People talk to themselves more often than they are actually aware. Regardless of our professions and life-styles we speak with ourselves constantly. These little voices in our heads can be either positive or negative. There is no doubt that we say a lot to ourselves but the question is: “Does it really affect our behaviour and performance?” It sure does!
The truth is that these inner voices have very powerful influence on our behaviour and our actions. In another words, what we say to ourselves can affect our results dramatically, either positively or negatively. But how does it actually work? It is simple, just like statements which we get from other people, our own thoughts have direct impact on our level of success. If your self-talk is very often negative (e.g. “I can’t do this”) there is a greater possibility that you will fail. In contrast to that, tell yourself constantly something positive (e.g. “let’s go, I can!”) and you will have greater chances to succeed.
In the world of professional sport, this technique can be a very powerful tool for performance enhancement. Nowadays, we are witnesses that players’ technical, tactical and physical readiness for the competition has almost reached the highest possible level. Therefore, the athletes seek new ways to improve their results. But at the same time, a vast majority of them, including their coaches as well, never seriously consider self-talk training as an effective strategy for performance enhancement. Contrary to this belief, many researchers have already proved that positive self-talk leads to performance improvement. Particularly, it has been revealed that inner voices play an important role in how good the athletes perform.
One such a study, conducted on young floorball players, showed that positive self-talk lead to performance enhancement as well as self-confidence improvement. The study involved 35 highly-skilled junior players recruited from two different floorball clubs in Sweden. During an extended period of time, the players were instructed to use either motivational or instructional self-talk in order to improve their performances. Depending on the situation and their personal needs, they were able to choose and combine the different words and phrases which included positive statements. The athletes used instructional self-talk in order to improve performance by providing a focus on the technical aspects of a skill (e.g., ‘‘see the opponent’’) as well as providing instruction related to the strategy (e.g., ‘‘strong’’, “fast“), and technique (e.g., ‘‘bend knee’’). Additionally, they utilized motivational self-talk in order to increase effort and energy expenditure (e.g., ‘‘give it all’’), build confidence (e.g., ‘‘I can do it’’), and create a positive mood (e.g., ‘‘I feel great’’). At the end, the results revealed that athletes from the experimental group significantly improved their results comparing to the participants from the control group who did not have opportunity to practice self-talk strategy. Apart from that, the results showed that self-confidence significantly enhanced among the participants in the experimental group, whereas non significant differences were found in this variable for the control group.
These findings should be great news for athletes and those who work with them (coaches/teachers/instructors). It should encourage them to use self-talk in the future as an effective strategy for performance improvement. Therefore, the players and others who work in a sports environment should become aware of the beneficial effects of self-talk. It sometimes can make a small but essential distinction between wining and losing. Therefore, including self-talk strategy in a regular training regiment is always a smart and easy decision.
Boris Stankovic earned a double degree from the European Master’s in Sport and Exercise Psychology Program at Lund University, Sweden and at the Universität Leipzig, Germany (2012). He completed his Bachelor in Sport and Physical Education (2008) at the University of Belgrade. His area of interests are psychological skills and their implementation; mainly in football and tennis.