Your not mad....Everyone talks to themselves! When you talk to yourself these are your conscious thoughts! So every athlete does it! These thoughts or self talk can control the unconscious of the brain. This self talk can be +ve or –ve (see Burton and Raedeke, 2008, chp.7) If self talk is used correctly it can be very powerful as it can tap into your sub conscious and the beliefs you have because What is your head influences how you react and behave in sporting situations.

How it works?

Negative thoughts lead to unproductive consequences so positive thoughts lead to productive consequences!

The ABC model of Self Talk

  • A = Activating Event (The situation you find yourself in, e.g. taking the deciding penalty in a Playoff final)
  • B = Beliefs about the event or what you think about between A and C.
  • C = Emotional and Behavioural Consequences. What you would do in that situation? (e.g. blasting the penalty over the bar!)

So be an Optimist, Not a Pessimist. Remain realistic and objective and focus on the present. Make sure you see problems as challenges rather than threats and view successes as replicable and failures as feedback that will increase the chance of success next time. Make sure you concentrate on the process and not end result and most of all Control the Controllables (see my other blogs on this topic).

Negative thought patterns include:

  • Distorted Thinking
  • Catastrophising
  • Overgeneralisation
  • Blaming
  • Mustification
  • Polarised thinking
  • Irrational Beliefs
  • Perfectionism
  • Fear of failure
  • Social approval
  • Social comparison

All the above can be debilitating to an athlete's performance so to optimise self talk we need to:

Identify where you are now? So keep a diary or log of your thoughts and support this through observations in training and competition. Keep a counts of your negative thoughts and then programme these and change them into positive thoughts. This is known as reframing where you change negative thoughts to positive thoughts. This can take a long time and requires practice. So when you get a negative thought record it and write it down. Look at this thought and rewrite in a positive way. Repeat it to yourself 10 times.


Burton, D. and Raedeke, T. D. (2008) Sport Psychology for Coaches. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics.