Coaching

Article

Before beginning this article I should probably provide some insight into the types of issues raised to me by coaches that provoked me to write it. “It’s just not clicking at the moment, for whatever reason we are just not on the same page. I don’t get him/her a lot of the time” “He/she is […]

Before beginning this article I should probably provide some insight into the types of issues raised to me by coaches that provoked me to write it.

  • “It’s just not clicking at the moment, for whatever reason we are just not on the same page. I don’t get him/her a lot of the time”
  • “He/she is definitely a challenge. I have tried a lot of things but they are just never happy…always got something to complain/not be happy about”
  • “Things are going well performance-wise, but the relationship isn’t there yet. They keep themselves to themselves and are quite hard to get to know”
  • “One minute things seem to be ok and he/she is happy. The next minute, they are all over the place emotionally and are hard to pin back down”
  • “They are hard work. They are taking up a lot of my time to be honest. They just always have so many questions…sometimes its things I have already explained a number of times before”

If any of this resonates with your experiences working with athletes I hope the following article will be of some use to you.

Introduction to Coach-Athlete Relationships

The quality of the coach-athlete relationship in sporting contexts has been shown to be of vital importance to the success and well-being of an athlete (Jowett & Cockerill, 2002; Lyle, 1999). As a result, particular attention is paid to the ways in which the coach-athlete relationship can be enhanced so to manage the various challenges faced by what is often an intense and pressurised relationship (particularly in high performance sport where there are consequences for insufficient achievement).

The most effective coach-athlete relationships have been shown to involve characteristics such as empathic understanding, honesty, support, liking, acceptance, responsiveness, friendliness, cooperation, caring, respect and positive regard (Jowett & Cockerill, 2003; Jowett & Meek, 2000). Of paramount importance to any relationship is trust; particularly relating to the trust each member has in the other’s ability to meet their needs.

Coaches seeking to enhance the quality of the relationships they have with their athletes may benefit from developing an understanding of how their athletes’ perceive trust in their relationships. A tried and tested theory from mainstream psychology known as ‘Attachment Theory’ may provide a useful framework to achieve this.

The aims of this article are to:

  • briefly describe ‘Attachment Theory’
  • highlight observable behaviours that may reflect different attachment styles
  • offer advice for building relationships with challenging attachment styles.

Attachment Theory

The following may not have a lot to do with sport but bear with me…(!)

Attachment theory proposes that the quality of the relationship between an infant and their caregiver is of primary importance in establishing the infant’s attachment style. The quality and consistency of the caregiver’s ability to meet the infant’s needs will have important ramifications for how that infant learns to recognise value in themselves and in others. For example, an infant who is distressed and has their need for comfort constantly met by an effective caregiver learns that they are worthy of love and care, that person’s on the ‘outside’ are caring and capable of care, and that it is safe to trust others to meet their needs. The quality of this infant/primary caregiver relationship is suggested to lead to the infant developing one of four attachment styles, which are described in the table below:

Table 1: Information on the frequency, child state, caregiver behaviour, and child perception of need fulfilment for each of the four attachment styles.

attach

 

Figure 1 provides a useful demonstration of the consequences of the caregiver’s behaviour. It can be seen from this diagram how caregiver behaviour can influence the development of three primary attachment styles.

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Figure 1. A flow diagram portraying the development of each of the three primary attachment styles.

Adult Attachment Behaviours

Now a question you may be asking is “What has this got to do with the coach-athlete relationship?” A good question, and one that can be answered by first of all acknowledging that the attachment styles we develop as infants have been reliably shown to direct how we develop relationships as adults (Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998).

Table 2. Examples of how attachment styles developed in infancy can manifest themselves in adult characteristics.

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From our early attachment experience we are left with an influential perception of ourselves and others in relationship contexts. These are referred to as our ‘Internal Working Model of Self’ and our ‘Internal Working Model of Others’. For ease of understanding, we can consider ourselves to have thoughts about ‘self’ and ‘others’ that are either positive or negative (Table 2).

Table 2. Adult attachment style and the reflective positive or negative perceptions of self and others.

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A secure adult attachment style will consist of a positive view of self and of others. The securely attached athlete will have higher levels of self-esteem because they consider themselves worthy and capable of love and care. Given their positive attachment experiences, they also see others to be responsive and able to meet their needs. As they are better able to make secure attachments, they are likely to have higher sociability.

An anxious-ambivalent (or sometimes called a preoccupied) adult attachment style involves the athlete having a positive view of others but a negative view of self. Their high regard for others as capable of offering care and support conflicts with their perception that they are not worthy to receive it. These individuals have low self-esteem and as a result are typically in a heightened state of anxiety about their relationships. They may seek regular reassurance that they are cared for/valued as their sense of self-worth is largely dependent on others.

A dismissive-avoidant adult attachment style typically involves an overt positive view of self and a negative view of others. These individuals have learnt that they can meet their needs independent of external support and have likely never experienced a truly open and mutually beneficial emotional relationship. They are likely to dismiss emotions and personal distress as well as actively avoiding close relationships.

A fearful-disorganised adult attachment style is rare and is beyond the scope of this article to discuss.

Working with Different Attachment Styles

The table below outlines some observable behaviours and things to consider with the two more challenging attachment styles; Preoccupied or Anxious-Ambivalent and Dismissive – Avoidant.

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In conclusion, it can be seen that awareness of an athletes attachment style may provide coaches and support staff with the knowledge needed to adapt their communication style in order to gain ‘buy in’ and trust from their athletes. This is imperative for the creation, development and maintenance of an effective coach athlete relationship. Awareness of attachment style and appropriate behaviour modification from the coach can provide opportunities for more challenging athletes to be handled more efficiently and in a more informed manner.

 

 

Article

The role of parents in the sporting development of young athletes has been a focus of research in sport psychology for decades. Academic research and applied work has been transformed into books, manuals, pamphlets, websites and videos to provide a source of accessible information to parents based around understanding and enhancing their child’s experience in […]

The role of parents in the sporting development of young athletes has been a focus of research in sport psychology for decades. Academic research and applied work has been transformed into books, manuals, pamphlets, websites and videos to provide a source of accessible information to parents based around understanding and enhancing their child’s experience in sport, positively contributing to their sporting development.  At present, this kind of accessible information does not exist specifically for parents of disabled athletes. This can be attributed somewhat to the paucity of research on the topic of parenting in disability sport. The following article discusses the highly influential role that parents can play in the sporting development of disabled individuals, presenting results from the few studies that have taken place within this subject area. It should also demonstrate the need for similar and relevant sources of information and guidance to be made available for parents of disabled individuals

As is the case in non-disability sport, there are a number of intervening factors which can determine an individual‘s success in reaching this professional and elite athlete status – parental input and influence is thought to play a key role in the process. This is in regards to not only encouraging the child to initially participate in sport, but to sustain their involvement and progress through the higher stages of the sport. In non-disability youth sport development, parents are viewed as playing 3 key roles: the provider, interpreter, and role model (Fredricks & Eccles, 2004). As the provider, parents offer the physical means to allow the child to take up and maintain a new sport. This can include providing financial support and transportation to training sessions and tournaments. As the interpreter, parents form a set of beliefs regarding their child and their involvement in sport. The types of values a parent holds may in turn influence the child in terms of their attitude orientation, mental well-being, and thus their progression throughout the sport. Finally, parents as role models may influence their child’s reactions and behaviours in a sporting context, as well as by motivating their child to progress through sport from their own sporting experience and achievements.

As academic literature and many articles on the Believe Perform website demonstrate, parents can also be responsible for exerting both positive and negative influences on their child’s sporting development, through their parenting styles. ‘Pushy’ or ‘problem parents’ have been identified as major inhibitors to young athletes trying to progress through grassroots to sport to a more professional level. Emphasis on failure, lack of support and failure to deliver appropriate encouragement can discourage the child to prevail and remain resilient in the crucial stage of development, often resulting in drop out. Conversely, parents who can provide the appropriate level of support to their child, encourage autonomy, demonstrate understanding and foster enjoyment in the activity will facilitate their child’s progression in sport. For example, parents who were encouraging of their child’s physical activity participation raised children with stronger perceptions of their physical competence compared to children with less encouraging parents (Brustad, 1993).

But how does this parental role differ in the development of athletes in disability sport? In many ways, the role of parents in disability sport is thought to be even more significant. Firstly, this can be attributed to the often increased reliance on parents to provide assistance with matters additional to what is viewed as their key roles as identified by Fredricks and Eccles (2004) in the development of non-disability sport. This can include attending to medical requirements, transportation of equipment (wheelchairs, medical supplies etc.), strapping and assisting the individual with equipment for sport, and guidance around unfamiliar places. Depending on the classification and extent of an individual’s disability, this reliance may also continue after childhood and adolescence, when in the case of non-disabled individuals, parental provision generally decreases. Thus, the child’s ability to not only take up a sport, but to continue to participate and progress through a sport, is heavily dependent on a parents’ ability, willingness and commitment to provide the necessary support and physical means.

Parents of disabled children can also play a preventative role in their disabled child’s sporting development. Many parents view participation in sport and physical activity to put their child at increased risk of injury, and will thus discourage or prevent their child from participating in sport. This is demonstrated in a study by Boufous, Finch and Bauman  (2007) who identified the presence of a disability to be associated with parent’s decision to prevent their child from participation in sport. Furthermore, parents who may initially see participating in sport to be beneficial for their child, may discourage them from progressing through the sport due to the increased physical demands it may bring.

Conversely, parents can play a facilitative role in their disabled child’s sporting development by viewing the benefits that sport and physical activity can bring to their child to outweigh the risks. Participating and competing in sport can provide a disabled child with a range of positive experiences. Research by White (2014) examining perceptions of parents of elite wheelchair tennis players, demonstrated that playing tennis has offered social opportunities and experiences that their child perhaps may not have otherwise had. For example, making friends through playing and traveling abroad for tournaments and training camps. Parents perceived this benefit to be particularly important in encouraging their child to continue playing sport if their child has attended specialized schools or has suffered isolation or bullying as a result of their disability, thus missing out on “normal” social experiences and interactions. The results of this study also demonstrated how parents perceived playing sport to provide their child with a purpose or pathway in life. For those individuals where their disability can prevent or hinder them from going to university or pursuing careers, playing sport was encouraging as a means of facilitating personal development.

