Motor Sport Psychology - improve your performance with Sports Psychology
Sports Psychologists have become more and more popular in the motor sport world, helping drivers (or riders) and teams to perform better, more consistently.
Motor sport includes a wide range of exciting sports. Most include the thrill of speed, sometimes at very high speeds, with the world whizzing by. The G-forces of acceleration, braking, cornering. The noise from engines roaring (or screaming), of tyres squealing. The smells of petrol, burning rubber, brake dust…
While some may argue that motorsport performance only really only comes down to your equipment – chiefly the car (bike, truck or whatever you are on/in) – this overlooks the major role the person plays in managing the equipment, managing the race, the decisions, the emotions, the personalities, the team, the pressures, the things that go wrong…
The ability to get the best out of your equipment, yourself and those around you is very much a psychological thing. If you don’t develop the psychological skills, robustness and flexibility to manage the challenges of motor sport, then you won’t go far and you won’t last long.
Motorsport, in any form, requires the best psychological skills: focus, concentration, confidence, stress management, the ability to get the best out of yourself and your team are some of these mental skills.
The best drivers (or riders) have highly developed and robust psychological skills. But you don't need to be at the highest levels of motor sport to develop these skills and improve. I offer help at all levels of motorsport. This can be in a typical appointment or on-site consultation at your testing or race location. Being on-site can give me a greater insight into your experiences, the stresses and strains, as well as opportunities to improve (e.g. by involving engineers or family members), that can result in greater psychological and performance improvements.
As a London-based Sports Psychologist with Clinical Psychology skills, I can help competitors to navigate life events and stresses beyond the sport. These are the kinds of events that happen to all of us (relationship difficulties, bereavements, family illnesses…), including professionals at the top of the sport. These types of outside motor sport stresses can significantly negatively impact on wellbeing and performance.
I can also help team managers, engineers and other support staff to better understand the psychology of the sport and their drivers/riders, how to get the best out of their people, and to better cope with the pressures that they are under.
As you can see, I can help with much more than just thinking more positively.
On this motor sport psychology page you will:
On a personal note, I remember growing up in Northern Ireland where each spring my dad, brother and I would travel around the country to see the Circuit of Ireland Rally. This was in the McRae era of Jimmy McRae and then the young upstart, his son, Colin McRae who would go on to become World Rally Champion. It was thrilling to watch these stages. The bonus was that the rally often started and finished in my home town.
I enjoyed the thrills of motor sport during my teenage years, as a proud owner of motocross bikes, riding nearby tracks at the weekend.
Ten ways Sports Psychology can help your motor racing
Manage pre-race tension and worry so you arrive at the event fresh and ready
Focus on the elements that are key for your optimum performance, without getting distracted by excessive details, irrelevant factors, or what others are doing
Develop routines for before the race and any down time so you gain more control and consistency
Better regulate your emotions (stress, frustration, anger...) associated with competition
Develop robust confidence in your ability, performance and bounce-back-ability following setbacks
Set functional goals for the year, month and next round or session to shape your behaviour, focus and so you improve more quickly
Become clearer about why you race, what motivates you, setting-up training and racing to foster maximum motivation
Develop images and visualise your performance, to speed-up learning and increase confidence
Process the experiences and learning from crashes that hold you back
Manage periods of poor form so you get back to your best
There are many other ways that sports psychology can help your motor sport performance. I list these 10 ways to give you some ideas. Maybe within this list you are seeing some ways that sports psychologist can help you. Get in touch, to find out how I can help. It would be great to hear from you.
Performance problems and psychological solutions for your motor sport
To give you a further idea of what sports psychology can do I’ve listed some common problems below; along with some of the ways (but by no means all the ways) I solve them. Perhaps you will spot your difficulties in some of the descriptions.
Problem: You get yourself worked up into such a state before even minor events that you feel extremely nervous, you want to leave, and sometimes even vomit.
Solution: After a full assessment of the difficult situation and your response we can apply a tailored stress management programme to reduce your physical tension and psychological stress.
Problem: In your last race you performed so badly that your confidence has taken a big fall.
Solution: We can look at that race in detail to understand what sense you’ve made of why it happened, and at the impact it has had on you since. We then produce a stepped plan for you to get back on track, increase your confidence to its previous level (or above) and overcome the setback.
Problem: Your performance is inconsistent over a series of events. You don’t know what you should be doing and thinking about before races.
Solution: There are sports psychology techniques that we can apply to help you identify your effective pre-race routine – this will lead to consistently higher performance.
Problem: Your performance has reached a plateau and hasn’t improved for a while. You set goals but don’t reach them.
Solution: Effective goal setting isn’t simple or a once a year activity. But with help you can learn to set appropriate and achievable goals, set up practice so you are likely to reach them and to conduct appropriate reviews of progress so goals can be lowered or raised over time. You will then be much more likely to achieve them.
Problem: You get distracted at key times of the race weekend (in practice or race).
Solution: We can work on techniques to improve concentration skills, identify the types of factors that distract you, and work on the key areas that will keep you focused when you need to. We will also identify the times when you don't need to concentrate fully on your driving/riding.
Problem: You’ve been racing for a number of years and it has become less exciting and more dull than you remember. Your motivation has gone. You wonder if there is any point of doing this for another year.
