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How to Break Out of a Slump in Sports

How to Break Out of a Slump in Sports

Every athlete experiences a slump in performance at some point in their career. Slumps are a decrease in your performance that can last for prolonged periods of time if you let it. Many athletes are unaware of the causes of a slump, so the look in the wrong places for a solution. As a result they fall even deeper into a slump. Athletes are unable to break fee from a slump because become frustrated, play tentatively, and lose confidence in their ability to succeed.

To break free from a slump you need to start at the root of the problem. The first step is determining whether or not it is a physical or mental slump. Physical slumps such as recovering from injury or changing your mechanics take patients and time to overcome. Mental slumps on the other hand are more difficult to overcome if you’re unaware of what causes them.

Mental slumps are caused by psychological issues. These issues can lead to a slump occurring, as well as extend a slump that already exists. It is important to note that there can be multiple causes, and it is always important to identify all the factors that may be occurring.

Some of mental game challenges that can cause or prolong slumps include:

  • Low or fragile self-confidence
  • Frustration with not getting better fast enough
  • Comfort zones or inability to break through mental barriers
  • Satisfaction with your performance level
  • Lack of motivation to improve
  • Over motivation or over training
  • Self-esteem takes a knock when not performing up to expectations
  • Trying too hard to perform well

Here are some tips that will help you break free from a performance slump:

Focus on your performance instead of results. When you are in a slump it is important that you avoid focusing so much on wins or personal statistics. Instead focus on your game and the task at hand.

Stop making comparisons to other players and your opponent. This is a distraction that can undermine an athlete’s confidence, especially when in a slump. Instead, focus on small performance gains to improve your performance gradually.

Stay motivated and committed to your goals in sports. When you are in a slump, it is easy to begin questioning your goals.  Stay patient and remind yourself what motivates them to play the game.


  1. Ten steps:
    1) Rule out non mental causes: consult coach and eliminate factors.
    2)Establish Self Control: focus on the task at hand.
    3)Develop Effective Focus: focus on the now, process NOT outcome.
    4)Deal with Fears:eliminate fear of failure, become familiar with your fears.
    5)Expect success: Positive self talk, change time frame- “I played poorly today” instead of “I always play poorly”
    6)Develop Positive Images: mental rehersal-coping and mastery imagery
    7)Self Effective goals: Long term AND short term, over emphasis on outcome goals can lead to slumps. Set process goals.
    8)Build Self Confidence
    9)Become mentally tough: How do you view your failures? Percieve setbacks as temorary events.
    10)Prevent future slumps: make yourself resistant to ups and downs and also become aware of warning signs.

  2. My son is in a “slump” he is 14 and playing in a soccer academy 4 days a week. His grades are suffering, as is his playing. I am frustrated bc the practices are far and it’s taking him too much time to adapt to the schedule. I feel like taking him off the team but he insists he wants to work through it. How can I help him?

    • Unconditional support. If he knows you are frustrated and want to take him of the team he will be more concerned with seeking your approval then what he needs to do to adapt. You should be the one insisting that he works through it. He will need your vote of confidence to break out of his slump. When young athletes are in a slump have parents need to have patience or you will only make matters worse. Remember slumps are temporary and a sign that the athlete needs to reset. Help him go back to the basics. Tell him to have fun and praise effort rather then results. Help him establish a routine and do not use the long car ride for lectures make the ride to and from productive.

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