Positive Self-Talk: “Why not say something positive about yourself?”

Our thoughts determine our feelings. Our feelings determine our actions.

Words and thoughts we say to ourselves, commonly referred to as Self-Talk, can be used to direct attention to a particular thing to improve focus or in conjunction with other techniques.

Self-Talk is generated within our minds or it can be verbalized. It can improve behavior depending upon how we interpret its words.

Negative Self-Talk produces adverse feelings, anxiety, and physical tension with performance. It affects our intensity regulation, confidence, and concentration. Positive Self-Talk, however, produces constructive feelings and improve performance.

“The Tale of Two Wolves” is a Cherokee legend that illustrates the choices we have to think either positively or negatively.

As the story goes, an old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

“Staying positive in negative situations is the hallmark of mentally strong individuals,” observed mental strength coach, Gregg Swanson. Sport psychologist Jim Afrenow noted, “Understanding that this choice [positive Self-Talk] is yours alone is very empowering and important.”

Talking to one’s self isn’t a sign of mental problems. Having an internal conversation is normal and useful. Self-Talk is more than just building self-confidence. It allows you to use your talents to the fullest. It is neither a mindless positive affirmation nor only happy thoughts nor self-delusion. It can give you a handle for controlling moods. It can help you understand why you react the way you do. And, it helps you repeat success and curtail shortcomings.

Restructuring negative to positive Self-Talk is vital to a successful athlete. An athlete who misses a scoring opportunity may say, “I can’t believe I messed up” or “I stink a this, and I’m no good” can change the focus to “there are better scoring chances” and “bring it on!”

“The ultimate purpose of examining what is going on inside your head is to change actions that are self-defeating,” wrote Swanson. “Thinking correctly does alter your negative moods, but enduring change comes only with modifying your behavior.”

How do we do this? Keep your Self-Talk phrases short and specific. Speak to yourself in the first-person and in the present tense. Say what you want done not what you do not want done. Say these positive words to yourself with meaning and intensity. Finally, speak kind to yourself. Don’t berate yourself if something goes wrong.

Both positive and negative Self-Talk are certainly options for the athlete. The negative Self-Talk focuses on the past (anger, regret, and frustration) while the positive Self-Talk thrives on the present and overflows with optimism (strengthen focus, excitement, and relaxation).

“The mind guides actions. If we succeed in regulating our thoughts, then this will help our behavior,” noted psychologist Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis.


Dr. Kevin Goddu, Ph.D.
Head Golf Professional
Butter Brook Golf Club
Westford, MA


Positive Self-Talk










Sport Performance

Feel Good About Your Sport Performance

Many great players have pursued honing a perfect technique in order to improve their consistency and improve results. Players like Tiger Woods and Serena Williams are perfectionists. They have learned how to get away with the “perfectionist mindset.”

Sport Psychologist Patrick Cohen noted perfectionists have an intense work ethic. They are driven. They have desire. They are motivated. Perfectionists have a great practice mentality. They are always on time. They have a love for practice. They are comfortable in their practice routine. They want to get better. And, they are coachable. In fact, coaches love them, because they hang on everything they say. Great things can happen with being a perfectionist.

However, the problems of perfectionism seem to emerge during competition. Suddenly, it begins to influence how an athlete plays and thinks. Why does this happen? “At its core are the setting of unrealistic goals, a self-focus on performance, and self-criticism over flaws and mistakes,” wrote Jeff Elison of Adams State College and Julie Partridge of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The athlete tries too hard to be perfect. The perfectionist carries a high, often unrealistic expectation during competition. Outcome focus results rather than process focus. Suddenly, the athlete worries too much about what others think—coach, parents, friends, competition. Over thinking interferes with performance, a “paralysis of analysis” syndrome induces underperformance by over thinking. Confidence becomes fragile, and emotions oscillate. The athlete becomes easily upset. “Shame is one of the many emotions that can result from an athletic performance,” noted Elison and Partridge.

When perfection interferes with competition, the athlete needs to trust in his skills and be free to perform. As Bob Rotella said, “Train it and trust it.”

