Sport psychology – inside the mind of champion athletes: Martin Hagger at TEDxPerth


Translator: Mohand Habchi
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard When we look at Olympic sport, sport at the highest level, there are clearly some athletes
who always seem to get it right. For example, Usain Bolt: Olympic 100m, 200m champion, twice over, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics
and in the London Olympics. Michael Phelps:
the most bemedaled Olympian of all time. These are athletes
who clearly get it right, both psychologically
and physiologically all of the time. It is also interesting to note that
they have contrasting approaches. Usain Bolt, with all his comedy antics, prior to his event,
when he is on the start line. We’ve all seen this.
(Laughter) Michael Phelps,
however, a much different approach. He sits down,
he is listening to music, he has much more
cerebral, contemplative approach towards his event. But it’s both very effective. Sport psychology may play a part
in their preparation for their events, and maybe a reason
why they’re successful. What happens when things go wrong? Here’s another example. In the 2012 Olympics in London
in the soccer final, there were two finalists,
Brazil and Mexico. Brazil were the undoubted favorites. They were expected to win. They were the reigning Olympic champions. They were extremely skilled, on paper, they were the best team. Mexico had made it to the final
playing well, but they were unfancied. In the final,
Mexico went at Brazil in an incredible display
of attacking football. It was incredibly impressive to watch. And if you watched
the Brazilian players, their heads dropped. They seemed slightly defeated. They could not understand why they were not performing
quite as well as they were. Perhaps they were complacent. Perhaps they’d expected too much. Perhaps they were overconfident. The Mexicans had nothing to lose, they attacked with fervor and they won the Olympic title, they were the Olympic champions
over the fancy favorites. Perhaps sport psychology
can explain why fancied champions may be over-confident and may fail
when they’re expected to win, and perhaps why underdogs
take on the best and win
despite all the odds. Take another example. James Magnussen: a man with seemingly
unshakable self-confidence. He said he was going to win
the 100m-sprint final in the pool at the London Olympics. He was extremely confident. But in that race, he was out-touched
in the line by Nathan Adrian, by 1/100 of a second. And that was devastating for him, you could see his body language after,
he was destroyed. Perhaps he was over-confident. Perhaps though,
his obvious confidence in the events leading up
to the actual final. Perhaps his confidence belied
an undelying self low confidence. Perhaps he was not
very confident inside when he should have been
supremely confident of his abilities because he was
the world leader in the event. So perhaps psychology
may have played a part, but in particular,
it may help when overcoming such a devastating defeat
for the next event. Another very good example:
Roy McAvoy. In the 2011 Augusta masters,
he was expected to win, he was amongst the favorites certainly, and he’s an extremely talented golfer. In fact, he is the one player
that all the people on the tour, all the golfers on the tour,
the PGA tour, fear the most. And yet on the day, when he was leading,
on the final day of the event he was leading by four shots. He’d played superbly
on the previous three days. He experienced
a catastrophic drop in his performance. He shot a round of 80, and this is something
that professional golfers can do in their sleep,
certainly very easily, because they frequently shoot
rounds of 70 or below and that’s a good shot. So 80 was a catastrophic failure, and he ended up tying for fifteenth place. So you’d think that
that sort of devastating performance may have impacted on his mind. However, only eight weeks later,
he won the U.S open, and there was no sign
of the lack of confidence and the fact that the pressure
had got to him, that was displayed
when he was in Augusta. So it seemed that
he picked up the pieces. And what is it that made him do so? Sport psychology
may indeed have the answers. So, elite athletes, coaches, and the people who surround athletes, know very well the importance
of sport psychology, and they’re beginning to embrace it. Sport psychologists are often included in the teams
that surround athletes nowadays. What is sport psychology? Well, it is the science,
study and practice of mental preparation for sport. It involves identifying
the techniques and strategies that athletes can take and use, so they perform on their most optimum. It also helps athletes deal
with come back, with setbacks and help them to come back
from devastating defeats. Such as those by James Magnussen
or Roy McAvoy. So we just begin to unpack
some of these strategies that sport psychologists talk about. So looking inside of the mind of a winner, what factors are linked
to success in sport? Well, clearly an athlete
has to be motivated. Often goals that athletes set,
describe or… will demonstrate
how much effort and how much will they have to win
in their event. But sometimes motivation
is not enough. An athlete has to be confident, and confidence seems to be ubiquitous
amongst high-performing performers. There’s a number of strategies
that athletes can use to boost their confidence. Another important factor
is knowledge of the sport. So basically,
