Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (Weinberg)

Summary of Foundations of sport and exercise psychology by Weinberg donated to WorldSupporter

Chapter 1 - Introduction to sport and exercise psychology

The scientific study of people and their behaviour in the exercise and sports context is called sport and exercise psychology. Psychologists working in that field identify principles that professionals can use to help others benefit from and participate in sport and exercise activities. There are usually two objectives in mind when a person studies sport and exercise psychology: (1) understanding how psychological factors affect an individual’s physical performance and (2) understanding how participating in sports and exercises affects a person’s psychological health, development and well-being. There are different questions psychologists ask during the study. When they study the first objective, they may ask how anxiety affects a player’s accuracy or how a coach’s reinforcement influences the team’s cohesion. When studying the second objective, they may ask if running reduces anxiety and depression and if daily participation in physical education improves self-esteem. Sport psychology has a broad population base. Professionals can use it to help elite athletes achieve ultimate performances, but most sport psychologists are concerned with people who are physically or mentally disabled, seniors and average participants. In the last couples of years more sport psychologists have focused on the psychological factors involved in exercise and health, encouragement to exercise and the assessment of the effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for depression. Because of the broadening of interests, the field is called sport and exercise psychology.


Specializing in sport psychology

Sport psychologists pursue varied careers. There are three primary roles in their activities: conducting research, teaching and consulting. Of course, one of the functions of scientists is to advance the knowledge in the field by conducting research. So, most sport and exercise psychologists in a university conduct research. Nowadays, sport and exercise psychologists are part of multi-disciplinary research teams that study problems. They share their findings with colleagues and participants in the field. This results in sharing, discussion and healthy debates at meetings and in journals. Sport and exercise psychology specialists also teach university courses, like exercise and health psychology and applied sport psychology. They may also teach courses as personality psychology of developmental psychology if they work in a psychology department. The third role of sport and exercise psychologists is consulting with individual athletes or teams. This way, they can develop psychological skills for enhancing training and competitive performance. There are universities and Olympic committees that employ full-time sport psychology consultants. Many teams also use consultants on a part-time basis for psychological skills training. There are also some sport psychologists who work with the military and surgeons to help them perfect their skills. Some also work in the fitness industry.

In sport psychology, a distinction exists between two types of specialities: clinical sport psychology and educational sport psychology. Clinical sport psychologists have much training in psychology and because of this, they can detect and treat people with emotional disorders. These psychologists are licensed by state boards to treat people with emotional disorders and they have received additional training in sport and exercise psychology and sport science. These psychologists are needed, because some athletes develop severe emotional disorders and need special treatment. Substance abuse and eating disorders are areas in which a clinical sport psychologist can help sport and exercise participants.


Educational sport psychology specialists have a lot of training in sport and exercise science, kinesiology and physical education. They understand the psychology of human movement, especially related to sport and exercise context. They have taken advanced graduate training in psychology and counselling. They are not licensed psychologists and they are not trained to treat people with emotional disorders. An educational sport psychology specialist can be seen as a mental coach who educates athletes and exercisers about psychological skills and their development. This is done through group and individual sessions. Some areas are confidence development and anxiety management. When an educational sport psychology consultant comes across athlete with an emotional disorder, he/she refers the athlete to a licensed clinical psychologists or a clinical sport psychologist for treatment. Clinical and educational sport and exercise psychology specialists must have much knowledge of psychology and sport science. In 1991, a certified consultant program was introduced. People can qualify for certification as sport and exercise consultants if they have advanced training in both psychology and the sport sciences.


The history of sport and exercise psychology

Nowadays, sport and exercise psychology is more popular than ever before. However, this does not mean that the field has developed only recently. Modern sport psychology dates back to the 1880s and references to psychology can be traced back to the ancient Olympic Games. The history of sport psychology collides with the history of other fields like psychology, kinesiology and physical education. The field has also been influenced by large sociocultural developments, like the growth of the Olympic movement, women’s liberation efforts and the popularity of professional sport. The history of sport psychology falls into six periods.


Period 1: early years (1893-1920)

In North America, sport psychology began in the 1890s. Norman Triplett was a psychologists and he wondered why cyclists rode faster when they raced in groups than when they rode alone. He first verified that the observation was correct by studying cycling records. Then he conducted experiments. Another pioneer was Scripture. He conducted a number of laboratory studies on reaction and muscle movement times of runners and the transfer of physical training. He also looked at how sport might develop character in participants. Scripture worked together with William Anderson, one of the first physical educators in America. This shows that those in the fields of physical education and psychology worked together to develop sport psychology. Triplett and Scripture were part of the new psychology movement that focused on using experimental laboratory methods and measurement to gain knowledge. Other scientists were interested in the field from a more philosophical perspective. One of them was Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games. He wrote extensively on the psychological aspects of sport and organized two Olympic Congresses that focused on psychology. In the early years, physical educators and psychologists were only beginning to explore psychological aspects of sport and motor skill learning. They measured athletes’ reaction times, looked at the role of sport in personality and character development and they studied how people learn sport skills. However, they did little to apply these studies. Nobody specialized in the field.


Period 2: The development of psychological testing and laboratories (1921-1938)

This period has been characterized by the development of sport psychology laboratories in Japan, Germany, Russia and the United States. It has also been characterized by the increase in psychological testing. Coleman Griffith was the first American to devote a big portion of his career to sport psychology and he now is seen as the father of American sport psychology. He developed the first laboratory in sport psychology, he helped initiate one of the first coaching schools in America and wrote two books on the topic. He also developed psychological profiles of famous sport players. During this time, psychologists also began to test athletes (reaction times, aggression and concentration).


Period 3: Future preparation (1939-1965)

Franklin Henry was for a big part responsible for the field’s scientific development. He studied psychological aspects of sport and motor skill acquisition. He trained many physical educators and he initiated systematic research programs. Jonhson and Slatter-Hammel helped lay down the groundwork for future study of sport psychology and they helped create the academic discipline of exercise and sport science. Applied work in sport psychology was limited in this period, but by the end of the period it was beginning to change. One person doing applied work at that time was Yates. She was one of the first women in the US to both practice sport psychology and conduct research. She developed the relaxation-set method during WO II and she tested whether her interventions were effective.


Period 4: Establishing academic sport psychology (1966-1977)

By the mid ‘60s of last century, physical education had become an academic discipline. Now it’s called kinesiology or exercise science. Sport psychology had become a separate component in this discipline, it was distinct from motor learning. Specialists in motor learning focused on how people acquire motor skills and on conditions of feedback, practice and timing. Sport psychologists studied how psychological factors, like anxiety and self-esteem, influence sport and motor skill performance and how participation in sport influenced psychological development. Applied sport psychology consultants began working with athletes and teams. Ogilvie was one of the first to do so and he is often called the father of US applied sport psychology. The first sport psychology societies were established in North America.


Period 5: Multidisciplinary science and practice (1978-2000)

In this period, tremendous growth in sport and exercise psychology took place in the US and internationally. There was more respect and acceptance by the public. There was also more interest in applied issues and sport and exercise psychology separated from the related exercise and sport science specializations of motor learning, control and motor development. More research was conducted. Research in this field became better accepted. Different books and specialty journals were developed. Dorothy Harris advanced the cause of both women and sport psychology by helping establish a graduate program in sport psychology. She was the first American and first female member of the International Society of Sport Psychology.


Period 6: Contemporary sport and exercise psychology (2001-present)

Nowadays, sport and exercise psychology is a field with a bright future. Throughout this summary you will learn more about contemporary sport and exercise psychology in detail.


Science and practice

Sport and exercise psychology is a science. Therefore, we need to understand the scientific method. Science is dynamic and to test certain theories, scientists have evolved some general guidelines for research. For one, there should be a systematic approach to studying a question. It involves standardizing the conditions. Scientific methods involve control of conditions. The method is also empirical, which means it is based on observation. Objective evidence must support beliefs and the evidence must be open to outside observation and evaluation. The scientific method is also critical and this means that it involves rigorous evaluation by scientists.


The ultimate goal of a scientist is a theory. Theories allow a scientist to organize and explain large numbers of facts in a pattern that helps others understand them. Theory turns to practice. The social facilitation theory looks at how audience affects performance. Sometimes people perform better in front of an audience and other times they perform worse. Zajonc saw a pattern in these results and formulated the social facilitation theory. According to him, people who perform simple tasks or jobs they know well perform better with an audience. When people perform unfamiliar or complex tasks, having an audience harms performance. The theory states that an audience creates arousal in the performer, which hurts performance on difficult tasks that have not been learned well and helps performance on well-learned skills.


An important way in which scientists build or refute theory is by conducting studies and experiments. In studies researchers observe factors without changing the environment in any way. An example of this is a written questionnaire. Studies have limited ability to identify what scientists call causal relationships between factors. In experiments, the investigator manipulates the variables and observes them and he/she examines how changes in one variable affect changes in other variables. Participants are divided into two different groups: the experimental group and the control group. The experimental group receives some sort of training and the control group will not receive any training.

Every method has strengths and limitations. The strength of the scientific method is that it is reliable. The methodology is systematic and controlled and the findings are consistent and repeatable. Scientists are also trained to be objective. They want to collect unbiased data. The scientific method has also limitations. One of these is that it’s slow and conservative. It may cost more time than practitioners have. So it’s not always practical. Sometimes scientific knowledge is reductionistic. Because it’s sometimes too complex to study all the variables of a situation simultaneously, a researcher may select isolated variables that are of the most critical interest. But when a problem is reduced to smaller parts, our understanding of the whole picture may be diminished. Science also overemphasizes on internal validity. That means that science favours the extent to which the results of an investigation can be attributed to the treatment used. Too much emphasis on internal validity can cause scientists to overlook external validity. This is the true utility in the real world.


Professional practice knowledge is knowledge gained through experience. It can come from many sources and ways of knowing, like systematic observation, shared public experience, scientific method, single case study, intuition and introspection. Professional practice knowledge is guided trial-and-error learning. It also has its strength and limitations. Practical knowledge is more holistic than scientifically derived knowledge. Professional practice knowledge also tends to absorb novel practices. Also, professionals can use practical theories immediately because they don’t have to wait for the theories to be scientifically verified. However, professional practice can produce fewer and less precise explanations than science can. It is also more affected by bias than is science and it is less objective. It is also less reliable. A practitioner must blend scientific knowledge of sport and exercise psychology with professional practice knowledge.


Different orientations

Sport psychologists differ in how they view successful interventions. They may choose from many orientations to the field. One of those orientations is the psychophysiological orientation. Scientists with this orientation believe that the best way to study behaviour during sport is to examine the physiological processes of the brain and their influences on physical activity. These scientists usually assess heart rates, brain activity and muscle actions. Psychologists with the social-psychological orientation assume that behaviour is determined by a complex interaction between the environment and the personal makeup of the athlete. Psychologists with this approach often examine how a person’s social environment influences his/her and how the behaviour influences the social-psychological environment. Psychologists adopting a cognitive-behavioural orientation believe that thought is central in determining behaviour. These psychologists might develop self-report measures to assess self-confidence, goal orientations and anxiety.


Future trends

There are a couple of current and future trends in sport and exercise psychology:

  • There are more consulting and service opportunities than before and more sport psychologists are helping athletes and coaches achieve their goals.
  • There is more emphasis on counselling and clinical training for sport psychologists. There is a need for more training in counselling and clinical psychology.
  • There is more emphasis for ethics and competence issues.
  • New subspecialties and specializations are developing.
  • There continues to be tension between practitioners of academic and applied sport psychology.
  • Qualitative (non-numeric) research methods are accepted.
  • Applied sport psychologists have more work opportunities than ever before, but they only have limited chances at full-time positions.
  • It has become a recognized sport science and it has received increased attention all over the world.
  • Leaders in the general field of psychology have embraced a positive psychology movement. This means that the emphasis of psychologists should be on the development of positive attributes. Sport and exercise psychologists have been practising positive performance for some time and this has opened up new opportunities.
  • There is an importance of embracing the globalization of sport and exercise psychology.
  • Multidisciplinary work is increasing.
  • Sport psychologists are learning how to use new technologies to facilitate their efforts.
  • There is more emphasis on studying cultural diversity and examining how groups (gender, generation) are similar and unique.