Solution: We can review why you race, why you got into motorsport in the first place, and plan the year so it is more focused, fun (yes, it can be) and interesting. These and other techniques can help you to boost motivation and enjoy your racing again.
Get in touch, to find out how I can help. It would be great to hear from you.
Free Motor Sport Psychology tips
Here are some quick sports psychology tips to help improve your motor racing performance and to illustrate some of practical help I offer.
You will find tips for helping you to:
Develop powerful imagery and visualisation skills
Develop better concentration
1. Boost motivation for motorsport
A. List the factors which motivate you to drive/ride, practice and racing.
It may also be useful to think about:
What do you gain from practicing/racing? (e.g., personal challenge, competitive outlet, etc.)
What do you want to achieve?
If you didn't practice/race what would you miss/lose?
Why did you take up motorsport in the first place?
Why are you still involved in racing?
B. During practice and competition think about and observe what you like and do not like about what you are doing. Write these down.
2. Increase confidence
In the situations where you are lacking confidence, try to become aware of the thoughts (i.e., self-talk) that goes through your mind.
Am I thinking accurately?
Is this thought helping me?
Can I see things in a more helpful and accurate way?
What would a more helpful thought be?
Can I express my thought in a way that includes what I want, not what I don’t want (e.g., “I can..” or “I will…” rather than “I won’t…” “Don’t…”)?
3. Manage competition nerves
When you notice physical tension on or off the circuit, try the following:
Take a series of short inhalations, about one per second, until your chest is filled.
Hold for 5 seconds.
Then exhale slowly for 10 seconds while thinking to yourself the word relax (or calm or easy).
Notice your body becoming more and more relaxed, as all the tension leaves your body.
Repeat this process at least 5 times, each time striving to deepen the state of relaxation you are experiencing.
If this is a problem area for you, make sure that you get hold of my comprehensive Stress Management programme, available as an audio download. You can order straight-away. It is backed by a money-back guarantee.
4. Develop powerful imagery and visualisation skills
The following can help increase your ability to create and store powerful images to improve performance:
Part A: Imagine you are home in your living room. Look around and take in all the details. What do you see? How are the shapes and textures of any furniture and other objects in the room? What colour are the walls? Are there any pictures or paintings? If so, where are they and how do they look? If you are sitting, what does the chair feel like? What sounds do you hear? What is the temperature like? Is there any movement in the air? What do you smell? Use all your senses and take it all in.
Part B: Later when you are at home in your living room go to the place you had imagined in the exercise above. What do you see, smell, hear and feel? Do you notice details that you didn't call up when your imagined the scene?
Repeat A (and B again if you like) and see how your ability to generate detailed and vivid images improves.
5. Develop better concentration
Here's one of many tips for improving your focus: Develop cue words that trigger the correct focus when you need it.
List the key aspects of your racing performance that you want to maintain. Next, write down the individual words or short phrases that capture the essence of such a perfect movement, level of relaxation or arousal, or perhaps what you want to be thinking or feeling. Here are some examples: "smooth steering," "relaxed fingers," "follow the lines," "let's go," "relax" or "do it."
Try out a word or phrase at each practice or racing, to see which one(s) evoke the best focus and help set up the movement and performance you want. Find a couple of these.
Next, identify something that will act as trigger for these words. For instance, you might place a mark on your glove or steering wheel (or bars). Then, when you see your trigger, this will trigger you to think the words that you know can help. Not only does this help your focus, it will boost your confidence too which will have a beneficial impact on your performance.
If you want more tailored help for any of these areas, in London, or wherever you are by a remote consultation, then get in touch. We can then organise Sports Psychology assessment of your motor racing and address your performance limiters.
Manage your motor sport nerves and stress
Usually, pre-race tension builds in the hours and days before an important (to you) event. Your mind, diet and sleep are all affected by your rising levels of stress.
Your frame of mind has a large bearing on how you perform and the outcome of your race (your position and your enjoyment, or misery).
Your performance can be affected to a large extent by how stressed you are during the event (e.g., your race weekend). By stressed, I mean:
How much tension you hold in your muscles. Tension will impair your movements and biomechanics – causing you to steer in a jerky way, becoming less fluid in your lines.
How much adrenaline is coursing through your veins: some is good, too much and this can put you out of your comfort zone, distracting you from your driving/riding as you wonder what the hell is going on with your body.
How positive you are: are you expecting things to go badly, to start poorly, to go behind, let yourself or others down, make a fool of yourself…? Lining yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy!
If you wait for race day to start managing your stress, you will almost certainly be too late to do anything significant about it - particularly if you have not developed robust stress management strategies to draw on.
I have developed a Sport Stress Management Programme to download straight-away, to tackle your stress, anxiety, panic, tension… My stress management programme tackles the three important areas:
Physical tension (with not just one, but three proven physical relaxation techniques)
Unhelpful stress-related behaviour (what you do or don’t do)
This program is based on the stress management courses that I researched, developed and taught within the NHS. It is based on what works. You can get this all for less than £20. It comes with a no quibble, 100% money-back guarantee. That is because I am confident that it will help you. Go ahead and order your stress solution today.
Alternatively, if you want more tailored help for any of these areas, in London, or wherever you are by a remote consultation, then get in touch. It would be great to hear from you.