“The body never lies.” – Martha Graham
It’s a simple, powerful, and true commentary on body language. While Martha Graham may not be well known in pro or college sports circles, she was a dancer and choreographer whose career spanned seven decades. Being a professional dancer requires great athletic ability and great control and understanding of the body and how it communicates to the viewer. There is nowhere to hide when your body must convey the message and the emotion.
This is no different for any athlete on the court, the field, in the ring, or the pool. How you carry yourself plays a direct role in your performance and how you react.
What Is Body Language
Psychology Today defines body language as a silent orchestra, as people constantly give clues to what they’re thinking and feeling. Non-verbal messages including body movements, facial expressions, vocal tone and volume, and other signals are collectively known as body language. Body language is a primal form of communication and registers in the human brain almost immediately – often unconsciously. How you move, hold yourself, or your expressions can impact how you are perceived and how another may react to you.
Why Body Language Is Important
Body language is essential when it comes to sports performance. Dr. Amy Cuddy, an expert in body language at Harvard Business School, studied whether people could fake it until they made it. Dr. Cuddy’s research proved that our bodies can change our minds, changing our behavior and modifying outcomes.
“All kinds of outcomes are determined by nonverbal behaviors,” Cuddy said. “If you tweak your nonverbal behaviors in simple ways, in a short period of time, it’s going to make you feel more powerful through physiological changes in your body.”
In her study, Dr. Cuddy had participants perform a high-power pose for two minutes. Participants then spent two minutes doing a low-power pose. A high-power pose, by Cuddy’s definition, is a big, open, expansive stance. An example she refers to is Usain Bolt’s pose when he wins a race. Bolt stands tall, opens his arms, and reaches up to show and triumph. A low-power pose makes you look smaller and weaker than you are. Imagine someone curled up, hunched over, trying to minimize their presence. Presenting confidence, or at least faking confidence, can help improve performance and ultimately lead to success.
How Poor Body Language Impacts Performace
Poor body language can not only impact your performance but how the coach, your team, or your opponent responds. Negative body language is typically an indication of a lack of confidence or lack of care. impact on her teammates. The players who are working hard to compete will become frustrated with the teammate who consistently shows negative body language or tries to hide from view.
Simple ways an athlete can present confidence and control through positive body language:
- Maintain good posture: keep your head up, move your shoulders back and down, chest out.
- Demonstrate physical gestures of support to your team: clap, fist pump, smile, jump up and down and look engaged.
- Maintain eye contact with coach, opponent, and teammates.
- Walk tall with confidence. Show you are ready to compete and to continue pushing forward.
- Make your presence known. Be visible. Be present. Be an active member of your team.
How you carry yourself directly impacts your outcome and how those around you perceive you. Presenting confidence, enthusiasm, and determination will help you stand out among coaches and teammates and leave an opponent second-guessing on their chances for victory. In the end, faking it until you make it does work. Present your message and your desired outcome. Your actions will speak louder than words and can help you succeed in your sport.
Read More: How to Change Your Basketball Body Language for the Better