Chapter 2 - Sport and personality

Most people who have to describe their personality list adjectives (funny, happy). Some may list how they reacted in various situations. Theorists have attempted to define personality and they have agreed on one aspect: uniqueness. It comes down to this: personality refers to the characteristics or mix of characteristics that make a person unique. One can understand personality through its structure. Personality can be seen as divided into three separate but related levels: the psychological core, typical responses and role-related behaviour. The psychological core is the most basic level of your personality. Some components of it are attitudes, interests, values, motives and beliefs about yourself and your self-worth. The psychological core is the real you, not who you want others to think you are. Typical responses are how we usually respond to the world around us. Typical responses are often good indicators of one’s psychological core. So, if a person consistently responds to social situations by being quiet, he/she is likely to be introverted. But if someone saw that person being quiet at a party and concluded from that that he/she is introverted, that person would be mistaken. It may have been the particular party situation that caused that person to be quiet. The quietness may not have been a typical response. Role-related behaviour is how you act based on what you perceive your social situation to be. This is the most changeable aspect of personality. The behaviour changes as the perceptions of the environment change. Different situations require different roles.


These different levels of personality encompass a continuum from internally driven to externally driven behaviours. So, everybody sees the role-related behaviour, those who have to deal more with you see the typical responses and only the people interested or motivated enough can see the psychological core. The psychological core is the most stable and internal of the three levels and the hardest to get to know. Role-related behaviours are subject to the greatest influence from the external social environment. Someone’s responses lie somewhere in between, because they result from the interaction of the psychological core and role-related behaviours. People desire both stability and change in personality. The core is needed to function effectively in society and the dynamic aspects allow for learning. Coaches, trainers and health care professionals can be more effective when they understand the different levels of personality structure that lie beyond the role-related behaviours particular to a situation. Getting to know someone, might give insight in the person’s motivations, behaviour and actions. You need to understand someone in order to help him/her.


Five viewpoints to study personality

There are different viewpoints from which psychologists have looked at personality. In this part, five different ways of studying personality in sport and exercise will be discussed.


Psychodynamic approach

The psychodynamic approach was mostly popularized by Sigmund Freud. It is characterized by two themes. The first one is that it places emphasis on unconscious determinants of behaviour, like what Freud called the id (instinctive drives) and how these conflict with the conscious aspects of personality, like the superego (moral conscience) or the ego (conscious personality). The second theme is that it focuses on understanding the person as a whole rather than identifying isolated traits. It is a complex approach. It views personality as a dynamic set of processes that are constantly changing and are often in conflict with each other. The psychodynamic approach has had a big effect on the field of psychology, but it has little effect on sport psychology. There has been a call for more attention to the psychodynamic approach. Some researchers have used structural analysis methods of social behaviour to measure psychodynamic constructs through case study research. This was important for this viewpoint, because one of the weaknesses of the psychodynamic approach has been the difficulty of testing it. Another weakness of this approach is that it focuses almost entirely on internal determinants of behaviour and it gives little attention to the social environment. Because of this, not many sport scientists adopt this approach and it is unlikely that people trained in sport psychology will become qualified to use the psychodynamic approach. The contribution of this approach is that it recognizes that not all the behaviours of an athlete are under conscious control and that it may be important to focus on unconscious determinants of behaviour.


Trait approach

The trait approach assumes that the fundamental units of personality are relatively stable. Psychologists who take this approach think that the causes of behaviour generally reside in the person and that the role of environmental factors is minimal. The presume that if an athlete is competitive, he/she is likely to be competitive in every sport situation. The Big Five model of personality is most widely accepted. This model states that five major dimensions of personality exist: neuroticism (anxiety, depression and anger) versus emotional stability, extraversion (assertiveness, sociability) versus introversion, openness to experience (curiosity, need for variety), agreeableness (modesty, altruism) and conscientiousness (self-discipline and constraint). People possessing different levels of these characteristics will behave differently. Studies have shown that extraversion and conscientiousness are positively correlated with physical activity levels and neuroticism was negatively related to physical activity. Many exercise psychology researchers are examining the influence of the Big Five personality characteristics and other characteristics on behaviours and psychological states. Trait theorists state that the best way to understand personality is to consider traits that are relatively enduring and stable over time. However, knowing someone’s personality traits will not help researchers to predict how that person will behave in a particular situation. Traits have some utility in predicting behaviour across a number of situations.

Situation approach

This approach argues that behaviour is determined largely by the situation or environment. This approach draws from social learning theory, which explains behaviour in terms of observational learning (modelling) and social reinforcement (feedback). According to this view, environmental influences and reinforcements shape the way someone behaves. Regardless of your personality traits, you may act confident in one situation but tentative in another. This view states that if the influence of the environment is strong enough, the effect of personality traits will be minimal. The situation approach is less embraced by sport psychologists than the trait approach. The situation approach can’t truly predict behaviour. A situation can influence some people’s behaviour, but other people will not be swayed by the same situation.


Interactional approach

This approach considers the situation and person as determinant of behaviour. According to this view, these two variables together determine behaviour. Knowing an individual’s psychological traits and the particular situation is helpful in understanding behaviour. According to this view, personal traits and situational factors independently determine behaviour, but at times they interact with each other in unique ways to influence behaviour. Someone with a high hostility trait won’t necessarily be violent in all situations, but when placed in the right potentially violent situation, the violent nature might be triggered. The majority of contemporary sport and exercise psychologists favour the interactional approach to studying behaviour. Research found that the interaction between persons and situations could explain twice as many behaviours as traits or situations alone could.


Phenomenological approach

The phenomenological approach is the most popular orientation taken today. This approach contends that behaviour is best determined by accounting for both situations and personal characteristics. This approach doesn’t focus on fixed traits or dispositions as the primary determinants of behaviour, but the psychologist examines the person’s understanding and interpretation of himself/herself and his/her environment. So, the person’s subjective experiences and personal views of the world and of himself/herself are seen as critical. Many of the most contemporary theories used in sport psychology fall within this framework.


These five approaches differ in important ways. They differ on a continuum of behavioural determination, they also vary in terms of assumptions about the origins of human behaviour (fixed traits or by conscious determinants). The interactional and phenomenological views are the basis for this book.



Measuring personality

Psychologists have developed ways to measure personality. Many psychologists distinguish between an individual’s typical style of behaving (traits) and the situation’s effects on behaviour (states). This distinction has been critical in the development of personality research in sport. A trait can predispose someone to behave in a certain way, but the behaviour doesn’t need to occur in all situations. So, both traits and states should be considered if one wants to understand and predict behaviour. There are different measures:

  • Trait and state measures: an example of this is the Trait Sport Confidence Inventory, which asks you how you generally or typically feel and the State Sport Confidence Inventory asks you to indicate how you feel right now, at a particular moment.

  • Situation-specific measures: these measures predict behaviour more reliably for given situations. That’s because they consider both the personality of the participant and the specific situation. This is an interactional approach.

  • Sport-specific measures: some questionnaires usually do not directly relate to sport or physical activity. They are more general and more about overall attentional styles and moods. Sport-specific tests provide more reliable and valid measures of personality traits and states in sport and exercise contexts. Someone might test how anxious you are before a competition. A sport-specific test of anxiety assesses precompetitive anxiety better than a general anxiety test does. Some tests have also been developed for particular sports. An example of a specific test is the Tennis Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style.

Feelings can change before and during a competition. States are usually assessed shortly before (within 30 minutes) of the onset of a competition or physical activity. Measurements can indicate how someone is feeling at a certain moment, but the feelings might change during the competition. These fluctuations need to be considered when evaluating personality and reactions to competitive settings.


The use of psychological measures

People may want to use psychological tests to gather information about the people whom they want to help professionally. However, psychological inventories alone can’t predict athletic success and they have sometimes been used inappropriately and administered poorly. It isn’t always clear how psychological inventories should be used. Professionals should understand the limitations and the abuses of testing. Before someone administers and interprets psychological inventories, he/she should understand testing principles and recognize measurement errors. Not all psychological tests have been made reliable and even valid tests may have measurement errors. If someone doesn’t really understand the question, the result will not be reliable. Culture also plays a part. If you give a test developed on a predominantly white population to African American or Hispanic athletes, the results might be less reliable because of cultural differences.

Sometimes people also answer questions in what they think is socially desirable and this may also affect the results. Psychological associations recommend that people administering tests be aware of the limitations of training. They should recognize the limits of their knowledge. Using only psychological tests to select players for a team is not good. This a an abuse, because tests are not accurate enough to be predictive. Before a test is completed, athletes should be told the purpose of the tests and how the tests are going to be used. Athletes should also be assured of confidentiality. This way, they will be more likely to answer truthfully. When they fear to be exposed, they may falsify answers. Researchers should also take an intra-individual approach. When someone wants to measure more subconscious or deeper aspects of personality, he/she could use a projective test. These tests include pictures and the subjects are asked to project their feelings and thoughts about these materials. Projective tests are difficult to score and interpret.


The focus on personality research

The research on personality and sport performance from the 1960s and 1970s yielded few useful conclusions. This stemmed from statistical, methodological and interpretive problems. Researchers were then divided into two camps: the ones taking the credulous viewpoint (personality is closely related to athletic success) and others taking a sceptical viewpoint (personality is not related to athletic success). Neither viewpoint has proved correct. The fact is, some relationship exists between personality and sport performance, but it is far from perfect. Personality alone doesn’t account for behaviour in sport and exercise. Caution is needed in interpreting the findings of personality research because an attribution or assumption of cause-and-effect relationships between personality and performance was a problem in many of the early studies.

It’s difficult to define an athlete. Ambiguity in definitions has weakened the research and clouded the interpretation. One large study measured 16 personality factors or traits. There was no single personality profile found that distinguished athletes from non-athletes. But when the athletes were categorized by sport, several differences did emerge. Compared with non-athletes, athletes who played team sports exhibited less abstract reasoning, more dependency, less ego strength and more extroversion. Athletes who played individual sports displayed higher levels of objectivity, less anxiety, more dependency and less abstract thinking. More women are competing in sports and therefore we need to understand the personality profiles of female athletes. In 1980, researchers found that successful female athletes differed markedly from the normative female in terms of personality profile. Female athletes were, compared to non-athletes, more achievement oriented, aggressive, independent and assertive. Most of the traits are desirable for sport. It seems that athletes have similar personality characteristics regardless of whether they are male or female.

Morgan developed a mental health model that he reported to be effective in predicting athletic success. This model suggests that positive mental health is directly related to athletic success and high levels of performance. The model predicts that an athlete who scores above the norm on the Profile of Mood States (POMS) subscales of neuroticism, fatigue, depression, anger and confusion and below the norm on vigor will pale in comparison with an athlete who scores below the norm on all of these traits except for vigor. Morgan characterized successful elite athletes by the iceberg profile. This reflects positive mental health. This profile of a successful elite athlete shows vigor above the mean of the population but tension, anger, fatigue, depression and confusion below the mean of the population. It’s called an iceberg profile, because it looks like an iceberg. The negative traits are below the surface, and the positive trait (vigor) is above the surface. Less successful elite athletes have a flat profile. According to Morgan, this reflects negative mental health.

