In sports, the performance in a game or trial gives an athlete the desire to improve in future games. The goal of performing to one’s maximum potential brings purpose to training and provides a goal to reach, yet there evidently is no blueprint for success. If there is no single path to which victory is certain, are there some routes that are better than others?
Scenario: Suppose you are an Olympic athlete and you are about to run the 100 m race. Be as it may, your body clearly has the ability to run this distance faster than anyone else in the race, yet, your mind is unable to push your body to run at its full potential in this moment. It may be because you are nervous, or perhaps it is because you are not confident, whatever the issue is, you will not win the race unless your mind can get “it” together. The crowd is roaring, and everything you’ve wished for, dreamed of, even lived in pursuit of, is right in front of you. All you have to do is run to your highest ability, and you win gold. What is it that will help you do this? How can one provide a boost of confidence that is sure to lead them to success?
We will come back to this scenario later on, but the meaning is still to be discussed. How can one obtain the ability to maximize one’s abilities?
The potential to win truly comes from within.
Many struggles come with being an athlete can come from many different areas. The training, the recovering, the injuries, and many other scenarios are the clear struggles of competing. But what is the hardest task to do?
Allen Iverson said it best in his famous “practice” rant back 2002. Iverson’s states his thoughts on the importance of the practice vs. the performance.
“We’re sitting here … I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we’re in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we’re talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We’re talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We’re talking about practice, man.”
There are plenty of difficult tasks when becoming successful in your sport, however, it is clear that when crunch time hits, when the big moment is present, when the whistle blows, a rush of panic and doubt sprints into the mind of the athlete, finding success in this moment rather is the most difficult trial. Performing under pressure perhaps is the biggest foe for an athlete, and the solution is closer than expected.
This issue has been highly debated, and not clearly understood by any. A study, published by Frontiers in Psychology, was done in conjunction with the BBC Lab in the UK to find the solution to this dilemma. Well-known psychologist and professor Andrew Lane led the study that could be the answer for what can lead to success.
The study involved over 44,000 people, a very large study for its kind considering most of this kind vary around 2000 participants. In accordance with finding ways to improve results, the study published by Frontiers in Psychology had participants test which psychological techniques would help improve their performance in an online game. The test used their different techniques to help improve results, and each technique was directed towards one of four foci.
The three techniques were:
- If-then planning
The four foci were:
- Out-come goal
- Process goal
In large part, the greatest improvement was seen in self-talk. The technique with the smallest improvement was If-then planning. When one attempts to plan out the performance or imagine the success ahead of them, results are not ideal. These studies found when motivation is given through self-talk, the performance improves significantly.
Your voice, the voice your mind craves.
Motivation from coaches, teammates, motivational speakers, and heroes are all contributors that may provide an athlete the desire for success, but these factors certainly are not the best way to push one’s abilities to the max in the moment. The answer is clear that the pathway to success in the heat of a trial comes from your own voice, not the voice of another.
Talking to yourself provides the mental boost needed to be confident in one’s abilities, and provides a boost of esteem to attack a task by performing to one’s max potential. Trying to find a focus, a drive, or a connection with your body to play in top accordance with one’s body is the objective of an athlete.
Sometimes the only voice one may need to become confident comes from themselves. If you hear your voice be confident, then it possibly is the best way to feel confidence. By doing so, it allows one to focus on the task at hand and results are sure to follow.
Pro-Bowl defensive back Patrick Peterson is one of the many athletes that believe in this motivational technique.
“One of the main reasons I talk to myself is that I hear a voice telling me something to focus on,” said Peterson. “It is that something that gets me going, talking to myself, getting myself mentally prepared for the task at hand.”
Peterson, not only one of the greatest defensive players right now, but perhaps one of the greatest of all time, has found a way to enhance his focus during a game. His example hopefully can excite others to use this technique.
The Future of Sports.
All successful athletes and competitors strive to find a way to get an edge on the competition. Clearly, the way to success and finding the edge to overcome the foe is found inside one’s self. A positive and confident psychology is necessary for success, and evidently can be found through self-talk and self-motivation.
So, how does one win the 100 m race? How do they find a way to maximize their abilities and run their way to the top of the podium? The answer is simple, and not far away. Positively talking to themselves and finding motivation from inside is key to unlocking the potential to succeed.
By Shawn Lamb
Shawn Lamb is a sophomore at Southern Virginia University, a four-year liberal arts college. His writing career has just begun as he was a recently set apart into the Institute of Writing and Mass Media at Southern Virginia University. Shawn currently lives in Buena Vista, Va., with his family where he hopes to finish school and potentially find a job in the journalism field.