Use Sports Psychology Against Your Opponents

Don't neglect the mental side of the game, and use your mental edge to gain an advantage over your opponent.

There's no substitute for being physically prepared for competition, but it's also important to pay attention to the mental aspects of the game. Mental advantage, at the highest levels, can sometimes be the only difference between the winner and the loser.

Think about which of these approaches best fits your personality type and use sports psychology to get ahead when it counts.

1. Unemotional and Calm

Nick Faldo is famous for being a cool, unemotional golfer. In his heyday, he never seemed to make mistakes and everything looked like it was part of his plan. That is how he wanted his competition to see him. It was very intimidating, even though there was nothing aggressive in what he did. Faldo did not engage with the other golfers and never chatted with them.

In the final round of the 1996 Masters championship, Greg Norman lost a sizeable lead as Faldo just piled pressure on him.

2. Relaxed and Sociable

In the 2012 Olympic games in London in the 100m final, sprinter Usain Bolt faced huge pressure after being beaten by Yohan Blake in the Jamaican trials and false-starting in the World Championships. How did Bolt react? By laughing and joking with the gamesmakers, mugging for the TV camera and generally fooling around. This is his routine and it unsettles some of his competitors. Suddenly, they are thinking about Bolt and not their own race.

3. All Business

In boxing, intimidating opponents to the point of fear is tough if you are a young, relatively short fighter who is new to the scene. Yet, Mike Tyson scared other fighters. He came to fight, he fought hard and he fought often.

When he entered the ring in plain black shorts and plain black shoes, Tyson did not have a retinue of people around him, just his cornermen. He did not have flashy music. "Mike Tyson is here on business," was his message.

4. Flashy

Muhammed Ali, on the other hand, made a show of everything, from interviews to his poetry putting down opponents, to the fight itself. He fought differently than everyone else, using his upper body and head movement to avoid punches instead of blocking them.

5. Team Effort

Alex Ferguson's Manchester United not only dominated English football for over a decade; they mentally dominated opponents and officials. They never settled for a draw. Not winning was an affront that the team, the fans and especially the manager could not tolerate. When Manchester was behind, they increased upped the ante with an onslaught of attacks. The pressure increased during the last few minutes of the game as the clock ticked down. Each game was played like a final. They expected to win and they always played like they would win in the end.

During the 1990s, opponents who were winning with a few minutes to go started playing as if they would lose. Alex Ferguson's watch was famous—if United was behind, he started pressuring the referee to clock every stoppage to ensure the maximum amount of time available to complete the victory. All of it together served to intimidate the opposition, and the victories came as a result. The number of Manchester United's last-minute victories over the years is legendary.

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