A big study examined professional elite athletes and the results showed that more successful athletes exhibited the iceberg profile and more positive mental health than those who are less successful. These statistics do not mean that one should use psychological tests for selecting athletes for a team. Personality testing is far from perfect and the use of testing might mean that athletes will be unfairly and erroneously selected for a team or cut from a team. Morgan’s iceberg model is still supported in the literature, but it has received some criticism in recent years. Some scientists think that the results have been misinterpreted and that the profile only distinguishes athletes from non-athletes. Some researchers who performed a meta-analysis concluded that the instrument shouldn’t be used as a basis of team selection. It seems that it’s not realistically possible to select teams or predict variations in athletic performance on the basis of a psychology measure. Personality data do have some purpose. The data can help exercise psychologists discover the states and traits associated with successful athletes and they can also help athletes to develop skills.


Personality and exercise

Many psychologists have looked at the relationship between personality and exercise. In this part, relationships between exercise and two personality disposition will be discussed.


Type A behaviour

People with a type A behaviour pattern have a competitive drive, a strong sense of urgency and they have an easily aroused hostility. The opposite of this behaviour pattern is type B. Researchers first found a link between type A behaviour and increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. They later suspected that the anger-hostility component was the most significant disease-related characteristic. The causes of type A behaviour have not been determined, but much evidence points to the sociocultural environment (high performance standards and parental expectations). There have been efforts to modify type A behaviour through exercise. These have had mixed results. One study with positive results showed that a 12-week aerobics program was associated with a reduction in type A behaviour and that it helped participants reduce cardiovascular reactivity to mental stress. Thus, it seems that changing type A behaviour patterns trough sports could result in positive health benefits.



Research has shown that exercise has a positive relationship with self-concept. Some have suggested that this is the case because of the perception of improved fitness rather than actual changes in physical fitness. Studies have not proved that changes in physical fitness produce changes in self-concept. However, it does seem that exercise programs lead to significant increases in self-esteem (especially in people who are initially low in self-esteem). Exercise and self-esteem concept research has shown that it is best to not only see self-esteem as a general trait, but also as a trait that includes different content-specific dimensions (social self-concept, physical self-concept). Studies have shown that exercise participation has the greatest impact on the physical dimension of self-concept.


Examining strategies

Researchers have not been satisfied with the utility of the information they have gathered about personality traits and dispositions of athletes. Because of this, many researchers now have adopted the phenomenological approach to studying personality. They don’t study traditional traits, but they study mental strategies, behaviours and skills that athletes use for competition. Scientists developed a measure of sport-specific psychological skills, the Athletic Coping Skills Inventory-28 (ACSI). This inventory gives an overall score of an athlete’s psychological skills and scores on different subscales, including peaking under pressure, concentration, coachability and freedom from worry. Researchers have conducted some studies with this inventory. In one study with underachieving athletes, normal achieving athletes and overachieving athletes (people who were rated by their coach as performing above their talent level) the overachieving athletes had higher scores on some subscales (concentration, coachability) and a higher total score than the other two groups. These results indicate that psychological skills can assist athletes in getting the most out of their talent. In another study, professional baseball players were tested. The ACSI scores were related to certain performance measures. The results showed that physical skills did not related to the ACSI scores, but that psychological skills accounted for a big portion of performance variations in the different performance measures. Higher psychological skill scores were also associated with player survival in professional baseball. Mental skills and performance in elite sport seem to be related.


Scientists have also tried to investigate the differences between successful and less successful athletes with a qualitative approach. With in-depth interviews, they try to probe the coping strategies that athletes use during and before competitions. The interviews provide researchers and coaches with more in-depth personality profiles of athletes than do paper tests. Research has shown that successful athletes concentrate wholly on the upcoming performance and block irrelevant events out compared to less successful athletes. More successful athletes also practice routines for dealing with unusual circumstances, they learn to regulate arousal, they use different mental rehearsals before competition and they don’t worry about other competitors.

Chapter 3 - Motivation


The best definition for motivation is probably the intensity and direction of one’s effort. Sport psychologists can view motivation from different vantage points (e.g. achievement motivation, intrinsic motivation). The different forms of motivation are part of the more general definition of motivation. The direction of effort refers to whether a person seeks out, is attracted or approaches a certain situation. Intensity of effort refers to how much effort a person puts forth in a particular situation. For most people, these two concepts are closely related.


Three motivation approaches

Each person has his/her own view of how motivation works. Everybody has an own model of what motivates people. People usually develop this by learning what motivates them and by observing how others are motivated. There are many individual views, but most people fit motivation into one of three general orientations:


Trait-centred view

This view is also called the participant-centred view. This view states that motivated behaviour is primarily a function of individual characteristics. That means that the needs, personality and goals of a person are the primary determinants of motivated behaviour. There are people who have personal attributes that seem to predispose them to success and high levels of motivation. Of course, there are also people who seem to lack motivation and personal goals. Most people agree that we are partly affected by the situations in which we are placed. So, if teachers don’t create a motivating learning environment, student motivation will decline. So it is not good to ignore environmental influences on motivation. This is the reason why sport psychologists have not endorsed the trait-centred view for guiding professional practice.


Situation-centred view

The situation-centred view is the direct opposite of the trait-centred view. This view contends that motivation level is determined primarily by situation. For example, some athletes might be motivated during their exercise class, but unmotivated in a competitive sport situation. Situation influences motivation, but there are also situations in which somebody stayed motivated despite a negative environment. In some cases, the environment isn’t the primary factor influencing someone’s motivation level. Because of this, sport psychologists do not recommend the situation-centred view of motivation as the most effective for practice.


Interactional view

The view that is most endorsed by sport psychologists today is the interactional view. This view contends that motivation results not solely from participant factors (needs, personality) and not solely from situational factors. According to this view, the best way to understand motivation is to look at how these two sets of factors interact. One big study examined swimmers. The swimmers were tested as they swam individually and in a relay team. That was the situational factor. Personality characteristics of the swimmers were also assessed. The objective was to see whether each swimmer was oriented more toward rejection (being afraid to let others down and therefore rather not wanting to swim with others) or social approval (competing with others is seen as positive) and how their motivational orientation influenced their performance. The approval-oriented swimmers swam faster times in the relay than when swimming alone. The rejection-threatened swimmers swam faster alone than in a relay. The four fastest individual swimmers did not necessarily make the best relay team. Putting the most highly skilled athletes together does not mean you will have the best team.


The five guidelines for building motivation

There are some fundamental guidelines for the interactional model of motivation that coaches, teachers and leaders can use:


1: Both traits and situations

When you want to enhance motivation, consider both personal and situational factors. sometimes trainers attribute the lack of motivation of their students to personal characteristics. At other times, they do not consider the personal attributes of their students and put all the blame of the situation. Motivation results from a combination of situational and personal factors. Coaches should therefore not only focus on the situation or personal factors, but on both.


2: People’s multiple motives for involvement

If you want to identify and understand people’s motives for being involved in sports, consistent effort is needed. This understanding can be obtained in different ways. One of those is to identify why people participate in physical activity. Researchers know why most people participate in sports. Children are motivated to participate in sport because of challenge, skill development, excitement and fun. Adults have similar motives as the youths, but their health motives are rated as more important by adults and skill development as less important. Motives change across age groups and studies show that adults’ motives are less ego oriented than younger adults’. There is also a difference between genders. Studies have shown that the exercise behaviour of female college students is more motivated by extrinsic factors like weight management and that of male students is more motivated by intrinsic factors such as strength. The self-determination theory contends that all people are motivated to satisfy three general needs: the need to feel autonomous (having the fate of the game in your hands), competent (e.g. being a good swimmer) and social connectedness (e.g. love being part of a team). How these are fulfilled leads to a continuum of motivation ranging from no motivation to extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation.

You need to remember that people participate for more than one reason, that they have competing motives for involvement and that they have both shared and unique motives. There are also sex differences in motivation. One study looked at the participation in sports of young children. Having fun was the highest-rated motive of all the children. However, girls cited social benefits, competition and fitness as major motives while boys cited competition, social benefits and fitness most often. Boys have more attraction to the competitive aspect of sports and girls have more attraction to the social aspect. There are also differences between cultures in motivation. One study found that American youths were motivated primarily by competition and the need to improve and Chinese youths were more involved for social affiliation.

Participants need to be observed and coaches should continue to monitor their motives. That’s because motives can change over time.


3: Change the environment

Coaches need to use what they learn about the participants to structure the sport environment in order to need the participants’ needs. People don’t have the same desire for competition and recreation, therefore opportunities for both need to be provided. Multiple opportunities should be provided, because people have different needs. Coaches also need to adjust to individuals in groups. Some individuals need the coach to be though on them, others need the coach to be positive. Individualizing is not always easy to achieve. Some classes have many students and today’s instructors must be realistic and imaginative in individualizing their environments.


4: Influence motivation

Leaders and coaches have a critical role in influencing participant motivation. Most coaches do really think that they have an important impact on participant motivation. Influence may be indirect: an instructor who is energetic will give positive reinforcement in class in that way. Instructors who are not upbeat can influence the mood of their students. Instructors have to keep that in mind and if they have a bad day, they may have to act more upbeat than they feel.


5: Using behaviour modification to change undesirable motives

Coaches sometimes have to change a participant’s motives for involvement. A football player may be involved in the sport primarily to inflict injury on someone else. His coach has to use behaviour modification techniques to change the undesirable motivation. The coach needs to reinforce good clean play, punish aggressive play intended to hurt others and discuss appropriate behaviour with the player.


A realistic view of motivation

Motivation is important, but it’s not the only variable influencing behaviour. sport-writers often ascribe a team’s performance to motivational attributes. However, a team’s performance is often influenced by non-motivational factors, like injury, failing to learn new skills or playing a better team. Sociological, medical and physiological factors are also important to sport and need to be considered in an analysis of performance. Some motivational factors are more easily influenced than others. Professionals need to consider the time and money it will take to change the motivational factors that they can influence.


Achievement motivation

Achievement motivation is a person’s efforts to master a task, overcome obstacles, achieve excellence and perform better than others. A person with high achievement motivation strives for task success, has pride in accomplishments and wants to persist in the face of failure. Because of this, coaches and teachers are interested in achievement motivation. Achievement motivation was first viewed from the trait-oriented view and is now viewed from the interactional view. In sport, achievement motivation is called competitiveness.



Competitiveness can be seen as achievement behaviour in a competitive context in which social evaluation is a key component. People need to look at a situation-specific achievement orientation, because some people are highly oriented toward achievement in one setting but not in another. Competition can be against/with others, but people can also compete with themselves. This can be the case when they try to beat their previous time or when they want to become stronger (lift more weights).


Four theories of achievement motivation

There are four theories that explain what motivated people to act. These four theories will be discussed. A fifth theory will be discussed in the sixth chapter.


Need achievement theory

This theory is an interactional view and it considers both situational and personal factors as important predictors of behaviour. This theory exists of five components: personality factors, situational factors, resultant tendencies, emotional reactions and achievement-related behaviour.


Personality factors look at two underlying achievement motives: to achieve success and to avoid failure. Behaviour is supposedly influenced by the balance of these motives. People who are low achievers show low motivation to achieve success and high motivation to avoid failure. They are preoccupied with thoughts of failure. High achievers are the opposite of this. Situational factors look at the probability of success and the incentive value of success. The probability of success depends on the difficulty of the task and whom you compete against. The resultant tendency is derived by considering a person’s achievement motive levels in relation to situational factors. high achievers seek out challenges in which they have a 50% chance of winning. Low achievers often avoid these kind of challenges. Emotional reactions consist of pride and shame. High and low achievers want to experience pride and minimize shame, but they interact differently with the situation. This causes high achievers to focus more on pride and low achievers to focus more on shame. Achievement behaviour is the fifth component and it indicates how the four components interact to influence behaviour.


