The reasons many professional athletes are successful are not just natural talent, intense training and dedication. The best of the best also implement sports psychology techniques on a daily basis. They perform exercises to prepare their minds for competition before it occurs.
The most popular sports psychology techniques are visualization, blocking distractions and goal setting. And although you may not be at the same level as your favorite player, you can use the same mental training techniques to get an edge over your opponents.
In my opinion, one of the best sports psychology techniques for young athletes who are new to this training is positive self-talk. Positive self-talk can be used before, during and after practice sessions and games. It's simple. The next time you feel like quitting, tell yourself something positive like "I can do it," "don't quit" or "I'm almost there." You can also use self-talk to reinforce coaching cues and instructions. For example, if you're a quarterback getting ready to throw a pass, you can reinforce the right drops step, arm position and follow through in your mind before you actually throw the football.If you are a sprinter, you can reinforce in your mind strong explosion out of the blocks, good arm drive, long first step and chin down. (See also Sports Psychology Training: The Power of Postive Thoughts.)
For best results, combine positive self-talk with visualization. When you're alone, use visualization to imagine details of your performance. Once you become more accustomed to using it, you can incorporate visualization as you break the huddle or get into the starting blocks. During an event or game, you won't have time to actually close your eyes, but you can take a quick mental picture of how you want to perform; and you always have time for positive self-talk to clear any negative thoughts out of your mind and to reinforce coaching cues.
Practice these two techniques every day before, during and after games and practices. You can also practice self-talk in other areas of your life, especially when you get discouraged and feel like throwing in the towel.