Is there a ‘sixth sense’ in sports?

No, not a sixth sense of being able to see dead people like in the movie…

but more like this definition:

sixth sense – noun
a power of perception beyond the five senses; intuition:
“His sixth sense warned him to be cautious.

As an athlete or a coach, do you ever have a feeling that you know what’s going to happen next?  Or after something has happened, thinking “I knew that was going to happen!”  Do you ever make decisions based on a “gut feeling?”  That’s the kind of sixth sense I am talking about. It’s more about seeing things before they happen.

Here’s another way to look at “sense.”  If something “makes sense,” we are talking about this definition:

a sane and realistic attitude to situations and problems; a reasonable or comprehensible rationale.

But sometimes sports makes no sense. How else to explain upsets, chokes, and record-breaking performances?  Those “wow!” moments like Kirk Gibson’s homerun, David Tyree’s “helmet catch,” or Tim Tebow winning an NFL playoff game (kidding, I’m a big Gator fan, so I can go there)?

So what exactly is the sixth sense of sports?  Belief, Confidence, Anticipation, Intuition, Trust, Faith? A combination of these?  And can it be developed?

We think so.

Let’s take a look at some other “Senses” – Sense of humor, sense of balance, sense of fairness

Like these, the sixth sense in sports, well, makes no “sense.”  Sense of humor is just that – a sense of what’s funny. It’s not all the same for all people and there is definitely no formula to it.  Jerry Seinfeld has a certain sense of humor, and so does Adam Carolla.  Both are very funny, but in different senses. But these senses can be developed – timing, observation, studying, practicing, and of course, experience can all help.

Sport psychology techniques to help grow your “Sixth Sense of Sports”

1) Circle Breathing – part of sensing what’s coming next is being fully present in the moment. Circle breathing is a slow, deep, controlled breath, in through the nose, out through the mouth.  It is used to relax, calm, and re-focus.  Try it now, take 3 circle breaths………   What were you thinking about? For most people, the answer is “nothing.” It clears your mind to be more in-tune with the present moment.  As a professor I had, Betty Wenz, once said, “It’s impossible to simultaneously focus on breathing and worry.”


2) Positive Self-Talk – being an optimist, and controlling your self-talk is big time to develop a sixth sense.  For things to go your way, you need to have a mindset that is open to any possibility. When your mind is open, you are more likely to take opportunities that present themselves, no matter how unlikely.
Positive Mindset - SMG quote

3) Visualization – Using this sport psychology technique helps to build what I refer to as “emotional memory.”  We all know muscle memory – when you practice at a skill so much that your muscles remember the movements.  Emotional memory is when you have practiced, re-lived or felt the experience of success so much that you remember what it feels like.

When most people think of visualization, they think of, well, vision – seeing plays in your mind’s eye.  But it’s a little more than that: proper visualization uses all 5 sesnse: sight, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting. The sum of all these senses creates not only a full experience mentally, but can bring up all the emotions mentioned previously: belief, trust, anticipation, calmness, and more.  It becomes more than the sum of the 5 senses to help create and strengthen your “sixth sense.”


What factors lead to team success?

by Glen Coblens, MA
SPINw consultant

There are many factors leading to team success in sports. In addition to factors impacting individual sports performance such as confidence, emotional control and focus, three factors can positively or negatively influence team performance.

  • Roles
  • Teamwork
  • Always keep your head in the game

Clearly identified roles helps create team harmony and reduces confusion. Athletes who know, understand and accept their role on the team are more satisfied and enjoy their sport experience. Coaches should communicate to each athlete and confirm roles have been identified.  Continued open communication that is consistent with practice settings leads to a greater understanding of roles and less distractions in competition. Coaches can enhance player satisfaction and maximize performance by demonstrating each athlete is a valuable team member.


Also known as team chemistry, teamwork is vital to team success. Each athlete must put the team’s needs above their own and play to their collective strengths. Teamwork is essential as teams work together to reach a common goal. Teamwork is also a transferable skill teaching life lessons such as taking responsibility for actions and cooperation.


Always keep your head in the game
There is a saying that coaches like to use… “When you are in the game, you are in the game and when you are out of the game, you are in the game”. This means when you are not physically playing, you should be focusing on what is going on in the game so when the coach inserts you into competition, you are ready. This is particularly important in sports with multiple substitutions like basketball and hockey. Sport Psychology helps athletes control the controllables and maintaining your focus when you are on the bench is 100% in your control.


Coaches, athletes and teams that have clearly identified roles, demonstrate strong teamwork and collectively have their head in the game will be rewarded with superior performance and greater success.
Team first… Team Always!