Attribution theory

Attribution theory looks on how people explain their success and failures. This view holds that thousands of possible explanations for failures and success can be classified into a few categories. These categories are stability, locus of causality (external or internal to the person) and locus of control (a factor is or is not under the person’s control). An athlete can perceive failure or success as attributable to a variety of possible reasons. The perceived causes of failure and success are called attributions. Attributions affect expectations of future failures and success and also the emotional reactions. If an athlete ascribes his performance success to a stable cause (his high ability) he will expect the outcome to occur again in the future and he will therefore be more motivated. Attributions to internal factors and controllable factors (ability) rather than to external factors or uncontrollable factors (luck) often result in emotional reactions like pride and shame.


Achievement goal theory

According to this theory, there are three factors that interact to determine a person’s motivation: achievement goal, perceived ability and achievement behaviour. Understanding someone’s motivation also means understanding what success and failure mean to that person. A way to do that is to examine a person’s achievement goals and how they interact with that person’s perceptions of self-worth and competence.


An outcome goal orientation focuses on comparing yourself with and defeating others. Winning will cause high perceived ability and losing will cause low perceived ability in that case. A task goal orientation focuses on improving relatively on one’s own past performance. People can also be both task and outcome oriented. Sport psychologists think that a task orientation leads more often to a work ethic, persistence and optimal performance than an outcome orientation. Task orientation protect a person from frustration and a lack of motivation when the performance of others is superior. Task-oriented people don’t fear failure and they select realistic and moderately difficult tasks.

Investigators have also identified social goal orientations as determinants of behaviour. People high in a social goal orientation judge their competence in terms of affiliation with the group and recognition from being liked by others. They will also be motivated by the need to belongs to groups. This orientation is related to people’s enjoyment, competence and intrinsic motivation.

According to some researchers, people who are characterized by an entity view adopt an outcome goal focus and they see their ability as fixed and unable to be changed. People with an incremental focus adopt a task goal perspective and they think they can change their ability through hard work and effort. Studies have shown that people who adopt an entity focus are characterized by maladaptive motivation patterns.

People can be outcome or mastery goal oriented and/or achievement or avoidant oriented. A person who is mastery approach oriented wants to improve his/her time, a person who is mastery avoidance oriented doesn’t want to run slower than his/her time, a person who is outcome approach oriented wants to win the race and beat another person and a person who is outcome avoidance oriented doesn’t want to lose to a person.


Competence motivation theory

This theory states that people are motivated to feel competent and this feeling is the primary determinant of motivation. Athletes’ perceptions of control work together with competence evaluations to influence their motivation. This doesn’t influence motivation directly, but they influence affective states that in turn influence motivation. A person’s competence differs across domains.


Developing competiveness and achievement motivation

It is believed that achievement motivation and competiveness develop in three stages. These stages are sequential. The age at which people reach each stage varies considerably and not every person reaches the final stage.

  1. Autonomous competence stage: This stage is thought to occur before the age of 4 years. In this stage, children focus on mastering their environment and on self-testing.

  2. Social comparison stage: This stage begins at about the age of 5 years and the child focuses on directly comparing his performance with that of others.

  3. Integrated stage: This stage involves both autonomous achievement and social comparison strategies. A person with the fully mastered integration of this knows when it’s appropriate to compete with others and when it’s appropriate to adopt self-referenced standards. This is the most desirable stage and there is no typical age for entering this stage.

It’s important to recognize the developmental stages of competitiveness because it helps us understand the behaviour of people we work with.


Achievement motivation in professional practice

Coaches need to recognize interactional factors in achievement motivation. They need to look at the participants’ goal orientations, attributions they typically make about their performance and the situations they tend to avoid or approach. They also can reduce maladaptive achievement tendencies by helping people to set task goals and downplay outcome goals. They need to let the athlete focus on approach goals. Coaches also need to monitor and alter attributional feedback. They also need to assess and correct inappropriate attributions that participants make of themselves. Coaches also need to help participants determine when it’s appropriate to compete and when it’s appropriate to focus on individual improvement. Coaches also need to enhance perceived competence and feelings of control.

Chapter 4 - Stress, arousal and anxiety


Many people use the terms ‘stress,’ ‘arousal,’ and ‘anxiety’ interchangeably, but sport psychologists distinguish among them. Arousal can be seen as a blend of psychological and physiological activity in a person and it refers to the intensity dimensions of motivation at a particular moment. The continuum of arousal ranges from not at all aroused to completely aroused. People who are highly aroused have increased heart rates and sweating. They are physically and mentally activated. Arousal can be associated with pleasant or unpleasant events. Anxiety is a negative emotional state characterized by nervousness, worry and it is associated with activation of the body. The thought component of anxiety (worry) is called cognitive anxiety. Somatic anxiety is the degree of physical activation perceived. There is also a distinction between state and trait anxiety.


Sometimes we refer to anxiety as a stable personality component and other times we use the word to describe a changing mood state. The changing mood component is called state anxiety. A player’s level of state anxiety can change from moment to moment during a match. Cognitive state anxiety is the degree to which a person worries or has negative thoughts and somatic state anxiety is the moment-to-moment change in perceived physiological activation. Somatic state anxiety is not a change in someone’s physical activation, but a person’s perception of such a change. Studies also suggest there is a perceived control component of state anxiety. This refers to the belief of a person that he/she has the resources and ability to meet challenges. Trait anxiety is part of the personality, a disposition that influences behaviour. Trait anxiety can predispose a person to perceive a wide range of circumstances as threatening, while these may objectively not be physically or psychologically dangerous. Trait anxiety exists of three components and a total score. The first component is somatic trait anxiety (perceiving heightened physical symptoms), the second is cognitive trait anxiety (the degree to which one typically worries) and the third component is concentration disruption (the degree to which one typically has concentration disruption during competition).


Measuring anxiety and arousal

Arousal, state anxiety and trait anxiety are measured by sport psychologists in various ways. To measure arousal, they look at changes in heart rate, biochemistry and respiration. They also look at how people rate their arousal levels using a series of statements and scales. Those scales are self-report scales. State anxiety is measured by global and multidimensional self-report measures. In global measures, people rate how nervous they feel using self-report scales from low to high. In the multidimensional self-report measures people rate how worried and how physiologically activated they feel. There are also sport-specific scales that measure state anxiety in sport. One of these scales is the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2. There are also global and multidimensional self-reports that measure trait anxiety. These differ somewhat from those for state anxiety assessments, because they ask people how they typically feel instead of how they feel right at the moment.


A direct relationship has been found between a person’s state anxiety and trait anxiety. People who score high on trait anxiety measures also have more state anxiety in highly competitive situations. However, this relationship is not perfect. Anxiety can also fluctuate throughout competition. Future measures need to assess these changes in anxiety. This can be done retrospectively. Studies have shown that athletes are good at assessing their state anxiety levels after the fact.



Stress happens when a substantial imbalance exists between the psychological and physical demands placed on a person and that person’s response capability under conditions in which failure to meet the demand has important consequences. According to McGrath, stress consists of four interrelated stages: environmental demand, perception of demand, stress response and behavioural consequences. In the first stage, there is a demand placed on an individual. This demand may be physical or psychological. The second stage of the process is the individual’s perception of the psychological or physical demand. A person’s level of trait anxiety influences how that person perceives the world. People who have high trait anxiety tend to perceive more situations as threatening than lower trait-anxious people. The third stage of the process is the person’s psychological and physical response to a perception. The fourth stage is the behaviour of the person under stress. This final stage feeds back into the first. Understanding the stress cycle is important for practitioners, because they need to know at which stage they need to change things in order to reduce stress.


There are many specific sources of stress. Major life events like a job change or a death in the family and daily hassles like a problem with colleagues can cause stress and affect mental and physical health. In athletes, stressors are performance issues. These can be worries about performance, self-doubt, costs, travel, relationships outside of sports, coaching leadership and physical danger. Injured elite athletes have psychological, rehab-related, financial, physical, career and missed opportunities stress. Coaches also have sources of stress. These include recruiting, communication with athletes, pressure of having many roles and lack of control over the team’s performance. Officials also have stress sources that include difficulties with coaches and physical abuse. Young athletes also get stressed by parental pressure. Studies have found that high pressure in a high ego motivational climate (focus on outcome) increased perception of anxiety and high pressure in a high mastery motivational climate (focusing on improvement) decreased perceptions of anxiety.


Situational sources of stress

There are two common sources of situational stress. These two are the importance placed on an event or contestant and the uncertainty that surrounds the outcome of that event. In general it’s the case that the more important the event, the more stress provoking it is. Taking an exam is more stressful than taking a practice exam. The importance placed on an event is different for different people. Uncertainty is also a big situational source of stress. The greater the uncertainty, the greater the stress. People often can’t do anything about uncertainty. Sometimes coaches, teachers and sport medicine professionals create unnecessary uncertainty by not telling participants of certain things. These things can be how to avoid injury, the starting line-up or what to expect while recovering from an athletic injury. Athletes can also have stress as a result of uncertainty in their lives. Studies have shown that uncertainties about a career, relocation and one’s future after the sport were major stress sources.


Personal sources of stress

There are two personality dispositions that relate to heightened state anxiety reactions: high trait anxiety and low self-esteem. A third anxiety disposition is social physique anxiety. Trait anxiety has been discussed previously. Someone who is more trait anxious perceives competition as more threatening than a person who is less trait anxious. Athletes with low self-esteem have less confidence and more state anxiety than athletes with high self-esteem. Enhancing self-confidence is an important way to reduce the amount of state anxiety that individuals experience. Social physique anxiety is a personality disposition and it’s defined as the degree to which people become anxious when others observe their physiques. Some people can get really nervous when others evaluate their body. People with high social physique anxiety experience more stress during fitness evaluations and they experience more negative thoughts about their body than people without this anxiety. Studies have also shown a negative relationship between social physique anxiety and exercise behaviour and perceived physical ability. People who are high in social physique anxiety will likely avoid fitness settings and struggle with motivation when they participate. This is because they fear how others will evaluate their physiques. Especially females are prone to social physique anxiety. Studies have shown that reducing social physique anxiety by having people exercise in less revealing clothes, increases the participation in physical activity.


Arousal, anxiety and performance

Many sport psychologists study the relationship between arousal, anxiety, emotional states and performance. For decades, sport psychologists have studies the relation between anxiety and performance. There are no definitive conclusions about this relationship. There are different theories that will be discussed.


Drive theory

In the 1960s, psychologists saw the relationship between arousal and performance as direct and linear. According to this theory, as a person’s arousal or state anxiety increases, so does his/her performance. The more psyched up someone becomes, the better his/her performance. Of course, everybody can think of instances in which they became aroused and then performed more poorly. There is not much scholarly support for the drive theory. In the first chapter, social facilitation theory was introduced. Zajonc also used the drive theory with the social facilitation theory. He showed that when people perform simple or well-learned skills, the increased arousal facilitates performance. But when people perform complex skills, the presence of others increases arousal and the person performs more poorly. This means that it’s best to eliminate audiences in learning situations. The drive and social facilitation theories don’t explain how an audience affects a person’s performance of well-learned skills. The theories predict that as arousal increases, performance increases. This would mean that highly skilled athletes exceed in every high-pressure situation, but that’s not the case.


Inverted U-hypothesis

This view holds that at low arousal levels, performance will be below par. The exercises is not psyched up. When arousal increases, so does performance, but this is up to an optimal level. Further increases in arousal will cause a performance decline. This is represented by an inverted U. There are many coaches and athletes that accept the general notions of the inverted-U hypothesis. However, this theory has come under criticism. Critics ask whether optimal arousal always occurs at the midpoint of the arousal continuum.


