Elite Facilities. Superior Care

Going Big: Cultivating key psychological traits to help you take that next step.

The step from semi-professional to professional, sub-elite to elite, top 250 to top 100, is a step that few take but many try. For those striving to “go big” the endless search for a new tip or trick or new supplement to give them the edge can be a source of stress and can even become an obsession. I hope today I can share some of my insights into how to increase the probability of “Going Big”. I use the term probability quite purposefully because thats what athletes do every day: increase or decrease their probability of achieving their goals depending on the behaviours they commit to.

Let’s put aside attributes such as skill level and physical fitness; clearly vital factors in making it to the elite level. Let’s even put aspects such as self belief and having a fantastic training environment. We know that these are helpful to taking the step to become elite but I want to go more in depth into the traits athletes don’t think about cultivating when striving to become better.

 Combativeness

This Psychological trait can be spilt into two categories: relentlessness and persistence . Relentlessness to keep intensity as high as possible even when things are going well, and not to lose task focus when on top. Persistence meaning to keep the intensity and focus high when things aren’t going well. Developing this trait promotes consistency no matter how you are feeling, what competition you have coming up, or what’s is happening in your personal life.

Risk Taking

The ability to take risks and step out of the zone of comfort is often spoken about but how do you purposefully cultivate this trait so you can commit to helpful risk taking actions in the moment when it counts? The key to understanding risk taking to aid performance is that the action or skill to commit to is not risky as in dangerous but rather it may feel emotionally risky or anxiety provoking. If you can commit to going right to the edge for your performance (i.e pushing off right at the edge of the putty for a long jump, or kicking down the guts to a teammate in footy) then you are more likely to perform under pressure, rather than play safe when you need a good score or your team needs you to step up.

Caring and not worrying

A characteristic that even elite athletes tend to struggle with the most; reducing worries and still caring about performance. Preparation and recovery will help stay present on tasks, engaged with loved ones and friends, and continuing with other activities that assist in giving you the necessary space to remain vitalised for the rigours of sporting competition.

Rule Following

Being excellent at following rules leads to an increase in discipline and is fostered very much by task focus and a teamwork ethos. Due to the pressure of sport and the emotions that occur, the urge for an athlete can be to follow what is called “emotionally governed behaviour”. This is when you behave inline with what you feel. For example in football, if you’re struggling to perform to the level you’d like to and your anxiety levels are rising, the tendency can be to search for the ball, to make yourself feel better and move away from particular team rules. Typically this strategy doesn’t work that well and leads to a continuation of poor performances. The ability to place priority on rules over your own temporary emotional state is an crucial trait to develop.


There are many different way to help develop these traits, but one useful exercise can be to gain clarity with your values. Gaining clarity with what you want to stand for and then aligning those values with one or more of the above traits will give you your own personal understanding of why you want to develop these traits. Then start setting behavioural goals in line with your values to actually start living and building these characteristics within you to increase the probabilities of “going big”.


Daniel Dymond
Sports Psychologist
MAPS MAppPsych BA(hons) BSc(hons)


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