Conclusions

Although it is clear that parents do play a significant role in their disabled child’s participation and development in sport, current literature on the subject is only a foundation for an area which desperately deserves more attention. Although applied research into the field of parenting in disability sport is gradually growing, it still remains fairly limited, particularly in comparison to the vast literature revolving around non-disability sport. The complex and heterogeneous nature of disability leaves open a wide area of study, and also presents difficulties in terms of makes generalising results of any studies. In order to provide a broader and more detailed picture of the role of parenting in disability sport, more research is necessary.  With the accessibility and awareness of disability support rising through factors such as government funding and increased media coverage of events such as the Paralympics, it is perhaps even more crucial that more attention is paid to this important topic, in order to ensure that disabled individuals are really gaining the most from their sporting experiences.

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Within sport we want to teach players transferable skills that they can use in all areas of life. We want to teach players social and psychological skills that can help them to thrive in not only sport but also in different environments. We want to develop players who can cope with adversity, manage stress, become […]

Within sport we want to teach players transferable skills that they can use in all areas of life. We want to teach players social and psychological skills that can help them to thrive in not only sport but also in different environments. We want to develop players who can cope with adversity, manage stress, become resilient, be leaders and be good team players. However, is this actually happening within elite sport? Are we focusing too much on the athlete and the results which they produce? Are we thinking about developing the person rather than developing the player??

Elite sport has now become a business where athletes are paid and sold for millions of pounds or dollars. Sport has become an industry where TV rights are sold for hundreds of millions of pounds and advertising and sponsorship can fund a players life. What happens to the hundreds of thousands of players who don’t make it in elite sport? What happens to the young players who are released by their sport clubs?

In football out of the 10,000 youth players in academies less than 1% make it to the top level. What happens to the players that don’t make it? Do clubs offer support and services to help athletes to manage this stressful time? Being released from a club is a stressful time for any player. Most players would have developed a strong athletic identity which means they can find it hard to adapt to everyday life.  Some players will be lucky enough to find a new club whereas others will struggle and have to deal with the stress and worries of creating a new life outside of sport.

In sport we want our clubs and teams to win medals and trophies. We want to see our favourite club become the best in the country or even world. We want to see results and often when results don’t go our way we see managers being sacked and players being released. When developing players we want results. We want to see players improve technically, tactical and physically. When players don’t achieve the results that are needed this can lead to problems. Surely sport is more than just about producing top quality athletes?

Clubs must start to take responsibility for developing better people as well players. Clubs should start to think about how they can start to develop the psychological skills of players from a young age. By developing psychological and social skills we can help players to manage the stress and worries of not only sport but also life. 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem and there will be athletes within sport who are suffering in silence. Young players are put under huge amounts of pressure and stress to achieve a certain level of results within elite sport. How many clubs support young athletes academically? How many clubs think about the stress of balancing school work and sport? Often we hear stories of of young players who have been built up by the media to be the best in the world and then 2 years later are released by the club and left without any support.  How many clubs focus on developing the wellbeing and resilience of players?

Sport is not all about producing results and top quality players. Sport is about develop better people. Coaches must be aware of the different skills that players can learn from taking part in sport. When a player does not achieve a certain level, that does not mean that you should stop helping them to grow and develop into a better person. Not only will this approach help to develop better players but it will also help players within their academic, social, work and family environment.

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Managing personal relationships can be enhanced through emotional intelligence. Evidence suggests that people with higher levels of emotional intelligence lead more successful careers and nurture better relationships than those with low emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is defined as, ‘the ability to understand emotions of own and that of others. It is the ability to regulate […]

Managing personal relationships can be enhanced through emotional intelligence. Evidence suggests that people with higher levels of emotional intelligence lead more successful careers and nurture better relationships than those with low emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is defined as, ‘the ability to understand emotions of own and that of others. It is the ability to regulate and manage these emotions,’ (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Central to emotional intelligence are its core domains. An exploration of each domain can reveal why emotional intelligence can help to enhance relationships.

Self-awareness is about controlling own emotions and increasing our ability to cope. Within relationships there are numerous questions that we ask of ourselves. For example, did I discipline my child correctly? Can I accept that my partner is career minded and spends too much time at work? Is it fair my partner seems to spend more time on the golf course than at home? The process of self-awareness is simple. Becoming aware of how you react to situations is priceless in accepting how you deal with situations at home. Conversely, having limited awareness will lead to distractions, arguments and a poor relationship. Therefore, a clear understanding and the ability to discuss matters can lead to better relationships. One suggestion to increase self-awareness would be to discuss plans at the start of each week. Self-reflection is also a useful tool to increase self-awareness. Reflection enables people to better understand their own emotions and the consequences these actions have on your husband/wife. In essence, increased self-awareness leads to better family, work and social life balance.

The concept of self-regulation is relative to understanding how your body reacts to emotions. Emotions can be categorised as positive or negative. Positive emotions provide people with affirmations that lead to increased direction and focus. People who experience positive emotions will generally be happier and feel mentally balanced. Negative emotions fuel the body with feelings of despair, stress, anxiety and even depression. These issues lead people to lose control. Therefore, people should attempt to regulate how they feel and recognise their partner’s feelings. Regulating your emotions is important as relationships fluctuate between happiness and sadness. If one can be in control of their emotions it fosters better thought processes. For example, supporting your partner through post-natal depression, losing a loved one or moving house can be linked to fluctuating emotions. Recognise your emotions and overcome negative feelings by understanding your mind-set. For example, identify how you feel through situations that elicit positive and negative emotions. Deal with loved one’s through acceptance and discuss feelings. Remaining positive can be achieved through listening to music or taking part in exercise.

Motivation is an inner desire that is beneficial to all human life. Without motivation human life could be almost non-existent. Remaining motivated is beneficial and can help foster relationships. Planning days out to engage with family will increase satisfaction. Working with your partner can be useful in providing extra motivation. Having a weekly strategy is an ideal and effective way of knowing what is planned. Examples of plans could relate to working out at the gym together, watching a film together or visiting the garden centre together. Whilst it is acceptable that careers and tiredness can get in the way of family life, it is also recommended that the core of family values should not be dispensed and doing things together can increase motivation levels and make relationships stronger and valued.

Empathy is essential when supporting each other. Not being empathetic to your loved one can be detrimental and should be addressed. Empathy is about understanding needs, desire and appreciation. To foster empathy it would be useful to identify partner needs and examine ways to meet these. We must question whether we understand our loved one’s needs. Are we capable of thinking what they are thinking or acting? We should attempt not being too self-centred about ‘me’, but actually be all rounded about ‘us.’ Having discussions on how to support one another promotes empathetic needs and desire.

In conclusion, emotional intelligence is a useful concept that can foster better relationships.

Article

I dislike how we use the word ‘talent’. A quick google of the word ‘talent’ provides the following definition: natural aptitude or skill. Despite this rather narrow definition, I feel ‘talent’ is too often given as the independent reason and cause to explain how people reach elite performance in sport. I would instead argue that […]

I dislike how we use the word ‘talent’. A quick google of the word ‘talent’ provides the following definition: natural aptitude or skill. Despite this rather narrow definition, I feel ‘talent’ is too often given as the independent reason and cause to explain how people reach elite performance in sport. I would instead argue that talent is not enough.

My argument isn’t a new one, yet it still fails to pervade lay understanding of elite performance. Of course, talent undoubtedly plays a role in helping sportspeople to reach elite performance, though there are other factors which are too often neglected. Let’s look at two of them: opportunity and prolonged deliberate practice.

1) Opportunity

One of my favourite illustrations of the importance of opportunity in reaching elite performance has been popularised by Malcolm Gladwell, who was citing a Canadian psychologist named Roger Barnsley (Gladwell, 2009). Whilst studying elite Canadian hockey players, Barnsley uncovered that 40% of professional players were born between January and March, 30% between April and June, 20% between July and September and only 10% between October and December.

Does this suggest players born between January and March have more talent, or ‘natural aptitude or skill’? I don’t think so. Rather, the cut-off for age-class hockey is the 1st of January in Canada. So, when coaches are scouting players for junior sides, they understandably choose those born earlier in the year since these children tend to be better due to their extra months of physical and motor development. The result is that only these children are able to regularly practice in the ice rink and benefit from professional coaching. This only serves to enlarge the performance gap between these children and their unfortunate peers who have equal talent but not opportunity. And despite this, we still attribute elite performance solely to natural talent.

2) Prolonged Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice is a well-known concept in sport psychology, where individuals specifically look to practise specific skills to improve their performance. Equally well-known is the 10,000 hour rule where in general, elite sportspeople have had 10,000 hours of deliberate practice before they reach an elite level. Indeed, the importance of deliberate practice to reach an expert or professional level has become so well-known because it is based on a great level of empirical research (Colvin, 2010). For instance, in summarising their research, Ericcson, Krampe and Clemens (1993) stated:

“We deny that these differences are immutable, that is, due to innate talent. Only a few exceptions, most notably height, are genetically prescribed. Instead, we argue that the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain. 

So it’s clear that thousands of hours of deliberate practice are vital for elite performance. So why do we continue to label people as ‘talented’?

Maybe it’s because we like to put others on pedestals, praising their ‘supernatural’ talent because it’s the easiest reason for us to give. Maybe because it’s easier than saying ‘I might be able to be that good if I put in a few thousand hours of good practice’. Or maybe because it’s easy to see the current gap in ability between us and elite performers, but not the thousands of hours of practice that they had to put in to get there. Whatever the reason, research has dispelled the myth that talent is enough to ensure elite performance. Not only should we adopt this view because research supports it, but also because our current outlook on high performance merely serves to encourage a fixed mindset: ‘he/she is that good, you’re this good and there’s little you can do about it. However, if we were to listen to the research, we’d have a far more positive and healthy understanding of high performance.

Although it’s undeniable that some individuals are born more talented than others (not all ice hockey players born in January are scouted by coaches!), a huge amount of research has shown us that natural talent is rarely enough for elite performance. By recognising the importance of opportunity and deliberate practice, I’ve only scratched the surface in accounting for what underlies elite performance. For instance, attitude and resilience, amongst other factors, are also undoubtedly key to reaching world-class performance.

Why do you think we continue to use the word ‘talent’ as the sole reason underlying high performance?

What else do you think needs to accompany talent to reach elite performance?