Individualized zones of optimal functioning

This model (IZOF) states that athletes have a zone of optimal state anxiety in which their best performance occurs. Poor performance occurs outside this zone. This model is different than the inverted-U model, because the optimal level of state anxiety does not always occur at the midpoint of the continuum. It varies from person to person. Also, according to this theory the zone of optimal level of state anxiety is not a single point but a bandwidth. Coaches should help participants identify and reach their own specific optimal zone of state anxiety. Much literature supports this model. The IZOF view also contends that there are negative and positive emotions that enhance performance and that have a dysfunctional influence on performance. A given emotion can be positively related to performance for one person and negatively to another.


Multidimensional anxiety theory

This theory predicts that cognitive state anxiety is negatively related to performance. This means that cognitive state anxiety lead to decreases in performance. This theory predicts that somatic state anxiety (physiologically) is related to performance in an inverted U. increases in anxiety will facilitate performance up to an optimal level and additional anxiety causes performance to decline. Studies have shown that the two anxiety components differentially predict performance, but the precise predictions of multidimensional anxiety theory have not been consistently supported. This theory has little support with respect to its performance predictions and it therefore will not be of big use in guiding practice.


Catastrophe phenomenon

According to this view, performance depends on the interaction of cognitive anxiety and arousal. This model predicts that physiological arousal is related to performance in an inverted U-fashion. However, this is only the case when an athlete is not worried or when he/she has low cognitive state anxiety. If the athlete is worrying, the increases in arousal will at some point reach a kind of threshold. This is past the point of optimal arousal level and after this, a decline in performance will occur. This decline is called the catastrophe. Physiological arousal (somatic anxiety) can have different effects on performance depending on the amount of cognitive anxiety a person is experiencing. When there is high worry, performance deteriorates drastically once over-arousal and the catastrophe occur. Recovery will in that case take longer. It is difficult to test this model.


Reversal theory

This theory contends that the way in which arousal affects performance depends on a person’s interpretation of his arousal level. Some people might interpret high arousal as unpleasant anxiety, whereas others might interpret it as a pleasant excitement. We think that athletes make quick shifts (reversals) in their interpretations of arousal. This theory predicts that for the best performance, athletes must interpret their arousal as pleasant excitement rather than as unpleasant anxiety. Reversal theory contributes to our understanding of the arousal-performance relationship in two ways. The first way is that it emphasizes that a person’s interpretation of arousal is significant. The second way is that the theory holds that athletes can reverse their positive or negative interpretations of arousal from time to time. Not many scientists have tested this theory’s predictions, so there are no firm conclusions to be made about the scientific predictions of this theory.


The direction of anxiety and it’s intensity

People used to assume that anxiety only had negative effects on performance. Some scientists have shown that people can view anxiety symptoms either as positive and helpful to performance or as negative and harmful to performance. The former is called facilitative and the latter debilitative. In order to fully understand the anxiety-performance relationship, one must examine both the intensity of a person’s anxiety and its direction. Research has shown that viewing anxiety as facilitative leads to superior performance and that viewing it as debilitative leads to poor performance. When a stressors occurs in the environment, how much stress a person will have depends on individual factors like self-esteem and trait anxiety. If that person feels in control, he/she will perceive the state anxiety as facilitative and if he/she feels no control, the state anxiety will be perceived as debilitative. So the athlete’s perception of control determines how the state anxiety is seen. Studies have shown support for this association. According to a study, performers can also be trained to effectively use their anxiety symptoms in a productive way. Athletes should learn a repertoire of psychological skills to help interpret anxiety symptoms as facilitative. Some researchers argue that the positive emotion of excitement might enhance performance and not the interpretation of anxiety as facilitative. There are also some personal and situational variables that can influence the directional response. Some of these include neuroticism, extraversion, self-confidence and psychological skills. Some of the situational variables are skill level, expectations, goal attainment and performance. Skill level is the individual difference variable that has most consistently determined whether anxiety is interpreted as debilitative or facilitative.



Frequency of anxiety has received little attention in sports psychology. It seems fair to suppose that the frequency with which athletes have anxiety symptoms is an important component of anxiety response. Studies showed that athletes who viewed anxiety as facilitative had lower frequencies of cognitive anxiety and higher frequencies of self-confidence during the pre-competition period than did athletes who viewed anxiety as debilitating. A coach should know how often an athlete feels anxiety symptoms and not just how intense the symptoms are and how they are interpreted.


Why does arousal influence performance?

If we understand why arousal affects performance, then we can help ourselves and others regulate arousal. There are two things that explain how increased arousal influences athletic performance: changes in attention, concentration and visual search patterns and the second one is increased fatigue, muscle tension and coordination difficulties.


Fatigue, muscle tension and coordination difficulties

People who have stress often report aches, pain and muscle soreness. Increases in arousal and state anxiety can cause increases in muscle tension and they can also interfere with coordination. Studies have shown that increased muscle tension, coordination difficulties and fatigue contribute to an athlete’s inferior performance under high-stress conditions.


Attention, visual search changes and concentration

Increased arousal can also have an influence on performance through changes in concentration, attention and visual search patterns. This is because increased arousal narrows a performer’s attentional field. Increased arousal causes a narrowing of the attentional field and this negatively influences performance on tasks requiring a broad focus. People also tend to scan the playing environment less often when arousal is increased. Arousal can also cause changes in attention levels by affecting attentional style. Athletes must learn to shift their attention to appropriate task cues. Every person also has a dominant attention style. Increased arousal can cause athletes to shift to a dominant attention style that may not be the best style for that situation. Increased arousal also causes athletes to attend to inappropriate cues. Most people perform well-learn skills when they fully concentrate on the task. Too much cognitive state anxiety can cause athletes to focus on inappropriate task cues by becoming overly self-conscious. This will also affect optimal concentration. According to research, there are three types of thoughts that are tied to cognitive interference for athletes: situation-irrelevant thoughts, thoughts of escape and performance worries. Studies have also shown that people identify and process visual cues differently when they are anxious. The complexity of the way anxiety influences sport performance is reflected in processing efficiency theory. This theory states that increased anxiety interferes with working memory resources. In the short run, this doesn’t have negative influence on performance because of the effort someone puts in, but as anxiety increases, the benefits of increased effort are outweighed by a reduced attentional capacity.

Coaches could use all the previously things mentioned for practice. They should identify optimal arousal-related emotions, recognize the interaction of personal and situational factors and recognize arousal and state anxiety signs. Coaches also need to tailor coaching strategies to individuals and help athletes develop confidence.

Chapter 5 - Competition and cooperation


Competition can refer to a variety of situations. People can compete against each other, themselves, objects or record times. Most researchers focus on situations in which people compete against others in organized physical activities. Competition has a reward structure and the success of one athlete will automatically cause the failure of another. Success can also be measured in cooperation. This is asocial process through which performance is evaluated and rewarded in terms of the collective achievement of a group working together to attain a certain goal. Rewards are shared by everyone in the group and the group success depends on the collective achievement of all the participants. When a team wins a championship it shares in the victory even though one player may have contributed more to the victory than another player. People who are achievement-oriented, hard-working and successful, are not necessarily competitive. These people may combine strong achievement orientations with cooperative orientations. Cooperative people are just as likely to be successful as are competitive people. Studies have shown that competitive reward structures are useful in simple physical tasks of short duration but they are less effective than cooperative reward structures for tasks that are complex. Few everyday situations are purely cooperative or competitive. Some researchers argue that most social interactions involve some kind of goal-directed behaviour that rewards a person for achieving the goal while it also requires some form of cooperation from others.


Competition as a process

According to some scientists, competition is more than a single event. They think that it’s a process that encompasses four distinct events or stages. The stages are distinct, but also linked to each other. People experience the competitive process differently. People’s attributes might influence his/her responses in competition. Each stage is influences by the other stages and by external environmental factors like feedback and external rewards. The four stages will be discussed:


Stage 1: objective competitive situation

The objective competitive situation includes a standard for comparison and at least one other person. The standard for comparison can be a person’s past performance, another person’s performance or an idealized performance.


Stage 2: subjective competitive situation

People must evaluate a situation in a way. The second stage involves how a person perceives, accepts and appraises the objective competitive situation. A person’s background and attributes are important in this stage. The importance of the competitive situation and motivation may also influence the subjective appraisal of the setting. People who are highly competitive tend to seek out competitive situations and they are more motivated to achieve in them than people with lower levels of competitiveness. One can’t predict with trait competitiveness alone how a person will respond to a particular competitive situation. Situational variables also have a strong influence on behaviour.


The Sport Orientation Questionnaire (SOQ) was developed to provide a reliable measure of competitiveness. With this questionnaires, researchers found three types of competitive orientations and these represent different subjective outcomes of a competitive situation. These three are competitiveness, win orientation and goal orientation. Competitiveness is a desire to strive for success in competitive sport settings. Competitive people love to compete. Win orientation is a focus on interpersonal comparison and winning in competition. A win orientation means that it’s more important to beat other competitors than to improve on personal standards. Goal orientation is a focus on personal performance standards. The focus is on improving one’s performance, not winning the competition. The competitive orientation of a person affects how he/she perceives the competitive situation. Research found that athletes generally score higher than non-athletes on all three subscales, but especially on the competitive aspect of the SOQ. That study also found that most athletes are oriented toward improving their own performances than toward winning. Most athletes cite improving performance as their goal. Coaches should find out whether their athletes are competitive or not and play into this.


Stage 3: response

After a person appraises a situation, he/she can decide to approach or avoid it. The chosen response initiates the third stage. If the person decides not to compete, the response stops there. A response to compete can occur at the physiological, behavioural or psychological level or at all three levels. There are internal and external psychological factors which can affect a person’s response. Some internal factors are motivation and confidence. Weather, time and opponent ability are some external influences.


Stage 4: consequences

The last stage results from comparing the athlete’s response with the standard of comparison. Consequences can be positive or negative and positive consequences are usually put together with success and negative consequences with failure. The athlete’s perception of the consequences is more important than the objective outcome. The feelings of failure and success work their way back into the process and affect subsequent competitive events. It is important for coaches and parents to know how to help athletes feel more successful about sport experiences. One can take a participant-centred approach by modifying the rules and have more personal involvement and this can create positive experiences for all participants. Competition is a learned social process and it’s influences by the social environment. Competition is just a process and neither good nor bad. The quality of leadership will determine whether competition will be a positive or negative experience for the participant. There are many factors that can influence the relationship between the four stages.


Studies of competition and cooperation

In the next section, some popular psychological investigations into the process of competition and cooperation are reviewed.

The first study that addressed the effects of competition on performance was conducted in 1898 by Triplett. He noted that racers showed varying performances when they raced alone, with a pacer or in competition with another racer. He found that cyclists were faster when racing against or with another cyclist than when racing alone against the clock. Competition against fellow competitors was shown to enhance performance. Morton Deutsch asked college students to solve puzzle problems during a 5-week span. Students were either in a competitive group or a cooperative group. The students in the competitive group were told that a reward would be given to the person in the group who solved the highest average number of puzzles. Students in the other group were told that they would be evaluated by their group’s ranking in relation to other groups. The results showed that students in the cooperative group communicated with each other, shared information, solved more puzzles and developed friendships. Students in the competitive group were self-centred, exhibited mistrust and didn’t communicate. It seems that teams work together better when they have a common goal and when reaching that goal produces similar rewards for all group members. Coaches should make sure that all members of a team strive toward common goals.


