Sport Psychology: encouragement boosts performance

How encouraging athletes boosts performance

Offering verbal encouragement to athletes attempting maximal effort is entirely instinctive. Indeed it is almost impossible to imagine a situation in which coaches, parents, fellow athletes and friends would stand silent on the sidelines, instead of shouting out such original motivators as: ‘keep it going’, ‘go for it’, ‘push it’ and other such statements.

But what evidence do we have that this form of verbal encouragement actually works? Very little, according to a team of US researchers, who decided to test the value of verbal encouragement in a controlled study.

They explain: ‘Although the use of encouraging statements is a ubiquitous feature of maximal exercise testing, few studies have examined the effects of frequency of encouragement on exercise performance. Those that have…have not provided sufficient procedural details to evaluate these effects. Furthermore, no study has systematically varied the frequency of verbal encouragement. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of frequency of verbal encouragement on exercise performance.’

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