The Value and Benefits of Self Reflection For Athletes
Top Self Reflection Techniques For Athletes
Self reflection is an important psychological process and can be defined as: “Examining one’s own thoughts and feelings and considering what they mean”. In the sporting context, self reflection can be valuable to a team sports competitor as a tool to help improve performance. By critically reflecting on our actions post game, it can enhance our ability to understand our motivations and therefore, our decision-making processes. For example, understanding why we chose to make a certain pass when there was a better pass available can provide a person with important feedback so they can set clear targets, aims and objectives about how to improve their skills and effectiveness as a team member in future performances.
THE VIDEO: The Value and Benefits of Self Reflection For Athletes
Below are some examples of self-reflection and how it has helped our Performance Ground coaches in the past.
Self Reflection: Behaviours Are More Important than the Performance
Coach Adam provided us with his personal experience from golf. He said the best thing he did to improve his performance was to fix the mental side of his golf game. He obtained a book called ‘Golf is not a game of perfect’ by Bob Rotella. This book had no technical advice on how to improve golf swing; it was merely just a book to get you to think better around a golf course, using the simplest of strategies such as, lining up your shots, and reading your scorecard relative to your handicap. There were also slightly more difficult strategies such as shot imagery and positive thinking from shot to shot. These strategies were able to help Adam navigate his way around the course, without getting frustrated at a bad shot and subsequently improving his handicap from 28 to 17.
Adam’s simple recommendations to self-reflect would be:
- Imagery: This element has helped Adam greatly in not just his performances but his training also. Imagining positive outcomes, not just to the overall result but to the specifics within.
- Focused attention: In golf, this is an easy thing to do, when playing there is a green with a hole and flagstick. If we aim for the green, then, the margin for error can fall outside of the green. Whereas, if we narrow the focus specifically on the hole, the margin for error will fall within the green. A similar mentality can be taken into any performance, be specific and reduce your margin for error.
- Positive thinking/Critical reflection: Easier said than done but we need to not beat ourselves up for our performance. Instead, we should critically reflect, rather than accept that we performed below par. Get into the why we performed this way. This will help create solutions to stop negative events happening again.
Self Reflection: Separating Your “I” From Your “R”
Coach Stefan said the method he used for self-reflecting after competing in team sports revolved the psychological theory of transactional analysis, a process called separating your “I”, which stands for your “Identity”, from your “R”, which stands for your “Roles and Responsibilities”. The theory invites you to sit down and think about all of your core values, morals, ideologies and philosophies and write this down. These are the things that make you who you are, this is your “Identity” and this should not be compromised. If you then think about all the “Roles and Responsibilities” you have to fulfill on a day-to-day basis, such as being a parent, being a friend, being a teammate, being a player, and all the qualities and skills you need to do in order to be successful in those roles, you now have objective criteria in which you can assess your performance across these daily tasks without negatively affecting your performance in another role, or affecting your identity.
In this instance, Stefan admits that he had always struggled with the outcome of his performances affecting his emotional state post game, which would end up affecting his home life, which we’re sure many of you can relate to. So, rather than being moody for the remainder of the day after losing a game of rugby and annoying his friends and family because he was being moody, he would reflect on the criteria he met in his role as a teammate and as a player in the game of rugby. Then, he would think about the criteria he didn’t meet or could have done better.
This quick reflection just provided him with objective goals and targets to improve on for the next time he undertook his roles of teammate and player. This meant he could now, move on from the game without it having to negatively affect any of the other roles he had to fulfill for the remainder of that day, like being a son and brother.
Self Reflection: Written Critical Reflection
Coach Sam also touched on his personal experience with self reflection at university. He explained that at university he had a rather large focus on the process of critical self reflection, which made him aware of the benefit and need for reflection. He confessed that he had never been one to write things down as he would struggle to put into words what he was actually thinking. This process however, forced him to sit down and take the time to critically analyse and think about the positives and negatives of something he had done into a comprehensive and formulated way. As a result, he found that as this did not align with his personality type and the way he tended to think about things in the past, the nature of critically reflecting on previous experiences would quickly turn negative as he found it a chore to do. This therefore, skewed his perception of experiences and prevented him from taking some opportunities knowing that he would have to critically reflect on them. This supports the idea by Eurich who said in 2017: “Those who take self reflection too far can end up feeling more stressed, depressed, and anxious than ever”.
There is no one size fits all method for self reflection. Self-reflection is specific to the individual and what they are trying to achieve. As such, we implore you to try as many different methods of self-reflection as you can to find what works for you so that you can set clear aims, goals and objectives so that you can improve your performance and take it to the next level.