Competition and aggression

A primary focus on winning can produce hostility and aggression among teams. Some former professional players have told stories about purposely harming members from the opposite team. Some have even received rewards for knocking players out of games. Once a mother even planned to murder a young girl competing to be a high school cheerleader so that her own daughter could be chosen for the team. However, only a small percentage of sport competition results in great aggression. Competitive sport can help athletes learn to work together and reduce the overemphasis on winning.


Effects of competition and cooperation on performance

In a big meta-analysis studies on the effect of cooperation and competition on performance were compared. Most studies showed that cooperation produced higher achievement than competition. Many studies also showed that cooperation promoted higher achievement than did independent work. It seems that cooperative efforts are more effective in promoting achievement than competitive efforts. Other studies have also shown that working together with a cooperative mind-set enhances performance level above focusing on individual improvement or competition. Cooperative efforts produce better performance than do competitive efforts when a performer has to work with another person to achieve a goal. However, research has shown that people perform better when competing against others than they would when performing the task alone. This is because people in the competitive condition exhibit greater effort, increased muscle activity and more enjoyment than participants in the non-competitive condition. Studies also revealed that performance was better in team competitions than individual competitions because of enjoyment, effort and anxiety. It seems that people feel the need to try harder because their partner depends on them and the anxiety they experience positively influences the performance of the task.


Competition itself does not produce negative consequences, but the overemphasis on winning is the thing that is counterproductive. Appropriate competition has the following characteristics: the importance of winning is not so high that it causes stress, it is voluntary, people must have a reasonable chance to win, relative progress can be monitored and the rules are clear. It’s also true that competitive orientations sometimes lead to high levels of achievement in individual and team sport. It appears that many situations in the world of sport call for a mix of cooperative and competitive strategies and orientations. The real challenge is finding the right mix for the specific situation. Some researchers state that cooperation and competition should be viewed as complementary.


Is competition good or bad?

The competitive ethic is a driving force in sport. People think that competition brings out the best in them. There are many Americans who equate success with victory and doing well with beating somebody. Many people consider the competitive spirit synonymous with the American way of life. This pre-occupation with winning can lead to cheating. Sometimes athletes who are not a certain age enter a certain competition that requires participants to be a certain age. Abuse of steroids is also a form of cheating. Kohn argued against certain myths of competition, like that competition motivates people to do their best or that it’s part of human nature. According to Kohn, competition has a number of negative consequences, like creating stress, fostering interpersonal hostility, undermining self-esteem, fostering aggression and creating envy and shame. Negative effects of competition do not mean that competition is necessarily bad. There have been many situations in which competition has produced positive, healthy outcomes. Also, how we treat our opponents can influence our view of competition. An example of this is Ghandi. He viewed his political opponents as teachers because they forced him to do his best. The quality of adult leadership by parents and coaches is crucial in determining whether competition affects young athletes positively or negatively. Leaders should teach young children when it’s appropriate to cooperate and when to compete. In most team sports, competition and cooperation occur simultaneously. It seems that an integrated approach offers the greatest opportunities for personal development.


Enhancing cooperation

Most people in the business or educational setting know the positive outcomes produced by cooperative efforts. Most sport settings retain a competitive focus and many sport psychology texts emphasize the different psychological factors that enhance performance in the competitive settings. There are some benefits that competitive sport offers. These include discipline and character development. There is so much evidence attesting to the positive effects of cooperation, so it’s important to look at how cooperative games can complement competitive sport. The sport psychologists Orlick argued that the design of a game largely influences the predominant behavioural response. Competition and cooperation can be seen as complementary relationships and they give people a unique potential in sport. Cooperation and competition have different potential interactions. A coach must understand this in order to structure a good mix of physical activities. Most games can be classified into one of these categories:

  • Competitive means- competitive ends: The goal in this game is to beat someone else or everybody else.

  • Cooperative means- competitive ends: People cooperate in their group but compete outside their group. This can be found in soccer and basketball.

  • Individual means- individual ends: A player pursues an individual goal without cooperative or competitive interaction.

  • Cooperative means- individual ends: People cooperate and help each other achieve their own goals.

  • Cooperative means- cooperative ends. Players cooperate with each other from the outset to the end. An example of this is volleyball.


Philosophy of cooperative games

It’s rare to have a game that emphasizes both cooperative ends and cooperative means. Some have taken the steps to develop alternatives to competitive games and sports. According to Orlick, many competitive sports for young athletes are designed by principles of elimination. Usually, there is only one winner and everybody else loses. This is probably one of the reasons for the large percentage of dropouts from competitive youth sports. It also seems that children become conditioned to the importance of winning and it is therefore difficult to play simply for the fun of it. Most cooperative games require little or no equipment or money. Anyone is allowed to play and the rules can be changed for a specific situation. In these games children learn to work together, share and empathize. This does not mean that cooperative games are better than competitive ones. Children should therefore have the chance to play both games.


Cooperation enhances enjoyment of the sport and communication. It often produces superior performance compared with competition. People should focus on cooperation and have little healthy competition. Team-building activities can enhance both cooperation and competition. Cooperation shouldn’t replace competition. Coaches should structure games that are both cooperative and competitive. These should provide positive feedback and stress cooperation. They should also give children the chance to play different positions. They should also try to not keep score in games. They should maximize participation and opportunities to learn skills and sport. Many studies have shown that special cooperation games learn children how to be cooperative and learn empathy.

Chapter 6 - Reinforcement, feedback and intrinsic motivation


People need feedback. They need a pat on their back or some instructions. Reinforcement is the use of rewards and punishments that decreases or increases the likelihood of the same/similar response occurring in the future. There are two principles that underlie reinforcement. The first one is that when doing something results in good consequences (getting a reward), people will try to repeat the behaviour to receive positive consequences. The second one is that when doing something results in an unpleasant consequence, people will try to not repeat that behaviour. In the real world, reinforcement principles are more complex. The same reinforcement can affect people differently. People can’t always the reinforced behaviour. one must understand all the reinforcements available to a person and how that person values them. However, coaches and teachers are often not aware of competing motives and reinforcers.


Influencing behaviour

There are different ways to teach and coach. There’s a positive approach which rewards positive behaviour and this increases the likelihood of desirable responses occurring again. The negative approach focuses on punishing undesirable behaviour and this should reduce the inappropriate behaviours. The positive approach is designed to strengthen the desired behaviours through rewards and the negative approach focuses on eliminating unwanted behaviours through punishment. Most coaches try to motivate their athletes through a combination of the negative and positive approach.


Positive reinforcement

Sport psychologists recommend a positive approach to motivation. This way, they try to avoid the potential negative side effects of using punishment as the primary approach. Studies have shown that athletes who play for positive-oriented coaches enjoy their sport experience more, like their coaches and teammates better and have better team cohesion. Reinforcement can take different forms, like verbal compliments, smiles and other non-verbal behaviours. Positive rewards need to be given in a good way. Rewards should meet the needs of the athletes receiving them. There are different types of reinforcers. Social reinforcements are praise and a pat, material reinforcements are trophies and medals, activity reinforcements are playing a game and playing different positions and special outings as reinforcements are throwing a team party and going to a professional game. Every person desires a different type of rewards. A physical education teach might have students complete a questionnaire to determine their type of rewards. Coaches should develop a list of the types of reinforcements athletes react most favourably to. They might sometimes also reward the entire team rather than a particular individual. The kinds of rewards that people receive from others are called extrinsic. The other rewards are called intrinsic because they reside within a person. An example of this is pride. Coaches can’t directly offer intrinsic rewards, but they can structure the environment to promote intrinsic motivation. Studies showed that if an environment is more focused on learning and effort as opposed to competition and outcome, then athletes tend to be more intrinsically motivated.


Reinforcements should be schedules effectively. During the stages of skill development, desirable responses should be reinforced often, probably on a continuous schedule. This requires rewarding after every correct response. Studies have shown that continuous feedback doesn’t only act as a motivator but also provides the learner with information about how he/she is doing. Once a particular skills has been mastered, the schedule can be gradually reduced. Coaches can reduce the amount of feedback they give to their athletes or they could ask the athletes to generate their own feedback. The sooner a reinforcement is provided after a response, the more powerful the effects on behaviour. This is especially the case when people are learning new skills. Once someone masters a skill, it is less critical to reinforce immediately. However, it’s still essential that the correct behaviours be reinforced at certain points.


Appropriate rewards

It’s important to choose the proper behaviours to reward. You can’t reward people every time they do something right. People need to decide on the most appropriate and important behaviours and focus on rewarding these. There are many coaches who focus their rewards on the outcome of performance, but there are also other behaviours that should be reinforced. When someone is acquiring a new skill, they can make mistakes. It may take a long time to master the skill. This can be frustrating for the learner and it is therefore important to reward small improvements as the skill is learned. This technique is called shaping. This allows people to continue to improve as they get closer to the desired response. People are rewarded for performances that approximate the desired performance.


Coaches who emphasize winning only reward players based on outcome. If an individual performs a skill correctly, that’s all that he/she can do. A coach should focus on the athlete’s performance and not the performance outcome, because the outcome is not always in an athlete’s hand. Coaches should also recognize effort as part of performance. Not every person can be successful in sport. When athletes know that they will be recognized for trying new and difficult skills and not just criticized, they do not fear trying the new skill. Studies have shown that youngsters who received effort-oriented feedback (good try) displayed better performance than those provided ability-oriented feedback (you have a talent). This is especially the case after failure. These kids showed more task enjoyment and persistence than did children who were praised with high ability. Effort appears to be critical to producing persistence. Emotional and social skills should also be rewarded. When someone is pressured to win, it’s easy to forget the importance of fair play. Athletes who show good behaviour, responsibility and self-control should be recognized and reinforced. Some athletes and coaches who are popular have not been good role models. Participants also need to be given feedback about the accuracy and success of their movements. The feedback that is given, should be sincere. The feedback should also be contingent on behaviour. studies have shown that the way how one provides corrective feedback makes a difference in the performer’s motivation, performance and emotional regulation. Trainers need to provide corrective feedback in response to mistakes in an autonomy-supportive manner. This will result in higher levels of intrinsic motivation and performance.


Benefits of feedback

Feedback about one’s performance can benefit athletes in different ways. Two of the main functions are to motivate and to instruct the athlete. Motivational feedback tries to facilitate performance by enhancing confidence, inspiring more effort and creating a positive mood. Feedback can also be motivating by serving as a reinforcement to the performer. This can stimulate positive or negative feelings. Another motivational function of feedback is helping with goal setting. Instructional feedback give information about the specific behaviours that should be performed. Complex skills can be broken down into smaller parts and this creates a more effective learning environment. A new development in feedback is a technique called the method of amplification error (MAE). This technique is based on the assumption that participants can learn to correct their movements through their mistakes. Athletes are asked to amplify their principal error during a performance. This way, they achieve a better understanding of what not to do and they will be more capable of readjusting the entire motion during further attempts. Studies have supported the effectiveness of MAE.


Using punishment

Positive reinforcement should be the way to change behaviour. There are some coaches who use punishment as the primary motivator. Many educators argue against the use of punishment by coaches. Other argue that punishment can serve an educational purpose. It is possible that punishment can control and change negative behaviour. There are many arguments that support the use of punishment in athletic settings. Punishment can deter future cheating or wrongdoing. Assigning punishment to wrongdoers assures others that everybody is held accountable for their actions.

However, there are arguments that suggest that punishment lacks any base of support and it’s related to negative behaviours. Punishment can be degrading and shame producing. Shame is closely linked to failure or weakness when connected to the attainment of a belief. Punishment also arouses a fear of failure. People who fear failure are not motivated by victory and studies have revealed that athletes with a fear of failure perform more poorly in competition and are more likely to get injured. They also enjoy sport less and drop out more quickly. Punishment can also unwittingly reinforce the undesirable behaviour by drawing attention to it. Punishment can also create an unpleasant learning environment. This may produce hostility and resentment between athletes and coaches. Athletes may lose motivation that way.