knowing your sport inside out, but also knowing the opposition. What are their strengths and weaknesses? One of the phrases coined
by Clive Woodward, who was the England coach at the time they won
the Rugby World Cup in 2003. One of the phrases he coined, was, “Total rugby, leaving no stone unturned
when it comes to performance.” He was very famous for developing
dossiers on the opposition. Knowing their strengths,
knowing their weaknesses and where he could attack them
and how he could tactically win them. And that’s clearly important
in sports these days. So, using psychology
to understand the opposition as well as yourself. Athletes are also
very good at using routines, getting themselves
in the right frame of mind. We’ll look at that
in a few moments time. Athletes are also good
at handling pressure. If you look at Usain Bolt
or Michael Phelps, they are cases in point. And anxiety management
is clearly an important aspect of an athlete’s arsenal of strategies to get them
in the right frame of mind so that they can perform at their best. So let’s look at some
of these strategies in detail. Motivation is clearly very important,
and how do you get athlete motivated? The most important things
are the goals that they set. The goals that they set
will determine how much drive, how much effort, how much will they have to perform well. But often a goal of winning
is not enough. Sometimes, oh, most times, it is important that an athlete
has a number of sub-goals which are related
to their performance. So things like personal bests, that drive them
both in training and in competition. It’s important that these goals
conform to certain features. And scientists,
psychologists and practitioners always refer to this SMART- acronym. And that’s because,
having goals that are realistic, relevant, specific,
measurable and so forth, are really important when it comes
to getting an athlete motivated. As I said earlier,
motivation is not enough. It is important
that an athlete is confident, and there are number of ways you can boost
an athlete’s self-confidence. Experience. Reminding an athlete
of their experience is extremely important. Modeling.
I don’t mean catwalk-modeling here, modeling is also an important aspect, because that enables an athlete
to have a model or blueprint if you like
of the optimum performance. Imagery and self-talk are parts of that
and we’ll get on to those in a moment. Feedback is clearly important as well. Positive feedback
from the athlete’s coaches. Imagery is a mental rehearsal and it is a strategy
that many athletes use. And here are the kinds of things
that an athlete or a coach will go through,
when they’re rehearsing their performance. It is almost like
a video of their performance. They will also use prompts, but they also visualize
any contingency that arise. For example, any barriers
or problems or difficulties that arise during the course
of their competition. Here’s an example
of these kinds of strategies in action. This is Blanka Vlašić: she was a former world champion,
high jumper, and YWF athlete of the year. And she was very famous for going through
the same performance routine prior to a competition. She would close her eyes,
visualize a successful jump. She would clap her hands rhythmically, and use the audience
to get the audience on board and that would both boost her motivation
and her confidence, and then she would practice some moves
shortly before executing her jump. Self-talk is another strategy
that athletes use. It’s an extremely important strategy because it enables athletes
to go through in their mind and use mantras
to try to boost their motivation, but also to try to manage
the competition and the situation. For example, the situation where the pressure
is on and they are highly anxious. So, self-talk might have
motivational components, but it also might help athletes
focus on important things that are relevant to performance, so-called cues,
and also might have a calming effect. Things like breathe and relax. Anxiety management is an important aspect
of sport performance. Clearly at the Olympic Game the World Championships
at the highest level, athletes are going to be under pressure and they need to be able
to cope with that pressure. Sometimes being too anxious can actually undermine
an athlete performance. It can be sub-optimal. So relaxation techniques
are extremely important in this regard, and psychologists will work with athletes
to try and help them to relax. So it might involve
things like breathing, stretching,
relaxing the muscles, they’ll also use things
like music and meditation. Michael Phelps is a good example, he listens to music right up
to the few minutes before is an event, and that music will get him
to the right frame of mind for that event. It will help him to relax
but it will also motivate him. Here’s a good example
of somebody using those techniques to the greatest extent. This is Yelena Isinbayeva: double Olympic champion
at the pole vault, and also the world record holder. This is her in the 2012 Olympics,
she’s clearly very relaxed, she lies back,
she covers herself in a close, this has the effect
of shutting out any distractions but also it has the effect of relaxing her
and relieving the pressure. So in term of the mind of a winner
from a sport psychology perspective, an athlete has to be motivated,
confident in their abilities, manage pressure extremely well, and use these well
trained-drilled techniques like imagery,
self-talk and relaxation. Thank you. (Applause)