Article

We are looking now looking at a situation in the Western world where obesity is becoming an epidemic. Reports suggest that over 35% of people in the USA (National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES)) in 2010. Reports also suggested that about 25% of people in Britain (NHS 2008) and Ireland (OECD 2010) are reported to be […]

We are looking now looking at a situation in the Western world where obesity is becoming an epidemic. Reports suggest that over 35% of people in the USA (National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES)) in 2010. Reports also suggested that about 25% of people in Britain (NHS 2008) and Ireland (OECD 2010) are reported to be obese with growth estimated at about 1% per annum. This is a drastic rise in obesity levels from 1993 when just 13 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women reported to be obese. The importance of sport and physical activity is emphasised by Twisk et al (1997) who found that long-term exposure to daily physical activity was inversely related to body fatness.

If the growth rate continues at the present pace, over 50% of people in these countries will be obese by 2050 with significant costs to the exchecquer in respective countries through their health bill. Scarily, huge volumes of 4-5 year old children (24.5%) in Britain (NHS) reported to be obese in 2008. This does not account for the massive population of children that are overweight, not yet obese but will be by the time they reach adulthood.

Bearing this in mind, physical activity, sport and exercise is going to be ever more important going forward, not just for the enjoyment value within children but also to the state of the nations health. Therefore, the importance of the sports coach and the role that they play will be infinitely more important.

The child’s experience in sport is critical for the ongoing development of any athlete. If the experience is positive, the child will be more likely to continue participating. If the experience is negative, the child may drop out of sport, and lose interest in physical activity. According to recent studies, 45% of ten year old boys participate in sports. By the age of eighteen only 26% of them stay active. An overview of youth sports carried out in America showed that dropout is well under way at age ten and peaks at 14-15. This was found across a range of ten different sports. Presently, there is a huge drop out from sport among adolescents. In all sports, almost half as many 16 – 24 year old women take part in sport as men of the same age while only 15% of girls aged 15 in the UK meet recommended daily physical activity levels.

Some of the Reasons children participate in sports include

  • having fun,
  • improving skills,
  • staying in shape,
  • excitement of competition,
  • exercise,
  • to be part of a team
  • challenge of competition.

Sport England research suggests that in all sports, almost half as many 16 – 24 year old women take part in sport as men of the same age while only 15% of girls aged 15 in the UK meet recommended daily physical activity levels. The research points out that girls who don‟t drop out of sport say they feel a powerful sense of belonging and list friends and socialisation factor, team spirit and support as additional reasons to stay involved in sport.

Some of the reasons for given for dropout from sport include

-Loss of interest,

-Lack of fun and playing opportunities,

-Failure to learn new skills,

-Too much pressure,

-Coach was a poor teacher,

-too much time involved

-Coach played favourites,

-Over emphasis on winning.

Abraham Maslow, a famous Danish human psychologist established a hierarchy of needs from a human psychology perspective in the late 1960’s for the development of the child. In this author’s opinion, this is very much transferable into the sports coaching domain with relevance to athlete development. He explained that for one to reach their full potential in life, a feeling of belonging is central to reaching ones potential. This is also central to sports coaching as the social dynamic fostered by the coach can be a direct determinant of how an athlete feels socially within a group.

As kids develop at different rates, a weak 12 year old could potentially be an excellent 18 year old if given the correct coaching and time to physically develop. However the nature of team sports and often a coaches “must win” philosophy can have a huge impact of weaker players willingness to be involved, often leaving them feeling left out or unimportant. Needless disenfranchisement through lack of playing opportunity along the development pathway through lack of game time may mean they never reach that phase where they garner self esteem and the respect of their peers through their accomplishments let alone reaching their full potential (self actualization phase). This is often the reason for drop-out from youth sport.

The Relative Age Effect (RAE) is a commonly known factor in the dropout rate in sport. It briefly explains that a child born later in the athletic year is less likely to garner success in sport because on a general scale, they are less likely to be chosen on teams due to being physically weaker than those born earlier in the athletic calendar year. Obviously, this is nullified at adult level but a lack of feeling of belonging due to less playing opportunities on the path towards adult sport may impact on their likelihood to continue in sport. Thus a child born in December is more likely to drop out of sport than a child born in January in team sports where the cut off age date of birth is January 1st in any given year.

Too often, a win at all costs philosophy on a coach’s part results in players leaving their chosen sport because of lack of playing opportunity. Too often we see young players being left on the bench for the coaches pride when their team is winning or losing comprehensively. Under 12 teams are now being trained in an exceptionally serious manner with the criterion for success being whether a championship is won or not. When all is said and done, in the greater scheme of things, does an underage title really matter towards long term success? While it may encourage those involved playing, for those weaker kids not given opportunities, it may inherently tell them that they are not good enough to play. Remember that for every team that wins, there are a lot more losing teams. A sub on a losing under 14 team who rarely gets game time is not going to have a high level of self worth in relation to their playing capability, so a coach’s discourse will most likely have a much larger impact on an athlete’s feelings of self worth than they can imagine.

 As coaches in our hot pursuit of sporting excellence, we must not lose sight of the fact that children play for enjoyment, not success of the coach. A far more appropriate criterion for coaching success or lack thereof of an underage team would be whether the weaker players at under 12 level are still playing, developing and enjoying their sport as 18 year olds. If they are not, maybe one needs to ask questions of their methods, objectives and manner of coaching irrespective of how many championships a coach wins or loses.

As a coach of young players, one needs to ask and answer some of these questions?

  • Are the players having fun and enjoying the training?
  • Am I making them technically better?
  • Am i developing a love of the game in my players?
  • Am i helping all of my players feel wanted?

This can only be done by embracing each and every individual athlete as a person, creating a positive group dynamic and allowing all athletes to enjoy their sport for the right reasons. Yes there will be times when you want your strongest team on the pitch, but there are also times when winning or losing does not really matter. If it takes an extra effort to arrange friendly games to cater for weaker players, then that should be done. What right do we as coaches have to limit a players potential development or worse again, turn them off a sport they might love and contribute to the growing rise of obesity through mismanagement of youth sport.

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Reflective Practice is “an improvement tool to produce a change in practice” (Knowles et al., 2006) and can be applied in a personal as well as a professional context (Ghaye, 2001; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004). Knowles, Gilbourne, Cropley and Dugdill (2014) describe reflective practice as a complicated procedure which allows experience to […]

Reflective Practice is “an improvement tool to produce a change in practice” (Knowles et al., 2006) and can be applied in a personal as well as a professional context (Ghaye, 2001; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004). Knowles, Gilbourne, Cropley and Dugdill (2014) describe reflective practice as a complicated procedure which allows experience to be converted into learning (p.10). Reflecting in such a way comprises of cognitive processing where expert knowledge and professional practice are combined in order to encourage knowledge-in-action (Boud, Koegh & Walker, 1985; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004).

Benefits of Reflective Practice

There are a range of benefits that come with the use of reflective practice (Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004; Cropley et al., 2010). An increased level of self-awareness is an advantage of reflective exercises, through documenting activity, the individual’s understanding of their own application and techniques as a coach, practitioner (psychologist, physiotherapist etc.), or athlete can be improved (Cropley et al., 2010; Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004). Another benefit of reflection would be the individual’s opportunity to overcome any conflict or unease that they may be experiencing internally following practice or performance and it’s requirements, providing a chance to express concerns and attempt to find resolutions (Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004). The use of knowledge-in-action, often referred to as craft knowledge (e.g. Knowles et al., 2001; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004) or tacit knowledge (e.g. Martens, 1987; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004), and defined as knowledge acquired through carrying out a role rather than obtained through educational means (Knowles & Telfer, 2009), can be particularly advantageous to individuals during reflective activity. This knowledge can be used to assess situations and influence behaviour that follows, increasing effectiveness (Cropley et al., 2010).

Methods of Reflection

There are different models which offer guidance in reflective practice techniques available to those choosing to incorporate it into their service (e.g. Gibbs, 1998; Atkins & Murphy 1994). John’s (1994) structured reflection process (as revised by Anderson, 1999) provides a series of 21 questions to assist the use of reflective practice, prompting thoughts, for example, on the consequences of their actions, as well as considerations of alternative approaches (cited in Heanley, Oakley & Rea, 2009, p.30). Cropley et al. (2007) advocated use of this model and summarised it to be a “structured and meaningful” method of reflection after the first author in that paper expressed an improved insight into his own professional and reflective methodologies. This model would be beneficial to follow when engaging in reflection, as it has rigid structure which encourages a methodical reflective process instead of simply thinking through the happenings of practice (Knowles et al., 2001; cited in Cropley et al., 2007).

It is also possible to fulfil the needs of reflective practice in the form of a diary entry (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012; Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004; Cropley et al., 2010) this would not only comply to guidance of the above model, but also assert the use of ‘reflection-in-action’, meaning that reflection could take place during events along with between sessions (training, consulation etc.), stating thoughts, feelings and decisions in the moment. The inclusion of professional judgement and decision making (PJDM) may also be valuable in order to justify and evaluate such feelings and choices, producing a greater level of intensity during self-reflection (Martindale & Collins, 2007).

Types of Reflection

Staged reflection, is a form of reflection that encourages individuals to reflect instantly after service delivery or during events, as well as using deferred techniques, by reflecting again after a prolonged period of time following the event (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012). In the Knowles, Katz and Gilbourne (2012) paper, staged reflection was demonstrated by author two, who then invited peer inquisitorial processes from author one and three to trigger the further engrossment in reflection on the same events one year later. This therefore also displayed the involvement of layered, or shared reflection, by communicatively expressing reflective thoughts with others (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012; Knowles et al., 2007). Layered reflection is an additional method that can be employed within reflective practice as it offers and provokes further affections and points of view surrounding practice (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012). This would again be beneficial as reflection in isolation may display deficit in some areas of knowledge and experience (Knowles et al., 2001; cited in Cropley et al., 2010). In circumstances of supervision, with utilisation of layered reflection, collective engagements are essential in order for the supervision to be collaborative in a beneficial way for both parties (Knowles et al., 2007).

Another form of reflection, critical reflection, is described by Knowles, Katz and Gilbourne (2012) as “a process that includes moments of evaluative activity” refocusing individuals from a “professional in-context to the person in a more global and interactive sense”, although a difficult form of reflection, is vital to practice (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012). In order to exhibit critical practice, there is a requirement of assessing the limitations of “social, political and economic factors” (Knowles et al., 2006), however this can be particularly difficult to include.

It can therefore be recognised that there are a vast number of benefits to be gained through carrying out reflective practice, not only to the evaluation of practice but also to self-development both personally and professionally (Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004; Cropley et al., 2010; Anderson, Miles, Mahoney & Robinson, 2002; cited in Anderson, Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004) and the use of it could be employed through following models (such as John’s, 1994) along with the procedures of staged and layered reflection (Knowles, Katz & Gilbourne, 2012; Knowles et al., 2007) in order to reflect in the most beneficial way for the individual as well as anyone else concerned.

