Coaching

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Football has been described as “more than just a game” (Jones, 1995). As a result, footballers are experiencing psychological distress despite achieving great sporting success. To attest to this point, more than one quarter of professional footballers suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety (Gouttebarge, 2014).   Football is a highly pressured environment where emotional experiences […]

Football has been described as “more than just a game” (Jones, 1995). As a result, footballers are experiencing psychological distress despite achieving great sporting success. To attest to this point, more than one quarter of professional footballers suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety (Gouttebarge, 2014).   Football is a highly pressured environment where emotional experiences are entwined in many aspects of performance, and the exasperation of negative emotions can result in more long-term negative consequences. But when does psychological distress begin?

Football is a popular career ambition for youth males, however; the likelihood of becoming professional is minimal. Professional football clubs recruit players as young as 8 years old, and make contract cuts until they are 12 years old. The fortunate players then sign two-year contracts, but between the ages of 14 and 16 years old, players have to survive the pressure in order to get a three-year contract.

Hill (2013) said: “It can be harsh. At its worst, we are talking about an environment that can develop, foster and maintain a mindset where athletes are wholly invested into the idea of being the next David Beckham.” However, the reality is that in approximately 10,000 young athletes participate in football, it is estimated that less than one percent will make to professional football.

As professional sports contracts are extremely difficult to obtain and maintain, the pressure felt by competing athletes may contribute to the psychological distress. Although we do not know the prevalence of psychological distress experienced by youth footballers, we do know that adolescents are not exempt from experiencing issues of mental health. The prevalence rates of psychological disorders among young people and adolescents (16-34 year olds) are high at 25-25%. In fact, adolescence may be a key time where psychological issues begin to occur as 75% of mental health problems start before the age of 25 years old (Gulliver, Griffiths, & Christensen, 2012).

In the extreme case of Robert Enke, the German goalkeeper who committed suicide at the age of 33 years old, it was apparent that he felt pressure from football during his adolescent years. In the book, A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke, his anxiety seemed to start being detrimental during his adolescence. Enke felt crippling anxiety as a 16-year-old ‘thrown in’ to play with the 18-year-olds (Naume, 2011), and felt debilitating emotions when he made mistakes in a game. To exemplify this, Enke said, “for the whole of the next week, I had the error in front of my eyes. I couldn’t get it out my head. I couldn’t forgive myself a mistake” (Reng, 2012, p.24). Following a game where he made a ‘crucial’ mistake, he stayed off school for a full week, and used the excuse that he was ill. There are various accounts in his book about the pressure he felt to be the best, and sadly he suffered from depression throughout his playing career.

Adolescence may be a crucial time to intervene with athletes, particularly as this is a time when significant transitions occur and pressure may become significantly greater. What could have been done to support the likes of Robert Enke? How can we alleviate the pressures of sport and make sure that individuals have adequate coping mechanism? And in particular, how can we support those suffering from mental health issues? Within the recent report, the New Strategy for Sport Consultation, it was emphasised that we need to ensure that if mental health problems emerge in athletes that they receive the proper care and support they need to recover. It was also noted that:

“Given the increasingly early age at which young, talented athletes are identified and put in high potential programmes, we need to ensure they are still receiving the right sort of support to all them to develop in a balanced way, ensuring that if they don’t achieve their dream as an athlete, they are able to pursue other options and retain other skills” (p.47, Department for Culture and Sport, 2015).

With that being said, it is imperative to athlete’s wellbeing that we teach them about their value as a person. I like to tell athletes, “sport is something you do, and not who you are”. Of course, sport gives people an identity, nevertheless, sometimes this is an athlete’s only identity. In that case, an athlete’s self-worth may be contingent on their sporting performance and this is when we need to show that they are worthy as a person, as well as a performer.

For those suffering from issues of mental health, creating a culture shift where mental health issues are no longer stigmatized and youth athletes feel supported both on and off the pitch. There has been a lot of good work in raising awareness of mental health. Specifically, the charity MIND made a national call to tackle mental health in sport after a number of high profile sports people disclosed their mental health struggles. The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation was launched in March 2015. The Charter aims to tackle the stigma towards mental health using the power of sport. Time to Change campaign is led by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

In conclusion, it is imperative to create an environment where athletes feel valued as people and their self-worth is not contingent on performance. Additionally, it is important that athletes who are facing issues of mental health feel supported and valued. I would recommend reading The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation and information on the MIND website for further information on mental health and issues within sport.

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Millions of young children participate in sports across the world, from joining a football team or training camp, finding a love for running or a natural ability to stand and move on a surface other than normal walking ground. At a grassroots level the focus is on the “FUNdamentals of learning” (Sports Coach UK, 2015), […]

Millions of young children participate in sports across the world, from joining a football team or training camp, finding a love for running or a natural ability to stand and move on a surface other than normal walking ground. At a grassroots level the focus is on the “FUNdamentals of learning” (Sports Coach UK, 2015), where balance, agility and coordination skills are learned with emphasis on the fun, enjoyment and social aspect of the sport. This starting point provides the basic skills for talented youngsters to progress with more focused training and a view to start competing. As the physiological aspects are being developed and the technical skills honed, psychology for such young athletes can be overlooked.

There is a huge dropout of youth participants in sport which cover many difference reasons but contributing factors which are frequently mentioned are; stress, anxiety, increased emphasis on winning rather than participation and lack of intrinsic motivation and the desire to fulfill their goals (Cox, 2002). As sport builds healthy habits and attitudes, which also benefits life outside of a sporting arena, positive experiences at an early age will only serve to build up children and maintain their interest for a longer period of time.

The mental development of a young child under the tutelage of a sports coach will be a priority but the parents, who also have a very important but often underrated role to play in this area, can also aid it. They help mold a young athlete; combining home, school, sports and leisure time can be difficult and they help focus young minds and provide the correct balance between activities.

To develop a positive, confident and motivated young athlete, parents can be mindful of the following:

  1. Children need to know that they make their parents proud regardless of outcomes. This should not correlate with any competitive positions, which can increase stress and anxiety before an event has taken place.
  2. Help the young athlete enjoy the training process. Much satisfaction can be derived from skill acquisition and refinement of technique thus increasing intrinsic motivation and a willingness to continue participation.
  3. Emphasis needs to be on the participation in an event and not the final result (Gould et al. 2006). Healthy competition is good for young athletes -experience of both winning and losing helps shape a person – but self esteem and confidence needs to be developed during training and not specifically linked to competitive placing.
  4. Behaviour around a young athlete in a sporting environment needs to be calm and composed – particularly if at a competition or event. Parents are role models and negative or violent reactions can produce a similar response in the child. Positivity and praise will only build self-esteem whilst lifting perceived pressure, which in turn can effect performance (Arthur-Banning et al. 2009)
  5. If a young athlete does compete, realise that anxiety is a natural component of this. A child can utilize these feelings, develop coping mechanisms and improve their performance, but increasing their anxiety can be detrimental.
  6. Try not to coach your athlete as it undermines what the coach is teaching, parents may get it wrong and again, it can apply too much pressure.
  7. Working alongside the coach and support staff to provide the youth with a positive experience will build and maintain a healthy attitude towards sport which can serve them well when they are adults (Weinburg & Gould, 2015).

Many children will continue to be involved in sports every year and some will have the ability to succeed to higher-level competitions and more intense training regimes. The points above are a great start in building esteem and confidence for any standard of performance, as laying strong foundations for the psychological aspect of sports will help the athlete cope with increasing physical and technical demands that come with progression and attainment.

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Throughout my time of running BelievePerform I have had the privilege to interview professional athletes, coaches and managers within sport. In every interview I ask the same question to each person “ What do you think is the most important psychological factor needed to excel in sport?” The response: Self Confidence, Self Belief. Everyone believed that […]

Throughout my time of running BelievePerform I have had the privilege to interview professional athletes, coaches and managers within sport. In every interview I ask the same question to each person “ What do you think is the most important psychological factor needed to excel in sport?”

The response: Self Confidence, Self Belief.

Everyone believed that self confidence helps athletes to reach that higher level. Self confidence allows athletes to thrive in their environment. Self confidence gives athletes the belief that they can overcome any obstacle and that they can achieve their goals.  The big question for coaches is: How do we develop confidence in sport? In this article we shall look at how a theory of confidence can be used and applied within the real world of sport.

Confidence is defined as the belief to perform a specific behavior successfully. Confidence is multidimensional and there are several different types of confidence. We can have:

  • Confidence about performing physical skills
  • Confidence to use mental skills
  • Confidence to make the right decisions
  • Confidence to learn new things
  • Confidence about physical fitness

When we are confident we feel like we can do anything. We feel as though as we can perform any skill and take on any challenge. When we lack confidence we feel scared, we are worried to fail and it can heavily influence our thoughts, behaviours and emotions.

How do we develop confidence in sport?

One theory which we can apply to the real world of sport is the self efficacy theory (Bandura, 1977).  Self-efficacy is defined as ones ability to perform a task successfully. Self efficacy is derived from 6 main sources.

  1. Performance accomplishments
  2. Vicarious experiences
  3. Verbal persuasion
  4. Imaginal Experiences
  5. Physiological states
  6. Emotional states

Performance accomplishments are all about our experiences with being successful and failing. If you have successful experiences self efficacy will be increased. As a coach how can you influence this? Do you set really challenging sessions where athletes aren’t experiencing success?  Are you setting realistic yet challenging goals?  When coaching think to yourself how can I create opportunities for my players to succeed. Can I set individual and team goals for my players that I know they are going to achieve. Can I discuss the goals with my players so that they understand them and feel that they can achieve them?  We want players to experience success but that does not mean that you can’t set a challenging session where players fail. It is important to teach players to learn from failure and to build resilient athletes who can overcome obstacles.

The next source is vicarious experience. This is also known as modeling. When we coach children we often perform a skill so that the player can watch and then perform it themselves.  Start to think how this links in with confidence. Are you a coach who demonstrates a skill that players find challenging and cant achieve?  Do you motivate your players when you are teaching them a skill?

Are your players paying attention to you? Effective modeling is about being aware of these aspects. As a coach you will want your players to be motivated and you will want them to succeed in the skills that they are practising. It is important that the players all practice the skills outside of training so that they become more confident to perform them.  When trying to teach your players a skill be inventive. Remember that not all of your players will learn best from a coach demonstrating. Can you show players skills on an iPad? Can you ask your players to watch elite athletes perform skills when they are playing in professional matches.  Demonstration is not just about talking to players about how to perform a skill. It is about motivation, focus, attention and retention. To learn a skill and perform it successful players have to practice it so that it become stored in their memory.

The third source is verbal persuasion which links very closely to praise. As a coach are you aware of what you say to players? Are you aware of how language can affect a players confidence?  Are you coach who constantly tells players what to do?

Subtle differences in language make all the difference to athletes. Young athletes rely heavily on adult feedback and it is important that the feedback which we provide is positive and constructional. As a coach start to praise the effort of your players. Start to make players realise the importance of learning and hard work. You want to develop players who enjoy learning and practice and who understand that it is important for physical and psychological growth.

