The question I hear most about positive self-talk is this:
“Can athletes have a ‘brief high negative’ to blow off steam so they can concentrate again?”
We’ve all seen great athletes do it – Tiger, McEnroe, Murray, etc. If they do it, why not teach young athletes to do it? Unfortunately, this logic is flawed in several key ways:
1. When playing their best, how do pro athletes behave? We’ve been studying performance for over 30 years and it’s clear that the greatest performers get themselves calm, confident, carefree, focused and motivated. We call these the Zone-5 States, and anger plays no part. This applies to Tiger, McEnroe and Murray too. They performed their best when there was no anger present.
2. When anger is promoted, athletes take it too far. What behavior should be allowed – yelling, crying, hitting things? Do athletes who behave like this represent themselves, their families, their coaches and their programs well? The answer is obvious.
3. Anger leads to irrational behavior. The research is clear on this fact. Whether it’s marital relationships, work relationships or athlete performance, when people get angry, they make poor decisions that they usually regret later.
4. The higher the physical skill level, the more the athlete is able to perform well under angry conditions. This is why it can be confusing to younger or less-skilled athletes. Just because a pro athlete gets angry and then goes on to win doesn’t mean young athletes should be allowing anger.
5. When the steam builds up in a closed pot of boiling water, there are 2 ways to relieve the pressure – take the top off (ie. get angry) or turn the heat down (ie. change your thoughts). We teach the second so the first is unnecessary.
Hope this helps. -Dr.Bob