What can sports psychology do to help prepare you for a race

Wednesday 30th October 2019


Motorsport is one of the most mentally and physically demanding sports there is. Not only are the drivers themselves subjected to such high demands, but the teams supporting them are also, as they play such an integral role in the overall performance of the vehicle. Drivers and their teams are faced with constant pressures to perform and get results.

Whether it be in Formula One or Nascar, all drivers involved in motorsport are expected to execute numerous motor and cognitive skills simultaneously. They must remain calm and focused on their vehicle's performance, the track, and their competitors who are just inches away, all while travelling at such high speeds. On top of this they must drive the car; manoeuvre gears and foot pedals while steering their vehicle, using highly developed coordination and training. The precision of which all this must be done has to be high in order to achieve results. Add to this the requirement of the driver to communicate with his team in the pits, who themselves have to coordinate and work together to such strict time scales, working to a well-drilled routine. Unlike most other sports, there is a great deal of risk and danger to any individual who steps inside a highly powered, high speed sports car. The pressures, then, are considerable.

So what can sports psychology do to help those prepare, mentally, in the sport? Firstly, it need not be a reactive approach. Much work will be in response to crisis situations within racing, but a lot can be done in a preventative manner. Here are a few things any driver can do to help maintain a clear head before stepping into the car.

  • Manage pre-race tension and worry so you arrive at the event fresh and ready.
  • Focus on the elements that are key for your optimum performance, without getting distracted by excessive details, irrelevant factors, or what others are doing. 
  • Develop routines for before the race and any down time so you exert more control and consistency over your performance. 
  • Manage the emotions (stress, frustration...) associated with intense competition.
  • Maintain confidence in your ability to hold your performance or bounce-back following setbacks.
  • Set goals for the year, month and next round or practice to shape what you do, focus your efforts and improve more quickly.
  • Re-visit why you race, what motivates you, why you love the sport, and set-up training and racing to further increase motivation.
  • Develop images and visualise your performance, this speeds up learning and increases confidence.
  • Process the experiences that hold you back so you can get back to performing well.
  • Manage poor performances so they don't cause your race or season to self-destruct.


With any sport, mental toughness and capability can often match or even outweigh the physical attributes required to succeed. Ensuring the correct mental approach is taken can go a long way to giving a driver the edge.             

The Sean Edwards Foundation (SEF) has amassed a wealth of support from world-class racers, as well as a growing team of ambassadors who are integral to the success of the foundation; raising awareness, improving and setting new safety standards via education, ultimately amplifying the message to improve safety in motorsports worldwide and on every level.

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