The forurth source is imaginal experiences. Imagery is a great tool which is used to increase confidence. Not every athlete has the ability to use imagery and it is important that we are aware of this. How can imagining successful performance increase our confidence? Think to a time when you have been in a situation and used imagery to imagine yourself performing a task well. How did it make you feel? When using imagery you can take into account a number of variables including the sounds of the crowd, what you see, what you would feel when picking up equipment and even smell. Be aware of all of your senses. Finally, think about how you want to imagine yourself. Are you viewing yourself in first person or third person?

The fifth source is physiological states. Does the athlete view physiological arousal as facilitative or debiltative? When we are nervous we start to experience an increase in heart rate, increase in sweating, clammy hands, dry mouth, thoughts constantly running through our mind etc. The importance with this aspect is how we view those arousal states. It is natural for every athlete to become nervous before a competition or match. The important part is how athletes deal with their physiological arousal. If you view an increased heart rate as a cause of natural anxiety how is that going to influence your confidence?  If you view an increase heart rate as worry and fear, how is that going to impact on performance and confidence?  Anxiety and nerves are a way of our mind and body preparing us for competition. Try and and view physiological arousal as facilitative to your performance.

The final source is emotional states. By experiencing positive emotional states (happiness, joy, excitement) you are more likely to increase confidence. As a coach think how you can help athletes to experience more positive emotional states. Do you set fun and enjoyable training sessions? Do you set challenging goals which athletes want to overcome? Do you offer support to your athletes? Do you create a positive environment for your athletes? One very important aspect is individual differences. The best coaches will understand that every athlete is different. They will realise that not every technique or intervention will work for every athlete. As a coach it is important that you are aware of this and you understand what makes your players tick.

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So what learning style are you? It should be very easy to find out. You can simply take a number of written or online tests to tell you whether you are: Visual, Auditory, Reader, Kinaesthetic (Fleming, 2001) Concrete, Sequential, Abstract, Random (Gregorc, 1981) Visual, Aural, Verbal, Physical, Logical, Social, Solitary (Whiteley, 2003) Activist, Reflector, Theorist, […]

So what learning style are you? It should be very easy to find out. You can simply take a number of written or online tests to tell you whether you are:

  • Visual, Auditory, Reader, Kinaesthetic (Fleming, 2001)
  • Concrete, Sequential, Abstract, Random (Gregorc, 1981)
  • Visual, Aural, Verbal, Physical, Logical, Social, Solitary (Whiteley, 2003)
  • Activist, Reflector, Theorist, Pragmatist (Honey and Mumford, 1992)
  • Holistic, Analytic, Verbaliser, Imager (Riding and Cheema, 1991)

…to mention but a few. Grant (2002) tells us that:

“as individuals we each have different rules for learning… Driven by our own interpretation of new experiences and knowledge from an early age. How much any individual learns is very much related to whether educational experience is geared towards their particular learning style rather than how intelligent they are or from what social background they may come from. In essence the question to be asked is not ‘how bright is the individual’ but ‘how is the individual bright?’”

In other words different individuals have different talents (abilities), interests, work styles and lifestyles. Everyone perceives and processes information differently thus viewing the world in different ways. Attempting to explain these differences may help to infer why we learn at different rates and to varying skill levels. It also implies that if we have the potential to excel at something, but are not provided with information in our preferred format that we are doomed to not succeed in that domain. This may then be due to circumstances beyond our control e.g. the person teaching/coaching us may have their own distinctive teaching/coaching style that may not be to our liking (more about this later). Williams (1996):

“learning is more effective if the teaching style used is consistent with the preferred learning style… A mismatch will have an adverse effect on learning”

There are however, a number of issues with learning styles and the way in which they are supposedly measured. They are generally measured by questionnaires which create their own issues. They are inadequate to understand some forms of information i.e. changes of emotions, behaviour, feelings etc. which may then mean that they have little validity or reliability. A responder may respond in a certain way on one day if they are in a good mood and in a different way on another day if they are sad or angry. Quantitative (numbers/statistics) research is an artificial creation by researchers, as it is asking only a limited amount of information without explanation i.e. the researcher has decided what to ask and how to ask it, which may exclude a raft of other salient information. There is also no way to tell how truthful a respondent is being/how much thought went into their answer. It could be that they simply could not be bothered in completing the questionnaire fully and gave any old answer. It could also be a case of demand characteristics where the responder gives the answers that they think they should to please the researcher instead of an honest response. If there is limited guidance in completing the items then people may interpret questions differently. If they are given guidance there may be a risk of observer bias, whereby the person giving that assistance may unconsciously point responders towards certain answers or the responder may perceive this to happen.

Issues with learning styles include pigeonholing learners to one style, which is problematic as they are then only targeted with one source of information. This does not account for our brains being ‘plastic’ meaning they can change and be moulded over the course of our lives. If there are supposedly so many different styles of learning, which is the best theory? What then would be the best method of teaching/coaching? What are the implications for coaching styles? Is random/varied practice better than fixed/blocked practice, for example? This may depend on the complexity of the skill being learned; the stage of learning (cognitive; associative; autonomous); individual needs/preferences; intellectual capacity, etc. The human brain is so complex that it is surely not as simple as placing our learners into one convenient compartment for receiving information.

In his book, ‘What’s the point of School?’, Guy Claxton (2008) points out:

“the apparent science behind them [learning styles] turned out to be flawed. Many so-called ‘learning styles’ are far less permanent, pervasive or clear-cut than claimed… people change the way they approach things depending on what they are learning. I am a much more ‘visual’ learner when watching TV, more ‘auditory’ when listening to a teacher and more ‘kinaesthetic’ when playing football – aren’t you? Also, learning styles change and develop considerably over time… they are better thought of as temporary snap-shots of evolving habits and preferences than as life sentences”

I also like the messages in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYyVWBJn59g

Is it wrong to dismiss learning styles altogether though? Sharp (2004) claims that “learning styles help sensitise teachers and coaches to individual differences and the importance of TRYING to maximise the potential of all learners”. So according to Cassidy (2004) they may be useful, but:

“There needs to be a deliberate and documented choice of model which reflects the broad awareness of the field and which will allow results and outcomes to be dealt with in a clear conceptual framework. Following such guidance should contribute to the development of a unifying and empirical framework of learning style”

You could therefore conclude that learning styles are a great idea in theory, as they identify that differentiation is required between learners to fully develop each and every one. However, the usual ‘social science caveat’ exists that (much) more research is required.

Where does that leave us in the here and now? Claxton describes some of the ways that we may learn in real life (which do actually reflect some of the ideas of learning styles, but not in such an insular way):

  • “Watching and imitating others [role models i.e. Bandura’s Social Learning Theory]
  • Trying it ourselves
  • Asking questions, when and if we need to
  • Making notes/diagrams that may make sense only to us
  • Trying different scenarios, trial and error (repetition)
  • Visualising how things might work and how we can rehearse various outcomes”

As implied above, the simplicity of learning styles is convenient for teachers/coaches, but surely there are other psychological factors involved in the process. It seems impossible to band the entire human population into just a handful of possible categories. Wurst and Lombardo (1994) identified the following factors as being important in the learning process:

  • The Student e.g. Skill level, physical maturity, motivation, learning ‘style’; more mature/advanced learners may require more guided discovery
  • The Teacher e.g. Ability to manage group, confidence, personality (enthusiasm/passion?)
  • The Subject e.g. Degree of risk involved, complexity, class of skill (e.g. Open/closed), team or individual
  • The Environment e.g. Resources, time, group size

The Student: The more skilled the student, the less input that should be required by the teacher. Once they have ‘learned to learn’, they now have the tools to solve problems and find information for themselves rather than be spoon fed. The implication for beginners (cognitive/associative stages) would be a more autocratic approach to help them build up a mental encyclopaedia of data (schema theory – Schmidt, 1975). For ‘elite learners’ (autonomous stage) a more democratic or laissez-faire approach may work better for the reasons mentioned above. Motivation is a massive factor in learning that none of the styles I am aware of mention. If you are motivated to achieve something you are far more likely to be successful at it than if you are forced to do it. From a personal point of view this would be anything related to maths! Enjoyment must also be linked to motivation to an extent. If you find an experience inherently enjoyable you are more likely to want to repeat (practice) it i.e. positive reinforcement. This could be one of the most important and overlooked factors. The implication for coaches/teachers would be to make your lessons/sessions enjoyable (but again this may not be to everyone’s taste – some learners may want to be in a more serious environment – there may be links here to different personality types/disorders e.g. perfectionism, OCD, Asperger’s). I would like to point out a distinction between enjoyment and fun here. Fun has implications of running around a playground aimlessly, whereas enjoyment can be serious but still pleasurable – getting the balance right is the tricky part!

The Teacher: group management is undoubtedly a factor. A teacher’s personality may lend itself to them being more authoritarian or more laid-back and charismatic. They may have their own particular style of delivery that rarely or never changes. According to Chelladurai’s (1984, 1990) Multi-Dimensional Theory of Leadership, adaptability is key. The closer that required, preferred and actual leader behaviour is to the group’s preference, then the more likely that successful outcomes and group satisfaction will be achieved. The obvious implication here is that the best coaches/teachers can change their style of delivery and effectively manage each individual in the group rather than being a ‘one trick pony’. A good example of this would be Sir Alex Ferguson. Although he was notorious for giving players the ‘hairdryer’ treatment in the dressing room where he got right into their faces to deliver what could politely be called a ‘firm rebuke’, he generally knew which players needed this and which were more in need of a quiet word and an ‘arm round the shoulder’. However, even the most experienced can get it wrong sometimes as this may have backfired during the incident with David Beckham depending on which version of the story you believe, but it goes to show that nobody is too old to learn a new lesson!

Passion and enthusiasm for the subject are also a must for successful coaches/teachers. There is nothing more uninspiring than someone who looks jaded or uninterested in what they are delivering. On the other hand, a coach/teacher with real passion can act as a real spur to learners. I am sure we can think of coaches/teachers that fall into both categories.

The Subject: this may again link to motivation and enjoyment. The best motivator is success and if you are successful at something you are more likely to enjoy it and repeat that actions. If this continues to be an achievable challenge then it seems likely that you would adhere to this activity. If it became too easy then motivation may decrease due to boredom. If it became persistently too hard (increasing complexity of the skills involved with little mastery), then success (performance curve) would become too infrequent meaning that the learner may drop out. Good goal-setting skills may be vital here for teacher/coach and learner.

The Environment: Resources or lack of may be a factor depending on the activity taking place. Finances may come into this equation. Academies in sport in this country are now populated by middle class children whose parents have the money and resources to buy expensive equipment and ferry their offspring around the country to fulfil fixtures and attend training several ties a week. Time may be another factor. An obvious example of this may be linked to another aspect of the environment – the weather. Footballers in Spain have on average accumulated thousands more hours of practiced by the time they get to 16 than their British counterparts, partly due to lack of facilities and inclement weather in the UK, which may be reflected in their technical/tactical superiority. Group size may be a factor. Type of sport would be an indicator of this. Someone involved in an individual sport (e.g. combat sports, golf, tennis) would by the very nature of the sport, have more time with their coaches/instructors than someone in a team sport (e.g. football, rugby, hockey). This would give them enhanced access to information that may improve their performance, whereas individual support in team sports may be less likely (may be linked to resources as elite sporting organisations would have better access to specialised coaching staff and sport scientists).