100 Responses

  1. Callum Brown

    February 6, 2017 1:00 am

    Thank you for this video I know sports take a lot of physical activity but mental is important too!

  2. reSunator Chang

    March 2, 2017 1:28 pm

    This is such a fascinating subject and I was so excited to listen but man the way this guy talk is sooooooo boring and borderline annoying.

  3. Rhino Ragni

    March 12, 2017 8:32 am

    "Sometimes being anxious can undermine an athlete's performance."  Thank you Captain Obvious!   Who is this stiff?  It seems like he's reading an outline that someone else wrote.  They're really scraping the bottom of the barrel for these TED TALKS these days.

  4. jrn00498

    June 2, 2017 5:38 pm

    let me shorten this video: some people are great at sports, some are just good. They all approach their match/game in their own way.

  5. Mr Constantin

    June 13, 2017 3:45 am

    It's missing a most key component, the spiritual well being of an athlete. Speaker borrowed and incorporated a lot of Buddhist religious practices to compensate. However there is a superior means of addressing the spiritual well being and this presentation didn't address it directly.
    This presentation was very much lacking in my opinion, which once again brings into question if psychology is even a science. Take away behavioral science and neurology from psychology and what do you have? Seems like in this case you have yoga. 
    Take home message – want to be the best according to the speaker, then incorporate yoga. He was promoting Buddhist mysticism achieved through yoga and rebranded it to sound legitimate science, by calling it psychology. 
    It was also misleading because Phelps doesn't practice yoga and is a devote Christian. So if you're going to represent Buddhist sympathizing athletes, then accurately convey those who in this case are Christian and use a different method. 
    And further more instead of approaching this in an atheistic stand point recognize that yoga is a religious practice, because it is. Don't smuggle religious practices into the presentation and pretend they are a-religious.

  6. Val Robinson

    June 26, 2017 1:51 pm

    For a better intellectual ability, memory, and focus, this brain training game “nonu amazing only” (Google it) is encouraged. First, this app is exciting! I am finding my strengths and also those parts that challenge. I really appreciate making use of this game to help myself progress and have fun.

  7. Georgi Stoev

    June 28, 2017 3:15 pm

    bla bla bla…. boring and not valuable as information that i can use! Eat shit mr Hagger

  8. Sahil Lathia

    August 18, 2017 4:21 am

    Sport psychology is a science that draws on knowledge from many related fields including biomechanics, physiology, kinesiology and psychology. It involves the study of how psychological factors affect performance and how participation in sport and exercise affect psychological and physical factors. Proper instruction and training of psychological skills for performance improvement, applied sport psychology may include work with athletes, coaches, and parents regarding injury, rehabilitation, communication, team building, and career transitions. Performance routines, Imagery or Self-talk are most used techniques that psychologists teach to athletes for improving their performance. i.e.- Michael Phelps (an American former competitive swimmer and the most decorated Olympian of all time) listens music before any competition which helps him to focus.

  9. Haroldo Ribeiro

    October 24, 2017 8:04 pm

    I wonder know how in earth TED approved that, after 5 minutes that seemed to be a lot more I had to stop the video and came to see the comments.