Article

Let’s be honest, everyone tries to impress other people on a daily basis. We all (or at least most) try to impress others – whether that is demonstrating positivity, attempting humour, or simply laughing at other people’s jokes so that they like you, it happens. Managing an impression of yourself is one thing, but it […]

Let’s be honest, everyone tries to impress other people on a daily basis. We all (or at least most) try to impress others – whether that is demonstrating positivity, attempting humour, or simply laughing at other people’s jokes so that they like you, it happens. Managing an impression of yourself is one thing, but it is also possible to manage the impression, or public image, of many things. For example, businesses create a tempting impression of their services in an attempt to entice people to use them. Impression management is defined as the process of attempting to control how people perceive, evaluate, and react to information about an entity or person (Schneider, 1981). This statement is often used in tandem with ‘self-presentation’, which refers to individuals who are motivated to manage their public impressions.

Schlenker & Leary (1982) refer to self-presentation as ‘…a goal-directed act designed, or at least in part, to generate particular images of self, and thereby influence how audiences perceive and treat the actor’. This outlines the ‘self’ as a corporation of sorts, which explains why people often only select certain aspects of themselves to appease a particular audience. Essentially, we market ourselves in order to influence others in exchange for desirable rewards (Schlenker, 2006).

On occasions, particularly in sport, the impression formed by influential individuals (e.g., coaches) is largely consisted of a person’s psychological ‘makeup’. Therefore, athletes need to be aware that one’s ‘product’ is versatile (physical, technical, mental, tactical, lifestyle) and to market it appropriately.

Impression management is often used interchangeably with self-presentation; however, this is inaccurate due to the former being a complex process consisting of numerous phases. Actually, the antecedent cognitions of actions, gestures, and speech (the physical manifestations) are the result of a goal-directed act (self-presentation).

Four key phases are often carried out when an individual strives to attain their self-presentational outcomes (Leary, 1995; Leary & Kowalski, 1990). These include:

  1. Impression Monitoring, the level to which one is aware of the need or opportunity to self-present.
  1. Impression Motivation, the driving force behind managing one’s impressions.
  1. Impression Efficacy, the subjective probability of making the desired impression.
  1. Impression construction, factors that help the individual decide on the specifics of the image they would like to portray.

The previous five decades have researched this phenomenon of self-presentation, however, sport psychology research only dates back to the 1980s (e.g., Baumeister & Steinhilber, 1984). Erving Goffman (1959) originally proposed that it was necessary to deliver an effective self-presentation in order to facilitate smooth everyday social encounters. Primarily interested in the ‘arts of impression management’, Goffman’s initial statements started a vast range of studies that demonstrated the wide-ranging importance of self-presentation to accommodate an individual’s social and psychological well-being.

The target of our self-presentation is often referred to as the ‘high-strength other’, which include teachers, interviewers, friends, partners, coaches, and selectors. It’s plausible to suggest that in each of these roles, success is almost always measured in terms of the impressions others form. For example, if we are not exhibiting the perceived desirable behaviours of being hard-working, friendly, interesting, or handling pressure, we run the risk of not being given the rewards that we desire (Baumeister, 1982). The same process is viewed from those in a position of a ‘high-strength other’ as they ensure their self-presentation matches the expectations of those in such a position. Those who are motivated to impression-manage and achieve success are able to satisfy their needs due to meeting the intra- and inter-personal goals that they have set (Leary, 1995; Leary & Kowalski, 1990; Schlenker & Leary, 1982). On the other hand, a ‘high-strength other’ who has invested time and emotional energy within a role, but then experiences self-presentational failure or underachievement could then be damaged by the psychological, social, and financial effects (Leary, 1995; Leary & Kowalski, 1990; Schlenker & Leary, 1982).

Competitive sport is just one of the many areas which demonstrates the importance of possessing an effective self-presentation (Leary, 1992). Everything an athlete or player does can be scrutinised by those high-strength others, including, an athlete’s performance, dedication to practice, interaction with other team members, personal conduct, and so on. Therefore, the desired outcomes of attaining a place in the squad, having an opportunity to play, receiving money through sponsorship, are all largely dependent on high-strength others forming a positive impression (Leary, 1992).

Furthermore, these high-strength others all have a considerable influence and control over an individual’s experience of sport. Each stakeholder will have slightly different expectations of the athlete. There are numerous opportunities to succeed or fail in one’s self-presentation, with the athlete’s performance the most prominent. Training, competition, travelling to a match, and even changing rooms are all opportunities that provide a platform for an athlete to adhere to the demands of the ‘audience’ (Goffman, 1959).

Impression management is a complex topic that athletes and stakeholders are aware of, but it is often a type of behaviour that is accepted than improved or discussed. The next article will look at impression management from a social anxiety perspective and how it can be addressed.

Article

The attainment of sports expertise has been of great interest to coaches and sport psychologists. Talented athletes are identified from a young age and enter programmes to help them develop into elite athletes. A range of factors may influence a coach’s judgement on the potential of an athlete, whether it’s physical, technical or mental qualities. […]

The attainment of sports expertise has been of great interest to coaches and sport psychologists. Talented athletes are identified from a young age and enter programmes to help them develop into elite athletes. A range of factors may influence a coach’s judgement on the potential of an athlete, whether it’s physical, technical or mental qualities. An exhaustive amount of research has identified that the month that an athlete is born in may have a positive or negative effect on his development to sporting expertise. This phenomenon has been described as the relative age effect. This article will critically appraise the research on the relative age effect and outline its implications and strategies to prevent it from occurring.

The relative age effect refers to the overall difference in age between individuals within each age group, which may result in significant differences in performance (Barnsley et al., 1992). The relative age effect highlights that there are more elite athletes born in the earlier months of the calendar year in relation to athletes being born in the later months of the year (Helsen et al., 1998). Cobley et al., (2009) meta analysis on the relative age effect showed that for every 2 elites athletes born in the 4th quartile of the calendar year, there where 3 or more elite athletes born in the 1st quartile of the calendar year. Hockey, soccer, tennis and basketball have all been shown to have significant relative age effects across a range of age groups. For example, in soccer, the relative age effect has been found in both adult players (e.g. Barnsley et al., 1992; Baxter-Jones, 1995) and youth players (e.g. Barnsley et al., 1985; Baxter-Jones, 1995; Helsen, et al., 1998b, 2000a). Youth players born early in the selection year are more likely to be identified as talented by professional and national teams, and become professional soccer players. In comparison, players born later in the selection year are more likely to drop out of the sport or be released from professional soccer clubs (Feltz & Petlichkoff, 1983; Helsen, Starkes, & Hodges, 1998a). A clear relative age effect was also found for all the European soccer national youth selections in the U-15, U-16, U-17 and U-18 age categories (Helsen et al., 2004). However, in women’s soccer the relative age effect is less pronounced, possibly due selection being more emphasised on technical components of the game rather than the physical attributes, in comparison to men’s teams (Helsen et al., 2004). However, the sample for women in this study was rather small (n=72), therefore further research is required to make this claim.

The reason for the overrepresentation of more mature athletes in sport may be due to differences in growth and development. Athletes born in the earlier months of the year are more likely to experience earlier maturation, which is associated with improved speed, strength, and muscular endurance in comparison to their younger counterparts (Davids & Baker et al., 2007). Older players have an advantage when competing in sport which may result in greater sport experience as a function of age (Helsen et al., 2000). Greater physical attributes may lead more mature players to being selected for national teams and being picked to play more frequently in matches. This increased exposure to resources will mean that older players accumulate more training time, work with better coaches, and develop greater levels of self-competence and self-efficacy, in relation to there younger counterparts (Cobley et al., 2009, Helsen et al., 2000). These advantages will result in an accelerated achievement of sports expertise, explaining the overrepresentation of older athletes in certain professional sports.

Since talent detection and identification procedures may be biased by these reported differences in relative age, prevention strategies must be put in place in order to reduce the effect. Several recommendations have been proposed to resolve the relative age effect. Originally, these addressed annual age-groupings, by promoting a change in the age-group cut-off date (e.g. from January to June), rotating cut-off dates from year to year or altering age-grouping bandwidths (Barnsley et al., 1985). However, changing the cut-off dates only lead to a transfer of a relative age effect, as demonstrated in Australian, Belgian and English youth soccer (Musch et al., 2001). Another solution has been to group athletes according to physical classification (i.e. height and weight), similar to that routinely adopted in boxing and wrestling. These strategies may prove difficult to integrate into sport systems, as they are still unproven (Cobley et al., 2009). A more realistic and less challenging solution is to delay the processes of selection and identification beyond stages of puberty and maturation (i.e. 15–16 years of age). Talent identification programmes should reconsider the need for early selection, intensive training and levels of representation at junior and child ages. Delaying selection might reduce RAEs and reduce the risk of burn out during an athlete’s development (Cobley et al., 2009). Another beneficial approach would be to raise awareness of the relative are effect among those responsible for organisation of youth sport. During adolescence, coaches need to be aware that physical attributes, such as height and weight are being overlooked during early stages of athlete development (i.e. 13–16 years old), leading to selection advantages to the relatively older at a time (Cobley et al., 2009).

In summary, the relative age effect is present in a wide range of elite sports and sheds light on the flaws of many talent identification systems. Due to the short-term approach to success in elite sports, coaches select players that will win them games in the immediate future. This means selecting players who are physically and emotionally more mature. The implications of this process will lead to a big pool of talent being overlook and misrepresented. Talent identification programmes must try to reduce the risk of the RAE through raising awareness, monitoring player’s maturation rate and avoid employing intensive early age talent selection. Future research directions may benefit from increasing knowledge on the relative age effect in women sports. Also, qualitative studies on talent identification programmes across sports such as soccer, hockey, and basketball may help identify weaknesses, which may lead to suggested changes.

Article

John Terry, one of the best soccer players in the world, steps up to take the penalty shot that will win Chelsea the prestigious Champions League Final.  He takes a moment and then approaches the ball.  Thousands of fans are screaming and the stadium is rocking viciously.  The environment could not be more hostile.   […]

John Terry, one of the best soccer players in the world, steps up to take the penalty shot that will win Chelsea the prestigious Champions League Final.  He takes a moment and then approaches the ball.  Thousands of fans are screaming and the stadium is rocking viciously.  The environment could not be more hostile.   Terry approaches the ball, slips, and misses the kick.  The shot misses the net completely and Chelsea loses the game.