In conclusion, learning styles are a great idea in theory. However, that theory needs to be tightened up considerably for them to be fully effective as teaching/coaching tools. There are so many factors that affect a learner whether they be biological, socio-economic or psychological (see Bailey et al, 2010 Biopsychosocial model for a very thorough insight). The implication though maybe to repeatedly present information to learners in as many different ways as possible as long as it is not boring and remains to be a challenge to them. Using models to demonstrate information is a great tool especially with the advent of YouTube and other social media channels. Encouraging learner to ask questions when they do not understand is also important and talking of modelling, it is also important to model yourself as a learner even when you are the teacher: do not make out that you know everything; be stumped by questions/ideas from time to time (but not so often as to appear incompetent), but demonstrate how you intend to discover the answer for yourself. Carol Dweck’s book ‘Mindset’ tells us not to praise ability, but instead praise effort so as to foster a growth rather than a fixed mindset to learning. Guy Claxton talks about the dangers of ‘overpraise’ which fits in well with my own ideas on the current ‘one size fits all’ approach to self-esteem and giving praise for every small achievement, instead of giving it only when deserved (not necessarily for success, but for working hard to overcome barriers). Encourage learners to make notes and diagrams in their own unique form of shorthand. Visualisation is another good way to create better and faster neural pathways in the brain (e.g. Holmes and Collins PETTLEP Model, 2001). If a task is too easy make it harder, if too hard make it easier and break it down into manageable chunks.   In her book entitled ‘Choke’ (2010), Sian Beilock cites an experiment by Hinds (1999) that advocates the value of peer learning i.e. teaching each other and also a current fad in teaching ‘flip learning’ where learners deliver the entire lesson to the teacher/coach and not the other way round. I was told when studying to become a teacher that you do not truly know your subject until you have to teach it. I agree and having coached football for a number of years, it has also made me a significantly better player in terms of game understanding, although unfortunately I am too old now to be able to put this into effect too often! Overall the aim is simple – as a coach/teacher you should be wanting to make yourself redundant by giving your learners the tools that they require to be independent thinkers i.e. learning to learn.

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Today we are living in a digital era, and the advancements being made in technology are continuing to grow at extortionate rates. Since the invention of gadgets such as the iPod Nike +, GPS watches such as the Garmin runner, coupled with the explosion of social media, we upload more and more about our sporting […]

Today we are living in a digital era, and the advancements being made in technology are continuing to grow at extortionate rates. Since the invention of gadgets such as the iPod Nike +, GPS watches such as the Garmin runner, coupled with the explosion of social media, we upload more and more about our sporting success on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and share the music we listen to on our ‘running playlist’ on internet sites such as Spotify. In addition to this, the use of motivational words, and ‘quotes’, has also become a popular theme in social media, in our own home interiors, and in particular corporate gyms and training grounds. In sports science literature these quotes, or a certain motivational stimuli, is known as priming. But to what extent does the personal iPods’ ‘gym playlist’ and unconscious glances at a motivational quote on our iPhone, or gymnasium wall actually bare an impact on our mental state, and in turn, our performance?

In many respects, music and sport are seen to be quite disparate. Yet, on close inspection of their two worlds, it is evident that they share a great deal in common. One certain stimulus that has been widely reported to bear an influence on people’s motivation and psychological states in the domain of sport and physical activity, is music (e.g., Blood et al., 2013; Fritz et al., 2013; Sanchez, Moss, Twist & Karageorghis, 2014). The use of music has become extremely prevalent, from group exercise classes, gymnasiums, sports stadiums blearing music in the warm-up and half-time breaks, and the solo exerciser plugging into their iPod, music is now almost inescapable in almost any sport and exercise setting.

It is now apparent that even professional athletes routinely use music to enhance both motivational states and performance (e.g., Bishop et al., 2007; Harwood et al., 2011). However, despite the fact that athletes often report positive effects of music during training and competition (e.g., Bishop et al., 2007; Laukka & Quick, 2013), scientific evidence to support such effects remains limited. Almost any sport and exercise setting can incorporate music in four main ways; pre-task, synchronous, asynchronous, and recuperative. Pre-task music is applied immediately before a physical task or event, as a tool to arouse, relax or regulate mood (Terry & Karageorghis, 2011, p. 316). For example, In 2012, such deliberate use of music as a pre-performance strategy could be witnessed not only in the swimming pool (e.g., Eleanor Simmonds), but also on the athletics track (Tahmina Kohistani), in the white water centre (Jasmin Schornberg), and in the velodrome (Chris Hoy). Music is clearly valued as a preparatory tool by Olympic athletes, including gold medallists – and this seems to parallel young people’s daily use of music to manage their moods (Saarikallio & Erkkilä, 2007).

Karageorghis & Priest (2012a, 2012b), have discovered 4 influencing factors that music has on physical activity. These were: (a) encourage the movement pattern to synchronise with the beat of the music, (b) reduced perceived effort used to complete the task by transferring their attention away from the physical sensation of fatigue, (c) influenced psychomotor arousal, and (d) improved mood of the exercise participant. In the most recent research to date, Hutchinson and Karageorghis (2015), examined the psychological effects of music and music-video during treadmill running. Here, it was found that the music-video condition elicited the highest levels of dissociation, lowest RPE, and most positive affective responses regardless of exercise intensity.

In the instance of motivational words, the term ‘priming’ is used to describe “the influence a stimulus has on subsequent performance of the processing system” (Braddeley, 1997, p.325). Priming was traditionally used to explore the relative automaticity of certain behaviours, and has since developed into the investigation of desired behaviours unconsciously through priming methods (see Bargh & Chatrand, 2000). There is a well-established literature demonstrating the influence of visual primes on decision-making processes and situational motivation. It has been proposed that human motivation can be activated automatically without the involvement of conscious guidance or choice. During a study conducted by, Aarts & Dijksterhuis (2002) it was found that priming participants with words associated with fast animals (cheetah, antelope) or slow animals (snail, turtle) led to faster and slower walking speeds. Thus, highlighting the potential benefits of priming methods to physical performance. In a more recent study, Loizou & Karageorghis (2014) looked into the effects of priming, video and music on anaerobic exercise performance. Results indicated that the combined use of video, music and primes was the most effective (compared to no music, video or primes) in terms of influencing participants pre-task affect and subsequent anaerobic performance, followed by the music-only condition.

So, next time you prepare for an event, or routine workout or training. Think about the music on your playlist, the inspirational lyrics you hear, and picture those motivational quotes that are the current fashion on our news feed and gym walls. Theoretical research shows it may just give you that extra edge…

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Behaviourism has been about for a long time in psychology circles. Piloted by Pavlov (1897) in his study with dogs, it posits that a persons actions are a result of their environment and that all of us learn how to behave rather than have inherent components that determine it. It is followed by Albert Bandura’s […]

Behaviourism has been about for a long time in psychology circles. Piloted by Pavlov (1897) in his study with dogs, it posits that a persons actions are a result of their environment and that all of us learn how to behave rather than have inherent components that determine it. It is followed by Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, which tell us that we learn how to behave by watching others, and actions are mimicked, as supported by famous his bo-bo doll experiment.

So let’s look at our modern day athletes, footballers in particular. They are well known for cheating in games i.e. diving to get a penalty, acting more hurt than they actually are and also abusing our referees. Behaviourism would state that our players learn to behave like this. The recent El Classico (March, 2015), was a prime example of our players over acting to achieve an advantage in the game.

Do different sports ‘condition’ their players differently?

It would appear that the levels of discipline are much higher in Rugby than they are in football. Children look to their coaches for guidance as well as role models on television. If they see players cheating or acting unprofessionally but see it as a “normal” part of the game then they are likely to repeat this behavior. We constantly see football referees being challenged by players, in turn this encourages the next generation of players to do the same, and they are conditioned in this way as part of the sport. In Rugby, the players are much more respectful towards the referee and anything that deviated from this would be seen as unacceptable.

Following Pavlov’s work, Skinner found that behavior that is reinforced tends to be repeated. This is key to coaching children for the future of sport. In line with Skinner’s findings coaches should use both positive and negative reinforcement to change the behavior of players. In order to change the behavior of our footballers, coaches could positively reinforce a player when they don’t go to ground too easily but do their best to stay on their feet, this positive reinforcement would make them want to repeat the behavior. A positive reinforcement could be public praise. In order to increase the chances of the players not repeating a behavior it must be negatively reinforced or punished. This could be done in training where the player is taken off for 5 minutes for diving and not trying to stay on their feet. This would be punishment. Negative reinforcement could be making them pay a small sum of money each time they perform the undesired behaviour. It is hard to distinguish between negative reinforcement and punishment, but whichever you choose to use, either should decreases the chances of a player repeating this behavior.

It may well be that diving and “cheating” have become an unavoidable progression in how football teams win matches, and that coaches may not want to change this element of the game. Young players are constantly exposed to seeing their role models dive to win penalties and then have this positively reinforced by scoring a goal from the penalty. How this continues to impact on the future of football remains to be seen.

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We’ve all been there. Sometimes a team performance just clicks. Every play works, everyone seems to read the mind of their team mates and be in the right place at the right time. It’s a wonderful feeling. Conversely there are awful times when you wonder why a team made up of such talented individuals just […]

We’ve all been there. Sometimes a team performance just clicks. Every play works, everyone seems to read the mind of their team mates and be in the right place at the right time. It’s a wonderful feeling. Conversely there are awful times when you wonder why a team made up of such talented individuals just does not perform as a team, and in a team sport that is not a winning formula. When playing a team sport having cohesion and collective efficacy is an important factor in having a successful team performance. This is the ‘belief in their collective ability to perform successfully (Bandura, 1997).

Building efficacy can be split into three sections; before competition, during competition and after competition (Weinberg, Gold 2011). Before competition or the ‘production process’ involves building a strong team dynamic and building perceptions that each individual is physically prepared for the task in hand. Team building exercises such as army assault course days, cooking skills courses, or simply a social night out gives team members a chance to get to know each other better and to trust each other. Trust is an important team word. During competition is an important part of how the team performs together. In order to perform well the team needs to believe in one another’s capability and have confidence that each individual can play their part. Finally, the after competition or ‘evaluation process’, this part of the process has the potential to be the make or break of how quickly a team bounces back after a negative performance. After an unsuccessful performance evaluating what went wrong and why is crucial to help the team and individuals start to regain confidence.

To have an effective team, the individuals and coach need to create an effective team climate. This is not only the climate on the pitch, but also in the changing room, in the gym and everywhere else that the team works as a unit to improve together. At the end of the day the coach will have a major impact on the team climate (Zander, 1982). But it is up to the individuals and their perceived relationships with each other that will make the difference. Each individual will have a role to play in the team dynamic. For some people this will be the ‘joker’ in the changing room, playing pranks and keeping everyone relaxed before a game, all the way up to the captain who is the leader for the group. A person people can look up to and an important person determining the effectiveness of the group.

