Superstition in Sport
rituals are most prevalent with sports positions involving greater
uncertainty. For example, players exhibit more superstitious
activity when batting, with an average 26 percent success rate;
as opposed to outfielding, with an average 97 percent success
Success breeds superstition. More successful high school and
university players tend to exhibit more superstitious activities,
attributing part of their success to their ritualistic behaviors.
More superstitious activity can be seen in college team sports,
such as basketball, ice hockey, and volleyball, than among individual
collegiate sport athletes such as tennis players and swimming.
This phenomenon may possibly be due to social transmission of
superstitious beliefs among the members of the sports teams.
Vyse SA (1997) Believing in Magic, The Psychology of Superstition,
Oxford University Press, 26-29
Keep opponent blind to next move as long as possible. Having
several options available or faking move can increase opponents
Turning Failure Into Success
Focusing on optimal performance instead of past problems or
unfortunate events is believed to positively affect sports performance.
Athletes should avoid recounting poor performances or accidents
and instead focus on perfect performances. Schmid (1993) describes
a 16 year old downhill skier who ran off course and was seriously
injured. Her skiing improved remarkably when she stopped telling
people how she got injured. Whenever people asked what had happened,
she instead focused on describing how she would ski the race
successfully. See Concentration and
Attention Control Training.
Schmid A (1993). Training Strategies for Concentration.
Arousal-Performance Relationships, Applied Sport Psychology;
Personal Growth to Peak Performance. Williams JM, Landers DM,
Boutcher SH. 262-273, 2.
As a coach or personal trainer, provide your athlete or client
with specific feedback. Don't just say, "Good job",
or "Do it better". Instead be more specific by telling
them exactly what they are doing correctly or incorrectly (and
precisely what they need to do to improve).
Offer supportive comments during times when your client is
not doing well (eg: missed workout or eating or cheating on dietary
plan). You may want to ask "How did that make you feel?"
and "What do think you should do next time?".
Factors that Limit Performance
- Skill not well learned
- Inability to relax
- Inability to control arousal
- Lack of energy
- Difficulties in focusing attention
- Lack of confidence, or fear of failure
Psychological Skills Training
- Arousal regulation
- Confidence building
- Review successful past performance
- Repetition (overlearning)
- Self Talk
- Increasing motivation and commitment
- Attention or concentration skills
- Cue selection and focus
- Skill rehearsal
Characteristics of an Athlete Not Needing the Skills of a
An athlete who is
excelling in their sport and would not have reason to see a sports
psychologist would have to be content with their performance.
They would possess superior self-monitoring skills, yet they
may not be fully aware of many aspects of their skills. They
have probably developed some degree of automaticity when executing
their given sport, yet are able to perceive the essential kinematic
information necessary to make subtle adjustments in response
to their environment. They have successfully developed the skill
of anticipating the actions of an opponent. These athletes know
situational probabilities and are able to plan their actions
in advance. They have an organized and structured knowledge of
their sport. They are able to effectively detect, locate, and
recognize patterns from within their sport. Their expertise is
specific to their task within their sport (Abernethy 1993).
Athlete Motivation Profile
Standardized athlete motivation profile used by NFL, and other
professional sports. Reports reliability of test. Measures components
- Self Control
Institute of Athletic Motivation, One Lagoon Drive, Suite
141, Redwood Shores, CA 94065, (415) 598-0700