  10. Edward Casanova

    October 28, 2017 7:21 pm

    There's a huge difference between knowing and doing it unconsciously or consciously. The latter takes practice, the former is just about memory 😉

  11. William Wang

    November 8, 2017 10:40 pm

    this guy doesn't present much useful information, it's very much a surface level look at sports psychology, with a lot of examples of athletes who use it, but it doesn't really look inside the minds of any champion athletes…rather just gives examples of successes and failures

  12. Nour Lababidi

    November 10, 2017 11:03 am

    Thank you. Some people mentioned that this video doesn't tell us anything new. I disagree, this video reminds you with what we naturally know which is the make sense and that is why you think it's not new. This is a reminder to enjoy and live the moment while doing sports. So go tomorrow and try to apply keeping your mind in the activity. you will come back and thanks him

  13. Yuri

    December 2, 2017 10:09 am

    One wrong information: Brazil wasn't the reigning Oympic champion against Mexico in 2013. In fact, Brazil has never won the Olympic football medal until 2016.

  14. Emily Heil

    December 5, 2017 7:04 pm

    I am a D1 student athlete who will be creating a channel telling of my struggles with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and relationships. I want others to know they aren't alone and hopefully I can help through things I still struggle with. You're not alone. We aren't alone.

  15. charles goldbach

    December 6, 2017 1:54 am

    I learned that the next time I give a talk to a large audience to not start a sentence to the far left side and end the sentence to the far right side.

  16. paladro

    December 6, 2017 8:07 pm

    given the prevalence of PED's at the highest levels of all sport, amateur and pro, psychology is important, but so is chemistry. ))

  17. Scott Seymour

    December 9, 2017 5:55 am

    Honestly thought it was a good talk. Very refreshing to hear. As a college athlete, sometimes I forget the simple mental aspect of success.

  18. Don Kirk

    March 19, 2018 2:56 am

    After about the twentieth "perhaps," it became clear that the speaker has no science in his talk.

  19. Wade Cortez

    April 18, 2018 6:25 am

    Hi I found a spot where you can find great deal of new yoga and fitness tips available on the internet. Simply type: "MindYoga4U" in Google. It will be very helpful for you.

  20. Daltira

    April 25, 2018 11:40 am

    I’m not hear to hear about someone who runs in a straight line and has a natural born talent to run faster than anyone

  21. James Schultz, Ph.D.

    May 22, 2018 7:52 pm

    So cool that the two different contrasting styles can be equally as effective. Phelps is pure baller.

  22. Alma Galicia

    August 15, 2018 2:23 pm

    Perhaps perhaps perhaps…so you are building your discourse upon hypotheses and we are suppossed to believe you??

  23. Mathew Sunmonu

    August 30, 2018 11:54 pm

    Good day Prof. I am so impressed with this video and it inspired me more to have deep interest in this our noble profession. Am a Phd student in Nigeria studying sports psychology. I always enjoy your video clips and wish to have yo as my mentor sir

  24. Sirvart Sarafian

    September 5, 2018 9:50 am

    I don't get why people don't think this is a good video.. I think he covers the main areas in which sports psychology can help with. Such as the areas needing work on for perpetration (goal setting, confidence, motivation), the consequences associated with loss, and how to get back up understanding the opponent and performance day psychy management. He specifies that sports psychologists provide techniques and strategies which athletes NEED and DO and gives an example of Michael Phelps and Blanka Vlasic. So yes, he talks about how a sports psychologist can help but the only reason why this job exists is because of the athletes/human mind!

  25. Bruno Camodeca

    October 4, 2018 3:53 pm

    The video seems perfectly interesting and does a well enough job of keeping my attention. I don't understand how you people can't bother 12 minutes or so to learn a new item of info.

  26. Hari Sankar

    October 7, 2018 6:00 am

    Error :- Brazil were not the defending Olympic champions in 2012, Argentina won the 2008 Olympics. Brazil won their first Olympics gold in 2016.

  27. Lion Heart

    December 26, 2018 6:34 pm

    Kudos for the Video clip! Sorry for chiming in, I would appreciate your thoughts. Have you tried – Marnaavid Unexplainable Intervention (Sure I saw it on Google)? It is a great one off product for learning how to hack your flow state without the hard work. Ive heard some awesome things about it and my cousin after a lifetime of fighting got astronomical success with it.