There are coaches who think that punishing athletes for making mistakes will eliminate the errors. The coaches think that if players fear making mistakes, they will try harder not to make them. Successful coaches who used punishment were usually also masters of strategy and teaching. Those things, not the negative approach, were the attributes that made them successful. Punishment is not recommended as the major source of motivation, but it might occasionally be necessary to eliminate unwanted behaviours. There should be some guidelines for maximizing the effectiveness of punishment. Some of these are to be consistent by giving everyone the same type of punishment for breaking the same rules. The behaviour needs to be punished, not the person. Athletes need to have input in making punishments for rule breaking. Physical activity or conditioning shouldn’t be used as a punishment. The punishment shouldn’t be received as a reward. Punishments should be imposed impersonally, so no yelling. People should not be embarrassed in front of teammates. Punishment also needs to be used sparingly. Punishment should also be age appropriate. Athletes need to understand the reason for punishment. Coaches should need to be aware that there are cultural differences between people and coaches should keep that in mind when punishing.


Behaviour modification

Behaviour modification is the application of the principles of negative and positive reinforcement to help produce desirable behaviours and eliminate undesirable behaviours. Behavioural techniques are used in sport settings to help people stay task oriented and motivated throughout their training period. Studies have shown that behavioural modification has positively changed attendance in practice, reduced errors and improved performance. It has also developed healthier attitudes toward good sporting behaviour. Behaviour modification has shown to be effective in many sports.

Behaviour modification programs have certain characteristics. In order to be successful, they must emphasize specific and frequent measurement of performance and use these to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. These programs also encourage participants to improve against their own previous level of performance. They also recognize the distinction between maintaining existing behaviour and developing new behaviour. They also emphasize that the coach should monitor behaviour in a systematic way and they encourage the coach to get feedback from participants regarding the effectiveness of different aspects of the intervention. Behaviour modification can also be combined with cognitive behaviour therapy. This can produce even greater performance enhancement.


Extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation

The sport world uses many extrinsic rewards. Many leagues have postseason banquets in which athletes received medals, ribbons, money and jackets. School teachers often give stickers to reward good behaviour in their pupils. Advocates of extrinsic rewards argue that rewards increase motivation and desire to continue participation. Rewards can produce desired behaviour changes in sport and exercise. However, if one uses rewards incorrectly, negative consequences also can result. People not only participate in sport for extrinsic rewards, but also for intrinsic motivation. People with intrinsic motivation strive inwardly to be competent and self-determining to master a task. These people enjoy competition, they like the excitement, they want to learn skills to their best ability and they focus on having fun. Studies have found that many elite athletes were driven mainly by personal goals and achievements and not so much by financial incentives.


There are social and psychological factors that can affect extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Some of the social factors are failure and success, coaches’ behaviour and focus of competition. According to the self-determination theory, competence, autonomy and relatedness are the three basic human needs and the degree to which they are satisfied go a long way in determining a person’s intrinsic motivation. The psychological factors affecting motivation are the need for competence, need for relatedness and need for autonomy. People often think that combining extrinsic and intrinsic motivation would produce more motivation. They don’t expect extrinsic rewards to decrease intrinsic motivation. Early researchers saw extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation as additive. However, there were some who noted that extrinsic rewards could undermine intrinsic motivation. Some said that the more an individual is extrinsically motivated, the less that person will be intrinsically motivated. In the late 1960s, researchers began to examine the relationship between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic rewards. In the 1970s, one study found that participants who were rewarded with money for participating in an interesting activity, after the fact spent less time at it than did people who were not paid. Not all studies have shown that extrinsic rewards decrease intrinsic motivation. Many scientists came to the conclusion that extrinsic rewards can reduce intrinsic motivation under certain conditions. However, we still are not sure what conditions those are.


Cognitive evaluation theory

The cognitive evaluation theory (CET) developed by Deci is a subtheory of the self-determination theory (SDT). As mentioned before, SDT focuses on three psychological needs: relatedness, autonomy and effectance. Deci argues that people are motivated to feel connected to others (relatedness), to feel a sense of personal initiative (autonomy) and the function effectively in their milieu (effectance). SDT focuses on intrinsic motivation, but it does not say what causes intrinsic motivation. CET was developed to help explain the variability in intrinsic motivation. This theory focuses on the factors that facilitate and undermine the development of intrinsic motivation. There are two functional components: a controlling aspect and an informational aspect. Both of these can decrease or increase intrinsic motivation by affecting one’s self-determination and competence.


The controlling aspect of rewards is connected to a person’s perceived locus of causality. That is what causes a person’s behaviour. if a reward is seen as controlling a behaviour, then people believe that the cause of their behaviour, in this case an external locus, resides outside themselves and intrinsic motivation will be decreased. There is often a conflict between being controlled by another person’s reward and one’s own needs for determination. Coaches use certain salient strategies to control athlete’s behaviours. This undermines their intrinsic motivation. These strategies are tangible rewards, controlling feedback (picking up on all the negative aspects of an athlete’s behaviour, but saying nothing about the positive behaviour), excessive personal control (coach is very authoritative), intimidation behaviours (threatening), promoting ego involvement and conditional regard (coach says something to make an athlete feel guilty).


The informational aspect affects intrinsic motivation. This is done by altering how competent a person feels. When someone receives an achievement reward, he/she is given positive information about competence and this should increase intrinsic motivation. Negative information about competence should decrease perceived competence and intrinsic motivation. There is also a third element in CET and that’s the functional significance of the event. Every award has controlling and information aspects. How the reward will affect intrinsic motivation depends on whether the receiver perceives it more the be informational or more controlling. Athletes need to know that a reward provides positive information about their competence and that the reward is not meant to control their behaviour.


Extrinsic rewards affecting intrinsic motivation in sport

Nowadays, certain athletes receive multimillion-euro contracts. The question is whether athletes will lose their motivation and drive to perform at the top level after receiving such a deal. Studies have shown that football players on scholarships reported that they were enjoying their sport less than their counterparts not on scholarships. Also, scholarship football players exhibited less intrinsic motivation every year they held their scholarship. Later studies showed that male wrestlers and female athletes from six different sports who held scholarships reported higher levels of intrinsic motivation than those who did not have a scholarship. The results seem strange, but they can be explained by the difference between the informational and controlling aspects of rewards. Scholarships can have an informational function and that means they can tell athletes that they are good. This would be especially informative to women and wrestlers, who receive fewer scholarships than other athletes.

Scholarships can be used in different ways. Coaches can use scholarships as a leverage to control players’ behaviour. This can change the conditions about the sport for scholarship holders. This way, coaches have turned something that was a play into work. Nowadays women receiver more scholarships than ever before and recent studies have shown that for women the informational aspect of scholarships is reduced and the pressure to win has enhanced the controlling aspect of scholarships. This has decreased intrinsic motivation. Some studies have shown that it’s not holding the scholarship that shows these results, but the behaviour of the coach. Changes in intrinsic motivation were attributable primarily to coaching behaviours rather than to whether an athlete was on scholarship. Democratic coaching behaviours produced higher levels of intrinsic motivation and autocratic coaching behaviours produced lower levels of intrinsic motivation.


Studies have also shown that people have higher levels of intrinsic motivation after success than after failure. Those studies also showed that focusing on performance goals helped sustain motivation more than the focus on outcome. Sometimes an athlete plays well, but still loses to an opponent and other times an athlete doesn’t play well, but still manages to win. The subjective outcomes also determine an athlete’s intrinsic motivation. People who perceive that they performed well, have higher levels of intrinsic motivation than people who have lower perceptions of success. People’s subjective perception of how well they performed is more important than actually winning or losing in determining intrinsic motivation. It seems that the focus of a person’s performance is more important than the actual outcome.


In one study, the amount of positive statements from coaches given to athletes was varied. The results showed that the groups that received feedback scored higher in perceived competence and intrinsic motivation than did the group that did not receive feedback. There was no difference found between the various feedback groups. The absolute quantity of positive feedback seems less important than the presence of some type of positive feedback. Studies have found a variety of factors related to intrinsic motivation. They found that higher levels of intrinsic motivation were related to playing in a recreational versus competitive league, high levels of perceived control, playing for an autonomous coach and high levels of competence.


Increasing intrinsic motivation

Coaches often structure rewards and other strategies in ways that increase perceptions of success and therefore also intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation can be increased in the following ways:

  • Provide successful experiences: perceived success often strengthens feelings of personal competence.

  • Rewards contingent on performance should be given: this can increase the informational value. Rewards should be given based on proper execution of skills.

  • Verbal and non-verbal praise

  • Sequences and content of practice drills should be varied

  • Realistic performance goals should be set

  • Participants should be involved in decision making



Some researchers have examined the factors that make a task intrinsically motivating. They found elements of flow that have been identified in a variety of performance settings. One of the elements of flow is balance of challenge and skills. An athlete should believe that he/she has the skills to successfully meet the physical and mental challenges faced. Another element is the complete absorption in the activity. Clear goals is also one of the elements. An athlete should also merge action and awareness. Another element is total concentration on the task at hand. Loss of self-consciousness is also an element of flow. Athletes are sometimes so wrapped up in their task, that they seem to merge with their task. A sense of control is also important for flow, as well as effortless movement. There should also be no goals or rewards external to the activity. The last element of flow is the transformation of time. Athletes in flow often say that time seems to speed up. These are all elements that represent the essential features of optimal performance. The holistic sensation that these elements give is called flow. In flow, people believe that they are totally involved in the task. Flow experience occurs when the skills are equal the challenge.


Of course, coaches want to get their athletes in a flow state. Researchers have found ways in which someone can achieve flow. Some of these include motivation to perform, achieving optimal arousal levels before performance, optimal physical preparation, confidence, maintaining appropriate focus, feeling good about performance, team play, precompetitive plans and optimal environmental and situational conditions. Most athletes think that flow is controllable. Studies, however, show that athletes can’t control flow, but they can increase the probability of flow occurring. Athletes often cite that the most elements that prevent flow are less than optimal physical preparation, environment and situational conditions and readiness. Flow is often positive, but can sometimes turn negative. Some athletes reported that they were so addicted to flow, that they would try to replicate the sensations of flow despite injury, family commitments and potential death. Some were unable to function normally in society. Luckily, in most cases flow is a positive state.

Chapter 7 - Group and team dynamics


The success of groups depends on teamwork, group dynamics and player-coach interactions. Many researchers study the positive aspects of group formation. However, there are also negative aspects to being a part of a group. Some of the negative consequences of teams are social loafing, conformity, self-deception, deindividuation (loss of own identity) and groupthink. Groups have many positive functions, but people shouldn’t forget the negative ones. The difference between a group and team can be quite complex. A group are two or more people who interact with each other and who exert mutual influence on each other. A sense of mutual interaction in a structured manner is what distinguishes a group from a collection of individuals. Teams also have mutual interactions and task interdependence. Teams also have four key characteristics: a collective sense of identity, distinctive roles, structured modes of communication and norms.


Three theories of group development

A group of people does not necessarily form a team. All teams are groups, but not all groups are teams. A team is a group of people who must interact with each other to accomplish shared objectives. Teams are often developing and changing in their attempts to respond to external and internal factors. Researchers who study team development, have put forth different theories. The theories fall into three categories: linear theory (groups develop in stages or in a linear fashion), cyclic theory (groups follow a cyclical pattern) and pendular theory (groups develop in a pendulum-like manner).