We need to understand the difference between skill and technique. Technique is an efficient way of performing a task. Skill is the ability to get a task completed, irrespective of style or technique. Skill is a feeling and more freedom focused; technique is rigid and compartmentalized.

Most athletes who strive to be perfectionist have some level of skill, but in their quest to improve their consistency, they over focus on technique and as a result their skill diminishes.

The desire to play perfectly, consistently, and mistake-free (like a machine) is an emotional one. Mistakes become painful.

Athletes, who attach their self-confidence to playing abilities, need to first trust in themselves, second trust in their skills, and third trust their technique.

So do we abandon technique and focus on skill? No way! Just as we want to improve skill, so we want to improve technique by focusing on improving technical competence while avoiding perfection. “Ultimately,” wrote Lynda Mainwaring, “a positive and perfect performance is about doing one’s best, feeling good about the performance, and feeling good about one’s self. This is about adaptive performance perfection, or mastery, not adaptive perfectionism.”


Dr. Kevin Goddu, Ph.D.
Head Golf Professional
Butter Brook Golf Club
Westford, MA




Is Success Based on Failure?

Is Success Based on Failure?

Is it OK to fail? Most people believe that failure is something to be embarrassed about, and even a subject that needs to be avoided, in order to show others only the “good side”. On contrary, my believes are

Performance Psychology

Performance Psychology

Over the past half century, the branch of performance psychology has grown dramatically to focus on studying the human factors that enable individuals, teams, and groups to reach their goals for achieving success.

Although it is often stereotypically associated with high-end performance in the arena of professional sports, the discipline studies human traits that can be applied to performance in business, performing arts, fitness, the military, or any other domain with a performance component.

In fact, many performance psychologists conduct their work with the goal of facilitating peak performance guidelines into best practice through even the most mundane elements of our daily lives and interpersonal relationships too.


What Performance Psychologists Do

Performance psychologists are given the responsibility of helping individuals or groups of people identify the positive mindset for developing, enhancing, and maintaining optimal human performance in a variety of applications.

Whether working with athletes, singers, dancers, actors, business owners, soldiers, leaders, doctors, or just average joes, performance psychologists will draw on psychological principles on the human mind to develop the mental skills that are needed to become better at what they already excel at. In most cases, performance psychologists will conduct research studies on attitude, motivation, personality, teamwork, leadership, visualization, self-programming, concentration, training, and other related domains to develop a toolkit that can be utilized to obtain peak performance.

Performance psychologists have the mission of broadening clients’ skills and training them with more healthy habits to perform consistently at high levels in pressure situations.


Different Career Options in Performance Psychology

Through their expertise in goal-setting and mental training for improved performance, these psychologists can find a wide variety of career options available in helping people work towards becoming the highest possible versions of themselves. As with in other branches, performance psychologists are often employed in academia as university or college professors to teach courses in the field as well as conduct research studies on peak performance.

However, those who take a practitioner approach are more likely to be found providing training insights in private practices, corporations, professional athletic teams, schools, community clinics, performing arts organizations, fitness centers, and even certain hospital departments.


How to Become a Performance Psychologist

Master’s degree programs are available to prepare students for careers in coaching or consulting work, but they will not fulfill the qualifications for becoming a psychologist. In most cases, performance psychologists earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree from an accredited graduate school to provide an adequate academic foundation for specializing their career in this discipline.

While there are an increased number of programs available specifically in performance or sports psychology, many aspiring performance psychologists are trained in counseling, clinical, cognitive-behavioral, industrial/organizational, or community psychology before choosing their concentration area in performance.

Students who are enrolled in APA-accredited doctoral degree programs will be required to complete a year-long internship, which should be completed in a setting related to performance.

As the difference between success and failure grows larger in our society, many individuals in sports, business, performing arts, and other high performance domains are increasingly seeking out psychologists with the skills to help them become better tomorrow than they are today.

