Sport psychologists often recommend that athletes develop their own cue word to help with in-game focus, motivation, and resiliency (Sport Success 360). Sometimes action words are used (like “explode” or “dominate”), while other times acronyms are developed that have unique meaning to the athlete (like “WS” standing for “win state”). Cue words can also be instructional, like using the letters “R-S-F”) to stand for “ready-set-fire,” something a pitcher in baseball or softball might use to help with the focus needed to make a successful pitch. Finally, some athletes develop cue words that are merely reminders of important people, places, or events in their lives that they have attached important meaning to — like playing a season in honor of a recently deceased loved one.
While cue words might seem to some to be nothing more than a waste of time, they can actually be incredibly effective and very worth the effort. One reason for this is that our minds cannot simultaneously think of two things at the same time. For example, it’s impossible for an athlete to think about the fans getting on his back when he is devoting his concentration to his cue word. Cue words are also helpful as they often serve as mini reminders of what to do — in the case of the pitcher example, “ready-set-fire” can be conditioned to muscle memory in practice situations and later used as a trigger during games.
Cue words can also help with resiliency by serving as a reminder to be strong (in fact, using the word “strength” is one way to focus on being tough in frustrating situations).
Once an athlete develops a unique cue word, it is important to write the cue word in places that will be regularly seen — like a locker, piece of equipment, or even a body part (like the hands). Cue words lose their value when they are not used in competitive situations, hence the importance of them being readily available by being written in observable places.
If you are an athlete, work on developing your own unique cue word and use it every time you go out to compete. Soon enough, you will see how the word automatically helps you improve your focus, motivation, and resiliency — three keys to maximizing athletic potential!
Learn more about cue words and other scientifically proven sport psychology mental training skills that help with athletic performance by checking out the AHPS product line and sport performance apps!