A player’s confidence in their ability to perform their role within the team will influence their performance beyond their self confidence to execute their individual skills (Bray et al, 2002). As a coach this is an important thing to consider when managing a team. For example putting someone in a role that they are not prepared for may have a negative effect on not only that individuals self confidence but also the belief that the team has in the ability for that person to carry out their role. Lack of confidence will have a negative impact on the team’s performance. Individuals won’t be fully focused on their roles, but  instead will have it in the back of their minds to do each others, which will take away from the effectiveness of the team. Beware the player who thinks they can do it all themselves.

When comparing two teams the team with the best individual talents may not necessarily make the best team. This is because individual sacrifice towards the collective team goal by all players has a big impact on the team performance. This desire and want to perform as a team and work hard for each other is an environment that everyone involved in the team on and off of the pitch has to contribute to. The standards are set by the team, lead by the captain and maintained by the coach. A happy organized team where everyone is aware of their team role is a pre-requisite to success.

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Lately a metaphoric earthquake struck in football minded Holland. The Dutch FA & several ‘experts’ claim ‘Dutch football has to improve’. Despite a 3rd place during the last World Cup in Brazil for the Orange Lions. We can compliment the Dutch FA & co for having such a strong developed Growth Mindset; always on the […]

Lately a metaphoric earthquake struck in football minded Holland. The Dutch FA & several ‘experts’ claim ‘Dutch football has to improve’. Despite a 3rd place during the last World Cup in Brazil for the Orange Lions. We can compliment the Dutch FA & co for having such a strong developed Growth Mindset; always on the lookout for improvement. And room for improvement exists especially within our youth academies.

In Holland sympathy for and focus on our youth players is tremendous. They are often given a chance in the Dutch Eredivisie; the start of their professional football career. And some of them develop into world class players – like Arjen Robben or Wesley Sneijder, who bring the club and country glory. Therefore we value our youth academies. Therefore we need the best youth academies. Clearly a lot of things can be improved, or according to Dutch FA must be improved, in our academies. One of the greatest improvements to be made is the winning mentality of our youth players, claims Dutch FA. Our youth lacks this winning mentality. How then can we create that mentality? Can we create and develop it, or is something you have or don’t? What is the definition of a winning mentality?

To me giving everything you’ve got (effort/perseverance/take initiative/being a leader) in order to win, also in the face of adversity (e.g. red card, missed chance, goal down)  is the winning mentality. And I am convinced it is possible to create and develop this winning mentality. Then how? We could demand this winning mentality from our players: ‘I want you to want to win this match’. Would that be of any help in creating the winning mentality? I am not sure. I do not think you can create the winning mentality by demanding it from players, that will has to come from within; intrinsic motivation. It kind of resembles us wanting the children wanting to learn. We, the academies, should make the conditions in such a way that the child is motivated to learn. This motivation too has to come from within.

When a child’s motivation to want or do something becomes extrinsic, like us requesting him wanting to win or learn, he will lose his autonomy. His freedom of choice. Autonomy – which is part of intrinsic motivation (together with feeling competent and related) –  will lower and might eventually take intrinsic motivation away to be replaced by extrinsic motivation. He now has to win or learn, because of the coach wanting him. Extrinsic motivation leads to loss of interest eventually. So requesting the winning mentality, I reckon, will not work.

If this seemingly most logical solution probably does not work, then what does? Let’s have a deeper look at the ‘problem’, or challenge rather. Our youth has a lack of winning mentality. Hang on, let’s repeat this. Our youth has a lack of winning mentality! This sounds odd, at least to me it does. Football is a game and games are there to be won. Everybody wants to win, there’s no single person I have met who says ‘I will play this game so that I can lose’. If I look at my U9 boys I sometimes am more busy making sure they don’t fight over winning or losing than that I can coach them properly. So everyone wants to win and if that’s not the case then something is blocking that. Like learning, every child wants to learn or become better at football and if he does not, something is in the way. Thus what could be blocking the will to win in young football players?

Enter Maslow. Maslow was a psychologist on a quest to explain human behavior. In doing so, he came up with this pyramid of hierarchical needs. In his pyramid needs are ranked in 5 layers. You need to fulfill the first need (layer) in order to reach the second. With a bit of imagination you can compare this pyramid to a video game with 5 levels. If you have completed level 1 you go up to level 2, if completed you go up to level 3 and so on. So how does this pyramid look like?

The first need or layer are the bodily needs for survival: the need for food and water. Layer 2 consists of the need for security; you need to feel safe. The need to belong, to have social relationships is situated on layer 3. On layer 4 you will find the need for confirmation & acknowledgement, we need to be recognized for our skills, strengths and achievements. The top layer, number 5, has the need for self-actualization, to become who we want to be (in football: a winner).

Maslow’s theory, as you can see, focuses on human behavior in general. Let’s take away the general and make it football (soccer) specific. To Maslow you could only enter the next level if the previous one is completed. To make it football specific I reckon the needs consume our focus. It is better to have fulfilled them completely, though it is not necessary in order to move up a level. We all have a capacity (focus) for our needs. For example if we complete the first 4 needs, then 100% of our capacity will be on winning. Let’s elaborate on this.

The highest level in football is of course our need to win. To win the game, the match, the (Champions) League or the World Cup. To reach this need, we need to fulfill the other four needs to be completely focused on winning. Firstly we need to meet our need for food and drinks. A lot of players eat pasta and have sports drinks to complete this level. Then they move up, they need to feel safe on the pitch, no (physical) harm will be done to them. That is why matches in war environments are cancelled or rescheduled. Maybe even teams that play away, especially in a stadium with aggressive home fans, have their focus (partially) on their safety. They do not feel comfortable, so part of their focus gets lost here. Those two needs will not be the blockings in the winning mentality of our youth players. The needs on layer 3 and 4 though are. These are the need to belong, the need to be acknowledged, the need to feel valued in a team.

Which players in your team most often express the winning mentality? Probably the players who feel they are the best. They have secured their spot, their value in the team. Thus their need is to win, to outperform the opponent. Imagine, would you want to win if you are not sure you will play next week or even worse, you are unsure whether you will be in the academy next year? You and these players, given the choice, rather win over lose, of course. And this want comes in 2nd place, right after your first priority: to make sure you belong, to make sure you are valued in the team and academy. Their focus can be on playing well, on convincing staff and others that they have value for the team and should be playing in the academy next year too. If playing well combines with winning then that’s perfect. If playing well is accompanied by losing that’s a shame, however no hard feelings. Imagine how they might feel if they played badly. Their first priority thus is to play well, to be acknowledged and valued. Players in this situation are still competing with themselves and other teammates, that is the most important battle to them. Not outperforming the opponent.

Therefore, in my opinion, we have to make sure the 4 underlying needs are met in order for our youth players to have that mentality to win. Have them energized with sufficient food and drinks, guarantee their safety and most of all express their belonging in the team, acknowledge them and value them for who they are! Then you will create players who are hungry to win.

In my next article I will zoom in on how a coach can help his players fulfill their needs so that they have their focus on winning.

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Let’s get off on the right foot. I am not a parent, but I know enough to recognise that it’s a tough job. And then there’s being a sport parent… Accordingly, several of TheSportInMind articles emphasise the value and importance of sport parents roles and, aligned with Fredricks and Eccles’ (2004) research, sport parents are […]

Let’s get off on the right foot. I am not a parent, but I know enough to recognise that it’s a tough job. And then there’s being a sport parent…

Accordingly, several of TheSportInMind articles emphasise the value and importance of sport parents roles and, aligned with Fredricks and Eccles’ (2004) research, sport parents are portrayed as providers (an all encompassing role which arguably centrally infers excellent taxi services), interpreters of their child’s experiences and role models. In recognition of, and beyond, these articulations, the following article aims to share research based coping strategies that can help sport parents to effectively manage the multiple demands of supporting their child’s sporting experience.

Undoubtedly, the world of competitive youth sport is a magnificent and fruitful one. It provides tremendous opportunity for children to develop a range of psychosocial skills, such as discipline, the ability to cope with pressure, resilience and social skills, which are highly transferrable to other life domains such as education and employment (Johnston, Harwood & Minniti, 2013; MacNamara & Collins, 2010). In essence, sport is full of challenging situations that enable children to not only develop themselves as athletes, but also as people.

However, this impressive vehicle of competitive youth sport is fitted with it’s own, unique set of challenges for parents, which, given their extensive role involvement, can be sources of stress. Whether it’s traffic, tournament scheduling, travel and accommodation arrangements, player favouritism, non-selection or seeing your child upset or frustrated over poor performance or injury; there is a lot of time, financial and emotional commitment required to support your child’s sporting dreams. A number of applicable coping mechanisms have been identified and are offered below towards helping sport parents become better equipped to manage these stressors.

Increasing understanding
Being non-judgemental about performance, empathising with your child’s feelings (hard as I am sure I made these for my mum at times – sorry mum) and by both parties communicating their goals, a level of shared understanding can be created between parent and child. Similarly, appropriate competition behaviour encouraged, every athlete is different, and discussing your child’s preferences for your tournament behaviour can ensure that you know how you can best support your child’s goals (cf. Knight & Holt, 2014).

Cognitive restructuring
Cognitive restructuring refers to the process of disputing negative thought patterns (which often occur automatically as a result of stress) and reframing them to be more positive (Beck, 2011). Accommodating a stressor through acceptance can be a first step to reducing stress. Next, try to reappraise the stressor, for example, by viewing losses as learning experiences, focusing on the positives of a situation and committing to learning from mistakes (and putting them behind you to maintain confidence). Notably, it is the exposure to these difficult experiences that can make your child the stronger, more resilient athlete they want to be. After all, “A setback is a set up for a come back” (T.D. Jakes).

Contingency planning
Considering difficult situations that may arise and planning how to respond to them prior to their occurrence can make such situations appear more familiar, thus increasing your sense of control and leaving you feeling less stressed. To engage in this strategy, ask yourself a series of “What if?” questions before a competition. For example, what if an unfair decision is made against your child(‘s team) – how might you respond to that situation most favourably?

Coping reflection
Reflective practice can help you to recognise when you are becoming stressed, and provide the self-awareness to enable you to select appropriate coping strategies to reduce stress and re-gain control in the future. Taking 5 minutes of your day to reflect on: how well you handled a difficult situation, the effectiveness of the coping strategies you used, and whether there is anything you would do differently next time to respond optimally; may save you future stress and help you to self-regulate.

Relaxation
Relaxation facilitates a state of increased calmness and reduced anxiety. On realising that you are becoming stressed, consider taking a time out (going outside, for a walk, or to the car) for 5 minutes and engaging in breathing exercises to help reduce stress. Practice is a necessity for optimal effectiveness of relaxation strategies and their application to induce calmness when required.

