A young female athlete practicing positive self talk in sports

A young athlete experiencing the benefits of using positive self talk in her mental toughness training 

What Is Positive Self Talk?

Positive self-talk is a great way for athletes to combat any negative self-talk that can occur before/during/or after a game. It’s not about narcissism, or tricking oneself into thinking things that are inaccurate. It’s about showing oneself some compassion and understanding for who they are and what they have been through.

Positive self-talk influences an athlete's internal narrative by altering their to thoughts with positive ideas like ‘I can do better next time’ or ‘I will learn from my mistakes today and not be held back by them’.

Positive self-talk isn’t about knowing all the answers or thinking you’re amazing, it’s simply about reframing how you view things, removing any negative bias, and approaching your life with the idea that you can tack on anything – and even if it doesn’t go perfectly – you’ll learn and grow from it for next time.

Key Benefits of Positive Self Talk

Stress Reducer

Extensive research has shown that athletes who are more inclined towards thinking optimistically, are also more inclined towards positive self-talk and utilize more active coping strategies when faced with stressful situations and challenges in the game and beyond.

Positive self-talk helps you reframe the way you look at stressful situations, understanding that you will approach challenges with the best of your ability and that whatever the outcome – you did the best you could. Tackling these situations with an ‘I can do this’ mindset rather than a negative ‘This is too hard’ one, opens up new ways of thinking and problem-solving.

Confidence Booster

Approaching life with a positive self-talk approach can help to boost your self-confidence. Individuals who score highly for optimism and positive self-esteem are more likely to achieve their goals, score good grades and recover quickly from surgery.

Regular positive self-talk can help you to feel more confident in the face of achieving your goals, as you instill yourself with the belief that the things you want are achievable, and when problems do arise, you find workarounds.

Relationship Builder

You’re probably aware of what it feels like to be around someone who is positive, self-assured and content in who they are as a person. They exude confidence, and it reflects positively on those around them.

People who utilize positive self-talk are also extremely capable of picking up on the positive traits of those around them. These positive traits can be taken into your athletic performance while directly effecting the moral of your teammates and coaching staff. Be the beacon of positivity for yourself and your team.

A young female athlete practicing positive self talk in sports

Young female athlete reflecting on the positive outcomes from her previous game and practicing positive self talk in sports. 

Top Tips For Using Positive Self-Talk

Before you can begin to use positive self-talk, you first need to identify how often and what type of negative thinking/self-talk you engage in. Once you understand this, you can make a start on retraining your thoughts.

Negative self-talk tends to fall into one of four categories:

  1. Personalizing – Meaning you blame yourself when things go wrong.
  2. Polarizing – Meaning you see things only as good or bad, no gray areas or room for middle ground.
  3. Magnifying – Meaning you only focus on the bad or negative in every scenario and dismiss anything good or positive.
  4. Catastrophizing – Meaning you always expect the worst.

You might identify with only one of these categories or multiple. The point is once you start categorizing your thoughts like this, you can then begin to work on switching them for more positive frames.

This won’t happen overnight, and you’ll need to ensure you put in the practice to really hone in on your self-talk and identify where changes are needed. 

Self-Talk Traps

Some stressful situations may cause athletes to indulge in more negative self-talk than others. For example, an introvert might find negative self-talk crops up when they have to attend social events or networking.

Identifying these traps can help you put in more preparation to address and switch your negative to positive self-talk.

Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations are a great way to switch up our self-talk chatter. Before a situation even arises that might incite negative self-talk, practice saying positive affirmations in the mirror to encourage your positive approach to yourself.

Visual cues are also excellent reminders to adopt a more positive approach. Creating notes or post-its around the house, in your car, in the team locker room with positive expressions can make a huge difference to your daily mindset.

Check-In Regularly

Switching to positive self-talk takes a great deal of effort. Athletes are so attuned to negative self-talk that it might only take one or two minor setbacks to put you back down that path.

When challenges do arise, make sure you check in with how you’re feeling and that your self-talk hasn’t gotten negative. Bring it back with some positive phrases.

Create Boundaries

Sometimes there are people in our lives who don’t bring out the best in us. Identifying self-talk traps might also mean identifying a person or two who encourages you to think negatively about yourself. It’s okay to create boundaries and remove these people.

Focus on surrounding yourself with people who talk positively about you, and encourage you to do the same.

A young aspiring college athlete practicing positive self talk after an big basketball tournament.

A young aspiring college athlete practicing positive self talk after an important basketball tournament.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

When you are constantly comparing what you lack to what others have, you can easily get down on yourself and it will effect your athletic performance.

For example you could have a teammate who is always scoring in the game and seems to find those key plays that highlight their abilities. If you consistently compare your abilities to those of that teammate it will lead to a non-proactive approach in improving your physical game while hurting your mental game.

You can always find others who are better off than you or worse off than you. It’s more important to concentrate on yourself and on being grateful for your own life. To help combat this, create a list of things that you are grateful for and place that list in a place where you will consistently encounter it.

Top Takeaways

Positive self-talk is an important skill in sports, the classroom, and in relationships. Changing the way you provide instruction and feedback influences how children learn to approach new situations and what they tell themselves about their performance.

The next step is to continue reinforcing the newly reframed thought in moments when the old, negative self-talk emerges. 

In other words, when you catch yourself defaulting to negative self-talk, say your newly reframed statement out loud or quietly to yourself. Continue to repeat this each time the negative self-talk pops up.  

The more you use the new statement instead of the older one, the more it gets reinforced and becomes a habit.

Mental Toughness Training

Mental toughness training will maintain the focus and determination to complete a course of action despite the difficulty or consequences. Athletes and coaches alike use mental toughness training to enhance performance and increase mental endurance for the game and beyond.

A group of young male athletes at an EXACT college exposure camp learning positive self talk in sports

A group of young athletes at an EXACT soccer advanced training camp where you learn the importance of positive self-talk in sports. 

EXACT Sports Advanced Training Camps

Mental Performance                                                                      

Beyond the foundational training that every college ID camp offers, EXACT teaches you how to deal with adversity, stay focused, and remain confident and composed despite opposition during competitions.

Nationwide College Network

When it comes to choosing a college ID camp, you want to make sure that you’re choosing a camp that offers you access to a large network of NCAA coaches. EXACT does exactly that, opening you to a large pool of experienced college coaches from across hundreds of colleges.

One-on-One College Evaluations

How do you improve without feedback? At EXACT ID camps, all our coaches are professionals who understand that each player is distinct and uniquely gifted. As such, we give individual feedback that prepares you for the next level.

Personal Connections

At EXACT ID camps, you get to meet and greet college coaches, giving you an opportunity to build your college connections ahead of your arrival in college.

College Training Sessions

At EXACT, our training sessions simulate college practice sessions and games. They are also handled by experienced college coaches. That way, you’re best prepared for college sports and are sure to settle in seamlessly when accepted into college.

Kickstart Recruiting

At EXACT, we understand that you’re in a college ID camp because you someday want to be on a college team. So, we bring in college coaches who have handled collegiate sports recruitment time and time again. These coaches give you an insight into how college recruitment really works in person at the EXACT college ID camp. With insider information at your fingertips, you stand a better chance of being recruited to the right college for you.

College ID camps impact your sports career one way or the other. This is why at EXACT, we do our best to offer the best of both worlds—ensuring we have a rich network of coaches from various colleges and teams while ensuring that every student player gets as much feedback and training as is needed for growth.