Chalk Talk: Nicole DeFerrari

Build mental toughness with four techniques from psychologist and athlete services coordinator for intercollegiate athletics Nicole DeFerrari.

illustration of a runner in mid-stride with motivational words and phrases around her by Joel Kimmel


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head shot Nicole DeFerrari, courtesyAs a psychologist and athlete services coordinator for intercollegiate athletics, Nicole DeFerrari helps Penn State student-athletes build mental toughness. These four techniques can help athletes in any sport or at any level of competition do the same. 


Effective Self-Talk

DeFerrari wants athletes’ inner dialogue to be helpful. Instead of focusing on potential mistakes, she recommends self-talk regulated by facts.


Use Imagery

Picture what the environment you’ll be competing in looks like, sounds like, feels like. It’s a mental workout that needs to be done routinely.


Set Achievement-Based Goals

Instead of focusing on outcome-based goals, like winning the race, focus on things you can control, and break them into bite-sized chunks.


Emotion Regulation Skills

If you’re too emotional while competing, spot it and assess your next step. If you’re feeling too technical, remember your passion for the sport.