Seeking social support and information
This strategy can involve advice from the coach or discussing a stressor with your partner or other parents (perhaps those with older children, who may have been through similar experiences). In addition, consulting governing body resources about youth transitions in the sport, rules and general sport knowledge can serve to increase your understanding, and provide reassurance or an alternative point of view.

Finally, it should be noted that parents position as role models and interpreters suggests that parents ability to cope will be linked to how their child experiences a situation and copes with certain sporting demands. Therefore, it is imperative that the sport psychology community support sport parents in a positive and productive fashion, such as by sharing and promoting relevant tools and resources that can assist parents to respond optimally to difficult situations in competitive youth sport. Ultimately, this endeavour aims to keep more children in sport longer and having more healthy youth sport experiences, towards the development of key psychosocial skills and leading successful and fulfilling lives.

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Changing an environment or culture is no easy task and cannot be viewed in a quick fix scheme. As a leader in the core of the organization you must first drop those or reason with the individuals who are against it, you need a strong supporting cast to induce change. This supporting cast must be […]

Changing an environment or culture is no easy task and cannot be viewed in a quick fix scheme. As a leader in the core of the organization you must first drop those or reason with the individuals who are against it, you need a strong supporting cast to induce change. This supporting cast must be communicated with and brought into the problem solving equation. As the leadership core you cannot lie, adopt the change and communicate the process with the organization. Communication (verbal and nonverbal) is the foundation to inducing change. Although you may be able to use the dictatorship model for a short time frame, long term success requires honest communication through the organization. So how do you start identifying the culture change? First as a leadership group you must develop a self-awareness of the current situation or environment. Secondly communication on problem solving must be adopted and finally, perseverance (there is no quick fix). Stick to the plan. To develop self-awareness; evaluate the organization using the strength/assets approach. This is not only time consuming but necessary and starts the process of a culture change.

Strengths and Assets – Based Approaches

Russ – Eft and Preskill (2009) defined this approach by “focus (ing) on the strengths, assets and successes of individual and group experiences within workplaces and communities” (p.60). Common fields in which we see this approach include social work, psychology, community development and education. The two main types of inquiry associated with this model include appreciative and success case method. The success case method can be seen through a yearly approach to identify the psychology behind the culture of the organization in order to and meet the criteria of “seek(ing) the very best a program is producing, to help determine whether the value of the program is capable of producing is worthwhile, and whether it may be possible to leverage this to a greater number of participants. A success story is not a testimonial or critical review. It is a factual and verifiable account” (Brinkerhoff, 2005 as cited by Russ-Eft & Preskill, 2009, p. 62). The appreciative inquiry method is represented by four points as outlined by Russ-Eft and Preskill (2009):

  • Inquiries, identifies and further develops the best of “what is” in organizations in order to create a better future.
  • Addresses issues, challenges, changes and concerns of an organization in ways that build on the successful, effective and energizing experiences of its members (Preskill & Catsambas, 2006, as cited by Russ-Eft & Preskill, 2009, p. 61).
  • Ignites collective imagination of what might be.
  • Translates images into possibilities, intentions into realities and beliefs into practice (Cooperrider, Whitney & Stavros, 2008, as cited by Russ-Eft & Preskill, 2009, p. 61).

Through these evaluation models, there is a structured approach to evaluating and developing the leadership associated with the organization and the start of a culture change – creating a self-awareness.

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 In competitive sport, the difference between being a world champion or ranked fifth in the world can be as little as 1%. The margins of greatness and mediocrity are minimal and thus every element for improvement counts in the context of competitive sport. Succeeding in such an uncertain and intensely contested sporting environment demands great […]

 In competitive sport, the difference between being a world champion or ranked fifth in the world can be as little as 1%. The margins of greatness and mediocrity are minimal and thus every element for improvement counts in the context of competitive sport. Succeeding in such an uncertain and intensely contested sporting environment demands great relationship and communication skills.

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Tandem supports coaches and athletes to successfully engage with one another. Its aim is to make coaches and athletes aware of current patterns of interpersonal behaviours, intentions and attitudes while encourage them to reflect on alternative ways of relating and influencing that are more effective and flexible. Tandem is an evidence-based tool that has diagnostic, prognostic and educational purposes. It is developed with the coach and athlete in mind who wish to build such successful working partnerships as these developed by Toni Minichiello and Jessica Ennis-Hill, Bob Bowman and Michael Phelps, Sharon Hannon and Sally Pearson, Alex Ferguson and Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Weiss and his Olympic hockey teams.

To thrive, coaches and athlete need relationship-building skills more than ever.

Why should you use Tandem? 

• Enhances self-awareness

• Develops appreciation of the other relationship member’s points of view

• Improves ability to engage with one another and thus capacity to influence

• Helps confidence and motivation

• Increases understanding of what needs doing to make the relationship more effective

Sport Benefits 

• Minimise the impact on sport performance (including performance slumps, burnout, injury, dropout etc) in that relationships that go wrong, cost in time, money and stress

• Develop coaches and athletes with the capacity to successfully influence and engage one another, leads to more effective relationships that drive performance

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Coaches: How to relate and communicate effectively with your athletes? Interpersonal relations within the context of competitive sport (and outside it too) serve a critical role in the development and maintenance of trust and positive feelings. Although the quality of interpersonal relationships alone is not enough to produce success, it can significantly contribute to it.

An effective coach needs to abstain from showing favouritism to some or being aloof or disinterest to others or to make decisions that are not agreed or discussed or indeed make no decisions at all; needs to show concern for athletes without appearing to interfere; and need to avoid misusing power that often comes with his/her coaching role. In fulfilling roles and responsibilities, coaches need to strike the right note in their interpersonal relations with each one athlete in the team or squad. Coaches must be approachable and friendly, yet fair and firm.

Tandem incorporates basic concepts of human interaction as they affect coaches and athletes in particular. Trying and tested Tandem offers a way to assess relationships, identify strengths and weaknesses and advice a course of action for better, stronger, more effective and successful sporting partnerships. Tandem empowers coaches to acknowledge the coach-athlete relationship as an important medium that allows both the coach and the athlete to fulfil their performance goals.

What’s next? 

We are planning Tandem seminar/workshops in September/October 2015 so look out for further announcements on the website. The aim of these seminars/workshops will be to highlight the theory, research and practice behind Tandem. An opportunity to try Tandem for yourself and experience the various ways it can be used will also be offered. The seminars will target predominantly coaches and coach educators, psychology consultants (both qualified and in training) as well as athletes.

Contact: Sophia Jowett, Reader in Sport Psychology 

Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University 

Lead developer, Tandem

www.tandemperformance.com

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Burnout is a maladaptive outcome of sport participation. Kids and talents driven too hard in their sports domain can potentially lead to burnout from an activity they ones loved. But what is the underlying mechanism that drives the burnout-process? Sport Psychology research has established a meaningful link between motivational constructs and the process of burning […]

Burnout is a maladaptive outcome of sport participation. Kids and talents driven too hard in their sports domain can potentially lead to burnout from an activity they ones loved. But what is the underlying mechanism that drives the burnout-process?

Sport Psychology research has established a meaningful link between motivational constructs and the process of burning out over the last decades. Athlete burnout is in this context considered a multidimensional process, with physical and emotional exhaustion, sport devaluation and reduced sense of accomplishment as end products (Raedeke, 1997).

Several studies have pointed out a relationship between athlete burnout propensity and motivational aspects (Gould, 1996; Gustafsson, Kenttä, Hassmèn & Lundquist, 2007; Lemyre et al., 2007; Raedeke, 1997). Burnout research taking a social-cognitive perspective has revealed that motivational dispositions, perceptions of motivational climate, perceived ability, and dimensions of perfectionism are closely linked to symptoms of burnout in elite athletes (Lemyre, Hall, & Roberts., 2008). Based on different motivational profiles, results at the end of the season yielded distinct differences on signs of athlete burnout (Lemyre et al., 2008). The following conclusion pointed out a relationship between a maladaptive motivational profile and athletes` perception of being controlled. In combination with low goal attainment this might contribute to the athletes’ feelings of entrapment in the sport context. Feelings of entrapment are often followed by lowered intrinsic motivation; where ego orientation, perception of a performance oriented climate, and dimensions of perfectionism is known to be major contributors (Lemyre et al., 2008). Motivational profiles were a high task orientation remained, whereas ego orientation was suppressed displayed low signs of burnout. If both goal orientations were moderate to high, there was a greater risk of elevated burnout scores (Lemyre et al., 2008). This finding can be explained by the dimensions of perfectionism that may evoke athletes` concern about mistakes, and constant striving for errorless performances (Lemyre et al., 2008). This indicates that the burnout syndrome is not simply “motivation gone awry”, as stated by Gould (1996), but more likely a consequence of an underlying maladaptive motivational profile (Lemyre et al., 2008).

Meaningful relationships between different levels of self-determined motivation, autonomy support, and signs of burnout in elite swimmers have also been established. A decline in motivational quality throughout the season increased possibility for athlete burnout at the end of the season (Lemyre et al., 2006). Authors suggested that monitoring athletes’ motivational quality and feelings of self-determination in their actions was potentially helpful in the attempt of steering athletes` clear of maladaptive outcomes such as burnout (Lemyre et al., 2006). An argument to this conclusion is athletes’ maladaptive response when being fuelled by external regulations in their athletic participation. Potentially, this influences them to follow training plans without questioning or adjusting them according to personal needs and developments. Consequently athletes` feelings of autonomy are suppressed and further training adaption is inhibited (Lemyre et al., 2006).

It has also been established that self-determined motivation and overtraining have their own unique contribution to athlete burnout. This was based on the fact that high levels of self-determined motivation did not function as a moderator for reports of overtraining in burnout development (Lemyre et al., 2007). Findings from the Olympic team athletes indicated a much clearer relationship between overtraining and burnout symptoms than did the group of junior elite athletes. Additionally, level of self- determined motivation was more evident in burnout development among juniors compared to Olympic athletes (Lemyre et al., 2007). A relationship between self- determined motivation at the beginning of the season and signs of burnout at season’s end, clearly emerged in the group overall, supporting this approach to burnout research. Authors concluded it not being the motivation per se, but the quality of athletes’ motivation one must consider important in development of athlete burnout (Lemyre et al., 2007).

It has also been proposed that other factors besides training load must be considered when explaining athlete burnout (Gustafsson et al., 2007). Qualitative research also emphasizes the importance of motivational factors in developing burnout (Gustafsson, Hassmèn, Kenttä & Johansson, 2008). Initially high motivation is common among burned-out athletes. Motivation tends to disappear as the burnout experience develops. Athletes described a shift in motivation from intrinsic to becoming more extrinsically motivated, resulting in amotivation at the end. Additionally, nine of 10 athletes described having mainly ego oriented goals during the period before burning out (Gustafsson et al., 2008). An ego oriented goal orientation catalyzed the burned-out athletes` motivational loss, by not being able to beat others and not coping well with the fact that other athletes outperformed them. This supports the possible maladaptiveness of an ego oriented goal orientation especially when ability is low (Gustafsson et al., 2008).

