Tag Archive for 'self-talk'

The fundamentals of the mental training

It is important for a coach and psychologist to understand the basis of the psychological training.

It’s about answering the question of what aspects are the basis for mental improvement in young people. I would say that from the age of 14, one can introduce an activity centered essentially on mental education for sports. The purpose is twofold. Those who will continue in their development as athletes will begin to develop the mental skills they will need, while those who will not follow this specialized path will have had the opportunity to learn skills that will be useful to them forever.

With this approach we are always in the area of teaching what it is necessary to learn, from the mental point of view, to learn to compete effectively or successfully overcome challenging situations (even non-sporting).

  1. Self-control - to improve it you can start by learning to take deep breaths, it predisposes to reduce physical and mental tension, increases the concentration on training tasks and the use of visualization.
  2. Proprioceptive awareness - Essential for an athlete to know how to move, what are the sensations to be perceived, for example during the warm-up, to know if how I think I’m moving corresponds to how I’m really moving.
  3. Talking to yourself - you have to learn to talk to yourself in a way that is helpful and encouraging, in every training and competition situation. This is simple to understand but difficult to practice if you don’t live in an environment geared in this direction.
  4. Be task-oriented - We need to embrace the concept that “we improve through our efforts”, so the feedback I give to myself should relate first to the quality of effort and only after the result.
  5. Visualize the sports actions - the mental repetition of sport technique and tactics is indispensable in each part of the training process, for beginners as well as for experienced athletes.

These, in my opinion, are the main skills to be developed in young athletes at the beginning of the training process.

The relevance of self-talk in football

Continuous mistakes in the soccer league, from Bentancur’s against Porto to Sassuolo- Napoli highlight that many players probably do not have a self-talk that gives them instructions on how to play at certain times and that supports their toughenss to continue to strive at the best. These are big mistakes that crack any tactical idea of a team and of whose importance I don’t think teams and coaches are fully aware and acting to change. Here are some scientific facts that demonstrate their importance in soccer.

Self-talk may affect sport performance. There is positive correlation between performance enhancement, positive self-talk (which boosts confidence and belief in one’s ability), and instructional self-talk (which diverts the focus of attention on to certain elements of a movement to increase attentional focus, thereby helping execution).

Daftari, Fauzee, and Akbari (2010) examined the perceived positive and negative effects of self-talk on football performance on Iranian elite-level football players (members of the national team). The participants of this study were 25 Iranian male professional footballers (mean age 27 years). The results demonstrated that the perceived effects of self-talk on professional footballers in real performance contexts can be categorized in two main categories: positive and negative.

Positive effects comprised more than 80% of the perceived effects of self-talk, while negative effects comprised less than 20% of the responses. The three most cited positive effects of self-talk were:

  • “It enhances coordination with teammates (15.6%)”
  • “It enhances focus and attention (12.5%)”
  • “It promotes decision making skills (11.4%)”

The results indicate that the perceived effects of self-talk among these participants were to:

  • Increase players’ coordination through mental rehearsal of critical situations
  • Enhance athletes’ concentration and sharpen the accuracy of their movements
  • Boost their ability to make correct decision with precision in the shortest time
(Source: Farina e Cei, 2019)

Concentration and self-talk in football

‘According to the attentional style approach originally proposed by Nideffer (1985) and adapted to football by Pain (2016), footballers must be able to broaden or narrow the focus of their attention quickly and appropriately in response to specific match situations. Under conditions of intense psychological pressure footballers have little time to devote to the rational analysis of a situation (e.g., pass the ball rather than shoot). This is because the speed of the game requires them to act fast, formulating thoughts within a few milliseconds. Consequently, high pressure match conditions must be extensively practiced during training until the player’s responses to such situations become fully automated. This is instrumental to allow the players to focus on playing the game without the need of constantly assessing what is best in a specific situation. In practical terms, this means that a decision and therefore a behaviour must be taken and implemented while the ball is in motion and it is in these types of situations that the differences between amateurs and experts is evident. While the amateur typically focuses on the technical execution of the task, the expert is typically more oriented towards the tactical components of his/her actions. The reason is that years of training have prepared the footballer for this situation and the player has mastered the technique which has become fully automatized (Christensen, Sutton, & McIlwain, 2016).  

