The mind is a powerful thing. And words can have monumental potential over your child’s performance on the field. Throughout my clinical experience as an Olympic sports psychologist, I have deduced that performance is 90% perception and 10% reality.
How you interpret what is happening and the kinds of labels you place on each situation determine how you are affected emotionally – for both YOU and YOUR ATHLETES.
Key #1 - What are power words for young athletes?
One powerful way to structure your thoughts and transform our goals into results, for you and for your young athletes is through the use of power words. A power word is a strong, positive self-statement, spoken in the present tense, about a goal that has the potential for being realized. It is a pre-planned statement of an aspiration, presented to the mind, as if it has already been achieved. You present it to the mind in the present rather than the future tense. Although intellectually you know your goal is in the future, successful mental programming dictates that it be stated in the present tense, as an already realized fact.
Power words are a powerful way to cancel or correct old negative thoughts or ideas. Negative thoughts are carried in our mental computers and are the source of self-limitation, fear, inhibition, and frustration for all of us. In contrast, self-image, health, physical abilities, relationships, and competition can all be affected positively by the repetition of power words.
A set of power words creates an attitude or posture in life that says: “I can do this!” It is a conscious, carefully worded positive statement that guides our behaviors and our young athletes in a constructive way. It empowers us to replace old pessimistic scripts with new creative phrases to help us realize our dreams. Words are effective tools for transforming our perception of daily events.
The mind and body are so well connected that the body often does not know whether a phrase or image is real, dreamed, or imagined. So when your mind creates an image of success, your central nervous system and whole body will process that image as if is were real. Most of the time our actions are reflections of our mental pictures. These pictures are placed in our mind most often by words. So choosing the right words can make or break a performance in your young athlete.
I often use power words with my young athlete clients to assist them in reconstructing their thoughts. If a young athlete finds himself saying: “I’ve never been able to beat this person before in a race”, he is preparing himself to lose again in this situation. I would help him to say something like: “I know I am capable of beating this person. All I have to do is take it one mile at a time. I have to focus on what is happening, and what is about to happen. I can then control my own performance. I have worked hard and I am well prepared for this competition.”
Key #2 - What can you do with power words?
Whenever you want to maximize your chances of getting the results you want with your youth athletes, power words are one of the fastest ways to arrive there. If you want to create real changes in the way you train and perform, use power words to:
• Improve concentration
• Relax and sleep well
• Build self-confidence
• Accelerate learning of athletic skills
• Deal with fear and negativity
• Heal quickly from injuries
• Increase endurance and strength
• Train faster and lighter
Key #3 - Guidelines for using power words
The subconscious mind is literal or factual in nature, just like the hard drive of a computer. It receives information exactly the way you present it. Thus, in using power words it’s best not to use statements that are negative (e.g. “I hope I don’t bonk in this event”). If I say: “Don’t think of pink elephants”, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? You end up drilling into your mind the very thing you’re trying to avoid doing. Thus, power words need to be presented in a specific way to optimize their effectiveness.
I was recently working with a bicycle racer, Jill, who had a fear of riding in large groups. She had fallen down several times while riding in a close pack and would get anxious whenever she got too close to other riders. The problem intensified whenever she was riding in a road race, having to make sharp turns in close quarters. I asked Jill, what are you saying to yourself while you’re riding? She answered, “I repeat to myself over and over: I hope I don’t crash, I hope I don’t crash”. Can you guess what happened after that? She was continually programming her mind and body to anticipate crashing. Consequently, she was bracing herself, holding her arms and shoulders so tightly that she could not handle the bike effectively. I then taught her to turn her goals into positive self-statements: “I am riding the bike smoothly and easily.” “I am growing more relaxed with each mile.” That was a turning point for Jill’s cycling career. For the first time, she could really enjoy riding.
Key #4 - Creating your power words?
Use the Present Tense:
Act as if it’s already happening. If you have an event coming up, avoid using the future tense because the mind will see it as if it were still in the future. Instead of saying, “I will be strong and fast” say “I am strong and fast”. Or you can say, “I am becoming stronger and faster every day”.
Employ a Positive Outlook:
When you use negative words they may be taken in by the brain without your awareness. Affirm what you do want to happen rather than what you don’t want to occur. Rather than saying, “I won’t tighten up in races”, say “I remain relaxed and focused at all times.”
Use Self-Image Statements:
Whenever possible, construct power words beginning with, “I “or I am…” or “I enjoy…..”
Use Specific, Brief Phrases:
Make each phrase a short, clear statement of your feelings, so that you can remember the phrase, and the mind can then take it in more easily.
Stay tuned for Part 2…..I’ll give you four more ideas for Power Words you can use….and you can always ask me your questions at info@DrJoAnn.com