Findings taken from three case-studies emphasises the need to understand each burnout case individually (Gould, Tuffey, Udry & Loehr, 1997). Inappropriate goals, self-induced perfectionism, and triggers from significant others must be considered contributively factors in the complexity of burnout development. The fact that athletes reported high initial motivation developing towards motivational loss and burnout (Gustafsson et al., 2008), and the altering from perceiving sport as fun to experiencing burnout and loosing motivation (Gould et al., 1996b) shows a dynamic nature of the burnout process, and possible changes over time spans.

As I have pointed out in this article, the link between motivation and burnout is a complicated process we have to take into consideration when developing athletes. I hope this could give some advise to coaches and athletes in how to administer training and training environments to help steering away from maladaptive outcomes like burnout:

– Give athletes room for autonomy in the training process – foster and nurture intrinsic motivation and support an adaptive motivational profile.

– Create mastery-oriented performance climates to support an adaptive motivational profile.*

– Monitor training load, hours and fatigue closely to steer away from overtraining symptoms. Focus on recovery from training.*

– Be aware that perfectionism could possibly inhibit performance development.

– Make training and competitive settings fun!

Article

When listening to interviews with Tiger Woods, you will always here him comment positively about his Father’s influence in his development as a golfer. Earl Woods is one example of a pushy parent and had encouraged his son to play golf from an early age. In the documentary video Tiger Woods: Son Hero Champion (2004), […]

When listening to interviews with Tiger Woods, you will always here him comment positively about his Father’s influence in his development as a golfer. Earl Woods is one example of a pushy parent and had encouraged his son to play golf from an early age. In the documentary video Tiger Woods: Son Hero Champion (2004), Tiger explains how supportive his Father has been to him. However during this intimate insight into Tigers growth into a global superstar, evidence of what some would call pushy parenting (and others may consider to be bordering on cruelty) starts to come to the surface.

In the documentary Tiger describes times where his Father would not let him eat his dinner until he had hit numerous golf balls. In the documentary, Earl Woods described a time where he would purposely try and torment his son whilst playing golf to try and build on his mental toughness . Earl Woods seemed set on his son being an elite golfer and at the age of two Tiger had already made a TV debut on the topical programme The Mike Douglas Show. This appearance could have been interpreted as a circus like freak show and the presenter and guests seemed amazed at the ability of such a young child.

Tiger Woods is just one example of how parents are needed for the development of elite athletes. Parents are an integral part to the running of many youth sport programmes (Barber et al, 1999). The parent’s role in the development of an elite athlete can have them be the child’s chauffer, nutritionist, therapist and even coach (Barber et al, 1999). The deliberate practice theory proposed by Ericsson et al (1993) has been used as a guiding framework for tracing the development of expert performers. This model proposes that performance is directly related to the task specific practice that a person performs. A parent involvement can make this possible and by pushing them towards a particular sport they are able to engage in this practice.

Cote at al (2007) found that early specialisation in a sport is essential to becoming elite and this will be aided by parental involvement as they can influence them when choosing which sports to participate in. Through meta-analysis the researchers proposed the Developmental Model of Sport Participation (DMSP) which holds two pathways to skill acquisition in sports. In the early specialisation pathway it has been identified that expert adult performers will have specialised their engagement in one sport from an early age (e.g. 6 years old) and due to this have took part in more hours of deliberate practice n one sport. As parents steer their children’s attention to a sport that they feel will lead to them to being successful (Eccles & Harrold, 1991), they will for that reason have the opportunity to engage more hours of sport specific directed practice.

The involvement of a parent in their child’s sporting activities shows how important they deem the activities to be (Barber et al, 1999). Parents who take a more passive role in their child’s development are showing the child that the activities are less important and so it can be proposed that the child will be les likely to dedicate time to one sport and so not put in the hours of practice needed to make them elite.

It may be argued that over-involvement would be detrimental to the child’s development. Hellstedt (1987) suggested a parent’s involvement in a child’s athletic experiences can be placed on a scale from under-involvement to over-involvement. Hellstedt described over-involvement of parents with such negative traits as an emphasis on winning and helping the coach from the sidelines. From a different epistemological perspective it may be proposed that these traits could aid the development of elite athletes and when looking back at Tiger Woods we can easily see how these can have a positive impact on elite progression.

One way in which a parent can be directly involved is to be the coach of their child. When looking at a squad list of a youth sports team it is not uncommon to find a matching surname for the coach and one of the players. Parent involvement in sport has often been looked upon in a negative light however research into the impact of parents in youth sport is limited (Barber et al, 1999). Barber et al (1999) examined motivation and anxiety differences between parent coached and non parent coached children and found that there were no significant differences in either element. Their research into youth soccer found that children who perceived their parents to be more involved in their participation reported less pressure to perform and more positive psychological responses.

A significant amount of practice time and effort is required for those wishing to make the elite level (Williams and Hodges 2005).  In both academic and wider reading it has been proposed that an individual needs 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to reach an elite level (Williams and Hodges 2005). Although the benefits early specialisation in youth sport has been contested (Baker & Robertson-Wilson, 2003; Frser-Thomas et al, 2008), a deliberate practice regime has been found to assist in minimizing or alleviating the negative implications associated with early sport specialisation (Christianson & Deutsch, 2012).  Surely parents can only be instrumental in getting this and ultimately aiding their children’s progression?

Article

Talent Identification and development has become a key focus for National Governing Bodies, Regional teams and Local clubs all over the globe in many different sports. Being able to identify which young athletes may have the potential to be the next sporting superstars is no easy task but the task of helping them achieve their […]

Talent Identification and development has become a key focus for National Governing Bodies, Regional teams and Local clubs all over the globe in many different sports. Being able to identify which young athletes may have the potential to be the next sporting superstars is no easy task but the task of helping them achieve their potential may be even harder. In this article I will review the key ideas behind Talent Development and discuss them briefly in relation to football and some of the key thoughts from leading football academies.

“Perceptions of talent are diverse and complex. As a consequence there is no consensus of opinion, nationally or internationally, regarding the theory and practice of talent identification, selection and development in sport.” (Williams & Franks, 1998).

There are many different issues tied to Talent Identification and Development. When identifying talent many programmes and scouts had often based their criteria on a “shopping list” of physical and anthropometric variables. For example, scouts may look for a Centre Defender to be strong, tall, large jump height, whilst a Forward may need to be quick, agile and have a physical presence. Whilst these examples represent criteria that would be expected or desired in an adult performance, they may not be the key factors in performance at a young age. Abbott & Collins (2004) argues that identifying talent through psychological tests may be much more beneficial than physical tests. Whilst physical tests can measure performance well, at a young age using them for Talent Id means they fail to take into account any maturation effects and may eliminate potential performers due to slower maturation. (Lidor, Cote and Hachfort, 2007). Abbott et al., (2007) say that different psychological factors may be much more important to talent development at a young age and throughout maturation than the physical qualities desired from adult performances. They claim that both “psycho-motor” skills (the fundamental motor pathways of skills, such as catching and throwing) and “psycho-behavioral” skills (self-motivation, determination, perceived self-confidence etc) are the keys to athlete development from a young age and will allow for better realisation of potential.

Abbott et al., (2007) suggest there are three key stages to applying these psychological skills. Psycho-motor skills are fundamental to sports as they set the formations for more complex skills to be developed from. First a “Basic Moves” stage – where, as coaches we can develop kicking, movement and balance as well as teaching the importance of health benefits to performance such as strength stamina and speed. By developing these early on young players can have the basic movements correct to build football specific skills upon. Following this a “Transition” stage where more complex moves can be taught, travelling and throwing, kicking on the move etc. We can also then introduce key concepts such as scanning and decision making in relation to different types of games. Decision making is vital to football and can often distinguish the difference between the good and the great whilst scanning aids this process substantially. Finally a “Sport Specific” stage where football related skills and movements and decision making can all be practiced and developed through deliberate practice.

In terms of development Psycho-behavioural skills are often linked with Orlick & Partington’s (1988) concept of “Psychological Characteristics for Developing Excellence” (PCDE’s). We need to consider what skills are required at each stage of development and how we can incorporate these into training and education. First developing goal-setting, performance evaluation and imagery could be 3 key concepts to a young footballer. Being able to analyse what you did well and poorly helps you recognise areas to improve on. This paves the way for creating “SMART” goals. Using model performers and techniques can also aid imagery. At a young age being able to recognise what you want to get better at could help players develop much better than others. Further developing their own performance when they get older can apply much needed practice. Helping players to plan improvements and performance can help them focus. Teaching basic psychological coping skills can help too, such as involving distraction and focus control to keep players concentrated during matches and training. Finally, increasing commitment giving players some responsibility for development can also help develop better self-awareness for targeting improvement. Introducing pressure can also help players experience what it’s like and how to deal with pressure. Having these psychological qualities is vital to elite perforamance. (Mcnamara et al., 2010)

By giving young players the fundamental movement basics and helping them to develop good habits and decision making can give them the tools they need to go on and develop into greater players. Giving players the psychological skills to deal with their performance, to reflect and improve is another ability that is vital to development. All great athletes are always striving to do better and need to have these basic skills.

In football there are many great academies that have produced countless numbers of players that have graced the biggest stages with their talent. The Ajax Academy producing Ibrahimovic, Suarez and Van Der Vaart, La Masia in Barcelona producing players such as Messi, Iniesta and Xavi and the famous Manchester United academy producing the “Class of 92” are all recent examples of world class graduates. Whilst these are recent success stories each academy has a history of world class talent development.

The Ajax academy uses the “TIPS” acronym for talking about players. Technique, Insight and Personality.  Personality and Speed encompass all aspects of football development. Key areas within these involve all aspects of ball-control, 1v1, Combination Skills, Athletic Profile and Charisma can all be built and developed through Abbott et al.,(2007) stages. The academy also addresses the need for a psychological component to be developed through building charisma and a footballing “personality”.  The Ajax Academy is viewed as one of the most successful in history and shows no sign of failing to produce modern talent.

Whilst some academies have a history of success some have invested in talent development and are now reaping the rewards on an international stage. World cup winners Germany created a national overhaul of academy development in the early 2000’s and now 10 years later have shown its success reaching the 2010 world cup semi-final and winners of the 2014 world cup. After introducing academies for all Bundesliga 1 and 2 clubs as of 2001 in 2013, 275 of the 525 players in the leagues came from one of the 36 club academies. This is a phenomenal stat and shows how a long-term investment in talent development can influence the future of football. Another team on the rise is the Belgium national team. Having developed many world class players in recent years they are performing well on the international stage. After researching participation in youth football they found that they needed to change the national focus away from results and into player development at a young age. By adapting training and education to help players be more involved and immersed in development they have helped players develop better physical skills as well as building the vital psycho-behavioural skills necessary so that the whole nation can play the same way.

Talent Development has a huge part to play in clubs trying to sustain performance at the highest level by bringing through talented players. Focussing on developing the fundamental movement skills from which we can build excellent players as well as creating a mind-set with psychological skills tailored to improving performance can help mould the players of the future.

