The Power of Positive Self-Talk

10th April 2024

In the competitive world of sports, the mental game can often be as decisive as physical skills. Athletes who cultivate a positive internal dialogue gain a powerful ally in the pursuit of peak performance. This article explores the art of positive self-talk for squash players, emphasising the significance of being supportive in the way players converse with themselves, and drawing parallels to the encouragement one would extend to a teammate or student.

The silent conversations we have within ourselves, often termed as self-talk, can have a huge influence on our mental state. In the context of squash, this internal dialogue can serve as almost an ‘inner coach’, that has the power to significantly influence mental attributes such as confidence, focus, and resilience. Positive self-talk involves consciously fostering an optimistic and constructive inner dialogue – it’s a choice to actively select words and phrases that uplift and motivate, steering away from the pitfalls of self-doubt and negativity.


self-talkHave a Supportive Coach Within

Imagine providing support and encouragement to a young player you were coaching, or to a teammate navigating a challenging situation in a team match environment – applying the same level of kindness, understanding, and motivation to oneself that you would extend to others, forms the essence of positive internal dialogue. Shifting from self-criticism to constructive feedback and words of encouragement can make a massive difference – treating yourself as you would treat a valued student or teammate and offering support and guidance rather than harsh judgement, creates a foundation for positive performance. Most people wouldn’t be hyper-critical, downbeat, or insulting when speaking to a player they were supporting between games, yet within a match so many players are incredibly negative in how they talk to themselves.


self-talkCelebrate Achievements, Big and Small

A fundamental aspect of positive self-talk involves acknowledging and celebrating achievements, no matter how small. Just as you would commend a training partner or teammate for a well-executed shot, recognizing personal successes during training or crucial moments in a game contributes to a positive mindset. This acknowledgement becomes a form of self-encouragement, reinforcing the belief in one’s abilities. You see a lot of players who are very vocal if something goes wrong for them, but there isn’t a reciprocal positive response when something goes well. Either vocalise both, or neither!

Scientifically, positive self-talk has been shown to have a profound impact on the brain. Engaging in constructive internal dialogue, particularly through positive affirmations, activates areas associated with motivation and reward. This not only boosts confidence but also enhances overall well-being. Furthermore, positive self-talk contributes to effective stress management by influencing cortisol levels, which will help allow you to be better able to maintain focus and composure in high-pressure situations.


Practical Strategies for Cultivating Positivity

Creating personalised mantras that resonate with individual goals and values is a great practical strategy for implementing positive self-talk. Take the time to consider what words or short phrases work best for you – examples could be things like “I’m cool and relaxed”, “Move smooth and efficiently”, or “Keep on pushing”. Players are encouraged to then repeat these positive affirmations regularly during games and training, especially during challenging moments, to reinforce a positive mindset. Additionally, actively challenging and reframing any negative thoughts that slip through, in combination with the use of appropriate visualisation techniques, can help bolster your ability to enable you to realign thoughts, emotions, and actions toward positive outcomes.

In the unpredictable realm of a chaotic sport like squash, setbacks are inevitable. Positive self-talk serves as a buffer during challenging times. Rather than dwelling on failure, players can use affirmations and constructive dialogue to refocus, learn from experiences, and emerge stronger. Beyond personal resilience, positive self-talk contributes to the broader training environment – players who maintain positive internal dialogues tend to radiate optimism, uplifting those around them and fostering a culture of support and high achievement.



As players navigate the demanding landscape of the sport of squash, the mental aspect and the ‘game within’ take increased prominence. Positive self-talk isn’t a luxury, but a necessity for those aiming to unlock their full potential. By embracing supportive self-talk and applying the principles of encouragement and understanding, you can fortify your mental resilience and create a foundation for sustained success. The words chosen in internal dialogues shape one’s reality – treating yourself with the same compassion, encouragement, and constructive guidance that you extend to others, opens the gateway to confidence, resilience, and peak performance. In harnessing the transformative power of positive self-talk, you can embark on a journey that transcends the boundaries of the court, creating a path to self-compassion and enduring excellence in all elements of your life.


Gary Nisbet 

B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Conditioning Director

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