Sports psychology was developed as a training tool for improving athletic performance and overall enjoyment in sport and exercise. With the potential for improved performance, numerous college and professional athletic teams hire sports psychologists to perform specific exercises with the athletes. These sports psychology exercises include goal setting, visualization techniques, positive thinking and self-awareness.
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One of the characteristics of successful athletes is the ability to set goals and use those goals to motivate their training. According to Joseph Lenac, licensed psychologist, completing goal setting exercises is one of the most important tasks for an athlete to be able to focus and direct energy. By outlining specific outcome, intermediate and performance goals, you can achieve improved performance through increased motivation, confidence and skill. General steps for goal setting include defining realistic, specific, observable and measurable goals.
Visualization is a sports psychology exercise that involves “mental rehearsal or imagery” where you are performing at your peak. Professional athletes use visualization exercises combined with positive thinking to rehearse their performances. For example, a golfer will visualize the slope of a green and then rehearse his approach, swing and follow-through along with the ball rolling across the slope and ending up in the bottom of the cup. Adam Khoo, best-selling author, suggests that visualization can improve athletic performance as well as other areas of your life.
The old saying “the glass is half-full” can also be applied to confidence-building sports psychology exercises. Dr. Larry Lauer of Michigan State University suggests practicing an optimistic attitude following practices, training sessions and games. Approach every day, practice and game as a new opportunity to play your best. Focus on yourself and your ability while staying resilient following mistakes or bad outcomes. Use positive sayings such as “quick feet” or “be aggressive” to maintain a positive attitude to improve focus and performance.
Self-awareness exercises are designed to help you learn from every negative or positive experience encountered during practices and games. These exercises can utilize video analysis to review your previous performances and determine your strengths and weaknesses. You can also use the video to pinpoint times when your performance declines and how you responded to the situation. The self-awareness exercises should be complemented with goal setting and feedback from coaches, parents and teammates.