Positive thinking determines not only the success you have in your sport, but the enjoyment that you take from it as well.
Positive energy (and positive thinking) is what powers a team or individual to perform and to push forward in pursuit of improvement. Negativity, on the other hand, sucks everything good out of what should otherwise be an enjoyable experience and, more often than not, results in failure. Positive thinkers enjoy their sport, and enjoy life in general, more than those who dwell in negativity.
We’ve looked in more detail at the importance of this concept in our earlier article on why positive thinking is key for sport. But in this article, we’re going to look at 10 practical tips that will help you develop this positive mindset when you’re playing sport, and keep negativity out of the picture.
Of course, being a site focussed on 5-a-side football, we’ll be applying our tips specifically to this, but these are lessons you can apply to absolutely any sport, anything from basketball to quidditch!
10 Tips for To Keep You Thinking Positively
1) Focus on the things you can control
Don’t focus so much on outcome targets, such as the end result or how many goals you scored. These are things that you can only partially control (after all, you’re just one of many players on the pitch), so it makes no sense to fixate on them and get upset when they don’t go the way you want.
Focus instead on process and performance targets. These are things you can control, such as your attitude, whether you tracked opponents when you were defending, whether you put in enough effort, whether you got your shots on target when you had the chance. These are all things you can control.
Even if you meet your performance targets, you still might lose the game. Why spend your time feeling negative about things beyond your control, it’s the things you can influence that really matter. Thinking about your own performance also helps you identify the areas where you can personally make a difference and be a valuable asset to your team, so you’re more likely to be successful like this anyway.
2) Be realistic in your expectations
The truth is, sometimes you’ve got to hold your hands up and say that you were comprehensively beaten by a much better opponent, with much more experience. What might seem like a heavy defeat might actually be a fantastic result when you objectively consider how much better they are.
This doesn’t mean that you should develop a losing mentality. If you gave it everything to try to win, but still lost, there’s no point dwelling on it. Analyse, improve, move on.
3) Look for the positives in your performances
When you’re analysing a game, make sure that you put more effort into reflecting on what went right than what went wrong. Maybe you put a few good moves together and your team scored a great goal – that’s something you can build on. Finding the positives give you the encouragement to improve other areas.
Even the negatives can become positives with the right mindset. Let’s say your goalkeeper was at fault for a couple of the goals you conceded. You could look at the situation and think how those mistakes cost you the game, or you could instead take heart from the fact that, with a couple of simple goalkeeping improvements, you’ll be very close to winning next time.
4) Be constructive and encouraging with your teammates
One of the beauties of 5-a-side is that it’s a social game and players love to stick around and chat about things afterwards. The post-match autopsy is an unavoidable part of that conversation for most people, but it’s here that a lot of negativity can creep in.
Sometimes a point needs making to somebody. Maybe your goalkeeper has consistently been giving away goals through poor distribution, rolling the ball straight to the opposition. Instead of being openly critical about them (or even worse, moaning behind their back) it’s much better to ask them about it, see if they’ve got any suggestions on what the team can do to help, and be positive in your comments. Some helpful (not patronising) advice, encouragement and reassurance is often all that players need to be able to work on fixing their errors.
Positive comments help build bonds between players, the bonds that help build a team and encourage everyone to work hard and support each other. Nobody tries to make a mistake, and shouting at them generally isn’t a great motivating technique – they’ll just think you’re a maniac who’s taking it much too seriously.
5) Cherish the successes
Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina published a study that showed the power of focussing on the positives. In a paper published in the Journal of Research in Personality, it was found that when a group of 45 students wrote about an intensely positive experience each day for three consecutive days they had better mood levels and fewer illnesses than 45 similar students who wrote about a something neutral.
Considering what just 3 days of focussing on something positive did for the students, shouldn’t you be letting yourself enjoy your successes? When you do have a positive experience playing sport, make sure you take time to enjoy it!
6) Surround yourself with positive people
It’s no fun at all playing with people who are moaners. It’ll quickly bring you down, and where there are two or three of these personalities you can find yourself quickly spiralling downwards in a cycle of negativity and discontent. The only thing worse than being on a team of negative people is to realise that you’re the ringleader!
7) Cut yourself some slack
It’s easy to dwell on your mistakes, but nobody is perfect. Acknowledge the mistake and learn from it: “I shouldn’t have made the mistake that led to their goal, but it happened. Now the only thing I can do is learn from it and move forward so it doesn’t happen again.” Mistakes are nothing more than learning opportunities.
8) Challenge your negative thoughts
Feel a negative thought creeping in during a game? Cut it off at an early stage, before it festers and becomes destructive. If it’s still bothering you at the end of the game, raise it constructively with your teammates.
9) Remember why you’re playing
When all seems to be going wrong and people are getting stressed, consider why you’ve decided to dedicate your free time to playing football in the first place. Most likely it’s because you love it, you want to get some exercise, spend time with your mates, and enjoy yourself in the process. Keep sight of this reason, and don’t let yourself turn the experience into an unpleasant one.
At the end of the game, win or lose, life will carry on as normal so keep things in perspective. it’s not worth getting stressed about, and certainly not worth losing friends over.
10) Smile, laugh and have fun
Football is a game that is best played if you can smile, have a laugh and enjoy yourself. After all, that’s the main reason to play.