What can appear to be a virtually simple task, can become a nightmare when players are not mentally prepared for high pressure situations.  These situations may cause high levels of anxiety and arousal.  Every athlete has a zone of optimal performance or an arousal level where they are “in the zone.”  It takes many years of training for athletes to fully understand where this optimal zone is.

Imagine that you have taken John Terry’s place on the field.  The crowd is screaming and millions of people around the world are watching you through their televisions.  This one moment can set you apart from all the other players and put you in the record books or will be the dark shadow that hovers over you for the rest of your life.  Picture the environment and how the crowd is reacting.  What are they shouting, is the goal keeper yelling at you, are your teammates offering support or are they silent?  How do you feel in this moment?  Is your heart racing or are you calm and collected?  This will all depend on how you have prepared for the high pressure moment.

Imagery can be one of the best tools that will improve an athlete’s mental performance.  Constantly running through a moment over and over, will prepare the athlete for the actually scenario.  In John Terry’s case, he should have imagined himself in the stadium, with the thousands of fans screaming his name for support.  Then he would walk up to the ball and focus on putting the ball in the right side netting, just past the goalies finger tips.  Next, he would imagine the celebration with his team.  It is important to focus on the successful act of completing the penalty kick and how it makes the athlete feel.  That feel of success is very important for increasing and maintaining self-confidence.  When an athlete has high levels of self-confidence, performance can vastly increase.

Another important tool for improving performance is self-talk.  During the walk up to the ball, an athlete should repeat to a specific script.  This script should be made prior to an event and utilized during practice sessions so the athlete is comfortable using it during a game situation.  The athlete should kick the penalty to the same side every single time to make sure the repetition works, implementing a sort of muscle memory.  For a player who wants to shoot to the right side, an example script would be; “I am going to shoot the ball, with the inside of my right foot, with a little bit of curve, around the goalies fingertips, into the side netting of the right side of the net, and score the penalty kick.”  It has to be that specific for the self-talk to really take effect.  Having the plan already set in your mind and visualizing the successful completion just before making contact with the ball will help you take action.  Self-confidence will also improve, because you believe the ball is going in the goal and the goal keeper cannot do anything about it.

One final technique to help prepare for the high pressure situation of shooting a penalty kick is taking a deep breath.  This may sound simplistic and you may be thinking how can a deep breath help me take a penalty kick.  The fact is that when athletes are put into extreme situations they forget to do what is most important for existence.  Breathe.  Deep breathing will help you focus on the task at hand.  It will slow your heart rate and help decrease some of the symptoms of anxiety, like increase heart rate and nausea.  A deep breath will give you a calming moment to clear your mind completely.  Taking one before you start the imagery script and then taking another before you attempt the penalty kick will truly improve your focus.  The benefits of taking a deep breath are endless.

Training the body is very straight forward, but training the mind is far more difficult.  Although it may be difficult, it is still important to improve mental function when participating in sports.  Creating the best connection of the mind with the body is vital to achieve the most from ourselves.  Simple techniques like mental imagery, self-talk, and deep breathing can help facilitate the training of the mind and every athlete, whether recreational or professional, should utilize them.

Article

Considering the new name of the website, I thought it would be fitting to expand on the relationship between belief and performance. In order to maximize athletic potential, it is important to have belief in your abilities (e.g., Connaughton, Hanton, & Jones, 2010; Martin & Gill, 1991). As the stakes in sport get higher, the […]

Considering the new name of the website, I thought it would be fitting to expand on the relationship between belief and performance.

In order to maximize athletic potential, it is important to have belief in your abilities (e.g., Connaughton, Hanton, & Jones, 2010; Martin & Gill, 1991). As the stakes in sport get higher, the competition harder, and the level of play tougher, self-belief starts to play a more integral role in performance (Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2002). Beginner athletes can have success by fulfilling the tasks assigned to them by their coach. They see improvements by an increase in training, dedication, and frequency of competition. As the talent level funnels at the elite level, self-belief becomes more important. A good coach, supportive parents, and teammates can temporarily fill the void in self-belief that an athlete may have. For example, a coach can inject confidence through encouragement, the expression of their belief, and highlighting the positive strides the athlete has made. However, at the top level in sports, it is important that an athlete truly believes that they can achieve their goals, whether it is representing their country at an international event, or competing on the biggest stage, such as the Olympic Games. Training for one of these pursuits with doubt or hesitation will serve as a roadblock.

Nevertheless, even the best athletes in the world can suffer from a lack of self-belief. They may train with excitement about reaching their goals, but when they step onto the pitch or up to the starting line, their mind is clouded with doubt and fear. A question I get asked a lot by athletes is: “How can I become more confident in my abilities?”

Research highlights the important impact that self-efficacy can have on increasing the persistence and effort in achieving a performance goal (e.g., Feltz, Short, & Sullivan, 2008). In short, self-efficacy is the extent to which people have belief in their ability to achieve their goals and perform at a desired level. Bandura’s social cognitive theory (1986) explains four key components that promote self-efficacy: (1) mastery experiences (2) vicarious learning (3) messages from peers, coaches, and others important in your sporting domain and (4) personal interpretation of the physiological and emotional sates related to sport. Below, I focus on the first of these four components: Mastery experiences.

Self-belief is impacted by past experiences and performances, referred to as mastery experiences. These experiences are the most powerful tools for creating belief (Valiante & Morris, 2013). Successfully achieving a desired outcome in the past increases belief in achieving a desired outcome in the future. Mastery experiences form the foundation of perceived success, which helps build self-belief (Feltz & Ressinger, 1990). As an athlete, a successful performance will add more ammunition to your self-belief. Conversely, failures have a tendency to undermine self-belief (Bandura, 1997; Feltz & Ressinger, 1990). It is important for athletes to reflect on their successes and use these experiences to build confidence.

As an athlete, what are some ways to help facilitate successful mastery experiences?

First, it is important to have realistic, yet challenging goals (Locke & Latham, 2002; Valiante & Morris, 2013). Goals are the foundation of an athlete’s career: They help direct attention and motivate athletes. It is important that the goals are challenging enough to help develop confidence, but are still achievable. Long-term goals with process-oriented goals that serve as check points along the way are useful.

Second, develop a constructive way to handle successes and failures. As the saying goes, you win some and you lose some. However, both wins and losses can help you develop momentum towards your athletic goals. A failure is a great learning opportunity and gives athletes a chance to re-visit their goals. Re-framing failures is important because it prevents athletes from focusing on negative aspects of sport that can be detrimental to self-belief. A success helps build confidence and create more challenging goals in the future.

Third, reflect on your training. Athletes can make the mistake of blindly following their coach’s workouts. Trust is important in a coach-athlete relationship, but taking ownership over your training and learning the meaning behind training can help develop self-belief. A coach’s belief in their athlete can only take the athlete so far. Reviewing progress in training and consistency in workouts can help athletes learn and reduce competitive anxiety (Hanton, Cropley, & Lee, 2009), which in turn may increases their belief in their abilities (i.e., self-efficacy; Chase, Magyar, & Drake, 2005). Training is an important physical part of the sport, but it is also an opportunity to strengthen your mentality and belief.

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” — Laird Hamilton

Article

Ian Mitchell is currently the Performance Psychologist for Swansea City AFC and the Wales National Team. As a schoolboy he was linked with Chelsea FC and captained Wales Under 18s before signing professionally for Hereford United in the Football League. After leaving full time football he continued with his education and played semi-professionally during which […]

International Football - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying Round Group B - Wales v Bosnia and HerzegovinaIan Mitchell is currently the Performance Psychologist for Swansea City AFC and the Wales National Team. As a schoolboy he was linked with Chelsea FC and captained Wales Under 18s before signing professionally for Hereford United in the Football League. After leaving full time football he continued with his education and played semi-professionally during which he captained Wales and Great Britain University teams and represented Great Britain at the World Student Games. His education saw him gain a BA (Hons) in Sport and Human Movement Studies, an MSc in Sport and Exercise Science (Distinction) and a PhD in Sport Psychology for which he received the British Psychological Society Award for an outstanding thesis in stress and social support. He has supervised PhD students in the areas of Sport Psychology and Coaching Science, published and presented at National and International Sport Psychology and Sport and Exercise Science conferences for over a decade and served as an external examiner at Southampton, Hertfordshire and Bath Universities. Ian has reviewed regularly for journals such as, The Sport Psychologist, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, Journal of Sports Sciences, European Journal of Sport Science, and Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, and reviewed grants for the Economic and Social Research Council, The Leverhulme Trust, and the Higher Education Academy. Ian’s applied research has enabled him to lead investigations with FIFA, the FAW, the IRB, the WRU, and The Higher Education Academy.

For the last 12 years, Ian has delivered as a coach educator on both the UEFA Advanced and Professional Licences for the Welsh Football Trust (WFT). Areas of delivery include personal effectiveness, reflective practice, football psychology, mental toughness and resilience, communication, and leadership. He also leads on leadership development and mentoring programmes for the FAW and WFT. He is currently a UEFA qualified coach, formerly coach for the Wales National U16s (Victory Shield) squad and has previously scouted for Manchester United 1st team. His previous academic roles over a 17-year period include Director of Sport & Exercise Science and Senior Lecturer in Sport Psychology at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Ian is now full-time at Swansea City AFC and works with the coaching and technical staff for the Wales National team during the current European qualifying campaign. Ian is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and member of the Health and Care Professions Council.

Twitter: @ianmitch9

Blog: ianmitchell9.com – An Insight into the Psychology of Performance.

Article

The availability of supplements to help support the body during physical exercise, maintaining a healthy system and potentially improving performance, are numerous and many athletes take a wide range of supplements every day. However, how much do we actually know about the supplements used on a daily basis? One popular supplement used across many sports […]

The availability of supplements to help support the body during physical exercise, maintaining a healthy system and potentially improving performance, are numerous and many athletes take a wide range of supplements every day. However, how much do we actually know about the supplements used on a daily basis?

One popular supplement used across many sports including cycling and athletics is Beta-Alanine. This non-essential amino acid has been at the forefront of much research surrounding the improvement in physical performance during high intensity exercise and strength training, delaying muscle lactic production and increasing free fat mass (see reference 1). These potential benefits are accompanied by research showing conflicting results of little or no effect on performance leaving athletes, coaches and researchers unsure of the exact physiological effects.

