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How Does Psychology Affect Sports Performance?

Nate Roberts provides an overview of how goal setting, routine, and visualization can help athletes and coaches overcome internal and external negative psychological factors.

We all know the importance of preparing physically to compete in sports. Psychological preparation is vital for an athlete. Without the right mindset, it will not matter how often an athlete has been training and working out - they will not be able to perform at their best.

Both internal and external negative psychological factors can have a profound effect on how well an athlete performs; they can cause mental disruptions when practicing, breaks in focus, and even influence physicality, for example by causing shaking, muscle tightness, and increased perspiration, all of which can lead to injury if left untreated. Strategies such as goal setting, routine, and visualization can help athletes and coaches overcome these powerful psychological effects, along with talking therapies to help athletes change their mindset and improve their self-confidence.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is a powerful psychological strategy that is used by many professional athletes and coaches. However, as any good sports coach will tell you, the goals set by an athlete must, above all, be realistic. For the best results, goals should be set in small increments, rather than just one large end goal, and it should be ensured that they can be achieved in the short-term.

Exaggerated large goals, without smaller goals along the way, can lead to a severe loss of self-confidence and decreased performance over time for athletes, especially if said goals are not met. For example, the time goals set by athletes such as track and field runners or swimmers should be small and achievable in the short-term, so that they can work up to a long-term goal such as winning a competition.

Once a goal is met, writing it down and checking it off can be a potent tool to help any athlete build their self-confidence and feel ready to tackle the next one. This is because it sets a clear picture of achievements, which can serve as a reminder to athletes of how well they have done so far.

Routine and Practice

As humans, we love routine – our brains are wired to get into regular routines, whether that be the time that we get up in the morning and go to sleep at night, or in the case of athletes, routines for practice and preparation. Whilst some athletes, however, are not overly affected by routine, others can have various superstitions which means that they end up obsessively following various patterns, and routines both before, during, and after the competition.

For example, one popular routine amongst many professional athletes is listening to music; many will have to listen to a particular song at a certain time before they are due to compete and some even believe that not doing so might cause them to perform more poorly than usual. Athletes who stick to a routine can often suffer from a diminished mindset if the habit is broken; if they believe that they will not perform as well, they are often unable to focus.


When it comes to athletic performance, visualising success can go a long way in helping an athlete to achieve their goals and get the results that they want. If you are using betting offers in the UK, including a range of free bets and bonuses, to back a particular athlete or sportsperson, then it is a good idea to find one who regularly visualises themselves as a winner, since this is a very powerful psychological tool that can often lead to success. This is because when an athlete can visualise themselves doing well and achieving what they set out to, it will become much easier for them to accomplish their tasks when in the physical environment.


Preparing the body is vital for athletes to succeed, but the right mindset is also needed to be a winner.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • ROBERTS, N. (2017) How Does Psychology Affect Sports Performance? [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Nate Roberts is a personal trainer based in the UK. Nate holds a BSc. in Sports and Exercise Medical Sciences from the University of Exeter and competes in CrossFit and Powerlifting when he's not making his clients bigger and better humans.