Chances are you've heard announcers utter phrases like "he's playing with a lot of confidence," or "she's in the zone," or "they've regained the momentum." These comments all refer to some aspect of sport psychology. What athletes think and feel during games has a large impact on their performance.
So how do you harness the ability to stay positive at all times? Confidence. Believing in your and your team's ability to play well is the foundation for great performance. How do we gain confidence? The most important thing is to succeed; accomplishments feed our confidence more than anything else. (John Wall talks about his earliest lessons in motivation.)
It doesn't matter how big or small it is, as long as we recognize something as a success and let it fuel our belief. Actually, it doesn't even need to be a real accomplishment; simply envisioning scoring the winning basket can boost self-confidence. (Get more tips on Building Confidence.)
Interestingly enough, we can also use body language to feel more confident. This is what I call using "swagger" to our advantage. Social psychologist Ann Cuddy, a researcher and professor at the Harvard Business School, noticed that whenever humans and animals feel dominant and powerful, they position their bodies more open and spread out. Can adopting this type of body posture ("swagger") make us feel more powerful and confident?
Amazingly, Cuddy found that performing just two minutes of "power poses" before going into a situation where one needs to feel powerful, dominant and confident makes others think of you that way. Even more important than its effects on others, it actually makes you feel more confident as well.
If this sounds strange, think about how often we see it in sports. A defensive lineman flexes his biceps, engaging the crowd before a big play, or a soccer player throws her arms out wide after scoring a big goal. (Create a routine for yourself.) We also see it work in reverse. It is said of an athlete who isn't feeling great about his performance that "you can read it all over his face."
So how can we get the right mindset for sports performance? Know these three things: psychology in sports is a real thing; our mindset has a lot to do with our performance; and we can control our mindset to regulate how we are thinking, feeling, and acting in a situation—which ultimately means we can improve our chances of performing at our best.
The next time your confidence needs a boost, use your swagger and "hit 'em with the flex." Take the opportunity before a big game, a pressure situation or a tough play and use your body language to reflect how confident you feel about what you are about to do.
Need some inspiration? Watch this:
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