Guest author Shakiba Moghadam explains how boxers can become their own worst enemy through negative self-talk, and how boxers can be more positive to improve performance.
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Negative Self-Talk: You Are You’re Own Worst Enemy
Boxing can be a lonely sport, especially in the ring, where negative thoughts and self-doubt might creep in. Similarly, such thoughts might pop into the boxer’s head either before or during a training session or just before a big rep.
Such thoughts can be negative because of many reasons such as lack of confidence, past experiences, recent injuries or loss.
These thoughts can become destructive over time and affect the boxer’s performance. This is because negative thoughts can gradually lower the boxer’s self-confidence in their own ability.
So how can a boxer identify negative self-talk?
Negative self-talk can be distinguished by unrealistic or self-defeating statements such as “I’m going to fail for sure” or “I didn’t perform well, I’m no good”. These thoughts tend to creep up when a boxer is experiencing demanding tasks or hasn’t received the best feedback.
Negative self-talk can also lead to bodily changes such as increased heart rate and increased sweating, and so boxers who experience negative self-talk may also experience high levels of anxiety.
Although, it’s natural to experience negative self-talk and be critical of our own expectations, it’s important to realise when self-talk becomes detrimental.
Challenging negative self-talk
Challenging negative self-talk enables boxers to break down why negative self-talk has occurred. This also enables boxers to feel more positive towards demanding situations and to judge these situations in an optimistic and realistic manner.
It is also important to keep in mind that learning to dispute negative thoughts may take time and practice.
Challenging negative self-talk can gradually help to increase the boxer’s self-confidence towards a specific task (i.e. sparring). Once boxers have evaluated the reasons on why negative self-talk has occurred, they will start to realise how much of the negative thoughts were, in fact, inaccurate, exaggerated or only focused on the negative aspects of the situation.
Raising awareness of these thoughts is the starting point to fight off negative self-talk and to use these feelings as a cue to re-analyse the situation in a positive way.
One way of re-analysing the situation would be to replace the negative thoughts with positive and motivating self-statements. Firstly, it’s important to recognise the build-up of negative thoughts and identify where in training or competition these thoughts have developed.
Secondly, it’s important to prevent these thoughts from accelerating to more damaging thoughts. So, boxers must become aware their self-talk during demanding situations.
Finally, replacing these statements with positive cues is crucial. For example, if a boxer thinks “I can’t last the final round”, that’s a clear sign of negative self-talk. But re-analysing the situation and replacing these negative cues with optimistic statements such as “This is my last round, I’m going to give it my all” will motivate the boxer to perform to the best of their ability.
Positive self-talk can, therefore, help to enhance performance and self-confidence and help to maintain an optimistic mind frame.
Let’s Go Champ
The famous catch-phrase “Let’s go champ!” is a great example of using positive self-talk by Shannon Briggs. No matter how long or short the catch-phrase, as long as it’s positive it will be effective.
Floyd Mayweather’s “Hard Work, Dedication” and Pacqiaou’s “Manny Knows” are other examples.
Another way for boxers to re-analyse the situation would be to implement self-talk techniques in training.
The boxers can do this through keeping a record of their self-talk in a logbook. The logbook strategy aims to improve the boxer’s appraisal of difficult situations and help them recognise negative self-talk.
The logbook also allows boxers to note down when the negative self-talk started to creep in, what statements were thought of, and how these statements affected the boxer’s thoughts, emotions, and performance.
The logbook should be used immediately after training to avoid misinterpreting self-talk or forgetting what was thought of. As previously mentioned, by analysing where self-talk may have occurred the boxers will be able to replace negative self-statements with more positive statements.
The logbook should be used for at least 6 weeks to allow time for evaluation of the boxer’s progression.
The implementation of the logbook strategy can be used with any age group at any given time in the boxer’s boxing career.
We all have inner demons. Don’t let negative thoughts get in your way.