How often have you thought in the middle of a competition, “We lost”?
Athletes can quickly become tempted to give in mentally when trailing by a considerable margin or competing during unfavorable circumstances, especially when they deem the odds are not in their favor.
The question is, how can you flip the script? How can you maintain your focus and mental edge when chances of victory appear slim?
The reality is that you can talk yourself into or out of accomplishing significant results as an athlete. What you tell yourself is powerful. Your self-talk affects your emotions, physiology, mental processes, and the choices/ risks you are willing to take.
The narrative you tell yourself matters. The messages you feed yourself impact your willingness to bounce back in a competition.
For example, if you are losing 4-0 at halftime in a soccer match and tell yourself, “We have ZERO chance to win,” do you feel you will be motivated to push the ball downfield?
Your negative messages will wear you down mentally and physically. Instead of focusing on opportunities to score, you will be distracted by negative thoughts.
However, if you change the content of your self-talk, you will enhance your efforts and focus during the game. You will look for opportunities to make plays and be more productive on the field.
In the 2022-23 AFC wild-card playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence led his team back from a 27-point comeback for a 31-30 victory.
LAWRENCE: “You couldn’t write a better script to win a game like that tonight… I’m kind of speechless, just to see what belief can do and to see when a team believes in each other what you can accomplish.”
After the game, Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson talked about how the team’s mentality set a positive tone for the comeback victory.
PEDERSON: “We’ve been in that situation before. I will say that being 27 down, you’re scratching your head, going, ‘Okay, can we do this?’ There was a lot of belief at halftime that we could. The guys felt it, and it just showed me again how close this group is, how tight this group is. No matter what adversity or challenges that face us, we’re willing to take them on, to tackle them and overcome them.”
Athletic resilience is a crucial component of athletic success, and resilience starts with your ability to be in charge of your self-talk and self-messaging.
Remember, you are in the command center and control your internal messaging.
To bounce back when trailing late in a game, try the 4-R Strategy:
- Recognize when your self-talk is undermining your confidence.
- Reject messages that don’t help you think confidently.
- Reverse your messaging. Instead of focusing on what you fear will happen (losing), use self-talk to refocus in the present (executing the current play).
- Re-engage and immerse yourself in what you are doing or need to do in the moment.
Related Sports Psychology Articles
- The Mindset to Perform at a Higher Level
- Having Fun While Performing at Your Best
- The Importance of Mental Toughness
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