Therefore, performance psychology is a developing discipline that strives to meet this demand by producing scientifically proven strategies for building stronger mental health and facilitating peak performance among top achievers in all domains.



Cut Weight Before a Fight

How To Cut Weight Before a Fight

To cut weight before a fight can be challenging, but weigh class divisions exist so the matches are more equitable in terms of body size, strength and agility.

However, many athletes in different combat sports acutely reduce body mass in an attempt to get an advantage by competing against lighter, smaller and weaker opponents.

In modern MMA, cutting weight for many athletes has seemingly become more of a strongly advised requirement than an advantage. This is due to that in modern MMA most athletes cut weight to get into a lower weight class, especially when the athletes neutral weight lays right between two weight divisions or just slightly above one.

There are also other factors such as the potential energy loss from cutting weight that can directly affect performance. Therefore, in most cases the advantage of weight cutting becomes less prevalent and balances itself out. Although there are successful cases of athletes gaining weight to get into a higher weight class this section of the paper will more focus on the methods used in weight cutting and the potential benefits and harms of them.

In professional MMA weigh-in (where the athlete’s weights are taken to make sure they are within their weight category) happens around 24 hours before the fight itself This potentially changes the degree of how much an athlete can cut weight before the fight compared to an amateur combat sport event that can have the weigh – in on the same day of the event.

Weight cutting strategies have been in literature usually divided into two categories; Neutral/Gradual Weight Loss (NWL or GWL) and Rapid Weight Loss (RWL) (Franchini et al. 2012a, Coswig et al. 2015). RWL has been characterized by reductions of 5 to 10%+ of body weight in less than a 3-7 days.

Many methods have been utilized by athletes during a weight cut week including; reduced liquid/energy (Carbohydrates & fat) ingestion, saunas, heat suits/bag or fasting.

Aggressive methods like specific diuretics, laxatives and vomiting have also been reported but are rare. It is important to note that diuretics are forbidden by the World Antidoping Agency.

The scientific community seems to lean more towards that RWL methods are very likely to cause some form of negative implications on physical performance. The negative effects that have been demonstrated in studies include: decreased short-term memory, concentration, lower lactate levels (less efficient anaerobic system), decreased testosterone/cortisol ratio, specific muscle damage markers and dehydration.

One study on 40 MMA athletes looked at the effects of RWL on hydration markers 22 hours after weigh-in and 2 hours before the bout. At this point the MMA athletes had gained approx. 4.4% of their body mass back (around 2 – 2.5 kg). Urine specific gravity markers (used to measure dehydration) significantly reduced in 39% of participants indicating serious dehydration just before the bout (Jetton et al. 2013).

It is important to note that unfortunately this study did not report the average amount of weight dropped during the RWL process, so strong conclusions are hard to draw. Another study on MMA athletes showed that using RWL methods to drop around 10% of mass increased the risk of muscle damage markers and catabolic expression pre- and post-bout.

One study on 7 experienced Judo athletes showed no effect on anaerobic performance markers (Wingate test) after a 5% reduction in weight within 5-7 days using own selected RWL methods. The even more intriguing fact was that weigh in was only 4 hours before performance tests. It was also reported that the test group consumed large amount of carbohydrates and food after weigh.

Another study with nearly the exact same set up (5 % reduction, 4-hour recovery window) with 18 combat sport athletes showed no effect on high intensity performance with own selected RWL methods. This study also found no difference between experienced and unexperienced athletes.

In regard to the magnitude of weight loss, Franchini reported that in Judo and Wrestling a considerable amount of athletes (40%) reduce 5-10% of body weight and many athletes reported more than 10% weight cuts.

There seems to be adequate evidence on positive recovery markers with athletes dropping 5% of their mass using RWL methods (Artioli et al. 2010, Mendes et al. 2013), but no studies yet to my knowledge have looked at how a 10% weight cut effects performance markers. Plenty of studies are needed in this area to confirm details, but it seems that many of the negative effects of RWL can be avoided with appropriate guidelines.


