The Relationship between Observable Self-Talk and Competitive Junior Tennis Players' Match Performances

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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In sport psychology, there is broad interest in cognitive factors that affect sport performance. The purpose of this research was to examine one such factor, self-talk, in competitive sport performance. Twenty-four junior tennis players were observed during tournament matches. Their observable self-talk, gestures, and match scores were recorded. Players also described their positive, negative, and other thoughts on a postmatch questionnaire. A descriptive analysis of the self-talk and gestures that occurred during competition was generated. It was found that negative self-talk was associated with losing and that players who reported believing in the utility of self-talk won more points than players who did not. These results suggest that self-talk influences competitive sport outcomes. The importance of "believing" in self-talk and the potential motivational and detrimental effects of negative self-talk on performance are discussed.

J.L. Van Raalte, B.W. Brewer, P.M. Rivera, and A.J. Petitpas are with the Center for Performance Enhancement and Applied Research, Department of Psychology at Springfield College, Springfield, MA 01109.