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Recognising Priming Techniques: Staying Mindful as a Teen Athlete

As teen athletes, you are constantly striving to improve your skills, both physically and mentally. While coaches and parents play an essential role in your development, it's important to be aware of a psychological phenomenon called "priming." Priming involves the subtle manipulation of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors by external cues.

What is Priming?

Priming is a psychological concept rooted in the idea that exposure to one stimulus can influence your response to another stimulus. In the context of sports, it means that the way someone talks to you, the words they use, or the behaviors they exhibit can impact your performance and mindset.

Positive Priming

Positive priming involves using encouraging language and actions to boost an athlete's confidence and motivation. For instance, a coach might say, "You've been working so hard in practice; I know you can do it," before a big game. This type of priming can be beneficial when it enhances your self-belief and determination.

Negative Priming

On the flip side, negative priming occurs when someone uses pessimistic language or behavior, which can lead to self-doubt and reduced performance. For example, a parent might express doubt about your abilities, saying, "You always mess up in important matches." Negative priming can be harmful, as it can erode your confidence and hinder your progress.

Recognising Manipulative Priming

Manipulative priming can be subtle, making it challenging to spot. Here are some key strategies to help you identify when someone might be using priming techniques to manipulate you:

Be Attentive to Language

Listen closely to the words people use when providing feedback or encouragement. Are they consistently positive, or do they often use negative language? A manipulator might employ negative priming to make you doubt yourself.

Pay Attention to Body Language

Non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures, can also convey priming messages. If someone's body language contradicts their words, it's worth considering their intentions.

Reflect on Your Emotions

Take a moment to reflect on how you feel after interactions with coaches, parents, or other authority figures. Do you feel inspired and motivated, or do you find yourself feeling discouraged and anxious? Your emotions can provide valuable clues.

Seek Multiple Opinions

Discuss your experiences with trusted friends or teammates. They may offer a different perspective and help you identify potential manipulative priming.

The Science Behind Priming

Recent studies in psychology have shed light on how priming works and its impact on performance. One study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology found that positive priming messages significantly improved athletes' self-confidence and performance levels. Another study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology revealed that negative priming could lead to a decrease in self-efficacy and motivation, negatively affecting an athlete's overall performance.


As teen athletes, your mental well-being is just as important as your physical prowess. Being aware of priming techniques and their potential for manipulation is crucial for maintaining a healthy mindset and achieving your goals. By paying attention to language, body language, emotions, and seeking diverse opinions, you can protect yourself from manipulative priming.

Remember, you have the power to control your mindset and your reactions to external influences. Stay focused, stay positive, and stay in control of your athletic journey.

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