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Posted 07/02/2021 in Category 1 by Marc Jones



One strategy that can be used to maintain or enhance performance in achievement settings is self-talk.  For example, in their analysis of coping strategies used by elite figure skaters Gould, Finch and Jackson (1993) reported that 76% of the sample reported using rational thinking and self-talk to cope with the stress of competition.  

What is Self-talk?

Self-talk can be conceptualized as cognition (thinking) in its broadest sense, but more typically it is conceptualized more narrowly as people’s overt (said out loud) and covert verbalizations.

Is Self-talk effective?

Positive self-statements have also been used in conjunction with other techniques (e.g., relaxation training) in sport settings to reduce levels of anxiety (e.g., Prapavessis, Grove, McNair, & Cable, 1992), distress (Mace & Carroll, 1985, 1989) and stimulate a more positive perception of anxiety symptoms (e.g., Hanton & Jones, 1999).  Self-talk works by replacing a maladaptive self-statement with a positive or neutral statement, a stimulus which that may result in a negative emotional state is removed. In addition, certain self-talk statements may be used as stimuli to actively generate an appropriate emotional state for performance. Both of these strategies reflect cognitive changes that could equally be considered as attention deployment—that is, stimuli are generated to which an athlete pays attention. In sum there is a growing body of evidence that self-talk can be used to regulate emotions (e.g., Hardy, Hall & Alexander, 2001; Hatzigeorgiadis, Zourbanos, Mpoumpaki, & Theodorakis, 2009). Self-talk in the form of key words are also used to focus attention on factors relevant to successful performance (Hardy, Gammage, & Hall, 2001).  

You can search for a sport psychologist to help you improve your self-talk using our directory and if you would like to join you can do that here.

Gould, D., Finch, L. M., & Jackson, S. A. (1993). Coping strategies used by national champion figure skaters. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 64, 453-468.
Hanton, S., & Jones, G. (1999). The effects of a multimodal intervention program on performers: II. Training the butterflies to fly in formation. The Sport Psychologist, 13, 22-41.
Hardy, J., Gammage, K., & Hall, C. R. (2001). A description of athlete self-talk. The Sport Psychologist, 15, 306-318.
Hardy, J., Hall, C. R., & Alexander, M. R. (2001). Exploring self-talk and affective states in sport. Journal of Sports Sciences, 19, 469–475.
Hatzigeorgiadis, A., Zourbanos, N., Mpoumpaki, S., & Theodorakis, Y. (2009). Mechanisms underlying the self-talk–performance relationship: The effects of motivational self-talk on self-confidence and anxiety. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10, 186–192.
Mace, R. D., & Carroll, D. (1985). The control of anxiety in sport: Stress inoculation training prior to abseiling. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 16(3), 165-175.
Mace, R. D., & Carroll, D. (1989). The effect of stress inoculation training on self-reported stress, observer’s rating of stress, heart rate and gymnastics performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 7, 257-266.
Prapavessis, H., Grove, J. R., McNair, P. J., & Cable, N. T. (1992). Self-regulation training, state anxiety, and sport performance: A psychophysiological case study. The Sport Psychologist, 6, 213-229.

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