The key role of body language in sport

Body language – gestures, facial expressions, eye movement, breathing patterns, skin colour changes, muscle tone, interpersonal distance, and posture – is thought to play a key role in sport, as the majority of communication there is done through the body.

In fact, Greenlees and colleagues have found that table tennis players displaying “positive body language” were judged as more assertive, aggressive, competitive, experienced, confident, positive, focused, relaxed and fit than players who displayed negative body language.

Their study also found that players reported less confidence in their ability to defeat opponents who displayed positive body language.

This tells us that athletes can gain some psychological advantage by displaying positive body language.

One athlete who seems to know the value of positive body language is Usain Bolt. He is known for smiling and joking around before each race. Whether this is a psychological ploy or part of Bolt’s personality is unclear. However, the message to other competitors is that he is completely relaxed and ready to go.

Watch with interest the positive and negative body language on display at this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

And read more about the importance of looking the part for sporting success on this website.