 

Article

“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent” Norman Ralph Augustine Motivation is a key subject for athletes, coaches and sporting organisations. In sport psychology, we attempt to define and measure the ‘right motivation’. The self-determination theory  is one such attempt to define the ‘right’ motivation, suggesting that more self-determined forms of motivation lead to positive […]

“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent”

Norman Ralph Augustine

Motivation is a key subject for athletes, coaches and sporting organisations. In sport psychology, we attempt to define and measure the ‘right motivation’. The self-determination theory  is one such attempt to define the ‘right’ motivation, suggesting that more self-determined forms of motivation lead to positive outcomes in sport.

There is a wealth of articles devoted to the looking at the role coaches play in motivation. One focus is whether a coach is autonomy supportive or controlling (see Amorose, 2007). A coach is autonomy supportive when they offer opportunities for choice and decision making, provide rational and takes into consideration the athletes’ feelings and opinions (Mageau & Vallerand, 2003). In contrast, controlling coaches take more authoritarian approaches, using criticism and punishments to control athletes. Autonomy supportive coaching has been linked with positive outcomes such as, higher levels of self-determined motivation and objective performance (Gillet, Vallerand, Amoura, & Baldes, 2010). Whereas, controlling environments have been linked with no motivation, higher levels of dropout and lower levels of persistence (Pelletier, Fortier, Vallerand, & Brière, 2001). Despite the consistent link between autonomy supportive coaching and positive outcomes (Amorose, 2007), controlling coaching behaviour is still common throughout sport. To answer why controlling coaching is still prominent throughout sport, researchers have started to look at the wider context in which a coach operates.

Stebbings, Taylor and Spray (2011) found that a coach’s basic need satisfaction was linked with higher levels of well-being, which in turn led to more autonomy supportive behaviour. Stebbing et al’s (2011) findings suggest that promoting coach well-being through need satisfaction could promote more autonomy supportive behaviour. The organisation that the coach is apart of could play a big role in this. Below are a number of suggestions based on the works of Stebbings, Allen and Shaw. These recommendations could be used by organisations to promote basic need satisfaction in their coaches and in turn promote more coach autonomy supportive behaviour.

Recommendations to Organisations

  • Trust your coaches to work independently. Allow your coaches’ to run the team, drills, match days and training how they want, giving them a sense of independence.
  • Allow your coaches to coach. Take on the administration bits associated with running the teams, allowing your coaches to do what they’ve been training to do.
  • Treat each coach as an individual. Every coach comes to your organisation with different needs. Some are juggling families, some jobs and some education. Make sure you take the time to get to know your coaches so that you can provide effective resources to support them. For example, it could be providing someone to babysit their children while they coach the session. It could be connecting a coach with other coaches so that if they cannot coach due to other commitments then they know familiar coaches they can ask.
  • Collaborate with you coaches. Give them feedback and allow them to give you feedback.
  • Find opportunities and support for formal training. Allow your coaches to keep on learning throughout the time they are involved. This will give them a greater sense of competence.
  • Create mentoring systems. This allows them to connect and share with other coaches giving them a greater sense of relatedness to the organisation.

To conclude, coaches play a significant role through their behaviour in creating a motivational climate. However researchers should continue to look at the wider context in which coaches operate. The above article has presented a number of recommendations that may promote autonomy supportive behaviours through basic need satisfaction. However, more research needs to be conducted before any clear cut recommendations can be made.

Article

In recent years, East Africans have dominated the middle- and long-distance running domains, Jamaicans prevail in sprint distances whilst the USA predominates in basketball. There are many reasons for this, including: physiological factors (such as muscle fibre consistency), infrastructure and culture. ‘Stereotype threat’ can also contribute to this explanation in addition to describing why some […]

In recent years, East Africans have dominated the middle- and long-distance running domains, Jamaicans prevail in sprint distances whilst the USA predominates in basketball. There are many reasons for this, including: physiological factors (such as muscle fibre consistency), infrastructure and culture. ‘Stereotype threat’ can also contribute to this explanation in addition to describing why some groups are rarely successful in particular sports.

Stereotype threat describes how an individual’s behaviour and ability change to align with a negative stereotype of a group they belong to (Steele and Aronson, 1995). It may occur in any group for which stereotypes exist, including: class, gender, race etc. Examples of modern day stereotypes in sport are “white men can’t jump” and “black people can’t swim”.

The first research on stereotype threat provided Caucasian and African-American participants of matched intelligence with a section of the Graduate Record Examination (Steele and Aronson). They were informed it was either a measure of intellectual ability or was problem solving task which diagnosed nothing. When told it showed intelligence, black participants greatly under-performed in relation to Caucasians. It was proposed that this was due to the triggering of the racial stereotype that “blacks are not as intelligent as whites” and therefore the African-American’s ability worsened to fit this suggestion.

A concerning series of research has since looked at the effect of stereotype threat on sports performance. In one of the earliest papers, golf-putting was used as a measure of ability on white and black participants (Stone et al., 1999). It was found that when the putting task was described as a reflection of “sports intelligence”, black participants’ performance decreased when compared to their control group. This is due to the activation of the stereotype that Caucasians are more intelligent. Similarly, when it was said to diagnose “natural athletic ability”, the performance of white participants declined to fit with the associated stereotype that black people are more athletic than whites.

Later research has shown the same effects using gender instead of race. It has been found that the putting performance of men declined if they were informed that women are generally better at the task (Beilock et al., 2006). Furthermore, the dribbling ability of women playing football is hindered after the task is said to show “athletic ability” or “technical ability”, traits associated with males (Chalabaev et al., 2008).

Although there is little research on preventing stereotype threat, advice for coaches and athletes can still be drawn from the existing papers. It is imperative that coaches and peers don’t become subject to stereotypes. Even if not deliberate, this would lead to different treatment towards athletes of certain groups, initiating stereotype threat. For example, feedback to a black sprinter and white sprinter needs to be of the same nature, content and delivery, whilst emphasis on high performance also needs to be identical. Members of groups prone to this effect may also benefit from examples of times the stereotype has proven to be incorrect. For instance, a coach could show female footballers the finish by Stephanie Roche which was nominated for the goal of the year alongside goals by James Rodriguez and Robin van Persie. In doing this, the stereotype held by women that men have better technical ability, will diminish, to an extent. Finally, it is essential that coaches don’t promote comments regarding stereotyped groups, even if light-hearted in nature. A basketball coach joking to a player that they were out-jumped because they are white would only provoke stereotype threat.

In conclusion, from the research it is clear that groups of individuals with performance-related stereotypes are prone to stereotype threat, leading to reduced ability. This may be partly responsible for the dominance of some ethnicities in certain sports; the stereotype that no other nation is as successful in that area hinders the performance of other countries. Additionally, it may also assist in explaining why England are so poor at penalty shootouts!

Article

Players, who graduate from Premier League Youth Academies that gain professional contracts at the age of 16, are likely to have spent 10 years playing the sport, made up of around 15 hours per week, 700 a year and over 7000 hours in practice activities, with the aim of improving performance. Are coaches providing their […]

Players, who graduate from Premier League Youth Academies that gain professional contracts at the age of 16, are likely to have spent 10 years playing the sport, made up of around 15 hours per week, 700 a year and over 7000 hours in practice activities, with the aim of improving performance. Are coaches providing their players with the quality coaching and practice activities necessary to make best use of the 7000 hours that players invest in their own development?  This article will look at strategies coaches can use to ensure they are making the best use of their practice time.

Demonstrations:

Did you ever wonder why players do not execute the skills that you just demonstrated for them? It is often believed that demonstrations are the best means of getting a message across to players so that can achieve the outcome the coach desires. The reason that a demonstration is not useful to a player in football is that most actions on a football pitch are goal directed. In other words the player has multiple options to choose from and multiple decisions to make before they carry out a football action. A demonstration forces the player to adopt a movement pattern that may not be the best solution to the problem and constrains the player’s discovery of solutions.

Coaches should guide players on the goal of the action and allow players to discover their own movement pattern to fit the situation. This does not constrain the learner’s discovery of solutions to problems faced. Another option is to have players observe a player who is also learning. It has been shown that viewing a learning model leads to better eventual performance compared to those who view an expert model (McCullagh & Caird, 1990). This occurs due to the player who is viewing the learning model, being able to detect the errors in the learner and correct these errors in their own movement.

Blocked Practice v Random practice:

Traditionally it was believed that players should practice skills in an isolated manner before it is brought into a game situation. This has led to players not being exposed to decision making exercises for the majority of training sessions. Ford, Yates and Williams (2010) found that coaches in Premier League Academies had their players engage 65% of their time in isolated drill type activities compared to 35% in games based activities. This imbalance does not lead to the development of game intelligence, as variability is required in practice in order to deal with the variety of situations that players are exposed to on the pitch.

In order for training effects to transfer to the match situation players should be exposed to training situations where they must vary their actions just as they would in a match. While this may be detrimental to performance in training it will lead to better performance in game situations.

Feedback:

Coaches provide feedback to players in order to support them in improving their next attempt at an exercise. This helps the learner to improve and can increase their motivation to continue to practice the exercise. The traditional approach has been for a coach to provide lots of feedback to the player with the idea that the more information a player receives from the coach the more they will learn. However there are various types of feedback that a player can rely on when seeking to improve their next attempt at an exercise.

When a player executes an action there is natural feedback that is available as a result of the action. This is intrinsic feedback, which enables the player to self correct their own technique. When a player executes a pass in a training session they can see where the pass ended up. This is their intrinsic feedback. If the coach was to give verbal feedback to the player on the action this would be extrinsic feedback. Extrinsic feedback is dependent on the coach and does not promote the learner in relying on their own self corrective process.

If the coach gives extrinsic feedback every time a player executes an action in training, the player may well learn to improve the execution of their actions in training due to the support of the coach. However in the match situation when they are not constantly receiving feedback from the coach, their execution of skills is likely to drop in standard. This is because the player will become dependent on the extrinsic feedback of the coach.

To prevent learners relying on extrinsic feedback, feedback can be provided (1) after a number of attempts, (2) when performance standards fall outside a certain range of performance, (3) or it can be provided in a question and answer style format. As the player improves in standard the precision of feedback should become more detailed in order to support the learner in improving.

Conclusion

The role of the coach is to ensure that the practice and instructional strategies used are of the most benefit to the learner in improving their skills. Hopefully some of this information can support coaches in ensuring they are making the most of the practice time they have with players.

Article

Gender Issues in Sport Social Role Theory (SRT) (Eagly, 1987) provides an insight into why gender issues may arise within the Coach and athlete relationship. SRT is the belief that men and women act and behave differently in social situations and take on different roles, due to the expectations that society puts upon them (Eagly, […]

Gender Issues in Sport

Social Role Theory (SRT) (Eagly, 1987) provides an insight into why gender issues may arise within the Coach and athlete relationship. SRT is the belief that men and women act and behave differently in social situations and take on different roles, due to the expectations that society puts upon them (Eagly, 1987). Gender roles developed pertaining to expectations about the character of men and women (Diekman, A. B., & Eagly, A. H., (2000). For instance, SRT argues that traditional gender roles place women in caring and nurturing roles that reflects communal qualities (for example in the home, rearing the children) (Wood & Eagly, 2002). The men hold the more masculine roles such as leadership and assertive roles reflecting agentic qualities (Eagly & Koenig, 2006). These stereotypical roles portray the woman as being more submissive and understanding and men as been more assertive and powerful.  Individuals are seen to interact and react in society by their expected social roles (Eagly, 1987; Eagly, Wood, & Diekman, 2000), these social roles are seen as guidelines of behaviour in which one must fulfil within society. Deviating from the social norm may lead to explicit social disapproval and shame (Cialdini, Kallgren & Reno, 1991). These gender stereotypes prevail in sport and many studies have investigated gender appropriateness of athletic activities (Eccles & Harold, 1991; Sagaria & Sagaria, 1984).

