Glass is Half-Full Thinking

Larry Lauer, Ph D, CC AASP
Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, Michigan State University

Has your confidence been dipping lately? Have you been in a funk that you can’t find your way out? Are you beginning to expect the bounces and calls to ALWAYS go against you? Do you look at an opponent and wonder “how am I going to keep up today?”

Are you seeing the glass as half empty?

You may be suffering from what we call a self-fulfilling prophecy - you are getting what you are expecting to happen – bad things. Maybe you have had a bad run lately and you are not as confident as usual. But why limit your chances of performing well and winning?

Daniel Alfredsson is an all-star and captain of the Ottawa Senators. After going to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007 Alfredsson’s team won 13 of its first 14 games in 2008. Since, then, however, they have slumped severely and have been playing under .500 hockey for over a year and a half. Alfredsson admitted that the team expected things to go wrong, even when they were ahead! This is definitely “glass half-full” thinking or a pessimistic attitude.

When it comes to international soccer, Spain was similar to Ottawa; lots of great athletes, but an underachiever in the biggest matches. Heading into the 2008 European Cup competition most analysts regarded Spain as dangerous but expected them to falter (as always). Their history has been “large on talent, small on results.”

If any team had a reason to think glass half-empty it was Spain. Why would their string of disappointments end now? However, watching Spain compete in the Euro Cup was like watching the ending of a long curse. Spain played with the belief and dominance that is rarely seen at an international competition, winning all five matches. The players body language was confident. They played with energy. The Spaniards played their game, even against a challenging team like Germany.

Had Spain succumb to the negatives of the past (“we always fall apart in big games”, “we never win the big tournaments”), they would not have won. However, the team had a transformation and played up to their ability.

What could you learn from Spain’s 2008 European Cup Team and the NHL’s Ottawa Senators?

Start By Being Optimistic, Start with the Glass Half-Full – How should you begin to feel more confident in your performances? Start thinking positive; be optimistic that you will come out and play well in the next game. Every day is a different day and every game is a totally new game! The glass is half full, not half empty! Then fill that glass to the top throughout the day with confidence-building statements such as “I’m ready” and “Go for it!”

Focus on Yourself - Prior to the competition avoid the drift to comparing your team or your self to your opponent and thinking you will not win or play well. Instead, focus on your self and how you feel strong, fast, powerful, quick, ready, pumped and so forth. Use visualization that incorporates these “feeling” words to set your self up for success.

Bounce Back – After a mistake or a bad bounce become resilient by refocusing on the task at hand and do not allow the recent past to affect the present. Stay focused on the ball, on the action. Little reminders such as “play the ball,” “quick feet,” and “be aggressive” can help you get your mind back on the positive and productive which will help you get out of your funk.

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