Briefly, Beta-alanine has a parent compound called Carnosine which consists of amino acids histidine and beta alanine. Carnosine occurs naturally in large amounts within Type 2 muscles fibres in the skeletal muscle, which are fibres used for explosive movements in sprinting, for example. Carnosine works as a buffer for the hydrogen ions, which are responsible for producing the nasty effects of lactic acid, and can allow an individual to exercise at high intensities for longer, in theory. However, Carnosine is degraded as soon as it enters the blood and thus creates no advantage from the ingestion of such a supplement. Fortunately, ingesting beta-alanine and histidine independently allows the transportation of these supplements into the muscle so that they are re-synthesised as Carnosine. Beta-alanine supplementation of 4-6 grams a day for 28 days has shown to increase the intramuscular levels of Carnosine by 60% (Zoeller et al., 2005), showing the great benefit of ingesting beta-alanine.

The intake of beta alanine as a supplement has been shown to increase intracellular buffering capactity during exercise, enabling athletes to perform high intensity exercise for longer periods of time (Sale, Saunders & Harris, 2010). Supplementation of beta alanine in combination with creatine monohydrate has been explored in untrained young male adults (Stout et al., 2006) and has showed that ingestion of 1.6g of beta alanine or 5.25g of creatine twice a day for 22 days significantly delayed the onset of neuromuscular fatigue compared to participants taking placebo supplement. The combined intake of 10.5g/day of creatine and 3.2g/day of beta alanine has been shown to enhance the strength performance of American football players and also enhanced the lean tissue mass whilst decreasing body fat composition (Hoffman et al., 2006). Further to this, Hoffman et al., 2008a, produced research to show that supplementation of 4.8g/day of beta alanine alone for 30 days significantly increased the strength of experienced resistance-trained males.

A meta-analysis conducted using information from 15 studies shows the most effective dosages and time of exercise to benefit most from the supplement (Hobson et al., 2012). Beta alanine supplementation has been shown to be most effective during exercise lasting between 60 and 240 seconds, which could be compared to that of a 400m or an 800m event (Hobson et al., 2012). In comparison, exercise lasting less than 60 seconds showed no significant improvements on performance with beta alanine supplementation just like exercise lasting over 240 seconds (Hobson et al., 2012). From this study, research shows that a daily supplementation of 5.12g of beta alanine would result in a 2.85% improvement in performance, which equates to a 6 second improvement over 1500m. These studies provide evidence of the beneficial effects from beta alanine, increasing the intramuscular buffering of hydrogen ions which accumulate during high intensity exercise lasting up to 4 minutes and can be detrimental to overall performance.

Whilst there is research to show performance improvements from the ingestion of beta alanine, it is important to note that there is research that shows no significant effects on performance with beta alanine supplementation over as long as 10 weeks (Hoffman et al., 2008b; Kendrick et al., 2008). Research is confounded by the dispute over daily doses and the untrained subjects used; any findings should be taken with caution. It is therefore important for future research to assess the effects of beta alanine supplementation across athletes training and competing the shorter, anaerobically based distances.

Due to beta alanine playing a major beneficial role in the delay of fatigue during high intensity exercise, it has become a popular ergogenic aid to enhance sport performance. The potential benefits of such a supplementation could have a huge impact on improving the performance of many athletes, especially athletes competing over distances between 400m and 1500m.

Article

Parent-coaches are very common in youth sports. This is not necessarily a negative thing— there are plenty of parents who do a great job—but it often seems as through the club could be doing a better job of getting their own, senior-level athletes into coaching the youth teams. This could create an environment which would […]

Parent-coaches are very common in youth sports. This is not necessarily a negative thing— there are plenty of parents who do a great job—but it often seems as through the club could be doing a better job of getting their own, senior-level athletes into coaching the youth teams. This could create an environment which would be beneficial for all parties, the player-coach, the youth players, and the club as a whole.

There is very little research on the topic, as most of the research in this area focuses on the transition from player to coach, leaving a gap in research looking at athletes who compete while also coaching a youth team—for the sake of this article, we will refer to this as a “player-coach”. However, these transitions could be perceived as somewhat similar.

The benefits for the player-coach are many. They will gain leadership skills, communication skills, increase their self-awareness, learn more about their sport and ultimately learn more about themselves. Coaching and playing are two different viewpoints, and the player-coach will benefit from this new perspective.

Young athletes exposed to a player-coach will experience a focus more likely working towards skill development, instead of on winning and results, as the player-coach may be more attentive to detail and have a better understanding of which parts of the game are important to focus on during training. This will, in turn, improve their performance and their desire to play. Having an unbiased coach, as opposed to a parent-coach who may show bias towards their own child and their child’s friends, is also a benefit in that all athletes will be given equal attention. Perhaps the most important benefit of having a player-coach is that the players will be in direct contact with a role model, a high-level player that they can look up to and learn from.

The benefit for the club is that there may be more of an opportunity to focus on creating a positive environment that is conducive to learning. If the player-coach has been exposed to this kind of environment as a player, they will likely coach in a manner that reflects the playing environment they experienced. In addition, this is easy advertising for the club. With a senior player coaching a youth team, players on that team will attend senior games, which in turn means that friends and family will follow. Ultimately, this will create a more positive club atmosphere with a clear path from youth- to senior-levels.

Roach and Dixon (2006) looked at the transition of college athletes into assistant coach positions. There are many parallels that can be assumed between transitioning from player to coach and that of a competing athlete balancing playing and youth coaching. First, the coaches explained that they liked having former players as assistant coaches because they were already compatible for the position, as they already knew the team strategies and coaching style, having already been exposed to that as a player. This is also true for player-coaches as they were and are part of the system and the club philosophy, making them instantly compatible for the position. Second, since the player is already known within the organization, their level of motivation and work ethic is already recognized. The same should be done for the senior players looking to become coaches—it’s a big responsibility and the right players with the right work ethic and motivation must be selected. Third, just as a former college player already has at least four years of experience in their program and can give advice to their players, the player-coach can help their players with first-hand advice, as they have already gone through those steps of development. And finally, it was found that these former college athletes provided psychosocial support, creating mentor relationships between the assistant coach and players. This could definitely be a benefit for both the player-coach and the athlete, as the player will have an outlet to speak their mind and to feel support, and the player-coach will develop important interpersonal skills and increase their self-worth. Both parties will benefit from this trusting relationship.

So, how do we get these senior-level athletes into youth coaching?

First, educate them. The club will gain many benefits from paying for their players’ coach education.

As much as the athlete has likely gained a lot of technical and tactical knowledge from their experience as a player, it is still important for them to get their formal coach education and to “gain the basic grounding and experience of coaching at lower levels (league-wise and qualification-wise) in order to succeed” (1). At the end of the day, education and training will come from a blend of formal and informal sources, and it is important that the club makes this readily and easily available to the new player-coaches (3).

Second, provide mentors. An increasing amount of research has been demonstrating the importance of a mentorship relationship for coach development. One study found that many youth-sport coaches had a mentor in their first years of coaching (3). These player-coaches need a safe environment to share and learn from others’ experiences. As important as it is for them to reflect on themselves, this does not have to be a solitary process, as they can learn from discussing with their peers and their young athletes (3). At all levels of sport, “interactions among the coaching staff (coaches, assistant coaches, and manager) can provide important learning situations in which they discuss coaching issues and develop, experiment with, and evaluate strategies to resolve these issues”(3).

It is also important for the player-coaches to receive constructive feedback. They are likely used to receiving this as a player, and may very well be expecting to receive this as a coach.

Third, give them work. In addition to entrusting them with a youth team, for little or no pay, creating opportunities for them to work at camps, clinics, or at some level of management, can allow these athletes to make a little money. Many athletes around this age will try to find work, oftentimes outside of the sport, so why not provide them with an opportunity to work for their club? Creating this type of opportunity for the player-coach will allow them to feel more committed to the organization, which would then increase the probability that they will stay with that organization (2). In addition, this could be a step in the right direction in helping athletes in their transition away from being a player. It can be speculated that in educating them as a coach at a younger age, they will be better prepared and perhaps even more likely to make a smooth transition from player to coach in the future.

It is important to add that not necessarily all players make good coaches, just as not all parent-coaches make bad coaches. The thing that matters most at the end of the day is that the players are having fun and learning in a positive environment that will benefit their development!

Article

Coaching is far more than just teaching sports skills to individuals and teams. It is also about inspiring, giving confidence and motivating others by building quality relationships. You need to poses the emotional expertise in order to build those relationships with an individual or within a sports team. In sports psychology this emotional expertise is […]

Coaching is far more than just teaching sports skills to individuals and teams. It is also about inspiring, giving confidence and motivating others by building quality relationships. You need to poses the emotional expertise in order to build those relationships with an individual or within a sports team. In sports psychology this emotional expertise is called Emotional Intelligence (EI).

There is clear evidence to substantiate that EI is beneficial for performance as outlined in my last article. This short article will demonstrate the usefulness of EI for sports coaches and what I takes to be an emotionally intelligent sports coach.

My last article included a table of the 15 Trait Emotional Intelligence Facets in Adults and Adolescents. I have chosen five of these to expand upon in relation to coaching, I have chosen the five that closest relate to Goleman’s (1998) components of EI important for leaders: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

  1. Emotion Perception

The ability of a coach to be clear about their own and other people’s feelings is a useful one. A successful coach will have a good perception of their performers. Emotional perception also relates to self-awareness. Highly self-aware coaches are confident, have a realistic view of their abilities, and aren’t afraid to admit their mistakes in order to improve.

  1. Emotion Regulation

It is important for a coach to be capable of controlling their emotions. An emotionally intelligent coach will be able to maintain control during pressurised situations, which regularly arise in sporting situations such as team selection, high importance matches, and team talks. Emotion regulation also refers to adaptability-being flexible and willing to adapt to new conditions.

  1. Self-Motivation

A highly self-motivated coach will be driven and unlikely to give up in the face of adversity. A successful coach needs to be motivated to coach for the sake of coaching not driven by the thought of winning trophies and titles. A coach must look to maintain their own motivation and also motivate their performers to get the best from them.

  1. Trait Empathy

A coach high in this facet of EI will be capable of taking someone else’s perspective. Coaches who have the ability to empathise are able to build strong relationships with their athletes as they will feel comfortable going to the coach with their issues and problems.

  1. Social Awareness

A coach that has social awareness will be an accomplished networker with excellent social skills. Coaches who are socially skilled will be better at managing relationships and will be capable of influencing others.

