- Identify individual patterns of self talk
- Understand the relationship between self talk and physical, behavioural and emotional responses
- Understand unhelpful self talk patters, known as cognitive distortions
- Understand how to develop a realistic, helpful self-talk patterns
- Explore different strategies to support positive self talk, such as utilising visualisation, affirmations and/or support key words
Children and adolescents experience an internal dialogue in a similar way to adults. This means that the cognitions of children and adolescents can influence how they feel and behave in both practice and competition, in a similar way to adults. Cognitions can be both helpful and unhelpful. For example, in a performance situation, positive cognitions can help us push that ‘bit extra’ to achieve our best, and, unhelpful cognitions can contribute to performance anxiety that can negatively impact performance. The skills covered in this section are relatively complex and require practice and support from parents and coaches/ teachers to implement.
The utilisation of cognitive strategies is a well researched and evidence-based strategy, shown to be effective in the management and treatment of a wide range of mental health presentations in both adults and children (Rapee et al.,?). Power Up! has adapted the utilisation of cognitive strategies for the specific purpose of performance enhancement, teaching participants to manage unhelpful thinking patterns and develop and reinforce positive thinking patterns.
By identifying their own self talk patterns, participants will be able to gain a better understanding of how their thoughts can affect how they feel and behave. This exercise may also help participants to utilise self talk in a variety of situations and contexts, such as in relation to other events and throughout times when experiencing stress, anxiety or when more attention and focus is required, for example.
- Participants should be encouraged to identify specific words or phrases they often say to themselves
- Participants should be encouraged to identify helpful and unhelpful self-talk patterns and describe how and why these might affect their performance
- Participants should be able to better differentiate between the many ways self talk can be used, based on the performance requirements
- Participants should be encouraged to engage in practical activities to help them elicit and apply realistic and helpful self talk.
- Participants should be able to increase their repertoire of self talk techniques for use during the many stages of their practice and performance
- Participants should be able to recognise the benefits of self talk for reducing anxiety, increasing effort and enhancing self-confidence
- Start the lesson off with discussion about self talk. Do any participants know what self talk is? When do we use self talk? Do you think everyone uses self talk? What types of things might we say to ourselves? Are these things always positive?negative?
- Ask participants to reflect on the types of things they might say to themselves. You could utilise a whiteboard and markers to write down a list (where participants are comfortable) of things they might say to themselves.
- Next read through the list of Unhelpful and Helpful things in the Power Up! booklet. Are any of these things the same as what the participants listed?
- Next, take participants through an example/s which highlights how important self talk is in determining how one might feel or behave. For example:
- 1. Imagine you are standing on the blocks ready to start your 50m Swimming finals. What could you be thinking (elicit both helpful and unhelpful thoughts from the group)?. How would you feel if you were thinking these things (elicit a range of feelings)?. What might you do (elicit a range of behaviours)? Help participants identify helpful and unhelpful self talk patterns and how they impact on feelings and behaviours.
- 2. Imagine you are on stage tuning your violin for a practice session with your teacher for an upcoming Eisteddfod. What could you be thinking (elicit both helpful and unhelpful thoughts from the group)?.How would you feel if you were thinking these things (elicit a range of feelings)?. What might you do (elicit a range of behaviours)? Help participants identify helpful and unhelpful self talk patterns and how they impact on feelings and behaviours.
- 3. utilise any other examples of situations which may be relevant for the participants in the group.
- Turn to page 31. Discuss how self talk can become so automatic, that we may be quite unaware of a thought behind a feeling. Is there anything that you do automatically without thinking too much about it? Identify examples and highlight that despite doing something automatically, we still have a thought behind it (eg. brushing your teeth, making your bed, packing your sports bag). This can be the same in practice or performance situations, we can have instant feelings about it but be less certain of our thoughts. While this is the case in much of our lives, it is important to identify our thoughts. If we can identify our thoughts/self talk, it means we can manage negative self talk and promote more positive self talk. Have a go at identifying your self talk when you are doing something very regular like going to training- what could you be thinking? what is making you feel that way? visualise the situation, what kinds of thoughts are you having?
- Next, introduce the exercises on pages 31-32 as ways we can utilise positive self talk to enhance our practice and performance. Positive self talk leads to positive feelings and positive behaviours which can really help us achieve our best. Our thoughts are something that we have control over, so we can empower ourselves We can utilise positive self talk in thinking about:
- 1. What we are DOING with our BODY eg. “stretch” “relax”etc. Help participants write their own examples in the space provided. Getting participants to visualise themselves engaging in their area of expertise can help elicit their thoughts.
- 2. What we are FOCUSING ON eg. “look around” “read the question”. Help participants write their own examples in the space provided. Thoughts can be elicited through visualisation of their activity and also thinking about what their teacher/coach/parent may be reminding them of doing before their performance/activity.
- 3. What we are FEELING eg. “stay cool” “my body is telling me it is ready!”. Help participants write their own examples in the space provided. Ask participants to visualise their last big/ significant performance situation and reflect on their feelings. What are the common feelings? (eg. anxiety, nervousness, fear, excitement), are feelings of anxiety/nervousness always negative? How could they turn those feelings into something more positive? (eg. “feeling nervous will help me focus on the task at hand” “keep calm, just try your best”).
- 4. What is HAPPENING eg. “OK, I need to answer 2 out of 5 questions”. Help participants write their own examples in the space provided. Reinforce that self talk is not just helpful in the situation but also in the lead up/ practice time. Reflect on times participants have utilised positive self talk about what is HAPPENING in an upcoming performance situation which has positively helped during a performance. For example, reminding themselves to focus on a certain move has helped them execute this move in performance.
- End the session with a review of positive and negative self talk and its link with our feelings and behaviours, reiterating that self talk is under our own control and we have the power to use positive self talk to impact our performance.
This Lesson has two other videos:
- My worst case Scenario
- Van Raalte, J. W. (1995). Cork! The effects of positive and negative self-talk on dart throwing performance. Journal Of Sport Behavior, 18(1), 50.