By Coach Warren Nye
In business, the Final Push could mean finally winning that important contract or, as a student, you are finally coming down to the last couple of weeks of classes and exams, and you know you need to buckle down for the final push until the end. In sports, it could mean to finally break through by winning over an opposing team whom you always had trouble beating. As an athlete, it could also mean finally overcoming a barrier or obstacle in training.
Remember when you had to experience one or more of these examples? What was automatically going through your own head at the time: Were you talking to yourself in a positive way or a negative way? I’m hoping you were using it in a positive way, because if you weren’t you might not have gotten to where you could have been.
You see, self-talk is designed to increase motivation, positive attitude, energy and effort. While most athletes use Positive Mental Attitude words or phrases to help them in training and competition, which in turn pushes them to perform at a higher level, there is a bit more to it than that.
What is known as Instructional Self-Talk calls on the individual athlete to pay attention to any technical and specific tasks which may help them perform better (Weinberg/Gould; 2003). The use of this type of self-talk could be considered as having your own coach, who encourages you with certain sayings as, “Stay in focus!” or “Eyes on the puck!”
On the other hand, one area in which I regularly get questioned on is negative self-talk, which obviously should be avoided at all times (if possible). Phrases like I’m not doing so well or This is too hard for me do not help to be in your mindset, and will not help your performance. Not only that, they can also add to an athlete’s anxiety level, which in turn can erode one’s self-confidence. It is believed that 70-80% of our vast amount of thoughts are negatively charged (it seems we can have anywhere from 12,000 to 60,000 negative thoughts per day, according to researchers), so we all have room to improve our self-talk, especially the elite athlete who is intent on moving forward.
Using Self-Talk to Increase Performance
The mind—especially the subconscious—is a powerful tool. Utilizing it properly is key here. Several studies have shown that using positive self-talk will endure the athlete to perform at a higher level in competition. What studies also show is that being primed with words and thoughts that actively steer our behavior into a positive result is something we should strive to use in our everyday lives as well.
What you feed into your mind—positive or negative words or phrases—will either help or destroy your performance. Be aware that the words and thoughts you use daily and in performance settings will affect your performance level, general well-being, and self-confidence. Using trigger words to help you compete in any setting will only help you with the Final Push and get you over the top.
What trigger-words can you think of to help you to stay focused?
What is holding you back from breaking through to the Final Push?
Coach Warren Nye is the founder and CEO of UltimateHockeySource and the UHS ProShop. He has served as player, coach, and manager, and has coached many players who have gone on to play professional hockey.