A cue word is simply a word, phrase, or acronym that is designed to help an athlete with improved confidence, focus, and inevitably better mental toughness and future athletic success. I encourage all athletes to develop their own cue word, primarily because they WORK! Some athletes come up with a word that displays emotion (“explode”), others develop an instructional word sequence (“hips back”), while others use an acronym to help with future focus (“SC” stands for “state champ”). There are many reasons why sport psychologists swear cue words work, including the following big three:
1. They help and athlete with comfort and confidence. Since the word is something the athlete has come up with by himself, it is usually a personal connection and this helps with familiarity. When we feel at ease, our confidence increases, as does our comfort level – two very important pieces related to athletic success.
2. They are classically conditioned to a positive mood state. Remember Pavlov and the salivating dogs? Actually, classical conditioning occurs in many more settings than just hungry dogs responding to a bell in anticipation of soon being fed – in sports, when an athlete prompts himself to think about a word previously conditioned to prompt good thoughts and feelings, the word actually serves as a “bell” (similar to Pavlov’s theory) and immediately redirects the athlete’s focus and energy back to good emotions and thoughts.
3. They serve as a distraction. Remember, as human beings we cannot think of two different thoughts at the same exact time. When an athlete directs her attention toward a cue word, it makes it impossible (literally) to think about the last bad play, the hostile crowd, or any other negative factor.
Why sit back and watch the kids you parent or coach in youth and interscholastic sports continue to struggle with confidence, focus, and resiliency, when you can quickly learn about how to develop a cue word that can help? For more information check out our ever-expanding line of high-performance products for athletes, only at Advanced Human Performance Systems!