5 min read

Athletes Are Over-Thinkers. Here’s How to Short-Circuit Their Thinking.

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As a coach or parent, you know that your athletes are constantly thinking. They’re thinking about their technique, their strategy, their competition… the list goes on and on. And while all this thinking might seem like a good thing, it can actually have a negative impact on an athlete’s performance. That’s why it’s important to be able to short-circuit an athlete’s overthinking and help them focus on what’s important. Here are a few ways to do just that.

Encourage Open Communication

One of the best ways to short-circuit an athlete’s overthinking is to encourage open communication in the coach-athlete relationship. This will help you understand what your athletes are thinking and the difficulties they are having. It will also help you identify any areas where an athlete might be overthinking things. For example, if an athlete is constantly second-guessing their technique, you can provide feedback and reassurance that will help them relax and trust their skills.  Open communication also allows you to give encouragement, support, and guidance which can help athletes stay focused on the task at hand.

Help Them Monitor Their Self-Talk

Another way to help athletes focus and avoid overthinking is to help them monitor their self-talk. This can be done by asking them about their thoughts during specific situations or events. For example, you can ask an athlete what they were thinking before or during a competition. If they report feeling anxious or doubtful, you can provide guidance on how to reframe those thoughts in a more positive light.  You can also encourage them to focus on the process of competing, rather than the results.  By helping them to be aware of their self-talk, they can be more mindful and intentional with their thoughts. This will help them stay focused on the task at hand and avoid unnecessary distractions from negative emotions or overthinking.

Use Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques such as ratio breathing and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) can also be helpful in reducing performance anxiety. These techniques can help athletes focus on their breath and relax their muscles, which will in turn help calm their minds and ease any racing thoughts.  Ratio breathing involves inhaling a certain number of counts and exhaling the same amount. For example, you may choose to inhale for four counts and then exhale for four counts. PMR is a technique that helps relax tense muscles by sequentially tensing and releasing muscle groups throughout the body. By focusing on each group of muscles, one by one, athletes can physically relax and become less anxious.

As a coach or parent, it’s important to be aware of the fact that athletes are constantly thinking. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can lead to overthinking and anxiety which can impact an athlete’s performance. By encouraging open communication, helping them monitor their self-talk, and using relaxation techniques, you can short-circuit an athlete’s overthinking and help them focus on what’s important.