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 dictionary.com 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.
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.”