From the research made, we can conclude that, if cut weight before a fight, it is better to have organic growth in performance too. For that is best too:   

  • If possible use gradual weight loss (easier to imply if the athlete has to reduce under 5%).
  • Aim to maximize body fat loss and minimize muscle wasting and dehydration when adjusting weight.
  • The athlete who needs to cut weight from the body fat, should not be reduced under 5% for men and 12% for women.
  • During the weight loss period, strength training and BCAA supplementation is necessary (basically getting enough quality protein), because will help preserve muscle mass.
  • During the recovery period after weigh-in, we encourage athletes to consume high amounts of carbohydrates, fluids and electrolytes. Creatine monohydrate supplementation may also be of use if the athlete will recover for a long period after weighing-in.
  • Also the coach should always take into consideration each athlete separately in how they react to cutting weight.


Recommendations for weight cutting and better recovery.


Cut Weight Before FightCut Weight Before Fight




Cut Weight Before Fight

Quit Playing Sport

What To Do and Say if You Child Wants to Quit Playing Sport

At one time or another and for a variety of reasons, most athletes think about quitting. Sometimes a decision to quit playing sport, comes as a shock to parents, but at other times the warning signs leading up to it are very clear.


What are the causes of dropping out of youth sports?

In general, the reasons fall into two categories. The first category involves a shift in interests, especially during adolescence. Other involvements, such as a job, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or recreational pursuits may leave little time for sports. In such cases, a youngster may simply choose to set other priorities.

The second category of reasons why kids quit involves negative sport experiences. Research has shown that the following reasons often underlie a decision to drop out:

  • Not getting enough playing time.
  • Poor relationships with coaches or teammates.
  • An overemphasis on winning that creates stress and reduces fun.
  • Over-organization, excessive repetition, and regimentation leading to boredom.
  • Excessive fear of failure, including frustration or failure to achieve personal or team goals.

What are some tips for resolving the problem?

1. Be proactive. The ideal approach is to prevent the dilemma from occurring. In a New York Times blog, Lisa Belkin recommended developing an anti-quitting plan as an integral part of signing up for a sport. In essence, she advocates forming a contract that includes the following conditions:

  • If you commit to a team, you have to complete the season.
  • If you want to quit because you’re being hurt, physically or emotionally, then that cancels out the above.

2. It’s very important to find out the reason(s) your child wants to quit. This requires open discussion to probe some ways to resolve the difficulties being experienced. In doing this, Catherine Holecko provided sound advice in herFamily Fitness blog. Specifically, she recommends choosing a time and place that’s comfortable to your child, and asking (with sensitivity) some of the following questions:

  • You seemed really interested when signing-up. What’s changed?
  • Do you remember the two conditions of the contract we made?
  • Is there something going on that you’d like to talk about?
  • Are you disappointed about your performance, or your team’s?
  • Is there something else you prefer to do instead?
  • Would you like to play the same sport, but on a different team?
  • How do you think your coach/teammates would feel if you quit the team?

3. If the youngster has decided that other activities are more important, his or her priorities should be respected. However, it’s wise to provide a reminder that a commitment has been made to the program and to teammates. In other words, athletes owe it to themselves and to others to honor commitments and to finish the season. This gives the youngster an opportunity to feel good about himself or herself by fulfilling the obligation through the remainder of the season—even if the activity itself is no longer pleasurable.

4. If appropriate, you may wish to take some active steps to correct the difficulties identified. This will likely involve speaking to the coach or a program administrator. In talking with your youngster, you should evaluate how intolerable the situation is to him or her and whether the problems can be worked out. In all but the most severe cases, you can point out that a commitment has been made, and you can encourage your youngster to finish the season.

5. If the problems are sufficiently severe, the decision to drop out may be in the best interests of your child. In this case, you would want to communicate to your child that although it’s important to live up to commitments, you understand that the principle is outweighed by the nature of the problems.

If the child does drop out, there may be other opportunities to play in a sport program that doesn’t have the negative factors that prompted the decision to quit.

Also it is important to understand that everybody may feel the same way about sport. Here’s a recommendation for a better understanding.