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Tip 8 - Self-regulation

Self-regulation is an important skill for sport, and life!

Self-regulation is regarded as a complementary mix of six psychological skills — effort, self-efficacy, planning, self-monitoring, evaluation and reflection. Contemporary evidence emerging from a variety of sports shows that strong self-regulation underpins effective learning in training, aids performance and skill refinement and assists in effectively negotiating the athlete pathway.

self-regulation learning cycle

Self-regulation of learning cycle. Adapted from Jonker (2011)

Recent findings have also shown a strong link between self-regulation and academic performance, showing that this complement of practical skills is transferable to other aspects of life.

Pin icon TIP: Foster your child’s self-regulatory skills

Taking ownership of the consequences of our own actions, including performance on a sporting field, is a fundamental responsibility of being a person, and an essential component of developing future success. Providing the right opportunities for children and youths to develop and practice age appropriate self-regulatory skills such as self-reflection, goal setting, positive self-talk and mental imagery are valuable strategies.

You can:

  • Self-Reflection: Encourage your child to not rely solely on your feedback or that of their coach, but to complement it with their own reflections on how they went in practice or competition. Keeping a journal is a useful way to reflect. Use the following prompts to help your child write a journal entry:
  1. get them to describe what happened
  2. get them to reflect on what they were thinking and feeling before, during and after
  3. get them to articulate what felt good or what they did well
  4. ask them what didn't feel good or what can they improve on next time
  5. help them think about what they plan to do next time and how they are going to achieve this

With practice, your child should be able to follow these prompts on their own.

  • SMART Goal Setting: As an outcome of effective self-reflection, your child should be committed to improving their performance in training or competition. Effective goal setting can help this. Goal setting involves identifying a level of performance or a target, which your child can realistically achieve within an appropriate timeframe. A good idea is to get your child, with your support and guidance, to write down their goals and track their progress. Goals should be “SMART” - Specific, Measurable, Action-focused, Realistic, and within a Timeframe.
  • Positive self-talk: Positive self-talk can increase motivation and is an essential coping skill. Assist your child develop positive ‘mantras’ or statements they can use when training and competing. Some good examples are ‘come on, I can do this’ or ‘I have trained well and I’m ready to excel!’ Self-talk can also be used to assist skill execution, for example ‘drive up’ or ‘follow through’. Positive body language is also important -- encourage your child to hold their head up and shoulders back and show their opponents they are ready and confident.
  • Imagery: Mental imagery is an excellent adjunct to physical training and has been shown to improve learning and performance.
  1. It should be done in a quiet relaxing environment away from distractions.
  2. Your child could start by watching an elite athlete performing the skill they want to improve. They should watch their technique and then imagine themselves completing the same action. They should imagine watching themselves perform the technique from a spectator’s point of view, as well as imagining what it would look like from an internal perspective.
  3. Find which method is most comfortable for them and encourage them to keep practising. It might also help to watch a video of their own performance.
  4. While practicing mental imagery get your child to try and use all of their senses (sight, touch, taste, sound, smell and feel). What noise is the crowd making? What does their equipment feel like? How does it feel successfully executing their skill? Next time they are training or competing ask them to focus on all their senses. Encourage them to write down all the details of one of their better performances. They should include as much information as they can and recreate this performance in their mind.

For further information and resources have a look at the Brainwaves fact sheets developed by AIS sport psychologists

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Did you know?

Gold Coast 2018 is the 5th Commonwealth Games to be hosted by Australia.

Quick numbers

11.6 million Australian adults participate in sport or physical activity three or more times per week.
3.2 million Australian children participate in organised sport or physical activity outside of school.
$10 billion is spent annually by Australians on fees for participation in sport or physical activity.
17 million Australian adults participate in a sport or physical activity every year.