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The Value of Performance Psychology

When we think about high level athletes, what comes to mind? “Oh my god! They have amazing skill level. I will never be able to do what they do. They must have been born that way!”

Let me give you an example. A hero of mine for as long as I can remember is Kelly Slater. He has been surfing his whole life, and he continues to surf competitively at world level in his 50’s! Absolutely without a doubt, out of this world skill level.

Was he born with that skill? NO. Has he always had it easy? NO.

How about someone who is a bit closer to home: Mike Jones, ASBK Superbike Champion 2022. If you’ve watched him on a a race track, you would be in awe of his ability to make going around a corner at over 200km/hour look easy. Again, without a doubt, his skills on a motorbike are superhuman!

Was he born with those skills? NO. 

Do things always go his way? NO.

There’s an aspect of any high performing athlete that doesn’t get spoken about a lot. I think more recently athletes are starting to identify it for themselves, but it’s still very undervalued. 

This component of performance is just as important as the skill level but is not always considered.

What am I referring to? 

It’s the psychology of the athlete.

It’s the ability to push through, to show persistence, to get back up after injury, to keep training through difficult times in their personal lives, to believe in themselves, to not be distracted by the noise around them. 

A professional athlete still has stress in their lives, they still have self doubt, they still get sore, they lose motivation. 

What sets them apart is the ability to be so committed that they continue moving forward. That all stems from their psychological skills.

Why am I writing about this in an article for a magazine aimed at girls who ride?

I am passionate about psychology and the massive role it plays in our everyday lives. I want to share this information with you because it is a skill that can be developed, just as your skills in riding can be developed. Whether you are riding on the road, on the track, on dirt- whatever you are doing, utilising your psychology i.e your mindset, your self talk and your behaviours, to your advantage can have a positive impact on how you perform. 

Here are some examples of how we use performance psychology:

Focusing your energy on what’s within your control

I have spoken to a number of riders who have said they get very distracted by their thinking while riding “Am I in the way of someone? What will they think of me? What if I drop my bike? What if I come off my bike? What if I stall my bike? What if I make a fool of myself” and so on. This type of thinking absolutely impacts their riding. 

All of that thinking is taking focus away from what they are doing, and it can lead to mistakes.

If you have watched competitive sports, you can see when athletes get caught up in their thinking in a negative way. This results in them performing poorly until they either lose completely, or find a way to pull themselves out of the negative headspace. A sport where this can be really obvious and you see it time and time again is tennis. You can hear what the players are saying to themselves and their coaches, and you can literally see them fall apart in front of your eyes.

Managing life stress

If you are reading this, I can almost guarantee that you love riding. The reality of life is sometimes there are things that get in the way in the form of stressors that may stop you from riding. Or they may stop you from being able to enjoy riding. Life happens, however it’s about being able to identify these things so that you can work out what you need to do to manage life so that it doesn’t get in the way! 

Be clear about your goals

If you asked Mike Jones what his goals are for this year, he will be able to tell you in a heartbeat. That’s because it is so clear in his mind and at the forefront of every decision he makes every day. This is something that is important for each of us to do to enhance our performance in life.

Are you clear about what you want? What are your goals for your riding?

This is just a snapshot of the benefits of performance psychology. 

What does performance psychology mean for you? 

For every minute that you invest in developing your riding skills, I want you to invest a minute into your psychology. Be aware of your thinking, set goals, talk to friends about this stuff, catch yourself imagining the worst, notice when you are distracted by stress. 

Having a chat with a Psychologist can also be valuable. But it’s not essential. 

My role as a Psychologist is to support you and help you develop psychological skills that will enhance your performance. 

Just as the coach at the track will do the same for your riding skills. You don’t always need the coach with you every step of the way, but there are times when it can be so beneficial and lead you to feeling more confident within yourself.

If you have questions or want to get in touch, please do. 

After growing up in the country town of Warwick, plus a few more "way out west" towns during her 20’s, Kim became a country girl at heart. Her love of bikes started early riding dirt bikes around country properties. Today she loves to go exploring on her road bike, but it's her crazy love of F1 side-car racing that keeps her adrenaline flowing. It comes from her "give anything a try once" attitude. Which also led her to compete at National and State levels in Olympic Weightlifting. But as if that wasn't enough, Kim can add competitor on the first season of Australian Ninja Warrior to her impressive list of achievements. By day, Kim is a psychologist, passionate about working with riders on issues impacting their performance. Kim is proud to be Girl Moto's resident psych, contributing regularly to content related to all the mental stuff!


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