Gender Issues within the Coach and Athlete Relationship

Studies have found that gender may be a factor that determines an effective coach and athlete relationship (Lirgg, Dibrezzo, & Smith, 1994; Medwechuk & Crossman, 1994). The Coach is seen as having a leadership role within society (Butler & Geis, 1990). Within the sporting context the role of the Coach and athlete, is one where the Coach is in control and the athlete will act in a certain way and follow the instructions posed by the Coach (Burke, 2001). The man holding the Coach position and the female holding the athlete position may find that their traditional role expectations are strongly defined, (Ickes, Gesn, Graham, 2000). This dyad works well as the male Coach can fulfil his social role of being assertive and a leader and the female athlete as being submissive and understanding (Burke, 2001).

Role Reversal.

The issues arise when the roles are reversed, when the female is the coach and the male is the athlete. This dyad often elicits surprise from others as it is seen as perhaps threatening social interactions. Being a female coach is seen as violating the traditional gender role norms. This role reversal for men may be incongruent with their traditional role expectations and be further frustrated by gender issues of power. This may result in gender issues as the male athlete will want to fulfil the social expectations that society places on them. Tomlinson (1997) found that these gendered attitudes are based on deep rooted authoritarian structure where men are seen as the dominating gender. Lorimer and Jowett (2009) argued that coach and athlete should be able to understand each other and interact effectively in order for an effective relationship. But how can there be an effective coach and athlete relationship, when gender stereotyping may affect this relationship and the roles they play?

Limited Research.

Studies have found that male and female athletes prefer a male coach to a female coach (Frey, Czech, Kent & Johnson, 2006), but Osborne, 2002 argues that this may be due to simply the lack of female coaches in the profession. Research is limited in understanding the female coach and the male athlete relationship (Jowett & Clark-Carter, 2006) as within society there lacks this demographic characteristic.  Carpenter & Acosta, (2006) found that in 2006, that 82.3% of all intercollegiate teams are coached by men, less than 2% of men’s teams are coached by a female coach. Why such a small amount? Perhaps gender stereotypes has stopped women pursuing this role, perhaps glass ceilings, perhaps gender issues of power.

Gender stereotyping, fulfilling social roles, behaving within the guidelines are the many ways in which sport and exercise is shaped by gender issues and in particular in the coach and athlete relationship. How do we remove these gender issues? Here lies the twist, research is very limited, females coaching male athletes is rare and most research in sports investigates the same-sex dyads where both coach and athlete are males or mixed gender dyads where the coach is male and athlete is female (Ross, 2010;  Jowett & Clark-Carter, 2006). Popular studies which look at the effective relationship of coach and athlete lacks this dyad or have a very limited amount.

If we don’t have the research how can we eliminate these stereotypes and how can we change the sport and exercise experience between a female coach and male athlete as a positive one? How can we get a clearer understanding of the coach and athlete relationship when research is not involved? How can we demonstrate possible positives in this relationship which may remove gender issues when we don’t have the demographic characteristics to measure? When we highlight the importance of the coach and athlete relationship shouldn’t it involve all dyads? Hopefully future research can address and explore female experiences of coaching male athletes in sport and exercise and pursue in removing dated gender stereotypes in sport.

Article

The ability to perform at an elite level is often used as the definition for talent. This term is often bandied around as if young aspiring athletes have it or not, with little discussion centred on the factors or traits that actually help an individual to reach such pinnacles in their chosen sporting arenas and […]

The ability to perform at an elite level is often used as the definition for talent. This term is often bandied around as if young aspiring athletes have it or not, with little discussion centred on the factors or traits that actually help an individual to reach such pinnacles in their chosen sporting arenas and events. For example, athletes who possess the necessary physical attributes to succeed in their sport still require other elements in order to develop their potential and reach the top ahead of everyone else. In the modern era especially, athletes need to possess other attributes such as commitment, motivation, and the ability to cope with pressure if one is to succeed in their respective disciplines.

Whilst it is obvious that some physical and physiological attributes are important in some sports in comparison to others, one’s ability to overcome challenges and perform at the top level requires a whole host of other variables working in unison. Research suggests that those who use psychological skills (e.g., goal-setting, imagery, focus) as part of their development and training have been found to be more successful than those who do not incorporate such skills (Orlick & Partington, 1988). Other research evidence also supports the notion that athletes are more successful when they use an array of psychological skills during competition but also when in training in comparison with athletes of a lower standard (Thomas & Thomas, 1999). It is clear that psychological skills play an important role at an elite level but can also be critical in helping athletes reach the top of their sporting disciplines (Gould et al., 2002, Orlick & Partington, 1988, Williams & Krane, 2001). Recognising the importance of developing and using such psychological traits, Abbot and Collins (2004) investigated the usefulness and practicality of psychological characteristics of developing excellence (PCDEs). PCDEs can aid the learning of new skills (e.g., focus, distraction control) but also enable athletes to gain the most out of each training session (e.g., goal-setting, realistic performance evaluations). PCDEs also enable athletes to remain on their pathway to excellence by investing the necessary time for training in addition to staying committed to the learning process, particularly when their peers may be engaging in perceivably more joyful activities.

Psychological Characteristics of Developing Excellence (Orlick & Partington, 1988):

  • Commitment
  • Coping with pressure
  • Focus and distraction control
  • Goal-setting
  • Imagery
  • Planning and organizational skills
  • Quality practice
  • Realistic performance evaluations
  • Self-awareness

Promotion of PCDEs within a talent development environment (e.g., an academy) encourages aspiring athletes to behave like champions. However, it is important that developing athletes understand the behaviours expected of them, with coaches and teaches on-hand to monitor and reinforce these psychological traits. One PCDE which is hugely beneficial in an array of sporting disciplines is ‘focus’ and the ability to control distractions. It is imperative that developing athletes like elites are able to compete and train in environments with numerous distractions including noise, spectators and other competitors. If an athlete is to perform at their best, and to achieve their maximum potential, they need to be able to block out any distractions whilst focusing on the task at hand.

Focus and distraction control behaviours:

  • Blocks out distractions
  • Displays a consistent pre-performance routine
  • Maintains a focus on appropriate cues during competition
  • Remains focused under distraction
  • Shows an understanding of when distraction is likely
  • Stays calm under pressure

The ability to focus and not be distracted can not only predict good performances, it can also enable an athlete to learn effectively and to develop quicker (Collins, Button, & Richards, 2011). Whilst this ability is obviously important at all levels, it is particularly prominent when developing athletes are entering major competitions where the distractions can become more severe and disruptive. Coach behaviours and coach systems working in unison are able to promote and encourage a PCDE. This collaborative approach engages an athlete in certain behaviours in order to receive positive reinforcement. Equipping athletes with a toolkit of PCDES as they develop will undoubtedly aid their development and ultimately help prepare them for elite competition.

Collins, Button, and Richards (2011) postulate that promoting the behaviours accustomed with PCDES in developing athletes is an effective way to develop talent. This approach is particularly warranted as it supports current research stipulating that psychological characteristics play a crucial role during development, and not just when performers reach the elite level. It is clear that all PCDEs are interrelated having a direct and indirect impact upon each other. The utilisation and promotion of PCDEs not only aids the development of aspiring athletes towards excellence, it also helps them to realise their own potential.

Article

Aggression is the display of an intentionally harmful physical action, rather than a cognitive or affective state (Tod, Thatcher & Rahman, 2010). It takes two major forms, the first being hostile aggression, which consists of harmful intent without the desire to achieve a competitive benefit. The second type is instrumental aggression, which holds focus on […]

Aggression is the display of an intentionally harmful physical action, rather than a cognitive or affective state (Tod, Thatcher & Rahman, 2010). It takes two major forms, the first being hostile aggression, which consists of harmful intent without the desire to achieve a competitive benefit. The second type is instrumental aggression, which holds focus on completing a competitive goal through harmful means (Tod, Thatcher & Rahman, 2010).

Assertion is also frequently associated with aggression, but is accepted and often encouraged in sport as it is defined as a legitimate force, without intent to harm and usually involves a heightened level of effort (Silva, 1979; cited in Cox, 2007).

Aggression in different contexts

Burton (2005) suggested that aggression is an essential element of sport and the application of it can be recognised as passion for that particular game, and therefore in some cases, a desirable characteristic. Earlier research by Zilman, Johnson and Day (1974) found a similar outcome where aggressive behaviour displayed in contact sports was commonly rewarded, providing a form of positive reinforcement, and encouraging the same nature of behaviour outside of a sporting context (cited in Lemieux, Mckelvie & Stout, 2002). Football and Rugby, two very popular contact sports, have also been identified as more likely to trigger aggression both on and off the field (Tenebaum et al, 1997; cited in Lemieux, Mckelvie & Stout, 2002).

A lab study conducted in 1999 on high school athletes provided results showing that individuals who participate in high contact sport demonstrated a higher chance of behaving aggressively following provocation than those involved in low contact sports (Huang et al, 1999; cited in Lemieux, Mckelvie & Stout, 2002).

Theoretical perspectives

Bandura (1973) and the Social Learning Theory propose the idea that the behaviour of significant others and even oneself during sport, can have a strong influence on the way that individuals act outside of a sporting context (cited in Lemieux, Mckelvie & Stout, 2002). Aggressive behaviour away from sport is more likely to be demonstrated by those involved or interested in sport which allows contact (Bandura, 1973; cited in Lemieux, Mckelvie & Stout, 2002). Conroy et al (2001) also found that athletes participating in non- contact sports did not perceive acts of aggression to be tolerable in the way that individuals who participated in contact sports did (cited in Tod, Thatcher & Rahman, 2010).

However, the Catharsis Theory also argues that aggression is a natural and intuitive motivation which has the compelling need for release through physical action within a controlled environment (Bushman et al., 1999; cited in Cox, 2007). Similarly, the more recent Reversal Theory submits that contact permitting sports are predominantly opted for, due to the opportunity to exert a certain level of aggression through the nature of play (Kerr, 2004; cited in Tod, Thatcher & Rahman, 2010).

So, although there has been findings to suggest that contact sports have a causal effect on aggression both in and out of a sporting context (Bandura, 1973; Zilman, Johnson & Day, 1974; Tenenbaum, 1997), there are also contrary beliefs that aggression can be utilised positively through sport as an opportunity for release of naturally accumulated aggression (Apter, 2001; Kerr, 2004; Bushman et al, 1999).