an initial session with one of our coaches, please contact your local First Psychology centre: Edinburgh: 0131-668-1440, www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk
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