            A number of studies have compared novices and expert performances (Lum, Enns, & Pratt 2002). In football (Memmert, 2009; Williams, Davids, Burwitz, & Williams, 1993), research has shown that expert players are typically more oriented to observe other players without the ball (environmental focus), whereas less experienced footballers focus their attention on the ball and at teammates to whom they could pass it (skill focus). Furthermore, highly skilled athletes analyse only a few relevant elements of the game for a longer duration compared to amateurs, who instead attempt to process a large amount of information over a restricted period of time. Thus, it seems it is not just the amount of attention or concentration that it is important to achieve top performance (accurate and quick); but rather the fact that concentration must be complemented by the skill to locate and select the appropriate environmental focus (Williams, Davids, & Williams, 1999). In football, this involves the ability to selectively concentrate (as quickly as possible) on the most significant environmental signals; those that allow the player to ‘read the game’, that is, to anticipate the opponents’ actions.’

(Source: Farina e Cei, Concentration and self talk in football, 2019)

Concentration and self-talk in football

Concentration and self-talk in football

Mirko Farina and Alberto Cei


Concentration and self-talk are key (often under appreciated) factors underlying elite sport performance. In this chapter we define concentration and self-talk and look at some of their applications (section 1). We investigate their relation, their functions, and discuss their contribution to sport performance (sections 2). We focus on the specific role that concentration and self-talk play in football (sections 3; 4). So, we analyse how they improve players’ performance by, for instance: (i) providing a balanced level of anxiety, (ii). enhancing focus and attention, (iii).promoting decision making skill and decreasing reaction time, (iv). motivating to increase efforts, (v). improving coordination with teammates and, more generally, deterring behaviours that have negative consequences on the field. We then analyse (section 5) the peak moment of any football performance (the act of scoring a goal) and look at how to use concentration and self-talk to increase the chances of scoring a goal (or not conceding it). We conclude (section 6), by providing practitioners with a series of applied coaching strategies that can be used to build more successful coaching programs (both in team sports and in football).To do so, we first identify some crucial game factors influencing football performance (e.g. game momentum, stress, anxiety, the players’ capacity to re-focus on the present) and then look at how coaches can intervene to satisfy some of these games demands.

In: E. Konter, J. Beckmann, T.M. Loughead (eds.), Football Psychology. Oxford: Routledge.

Negative self-talk destroys the performance

During a tennis match it’s very easy to watch and listen one of the two opponents to talk against him/herself, with behaviors (sadly shake the head or move the racquet like a stick)  showing the presence of a negative emotional state, exasperated and that hurts the play in the next game. These scenes occur more rarely among professional players because they have been trained to deal effectively with stressful  competitive moments.  These errors are common among young people and are very frequent among the players maybe even technically gifted but who have not understood that playing a match is not just a matter of physical strength and good technique.

To play good tennis, whatever their level, needs to want and be able to think and this goal becomes very difficult if  are dominating moods of anger or devaluation of themselves. Everyone wants to win  and since the first moment of the match the emotional tension begins to grow and if  the player does not act to control it, since the first 15 – 0 for the opponent he/she will also start to worry. The court stresses the beliefs of the player: you cannot lay the blame on teammates, you cannot blame fate: the mistakes are yours mistakes. You must bear responsibility for how you are playing and thinking for doing something different right now .
The question is: to do something of different. Easy to say when you watch someone else play; it’s more difficult when you have to apply this simple rule to you. This positive attitude is built by first becoming the main supporter of yourself and not the main detractor. The tennis player after a fault must always do two things: encourage him/herself + give a simple technical instruction  that will permit to avoid repeating the previous error. The match is like a battle, in which to overwhelm the enemy you need to have confidence in the information received from their commander, which in this case is you. Therefore to encourage ourselves is required to maintain a high level of confidence and control of emotions.

If in the field the player does not show this attitude, the mind of tennis player will be like a sailboat without the skipper, prey of the opponent. I suggest to the players to establish a priori checklist of things to do when they are in trouble :
1 . What to do when the first service does not enter.
2 . What to do when I want to conclude too quickly the game .
3 . What to do to decrease  the anger or disappointment at that time.
4 . What I want to say to encourage me .
5 . Which are the technical information for me more important in the difficult moments.