Part 1

Over the next few months, I'll be bringing you some insight into the world of Performance Psychology and how it may! help you in the world of match angling. With help and assistance from some tried and tested techniques, this series will hopefully provide you with another piece of equipment to go with the various rods, poles and reels etc., that you may carry around, thereby taking you a step closer to becoming a better angler.

Without the necessary psychology qualifications behind me, I’ve been fortunate to take on this task with the assistance and input of an accredited psychologist, who's gained 25 years of experience and knowledge in this particular field... he also happens to be a very good angler as well!

Anyway, to get started let’s take a look at two very important aspects of fishing, Confidence and Goal/Target setting. To do this properly, you’ll need to get hold of a notebook and pen, but you must be prepared to be brutally honest with yourself... so NO CHEATING

Much of what's written and researched in Performance Psychology supports the notion that confidence breeds success... i.e. the more confident you are, the better you'll perform. Many people believe that this confidence comes from winning, or at least finishing near the top, however, these results may only serve to boost self-esteem.


There are two distinct types of confidence, however, it's essential to keep them separate:

Self Confidence
Values, commitments and life-roles all contribute towards self-confidence, with angling coming under the life-role category. Now it’s time for the writing to begin. Start by listing your values, things such as dependability, sincerity and honesty. These items will tell you who you are and will take into account things like being a good friend and a successful angler. Once done, read it through a couple of times and then share it with someone else. Doing so will show the true importance of fishing in your overall values.

Performance Confidence
Now we can take a look at performance confidence. You can do this by writing down all the elements of your fishing, in two different categories. The first one will be called 'Practical Skills' and this is where you should include such things as casting ability, pole-handling as well as specific techniques. Under the second heading of 'Emotional/People Skills' you can list things such as how well you communicate with people, how assertive you are, how confident you are.

Overall, these two elements contribute in establishing you as a better angler while helping to maintain a consistent growth to the level you've already achieved. Now go back and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. Rate each one as 'how you are' as opposed to 'how you want to be'.

The next task is to get someone who is familiar with you as a friend and angler, to rate you on the same items and then discuss them with you. This produces a list of your strengths and weaknesses from two viewpoints. It then gives you grounds to realise that self-confidence is not just based on how you see yourself, but on how others see you.

Here’s another tip to try out. Start by listing four or five of your successes during your fishing career. Then write down the reasons you feel you were successful on each occasion, recalling and recording all of your feelings before, during and after the events in question. Remembering that these will also give you increased self-confidence almost immediately!

Self-affirmations or self-statements are other tools that can increase confidence, but beware of exaggeration, as this can often be counter-productive. Keep statements such as 'I am the greatest' down to 'I am fully prepared' as this will give your mind a clear path in both thought processing and, ultimately, in making the right decisions. Also, beware of anyone making these boasts, they may sound invincible but in reality they have no bearing on their confidence level at all.

Improving, or mastering a specific technique is another way of increasing your confidence levels. This can be accomplished through individual experimentation or by seeking assistance from an expert. I’ll go into greater depth on learning and challenging yourself with new skills later in the series.

Lastly, before we move on to goal setting, it's worth pointing out that the difference between the confidence levels of good anglers and great anglers, can be smaller than you think! Just by reading this article, you’ve taken the first steps to becoming more aware about your own abilities. This, in essence, places you way ahead of many others who believe they’ve already attained sufficient confidence levels (despite reality suggesting otherwise).

Few techniques in Performance Psychology are more effective than Goal Setting. which does several things on it’s own. Obviously, higher goals lead to higher expectations, which can lead to better performance. If only modest goals are set then we should only expect medium performance, therefore by setting the sights high, expectations and performance should rise accordingly.

Goals also direct attention and effort towards positive outcomes. Having a goal will determine and focus our attention on the specifics of the task or job ahead, and on things that would otherwise go unnoticed. Thirdly, goals concentrate your efforts and help filter out distractions. Everyone reading this article should be able to think of an instance where they were so intensely focused on what they were doing that they were oblivious to everything else that could have upset their day.

Creating goals also helps boost energy levels and increases enthusiasm and persistence. For instance, an angler who goes fishing with a specific weight in mind that they want to catch, will be much more enthusiastic and likely to achieve that goal rather than one who goes fishing without one. Another example can see an angler persistently targeting an apparent negative area of their peg because they believe a target species may be present.

Goals that are accompanied by detailed thought planning are much more achievable, than those without one. Try this quick exercise. Think for a moment of what you want to get out of your next fishing trip, or match. Your first thought may be how to avoid the heavy traffic that you encountered during your previous trip... perhaps you may be mentally listing the baits you may need to take. These are some of the first steps that you've already sub-consciously formulated, which will help in achieving your goal!

The targets that you set yourself can also be accomplished in THREE different timeframes... short, medium and long-term.

Begin to write down what you want to ultimately achieve, starting with your long-term aims. These will probably be your dreams and aspirations, so by committing them to paper and then disclosing them to family or fishing friends, they may help enhance your future performances.

183_8361.jpg183_8361.jpgNext, your medium-term goals. These are what you need to achieve on the way to reaching the heady heights of your long-term dreams and aspirations. It could be winning a series of club matches that leads you to qualification for a national final (your long-term goal). This is just an example, your own choice will be more relevant.

Finally, your short-term goal. You will need to be specific and explicit with this one as it will involve things such as tying up the rigs and hook-lengths prior to an event, bait preparation etc, etc. These short-term aims are the founding basis to achieving and contributing towards the medium and long-term targets you have set.

For each and every goal that you set yourself, you must ensure that they can be evaluated along the way. Each level you reach should be measurable in order to keep tabs on the progression that it's made. Everyone wants to know how many miles they have left to reach their destination, so why not measure how far you’ve got progressed towards achieving what you want to. Each goal will be easier to reach and will prove self-charging for the next level, but only  if you know how close you are to getting to it!

Confidence is necessary for every task and goal. Make sure that you’re at your most confident and that your goals are well-defined so each of them in return will work positively for you.

In Part 2, I’ll take a look at how to learn and use information, as well as some of the routines, rituals and superstitions we all have.