  28. WeLive2inspire

    December 28, 2018 5:37 am

    I find this boring and tiring I am sorry u lost me,you did a kinda better job at the end but you really didn’t make your points in a way to win me as a former international athlete and currently a coach I thing u have good elements in here but not right into the point that will help much somebody .thank u for the effort tho

  29. Sonalli Guptaa

    March 12, 2019 9:34 am

    So true!
    Our channel is all about the idea of figuring out what goes behind the mind of individuals who play sports and how it helps them grow in other aspects of their life. And how others can benefit from it.

  30. Audel Salazar

    March 26, 2019 3:18 pm

    Summary of this abysmal Tedx Talk about Sport Psychology from Inside the Mind of a Winner:
    1. Mexicans are better at soccer than Brazilians
    2. What are in his pockets?
    3. Factors that are linked to success in sport: Motivation, Confidence, Performance Knowledge, Routines, Anxiety Management
    4. For motivation, set a SMARTER goal: Specific, Meaningful, Agreed, Relevant, Time-Specific, Engaging, Recorded
    5. Improve confidence through experience, "modelling" (observation, imagery, self-talk), and feedback
    6. Use imagery for mental preparation and rehearsal, especially useful for visualizing obstacles and barriers to overcome to be successful
    7. Use self-talk for motivation, focusing, and calming oneself
    8. There are numerous relaxation techniques for anxiety management: breathing, stretching, relaxing the muscles, listening to music, and meditation
    9. Never found what was in his pockets…

  31. roger

    March 30, 2019 2:33 am

    Brasil was never the reigning Olympic champion. They barely won their first Olympic gold medal in soccer recently.

  32. Muhammad Huzaifa

    May 22, 2019 7:53 am

    I know my country isn't in the conditions that I can play for my country internationally. But for my juniors I will say for sport the biggest thing is that don't think you lose now. Until the last second has been ended. It isn't words it is the truth. Courageous people rule the world rather than talented. Because you overcome anything through your brave mindset. I am playing in Pakistan for my city's club that is Karachi. My first 50 games isn't good. 50 games just 8 goals and 3 assists. I started playing for the club at the age of 16. Now I am 20. Make yourself A BIG GAME PLAYER means ready yourself for the champion at any second of the time. Today I have played 164 games scored 90 goals.82 goals in last 114 games. And 46 assists. Won 3 titles and have 2 times best player of the City. This season i have played 41 games and scored 36 goals with 9 assists. My best players are Ronaldo Ibrahimovic and none others than Messi.

  33. brothajack1993

    June 30, 2019 7:36 am

    Talks about relaxing in the most unrelaxed manner. "Athletes must relax." Yeah like that forced intent is counter productive to actually relaxing someone.

    Honesty what a weasel monkey. We all know these year 3 concepts

  34. sanjuansteve

    July 23, 2019 3:59 pm

    Here are a few ways to become mentally strong:

    1. Be giving/volunteer: Join a group and go to volunteer in a large scale disaster dedicating a week to doing nothing but helping others. Lifting others is always an uplifting experience and spending a week at your own expense to help others earning nothing but finding it to be a more rewarding experience than working for money as usual really frees us from capitalism. Spending a week living and working with people many of whom have lost everything including loved ones really helps us appreciate every single thing and every moment in life as well. The inner happiness from selflessly helping others in times of great need is one that stays with us forever.

    2. Fast: Study intermittent fasting to learn of the benefits of 48 hour or longer fasts. Fasting for days teaches us we’re stronger than we thought, both mentally and physically, including the mental challenge of fasting itself. Once we know we can fast and that fasting is healthy, controlling our weight and health become much easier.

    3. Fight sports: Learn fight sports of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing, wrestling, Judo, etc and actually spar, roll and compete on any level. Fight sports are wonderful for teaching both self-confidence as well as humility.

    4. Challenge yourself, always.

  35. Fc channel

    July 29, 2019 7:00 pm

    what i learned was this from playing basketball i lossed i score like 2 or 3 point in a game but the whole time in that game i found my weak spots i went online found a denfinsive drills and did it everyday i think the mindset is to find where you did wrong and work on it like kobe said you got to look at your weakness and fix it

  36. Karuna Karan

    August 31, 2019 2:30 pm

    people find happiness in criticizing people on internet this is a new form of achieving self esteem .self esteem is the people’s self belief in them achieved through their will power


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