 

Summary
Although having strong technical and tactical knowledge for a given sport may make a good and highly successful coach, the research into EI does suggest that other qualities can play an important role and separate good from great coaches. An emotionally intelligent coach is one who leads with emotion perception, emotion regulation, self-motivation, trait empathy, and social awareness and they will create a team environment conducive to enjoyment, trust, and maximal effort resulting in better performance.

Article

Personal-Disclosure Mutual-Sharing (PDMS) is an intervention whereby an individual consciously shares an issue or situation, with a group they belong to (i.e., sports team/peers), in attempt to find resolution through interpersonal interaction (Olarte 2003). The approach is consistent with a counselling approach in that emphasis is placed on personal disclosure underpinned by mutual sharing, empathy, and […]

Personal-Disclosure Mutual-Sharing (PDMS) is an intervention whereby an individual consciously shares an issue or situation, with a group they belong to (i.e., sports team/peers), in attempt to find resolution through interpersonal interaction (Olarte 2003). The approach is consistent with a counselling approach in that emphasis is placed on personal disclosure underpinned by mutual sharing, empathy, and an encouragement of group members to understand each other’s experiences (Dryden 2006).

In terms of group functioning in applied sport settings, PDMS based intervention has been shown to encourage mutual communication of group values (Windsor, Barker & McCarthy 2011) amongst sport teams. Furthermore, qualitative study findings have reported links between a single PDMS intervention session and athlete reports of increased closeness and trust between teammates, and greater motivation to play as a team and with each other (Holt & Dunn 2006; Dunn & Holt 2004).

Dual phased PDMS intervention sessions with populations ranging from academy environments (Evans, Slater, Turner & Barker 2013) to adult football teams (Windsor, Barker & McCarthy 2014) have also produced interesting findings. For example, in a dual phase PDMS intervention, Barker, Evans, Coffee, Slater & McCarthy (2014) explored the effects of PDMS on social identity, particularly the social identity content components of friendship identity content (FIC) and results identity content (RIC). Findings suggested the dual-phase approach yielded desensitising effects with regards emotionality, with participants reporting feeling increasingly relaxed about sharing stories in the second phase of intervention. This suggests that, when conducted in a dual phased manner, PDMS can result in athletes sharing more emotive stories with their peers, which has an overall positive impact on team cohesion.

As a group intervention, it could thus be argued PDMS intervention studies have built on the existing team building literature. Findings also have implications for sport practitioners working in applied settings. To expand, there is a need for practitioners to acknowledge the personal and potentially provocative nature of information shared during PDMS intervention, which may concern other group members. These considerations are construed as vital to group therapy in counselling domains (Dryden 2006). Establishing boundaries and a contract with the group (prior to disclosure), which encourages honesty in an appropriate way is thus crucial and warrants skills of appropriately trained practitioners/professionals (Holt & Dunn 2006; Dryden 2006). It is also important to consider how disclosure beyond the realms of the group might be contained, for example, concerning an eating disorder, and the procedures and referral pathways to psychological support.

In terms of limitations, PDMS studies to date have not been able to explain mechanisms within a PDMS intervention that enhance group functioning (Barker et al 2014). There is also little application of PDMS into physical activity settings, with empirical studies to date tending to focus on team building per se (Burke et al 2006). Finally, given repeated exposure to PDMS appears linked to reduced anxiety around mutual sharing, longitudinal studies to track content of individual PDMS speeches and group processes over longer term studies are warranted. These are areas for future exploration.

Article

The Theory of Challenge and Threat States in Athletes (TCTSA) provides a framework for understanding how athletes react psycho-physiologically within competitive situations (Jones, Meijen, McCarthy & Sheffield 2009). To expand, the TCTSA proposes that in a sporting context an athlete’ appraisals of a sporting situation or competition will likely determine their sporting performance. Appraisals comprise […]

The Theory of Challenge and Threat States in Athletes (TCTSA) provides a framework for understanding how athletes react psycho-physiologically within competitive situations (Jones, Meijen, McCarthy & Sheffield 2009). To expand, the TCTSA proposes that in a sporting context an athlete’ appraisals of a sporting situation or competition will likely determine their sporting performance. Appraisals comprise three inter-related constructs, namely self-efficacy, perceived control, and goal orientation, all of which determine a perceived challenge or threat state and an athlete’s consequential effort, attention, decision making and physical functioning. In essence, a perceived challenge state promotes energy efficiency through glucose delivery and culminates in successful sport performance, but a perceived threat state restricts blood flow to the muscles and brain which compromises the mobilisation of attention and decision making and results in less effective sport performance (Dienstbier 1989; Jones et al 2009).

To explain a little further about the three inter-related constructs linked to appraisals, the TCTSA proposes that self-efficacy as an important determinant for appraisal formation because an individual’s belief in their ability to succeed largely depends on their perception of ability to cope with situation demand and execute skills for success (Lazarus 1999). Applied evidence within the competitive anxiety literature supports this argument, suggesting conditions for anxiety are inherent across elite level competition, however high levels of self-efficacy are associated with positive interpretations of anxiety symptoms and appraisals conducive with a challenge state that aids performance (Hanton, Mellalieu & Hall 2004).  Thus self-efficacy might mediate performance outcome.  Secondly, control influences the formation of threat and challenge states given that athletes need to feel both able to compete in a demanding situation and believe they have necessary control to perform to the best of their ability regardless of extraneous, unpredictable variables outside of their control (ie, unexpected obstacles, weather conditions for example) .  Thirdly, goal orientation can influence appraisals of a sporting competition, in that athletes who approach an event with a goal focused approach centred on demonstrating competence will likely experience challenge state on approach to competition; an approach which allows for the retention of high self-efficacy and levels of perceived control. In contrast, approaches driven by avoiding incompetence will likely trigger threat state and hinder performance.

In sum, the TCTSA model would suggest that athlete appraisals are crucial determinants of sporting performance and, more specifically that inter-related constructs of self-efficacy, perceived control, and goal orientation, likely determine a perception of being in a challenge or threat state. This perception will influence an athlete’s consequential effort, attention, decision making and physical functioning, and ultimately their sporting performance.

How can the TCTSA be applied in practice to maximise athlete performance?

The TCTSA (Jones et al 2009) has a theoretical foundation that provides a potential framework for stress management to maximise athlete performance (Turner & Jones 2014). A practical, applied strategy would seek to promote self-efficacy, perceived control and a goal focused approach, with the overall aim being to promote a challenge state that motivates sport performance (Turner et al 2013).  A strategy that combines imagery with a “challenge strategy” (Turner & Jones 2014) can aid athlete performance. Imagery is a well-documented psychological skill that involves intentional recreation of events in the absence of physical practice and has been shown to help athletes achieve a desired psychophysiological state when preparing for performance (Durand, Hall & Haslam 1997). The benefits of imagery on challenge and threat states have also been empirically examined, with findings suggesting that imagery scripts dominated by challenge based appraisals promote perceived control and self-confidence (Williams, Cumming & Balanos 2010).

Tips for developing a TCTSA driven imagery script (adapted from Williams, Cooley, Newell & Cuming 2013)

1 Have a clear rationale

At the outset, make sure the athlete knows the purpose of the imagery script and, more importantly, ensure they are in agreement it may be useful for them.

Consider whether the athlete would prefer a script in first or third person narrative.

2 Draw on past performance successes.

Develop a script that draws on an athlete’s past performance successes and what those performances looked, felt and sounded like in-vivo (sights, sounds, physical sensations, crowd noise for example)

  1. Draw on prior imagery experiences that have helped the athlete

Understand if and/or how imagery has helped the athlete in the past. What did they like about imagery? Draw on this experience.

  1. Have a plan for systematically implementing the script

When is the script most likely to be useful? i.e.  the night before a competition, on competition day, during training.

  1. Set a review

Set a date to review the script and how well it is working for the athlete. Be prepared to refine the script over time in collaboration with the athlete and their changing needs.

Example of an imagery script for a marathon runner, underpinned by the TCTSA model.

You are stood on the starting line…..you have warmed up and feel ready to run.  You are huddled in, with a competitor on each side……you can hear the crowds on the kerbside ……….you can see the starting ribbon right in front of you…… you move your legs from side to side to keep warm……you can feel the sensations of your feet touching the tarmac……..you shake your arms to loosen up and take a deep breath. You know you have around a minute before you start to run.

You notice how you think and feel in this moment. You feel able to perform well today… you can feel butterfly sensations and your heart is beating quickly. You know these feelings well from previous marathons……..they are a good sign…..they are telling you that you are ready to perform…… and perform well.

You are aware of your goals for today. You feel confident you can achieve them . You are in control. …

The gun goes off … RUN!.

You execute the first mile quickly and feel you are in control.  As the miles tick by you begin settle into the race and relax.  Your breathing becomes calmer…..this is a sign you have relaxed……you feel confident.

You maintain your momentum and relax into the run. Your arms swing freely and rhythmically…..your head nods gently……you are in control.

As you approach the final 5 miles your legs feel heavy…you know this feeling from previous races….and you know what to do to get you through it………remember to keep a steady pace and keep nodding your head gently and rhythmically……you know that doing this will maintain control. You have done successfully in past races and it works well for you…..you are confident

As you approach the final mile you can hear the crowd noise……the noise gets louder as you near the finish line…..you can anticipate that feeling of exhilaration as you cross the finish line…..you visualise yourself crossing the line strong and with confidence.

You cross the line, raise your arms and acknowledge your good performance. You reflect on the race for a few moments…..you take a few moments to look around…..the spectators are clapping and cheering. This accolade signals that you have achieved a good performance that deserves celebrating. You are proud of yourself.  Well done.

Article

The term ‘culture’ is thrown around a lot in sport.  However, what does it mean exactly and, as coaches, how do we create and maintain it?  While it is, largely, accepted that developing culture is important, particularly as we progress up the sporting pyramid to elite levels, there are common mistakes made.  It is essential that coaches have […]

The term ‘culture’ is thrown around a lot in sport.  However, what does it mean exactly and, as coaches, how do we create and maintain it?  While it is, largely, accepted that developing culture is important, particularly as we progress up the sporting pyramid to elite levels, there are common mistakes made.  It is essential that coaches have a good understanding of team dynamics .  It is also important to note that this is relevant when working with a team or an individual athlete, as regardless of the context, a high degree of social collaboration is both inevitable and necessary.

