The Power of Self-Talk in Tennis

07 May 2024
5 min read
Authors – Vedika Jogani

A recent graduate from Ithaca College with a Master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science, specializing in Mental Performance, Vedika Jogani is OMP’s Product and Content Manager.

Ever wondered how athletes playing an individual sport pump themselves up?  

How do they push through setbacks when it’s just them on the court, relying solely on their own pep talks? This is through the power of self-talk.  

Self-talk has been found to enhance attentional focus, confidence, regulate effort, control cognitive and emotional reactions and trigger automatic execution of skills and tasks.  

 A study done in 2001 examined reasons for why athletes use self-talk and defined into under 2 broad dimensions:  

  1. Motivational dimension: this is used for psyching-up, increasing self-confidence and regulating anxiety. 
  1. Cognitive dimension: this is used for execution of skills and development of strategies. 

Athletes primarily use two distinct kinds of self-talk:  

  1. Instructional Self-Talk: the use of cues that instruct or guide certain aspects of performance like “Bend your knees,” “Focus on the shot.” 
  1. Motivational Self-Talk: the use of positive statements or words to increase confidence, motivation like “I can do it.” 

Research suggests that motivational self-talk can have a greater impact on motivational related outcomes like confidence, effort and self-efficacy beliefs.  

A study done on tennis players found that the use of motivational self-talk increased self-efficacy and performance. 

This study revealed that tennis players engaging in motivational self-talk led to improvements in both self-efficacy and performance.  

The study also found a correlation between changes in self-efficacy and changes in performance, indicating that enhanced self-efficacy could potentially explain the positive impact of self-talk on performance.  

Given the significance of self-efficacy in athletic performance, these findings underscore the effectiveness of motivational self-talk as a strategy for cultivating self-efficacy. 

Self-talk stands as the athlete’s inner coach, fueling focus, confidence, and skill execution.  

Research underscores its pivotal role, especially in tennis, where motivational self-talk enhances self-efficacy and performance.  

By harnessing the power of positive affirmations and instructional cues, athletes navigate challenges, fostering a mindset of empowerment and peak performance. 



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