5 Sports Psychology Tips to Inspire and Motivate Your Dancers

When most people think of training athletes, they often think about the physical skills that need to be developed. However, the best coaches know that half the battle lies in the brain with the athlete’s psychology. You already know your dancers are athletes, and have the same mental needs as any other competitive player. Read on to learn some critical sports psychology tips for dancers.  

What is sports psychology?

Sports psychology focuses on the optimal performance and well-being of athletes. It can give coaches, parents, and teachers tools that they can use to help motivate and inspire their athletes to perform at their best. Sports psychology can also give coaches tools to help their athletes deal with performance anxiety, fear of failure, and so much more. 

Here are 5 sports psychology tips to inspire and motivate your dancers

Here are 5 sports psychology tips that we think every dance instructor should know in order to motivate and inspire their performers. 

Help them set goals

Goals help people focus their attention, direct their behavior, and encourage persistence. However, many people don’t set specific goals or understand their value. Work with your dancers and help them set specific goals for themselves. One tool you can use is the SMART goal-setting framework.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. For example, rather than having the goal of “becoming a better dancer,” you can work to help your dancers define a SMART goal such as “successfully completing a fouette within 2 years by practicing at least 4 times a week”.

Defining the move they will master makes the goal specific. A deadline (2 years in this example), makes the goal measurable and timely. You will work with your dancer to determine if the goal is attainable and realistic for them. If it’s not, you can adjust the goal or the deadline to make it more realistic and attainable. If you’re looking for a SMART goals worksheet template, we recommend this one.  

Do a strengths and weaknesses assessment

Psychologists have found that people produce better results when they focus on their strengths and manage for their weaknesses (as opposed to focusing on improving their weaknesses). Sit down with your dancers and help them assess their strengths, and how they can double-down on those. You can also discuss their weaknesses and ways to improve them; just make sure most of the energy is focused around continuing to develop their strengths. 

Teach them about positive self-talk

Many performers get anxiety and stage freight even when they are exceptional during practice. To help alleviate this, teach your dancers about the power of positive self-talk. You can encourage them to pay attention to the self-talk that comes up, and then help them replace it with more positive phrases such as “I can do this”.

Another tactic is to remind them to focus on what they want to happen as opposed to how they might fail. For example, rather than visualizing how they’ll mess up a performance, you can encourage them to visualize their performance going exceptionally well and them landing all of their moves.

Help them get into a positive mood

Barbara Frederickson is a psychologist who came up with the broaden and build theory. It suggests that people are more creative and resourceful when experiencing positive emotions. In order to create positive mood and inspire more creativity, work with your dancers to create uplifting playlists that inspire them.

They can use these playlists when they’re having a bad day to help switch their mood. It’s also helpful if you share the theory with them as well as the tactics they can use to increase their own mood, because they can use this approach throughout their career.

Encourage intrinsic motivations

Intrinsic motivation has to do with do actions that are driven by internal rewards as opposed to external rewards or fear of punishment. While winning competitions and trophies is appealing, that is the perfect example of an external reward. Often, if external motivation is driving someone, when that external reward goes away, so goes their motivation. 

According to psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, there are a few things you can do to increase intrinsic motivation. First, you can give positive feedback because this can help people feel more competent. Next, you can ask for input and involve your dancers in some of the decision-making related to their goals. This can help give them a sense of control and autonomy of their life. Finally, it’s important to encourage positive social relationships within your studio.

People are motivated by connection, so you can work to have good relationships with your dancers, and also bring activities and routines that allow them to form bonds and connections with their fellow dancers.

With these tips, you’ll help your dancers master their mental game which can help carry their dance and professional career to new heights.

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