High performance thinking and self-coaching – Part 1

Posted on November 11, 2020 by

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to win. Everybody wants to win – it’s part of the fun of competitive sport. However, thinking about the outcome you want, even while you’re competing, can be a mind trap.

It’s something many athletes get caught in and frustrated by, and it can kill confidence and enjoyment.  So, what’s wrong with thinking about winning?

Consider this example.

A national-level swimmer was asked about what they were thinking about during the race they said:

“I’m hoping I can win or at least get a podium, so I can make the upcoming Australian team tour.”

When asked about what else they were thinking, they replied:

“Well I’m also hoping I can swim a PB so I don’t let myself or my coach down.”

That type of thinking is common among athletes.

But contrast that type of “win oriented” race thinking with what gets results at training. Think about your typical swimming training scenario.  The coach on the pool deck yells out some type of technical correction to the athlete:

“Get the left hand closer to the centre”


“Tuck tighter on that turn.”

The athlete listens to the coach, makes the adjustment, becomes more technically proficient and ultimately goes faster because of the technical change. By listening to the coaching, the athlete becomes faster.

Now contrast that focus on technical efficiency, with the focus on winning, getting a podium, making a team or getting a time.  Which style of thinking do you think actually gets the desired result?

It’s the focus on technical efficiency every time.

If you’re seeing a breakdown between the high quality of performance that you can deliver in training and the lower quality you are delivering in competition, then you may want to consider bringing a “self-coaching” mindset to your performance. When you coach yourself about your key technical cues while competing, you maximise your technical efficiency and go faster. Ultimately, this means you end up achieving the things that are important to you – a spot in the national team, a place atop the podium etc.  But you can’t skip that crucial “self-coaching” step.

In the next article we’ll discuss how to “self-coach” and all the psychological benefits this strategy can bring.


Receive High Performance at Home information from NSWIS

Sign up to the weekly eNewsletter from the NSW Institute of Sport, which includes the latest nutrition blog from the NSWIS Nutrition Team. Plus during the High Performance at Home campaign you’ll receive tips aimed at helping everyday Australians maintain their physical and mental wellbeing at home. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.