Rushall, B. S. (1995). This excerpt is the rationale for: Exercise 8.3 "Mood Words Content" in Rushall, B. S. (1995). Mental Skills Training for Sports (pp. 8.19-8.20). Spring Valley, CA: Sports Science Associates.


Two-thirds of a competition strategy should be consumed by task-relevant thoughts. The other third is partly consumed by thinking of "mood" words. Mood words set the mood of a performance.

Language has certain "basic" or primitive words which, when said or thought with appropriate feeling and emphasis, have some movement or emotional component. They cause a physical reaction in the body. The word "crunch" conveys the feeling of strength more than does a "sterile" statement such as "create force". Research has shown that when one thinks of words that produce a physical and/or emotional reaction, performance is increased.

Mood words increase the effectiveness of thinking. When one wants to be powerful, thinking words that make one feel powerful will increase the power of actions. This happens with other performance capacities such as speed, strength, endurance, agility, and balance. Table 8.3.1 indicates a number of synonyms for words that seem appropriate for various performance capacities. A feature about the words is that they require no translation. The expressive saying of relevant words should produce a feeling in the athlete. If that feeling does not occur, then the word is not a "mood word" and will be ineffective.

It is an advantage to think mood words that fit the mood of a performance. When an athlete wants to be strong, mood words that generate strength should be thought and when one wants to be quick, speed words should be used. How one thinks determines how one acts, therefore, words that have a direct action meaning should be used in strategies.

Individual athletes may select words that "work for them" from the list in Table 8.3.1 or add words from their own experience. Some athletes have vocabularies that are unique. Their words may be meaningful to them, but not to others. When adding mood words to a strategy, words that feel "right" for the athlete should be selected.

Mood words should also be spread through a segment and said purely by themselves. The utterance of "boom" might produce an increase in power performance quality if required. A similar phenomenon can occur with other mood components depending upon the physical capacity that is needed at any particular stage of a competition. This requires an athlete to add mood word utterances to a strategy. For example, in running an uphill section of a race some power words (e.g., "pump", "thump", "rip", "blast") should be spread throughout the segment. In a downhill segment, thinking balance words such as "solid" or "smooth" might enhance stability. Mood words are used to embellish task-relevant thoughts. They are used to control the actions and capacities of a contest. They can be used to break-up sections of task-relevant thinking and will consume some of the remaining one-third of the competition thought-content that is not used by task-relevant thoughts.

The mood word content that is used will comprise a "sport language" as opposed to being a technical language. The thinking of pure technical statements, such as "extend the leg" or "elevate the hand", may interfere with performance. The processing of such sterile language components can be distracting and could cause performance to suffer. On the other hand, if the same idea as the technical statement is translated into mood words that do not require translation and are understood easily by the athlete, performance will be enhanced. The expression of a strategy and what is thought must consider the language that is used. The language should be that of the athlete and should be phrased in simple terms that do not require some form of translation.

The role of mood words is twofold. First, they are used to enhance performance capacities used in a contest. Second, they are used to make the language of a strategy more meaningful. They are more expressive and effective than most of the bland technical expressions used by coaches and mimicked by athletes. Mood words enhance performance. They are a critical feature of the content and expression of competition strategy thinking.


Strength: crush, squash, violent, solid, crunch, intense, muscle, haul, hug, might, force, drive, grind, drag, press, push, lean, grunt

Power: might, force, heave, impel, smash, snap, rip, blast, boom, bang, thump, thrust, explode, hoist, crumble

Speed: fast, explode, alert, lunge, thrust, jab, rap, smack, brief, flick, whip, fling, pop, dash, quick

Agility: nimble, move, dance, prance, brisk, alert, quick, shuffle, agile

Balance: rock-hard, block, dead, solid, firm, rooted, anchored, set, rigid, hard

Endurance: bold, great, on-plan, comfortable, control, continue, relentless, press, hustle, push, continue, drag, on

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.