Effects of Self-Talk Training on Competitive Anxiety, Self-Efficacy, Volitional Skills, and Performance: An Intervention Study with Junior Sub-Elite Athletes

Sports (Basel). 2019 Jun 19;7(6):148. doi: 10.3390/sports7060148.


(1) Background: Self-talk (ST) is used to influence athletes' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Samples of squad and competitive athletes are underrepresented, although research has proven the positive effects of ST in the context of sports. Thus, the present study focused on the impact of ST on psychological and performance outcomes of junior sub-elite athletes. (2) Methods: N = 117 athletes (55 females, 62 males; M = 16.0 years) were randomly assigned to either one of two experimental groups or to a control group (n = 30). The experimental groups received an ST intervention for either one week (n = 36) or eight weeks (n = 38), and the control group received no ST training. The dependent variables (competitive anxiety, volitional skills, self-efficacy, and coaches' performance ratings) were assessed three times before and after the intervention. It was expected that (a) an ST intervention would reduce the competitive anxiety and increase volitional skills, self-efficacy, and performance; and, (b) long-term training would lead to higher effects than short-term training. (3) Results: As expected, ST training led to (less) somatic state anxiety and (higher) state self-confidence, self-optimization, self-efficacy, and performance. Additionally, long-term training was more effective than short-term training. (4) Conclusions: Targeted ST interventions may help to improve junior athletes' psychological states and performance.

Keywords: competitive anxiety; junior elite athletes; psychological skills training; self-efficacy; self-talk.