The first step in creating a strong culture is bringing it into discussion, rather than leaving it in the background.  A common coaching mistake is letting a culture manifest (for better or worse) on its own.  This can be initiated by discussing ‘success’ – What does it mean? How would it feel? What would it look like?  This gets the ball rolling in regards to identifying what it is that members want to achieve.  It is important at this juncture, to try to define success in controllable ways (e.g., working together, preparing and performing optimally, achieving new personal bests, etc.) rather than linking success exclusively to an outcome (e.g., winning the championship).  This ensures that the team is in control of success and experiences greater levels of self-determination and autonomy. It can also help to alleviate the high levels of negative stress that we often experience when the main focus is directed at the outcome.

Once decisions have been made around what success means, then key values can be discussed – How will the team operate?  How do we want to be perceived?  What do we value?  Generally, during this discussion, qualities such as togetherness, effort, persistence, etc., are suggested.  This can be done in small groups, and then ask the groups to report back a handful of values that they believe are of utmost importance.  It is suggested that the coach collates these, and circles the ones that are being consistently mentioned.  Going through this process allows the athletes to have input into the establishment of the culture, which will likely have a positive impact on ownership and accountability (something many coaches struggle to instill). Finally, once a number of key values have been identified, then desired behaviours should be discussed.  For instance, if the team values togetherness; how is that portrayed, and what would it look like?  (e.g., vocal support, preparation, intensity, communication, etc.).  This step is about establishing key behaviours that will put the team in the best possible position to perform and achieve success.

The final phase is a continual one.  Another mistake that is commonly made is that we nominate an early season practice as a ‘white board’ session to discuss team culture, and then tick it off the list – team culture? Done.  To really build a strong and robust culture takes time and perseverance.  This does not mean that every few weeks, you need to have another ‘off-field’ session, however people do need to be reminded of the culture.  It might be as subtle as discussing the huge effort that was exhibited during a drill in training; “Jo, I love the effort that I just saw – it really embodied the values that we’ve been talking about these last few weeks!”.  Additionally, make the culture a living document.  Print posters, make wristbands, play music that reflects identified values, so that it becomes a constant reminder.

This writer acknowledges that going through this process can take time; however, it also ensures that all members of the team are consciously heading in the same direction.  When we make our purpose explicitly clear, we shape subconscious thinking so that attitudes, decisions, and behaviours are aligned to the overall goal.  Going through this process is about working towards a strong and positive culture, rather than hoping for the best.  Good luck!

Article

Most coaches that I’ve encountered have what they call a “coaching philosophy” which seems to me a quite broad and unexplained term. It can be anything from “give 110%” to an entire page of rules and regulations, and everything in between. I see it so often that I wonder if that broad term can help […]

Most coaches that I’ve encountered have what they call a “coaching philosophy” which seems to me a quite broad and unexplained term. It can be anything from “give 110%” to an entire page of rules and regulations, and everything in between. I see it so often that I wonder if that broad term can help improve coaching skills.

The word ‘philosophy’ comes from the Greek word meaning “love of wisdom.” This is an interesting concept to me because, in terms of athletics and training, it imparts a very different idea than I’m used to. I think most coaches adopt some sort of philosophy that they believe encompasses how they can be good. Instead, the actual word implies a method of passing on knowledge to athletes. This would exclude the rules and amount of effort and instead bring to mind the more task-oriented approach that is so touted in sport psychological literature. According to everything sport psychology stands for, the way a coach works should allow for the athlete to gain an understanding of the task at hand. The athlete should be able to work with the coach to improve their technique, their drive and desire to improve, and above all, their love of learning about the sport.

With this in mind, I think it’s appropriate to re-evaluate how the coach thinks about his or her job. The job is not to lead a group of people to winning. It’s not to make the athlete better. The job is to impart knowledge in order for the athlete to improve. The athlete is really the only one responsible for this; the coach is merely a tool to help improve. In my experience, good coaches don’t yell, they don’t get angry all the time. They are patient and they explain what needs to be done, what can be fixed, what was good. This is a method of creating an understanding in the athlete that seems to fit with the philosophical principle of imparting wisdom. The athlete walks away from this experience, and maybe even each practice, with something new to think about, some knowledge gained, and with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.

On the other hand, we can look at how an athlete might react to a coach that only thinks of effort and results: they will put most of their emphasis on winning at the expense of actual execution of the sport, they will walk away wondering if they had done well, and they will wonder what happened during practice and why. The method of yelling and focusing on winning implies to me that the coach is not knowledgeable in the sport. If he or she is unable to impart knowledge to athletes, then the wisdom that athletes seek is not available; the satisfaction and the whole reason for participating in sports is lost and satisfaction is fleeting.

So, how can a coach approach developing a good coaching “philosophy?” First, I think the most important part is to take a look at what the sport is and evaluate your understanding of the sport. If you can honestly say that you understand what needs to be done and how to get there, then we have taken a step in the right direction. If not, you need to make a serious effort to get to a level where the sport makes sense both tactically and technically. Once this understanding is achieved, you need to understand who your athletes are. An elite sprinter will not need the same style of coaching as an eight year old. The elite athlete will need technical understanding and very fine adjustments, whereas the younger athlete will need broad advice about their overall body position, for example. If you know your audience, you can start to tailor your philosophy a bit more to what your overall goal is. As we’ve discussed, the goal should be to impart knowledge and a desire to learn. The final part, the part that makes up what we know as the training philosophy, is why and how we are doing things.

To illustrate this, I’ll give an example of something that I know well: the hammer throw. (I think it’s good to talk about a sport that may be a bit less common so you adapt it yourself without taking directly from my example). I have experience with the hammer throw and I can see smaller details that will influence how the throw ultimately goes. My understanding is quite technical and I can fairly easily identify fine movements. The athletes that I train with are all ages and all skill levels, so it makes it difficult to tailor, but I can look at each individual athlete or level. The beginners need to think about the basics that will make the throw easier for them in the future, like relaxing and extending the arms throughout the throw. The biggest problem for the more advanced athletes is much more nuanced movements, like pulling with the shoulder. Finally, our goal would be to allow the thrower to complete the movement comfortably and effectively given his or her skill level and to understand exactly how that fits into the bigger picture. My philosophy then, would be to give each athlete the opportunity to understand his or her own movements in a way that allows them to fix their own technique to throw comfortably and far.

My philosophy is broad, it is difficult to explain on a team level and has to be adapted to each athlete, but that’s how it should be. It is very difficult to make everyone understand the exact same concept with the exact same words. Each athlete is different and will require different styles, cues, words, demonstrations. Imparting wisdom is not an easy thing that can be done by putting in effort alone, or by following rules (although those things certainly may help), but by learning as a coach to allow learning for your athletes.

Article

The term ‘muscle dysmorphia’ was coined in 1997 (Pope, Gruber, Choi, Olivardia, & Phillips, 1997) to describe this new form of disorder, commonly referred to as ‘reverse anorexia’, and now more commonly ‘bigorexia’. The causes are not known but two key ideas revolve around bigorexia as a form of obsessive compulsive behaviour and secondly, the […]

The term ‘muscle dysmorphia’ was coined in 1997 (Pope, Gruber, Choi, Olivardia, & Phillips, 1997) to describe this new form of disorder, commonly referred to as ‘reverse anorexia’, and now more commonly ‘bigorexia’. The causes are not known but two key ideas revolve around bigorexia as a form of obsessive compulsive behaviour and secondly, the effect of the media putting the same type of pressure on men to conform to an ideal shape as has been the case with women for years.

The predominant characteristic of bigorexia is that regardless of time and effort spent the view is that they are not as muscular as they want, regardless of others viewpoints. This condition is more predominant in male gym goers but in recent years with the emergence of the sub culture of female bodybuilding this condition has been sparsely reported in females, this how ever does not mean that all male gym goers have this condition. Found that normal male gym goers spend on average 40 minutes a day contemplating their physical development, in the case of bigorexia these males spend 5 hours plus a day contemplating their physical under development and how to correct it. They examine their body through mirror checks averaging 12 times a day in comparison to other male gym goers who on average mirror check three times a day (Zubcevic-Basic, 2013).

Males with bigorexia often overlook personal commitments such as social events, birthdays, holidays, socialising and in cases work obligations as they may interrupt training schedules. In reported cases the delusion of needed to grow in size has led to individuals quitting their jobs to focus more on training (Zubcevic-Basic, 2013). This training requires a very strict diet, this may lead to the individual feeling uncomfortable eating outside of their home as their dietary restrictions and balance may not be met or they may feel awkward eating in front of others whom may judge their choices, this a major factor which leads to males developing eating disorders (Segura, Castell, Baeza, & Guillén, 2015). The need to be the biggest leads to self-comparisons being drawn to other males, it has been found that when they compare themselves to others of exact equal size males with bigorexia have judged themselves to be smaller and not as strong (Zubcevic-Basic, 2013).

In the quest to reach what they internally deem their ideal for many individuals turn to the use of anabolic steroids to gain strength and size at a quicker rate despite the many side effects associated with the use of steroids, the sub culture of bigorexia gym goers influences the use of such drugs to keep up and gain recognition from peers for their physical development. The ideal body in these cases involves an obsession with a lowered body fat percentage while gaining muscular weight and size another contributing factor the development of eating disorders as stated earlier (Joubert & Melluish, 2014).

There are many psychological abnormalities associated with bigorexia, although they may training intensely and to those external of the sub culture may appear to be “bodybuilders” or have the physic of one, there is a stark difference between the two. A bodybuilder trains to show their physic whereas bigorexia will cause the individual to hide their physic as they themselves do not deem their body shape ideal (Joubert & Melluish, 2014). Bigorexia has been found to influence low self-esteem, as the individual never sees their physic as ideal leading to feelings of worthlessness, despite external comments. This low self-esteem may manifest itself into drastic mood swings due to abnormal eating habits or hormonal imbalances within individuals found to have bigorexia (Segura, Castell, Baeza, & Guillén, 2015).

There is limited research available to suggest a treatment for bigorexia either in groups or individuals, with the main issue being those who suffer from bigorexia do not see it as a condition but rather a driving force to improve themselves regardless of the side effects it is perceived as something natural through influencing factors in the sub culture. There is however limited research on the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural treatment highlighting changes in thought patterns towards long term and short term goals, future longitudinal research may identify treatment for bigorexia. In current society the growing prevalence towards body image in the media as well as social media may cause the sub culture of bigorexia the grow meaning this previously unknown psychological condition if not treated may cause long term side effects in the future (Al-Kasadi, 2013).