By Andrea Crosas, Sport Psychologist at Sánchez-Casal Academy, Barcelona.
In sports it is important to introduce on the training routine of the athlete the training in psychological abilities, understanding that like the training that uses technics and strategies designed to teach and improve the mental abilities that help on the performance and positive view of the competition sports.
One of the most important technics to put in practice is the self-talk, defined for Hackfort and Schwenkmezger (1993) as the dialogue in which the person can interpret feelings and perceptions, regulate and change evaluations and convictions, and give self-instructions and self-support. We can talk about two different kind of self-talk: instructional self-talk and motivational self-talk, that are useful for different functions depending on the contents of the self-talk.
We will refer to motivational self-talk to that one that responds to motivational content, in which will help to motivate, increase the confidence and regulate the effort of the players. To work with this self-talk in Sanchez-Casal Academy we train with our tennis players the routine to finish every point with a positive message of encouragement like “come on”, “you can”, “keep going like this”, regardless of which was the result of the point. Is very important that the players understand that this message gives them power to keep going and at the same time, it shows to the opponent that they are encouraged and with competitive attitude.
In another hand, we find instructional self-talk in which refers to that functions with instructional content that help to increase and redirect the attentional focus based on what the players have to do, making easier the execution of the game in training and competition. One of the exercises that we practice daily in the Academy with the players is with a creation of key words based on specific instructions in terms of technic, tactic, physic and mental.
For example, one player that has the technical instruction of hit the ball higher on the forehand choose the key word “high” to remember that instruction, the one that during the training will repeat before realise that shot. Practicing this exercise we get that this player just thinking about the word “high” will remember what he/she has to do. The words can also be with tactic content as “position”, physic as “fast” or mental as “brave”. When players have some key words, they note them in a paper to can remember and have them present. By the way, for some players is helpful to note that key words on the hand or in a side of the racquet to remember that instructions in a fast way during a match, technic that we can find with some professional tennis players.
Like this, working daily with both type of self-talk we get that our players are motivated and know how to encourage themselves, and at the same time they get better results in the execution and precision of the shots thanks of that key words that remember them what they have to do.
Sport Psychologist at Sánchez-Casal Academy, Barcelona.