December 1, 2022

Strategies for Improving Sports Performance

By Zachariah Seifert
Mental Health & Wellbeing

It is important to set the stage for success in sport and identify what techniques are most helpful for the most desired outcomes. Establishing a direction and setting goals can be instrumental in setting this stage. If you need support setting goals, it can be helpful to use the traditional SMART acronym when goal setting. Once you have identified what you want and established some achievable goals, it’s time to go after them! When attacking these goals, identifying rhythms that can be replicated is helpful in carrying out this direction. Rhythms make practice and preparation more focused on the goals you are working to accomplish. 

Establishing Direction and Goals

This step is all about identifying an aim and being honest about what you want. Understanding where you would like to improve in a specific skill or area of sport is crucial in identifying how to get there. Do you want to increase athletic flexibility or range of motion in a particular body area? Improve competitiveness in a specific sport? Simply learning how to play something that you have never tried? Establishing a direction or mindset that sets your compass at an aim gives a person the ability to begin pursuing a passion or desire more intently. 

Utilizing SMART goals

SMART is an acronym which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive, allowing individuals to effectively establish direction when practicing sport and working to improve in an identified area. It can enhance a person’s ability to be mindful about their needs or desires and can increase motivation. Goal setting is a wonderful skill to build into sport performance, because it establishes a tangible way to monitor progress or data to confirm its relevance and/or alter the trajectory to better meet overall needs. Becoming competent and efficient in various sporting skills is a grind. It mimics the skills that we develop in life, by practicing and adjusting based on results. The long hours and sweat that we dedicate to an identified goal often pays off by creating a comfortability or ability to act out of a “second nature” when called upon to replicate. To become better at something, we don’t often see the hours and hours of time spent failing and trying again. Instead, we see the benefits overtime and the production that comes after as the identified reward for our efforts. It is the same in the sporting world. Setting a SMART goal helps cultivate purpose in practices that could otherwise seem aimless and monotonous. 

Establishing Helpful Rhythms

When considering improving sports performance it is important to recognize the benefit of repeatable practices that support goal pursuits, activate presence, and simplify preparation techniques. I like to use the term “rhythm” instead of “routine” because of the negative connotation that can sometimes come with setting a routine. There can be a sense of failure in the term routine when we don’t replicate it specifically. When thinking about the word rhythm, it is more malleable and able to adapt and change if needed when circumstances are uncontrollable as they often are in life and before participating in sport (i.e., where you are playing, who you are playing, access to equipment, etc.).Thinking in these terms will be helpful when you are establishing these repeatable practices, especially when you don’t always have access to the exact same environment.

Rhythms/Preparation Techniques

The Specific Skill or Technique

For example: shooting technique in basketball, running form in track and field, iron striking in golf, etc. Identifying the specific skill you are focusing on is the first step in developing a rhythm.


Imagining success, walking through events or skills within your mind, visually practicing and planning potential. Imagery is a wonderful technique used to inspire an outcome or encourage oneself to become fully present in a moment. It allows an individual to block out the exterior world and focus on the task at hand. This is helpful in sport as it is impossible to control the multitude of variables that could arise when on that field, court, track, pitch, course, etc. 

Positive Self-Talk

A wonderful way to encourage positivity and set the stage for mindsets that can support sport performance rather than hinder outcomes. Self-talk allows a person to inspire greatness and resilience in the face of failure. Often our self-talk in a normal day can disproportionately lean toward the negativity we experience in moments. Positive self-talk allows individuals to push through the little failures that are synonymous with sport to better navigate the bigger picture when these challenges arrive. Success in achievement, completing goals, winning, supporting teammates are all benefits of keeping a mindset positive. The presence gained from keeping one’s mindset positive allows the ability to overcome adversity, exercise resiliency, or conquer the natural failure of sport in healthy ways.


Ensuring your body is at peak performance level by allowing stressors to fade out and reduce tension. One can accomplish this state through pre-determined warmups, music, progressive muscle relaxation, prayer, meditation, pushing stress/anxiety/tension out of parts of the body that holds it, etc. The goal is ultimately to relax the mind and body for the most composed and focused state going into skill practice.

If you struggle with goal setting, a therapist can help you brainstorm, game-plan and be an accountability partner to ensure you’re sticking to your action plans, and achieving your goals. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our intake team and set up an appointment today!

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