Linear perspective

In this perspective, the assumption is that groups move progressively through different stages. In each stage, critical issues arise and when the issues are successfully dealt with, the group moves on. Tuckman proposed that groups go through four stages: forming, storming, norming and performing. Most groups go through all four stages, but the duration of each stage and the sequence that the stages follow may vary from one group to another in the process of developing a team. In the forming stage, team members familiarize themselves with other team members. Team members engage in social comparisons. In the storming stage, members resist the leader, there is resistance to control by the group and there’s interpersonal conflict. Fighting can occur as individuals and the leader establish their roles and status in the group. Leaders need to communicate openly with participants. In the norming stage, hostility is replaced by solidarity and cooperation. A sense of unity forms. The team members work together to reach common goals. In the performing stage, team members band together and they focus on problem solving. Roles are well defined in that stage.


Cyclic perspective

This model holds the assumption that groups develop in a manner similar to the life cycle of people: birth, growth and death. The life cycle models are distinguished from linear models in their emphasis on the terminal phase before group dissolution. The main element of this approach is the assumption that as a group develops, it also psychologically prepares for its own breakup.


Pendular perspective

This model emphasizes the shifts that occur in interpersonal relationships during the development and growth of groups. This perspective holds the assumption that a group does not move progressively through stages in a linear fashion from the instant it forms.


Group structure

Every group develops its own structure. This development often begins at the group’s first meeting. The group’s structure depends on the interactions of its members. Structural characteristics must develop before a group of individuals can become an effective team. The most important characteristics are group roles and group norms.



A role consists of a set of behaviours expected of the person occupying a certain role in a group. There are two types of roles in any group or team. Those are formal roles and informal roles. Formal roles are dictated by the nature of the organization. In a sport setting, coach and team captain are examples of specific formal roles. All formal positions have specific performance roles in a team. Each role carries specific associated expectations. Often people are trained or recruited to fill specific roles. Informal roles evolve from interactions among group members. Researchers have identified 12 informal roles: spark plug (inspiring a group toward a goal), comedian, cancer (someone who expresses negative emotions that spread destructively throughout a team), enforcer, distracter, team player, informal leader verbal and informal leader non0verbal, mentor, social convener (someone who is involved in the planning of social gatherings for a team), star player and malingerer (someone who prolongs psychological symptoms of injury for some type of external gain. Obviously, the roles of distracter, malingerer and cancer have a detrimental effect on team functioning.


The team’s effectiveness can be improved by making sure players understand (role clarity) and accept their roles. Studies have found that athletes with role ambiguity were more critical of their coach’s ability to lead the team during competition. Studies have also shown that understanding one’s ole is critical to being effective in that role. Role clarity mediates the relationship between role ambiguity and athlete satisfaction. Only when a person is high in need for role clarity ambiguity will lead to decreased satisfaction. People in a specific role often have a different perspective on the role’s requirements than do other members of the group. Unclear roles can hurt a team’s performance. People’s performances can also blur their roles on a team. A goal-setting program can clarify roles. The players get direction and focus when the players set goals.


Role acceptance is generally related to role performance. However, this is not always the case. Athletes may accept a role even though the assigned responsibilities may exceed their capabilities. This can lead to subpar performance. It’s important that coaches are able to determine whether athletes are failing to accept their role responsibilities or whether athletes are being asked to perform role responsibilities of higher levels than their ability. Coaches can help athletes accept their roles by minimizing the status differences among roles and they should also emphasize that the success of the team depends on every single person. There are four conditions role acceptance depends on: the opportunity to use specialized skills, feedback and role recognition, autonomy and role significance.


Role conflict exists when the person with the role doesn’t have sufficient motivation, ability, time or understanding to achieve the goal despite the presence of consensus on a desired goal or outcome. A typical form of role conflict is having different people expecting different things from you.


Group norms

A norm is a level of performance or belief. Norms can be formally established or informally developed by a group. People often receive pressure to adhere to the group’s norms. This is even the case when the norm is seen as irrelevant. On a sport team, the norm might involve dressing, practice behaviour and the interaction between new teammates and old ones. Deviation from these norms might result in formal or informal sanctions. The standard for effort and performance accepted by a team is called the norm for productivity. Usually, the captain on a team is the role model who sets the norm of productivity. Coaches can also create norms for productivity. Norms can have powerful effects on behaviour and it’s therefore important for a coach to establish positive group norms. This can be done by enlisting the formal and informal leaders of the team to set positive examples. Often coaches need to encourage leaders to set high standards of achievement. It’s best to include all team members in decision making about norms. Sometimes team norms need to be modified and in that case, there are two main things to consider: the nature of the communication and the source of the communication to change the norms. The group members who possess the greatest power of persuasion are better liked, more credible, higher status and are attractive. The speech style is also important. Research shows that speaking in a rapid manner and asking rhetorical questions increases the effectiveness of persuasive arguments. Changing the group norms is more effective when people on both sides of the argument are present, when communication is novel, when there are multiple communications and when the conclusions are stated explicitly.


Team climate

How players perceive the interrelationships among the group members develop team climate. The perception and evaluations of players set the team’s climate. The coach has the final say on establishing team climate. Some factors are more easily changed than others. Social support is the exchange of resources between two or more individuals of a team which is intended to enhance the well-being of the recipient. Studies have shown that social support has a positive effect on different feelings and behaviour, like burnouts, coping with stress and recovery from injury. Social support is also linked to increases in feelings of team cohesion and team climate. Studies also have shown that people are more likely to bond when they are near each other. Physical proximity alone does not usually develop a team concept, but close contact with teammates promotes interaction and this can speed up the group’s development. Some coaches try to promote team unity by having the athletes live together in a residence hall. Teams often do different things to feel closer. All those interactions and a similarity in attitudes can help establish team identity.


The feelings of unity increase when a group feels distinct. Gangs set themselves apart from other gangs by dressing distinctively. In sport distinctiveness is achieved through team uniforms, mottoes and initiation rites. Coaches help team members mould a team concept by making team members feel distinct from other team. Trust is important for team climate. At the core of trust is an athlete’s perception that they are being treated fairly. Athletes should have the feeling that their effort is evaluated objectively and evenly. Coaches need to treat their athletes fairly, because fairness has an influence on the athletes’ level of commitment, satisfaction and motivation. Athletes look at three different issues when interpreting fairness. They look at if/how the coach is trying to help them be happy and improve, they look at how the coach communicates his views to the athletes and they look at the compatibility between the coach’s and their own assessment of their skills and contributions. Fairness can bring a team together or tear it apart. Coaches need to treat people fairly and athletes need to believe they are treated fairly.


Similarities between team members can develop a positive team climate. These similarities can be in attitudes, goals, commitments and aspirations. Team members often differ in personality, socioeconomic background and ethnicity. Studies have shown that socioeconomic background and playing experience are not important in building a team concept. The coach needs to put diverse people together in a team and he therefore also needs to develop similarity in attitudes between them. The more athletes from a team are aware of similarities among each other, the greater the probability that they will develop a strong team concept. Another way to improve team climate is through outcome interdependence. Outcome interdependence refers to the fact that all group members benefit from the group’s performance. Interdependence is a way to help manage a team’s conflict. A way to promote task interdependence is to provide team-level appraisals to reinforce a common fate among team mates. This will enhance the feeling of interdependence because all team members are responsible to each other. It is important for coaches to know how the athletes are feeling in the team. A way to figure this out is to give them the Team Climate Questionnaire. The answers on these questions give the coach information about the team climate. Coaches should periodically monitor changes in team climate throughout the season. Of course, it’s better to have anonymity in order for the athletes to respond more honestly.


Maximizing performance

Coaches are responsible for many things. One of the most important things in team sport is that coaches need to get individual players play together as a team. Coaches also need to understand how these interactions affect performance on the athletic field. As told before, a group of the best individuals does not always make the best team. A team is not just the sum of its parts and how well a team works together is a key factor. Steiner developed a model to show the relationship between individual abilities on a team and how team members interact. Steiner’s model of productivity goes as follows:

Actual productivity = potential productivity – losses attributable to faulty group processes


Potential productivity is a team’s possible best performance. This looks at all the players’ abilities, knowledge, skills and the demands of the task. Steiner thinks that individual ability is the most important resource for sport teams and he therefore thinks that the team made up of the best individuals will usually achieve the most success. This model implies that a team’s actual productivity does not always match its potential productivity. A team needs to effectively use the available resources to match the demands of the task. A group’s actual performance usually falls short of its potential productivity because of faulty group processes. According to Steiner, a team will perform better than another team if the first team possesses more ability than the second team while experiencing equal process losses, when the first team possesses more ability and has fewer process losses than the second team and when the first team possesses ability equal to that of the second team but has fewer losses from faulty group processes. This suggests that coaches should increase relevant resources and reduce process losses. There are two kinds of losses attributable to faulty group processes: coordination losses and motivation losses. Motivation losses occur when athletes do not give 100% effort. Coordination losses occur when the timing between team members is off or when team members use ineffective strategies. Coordination losses happen more in sports that require complex interactions and cooperation, like basketball and soccer. Basketball and soccer coaches spend much time on fine-tuning coordination. There are different terms that distinguish between tasks that require coordination among team members and those that do not. Taskwork knowledge is the knowledge required to perform a task and teamwork knowledge Is the knowledge required where coordination is needed to perform a task.


Studies have found that the ability to anticipate one another’s movements (between team mates) and one’s own action is at least as important as the individuals’ performance qualities. Individual skills seem to be only moderately good predictors of group performance. Studies have also shown that in sports in which more cooperation and interaction is needed, the importance of individual ability decreased and the importance of group process increased. Teams of only two people work best together if they are close in ability. The closer these two are in ability, the more likely they are to fully use their combined abilities. Teams are usually as hood as their weakest player.

Individual abilities do not sum up to group performance. The questions rise what causes the losses and how much potential productivity is lost. The Ringelmann effect tried to explain this. Ringelmann looked at a rope-pulling task and he observed individuals and groups of two, three and eight people pulling on a rope. He found that the relative performance of each individual progressively declined as the number of people in the group increased. People didn’t pull a 100% of their individual potential when working in a group. However, the methodology in Ringelmann’s study was incomplete and other researchers tried to replicate the results. The results were similar, but they found that increases in group size did not lead to decreases in efficiency. A general levelling-off occurred. The researchers also came to the conclusion that differences between actual and potential performance were partially attributable to motivation losses and also slightly to coordination losses.


Social loafing

Social loafing means that individual in a team put forth less than 100% effort because of losses in motivation. There are many conditions that enhance social loafing. Social loafing most often occurs when the contributions of individual group members are not identified. If individual contributions to the group product are monitored directly, social loafing would reduce. Also, when people perceive that their contributions are essential to the group’s productivity, social loafing should be reduced. Studies have shown that social loafing occurs across different task and across many populations and cultures. Social loafing also increases when a task is perceived to be low on meaningfulness, when a person’s personal involvement in the task is low, when a person thinks his contribution to the outcome is redundant, when the people contributing to the collective effort are strangers, when a comparison against group standards is not possible and when the individual believes that he/she is competing against a weaker opponent. Believing that social loafing is occurring is called perceived social loafing. Studies show that perceived social loafing causes social loafing. When members of a team think that social loafing is occurring, they might also feel that they themselves should show less effort. Social support among teammates can built trust and this may help reduce perceived social loafing. A coach should also stress the team concept and emphasize the importance of unique contributions. Athletes should take responsibility for their own efforts. Studies have shown that when the identifiability of individual performance increased, social loafing decreased. Coaches could film or use observational checklists in team sports to increase identifiability. This will likely reduce social loafing. Through the observations coaches can also determine what situations elicit loafing and try to reduce it. Coaches should also discuss loafing with each player individually. Players may have other reasons for motivational loss. Some coaches might even assign players to play in another position in order to gain an appreciation of their team mates and to see how their own performance affects others on the team. A team can also be divided into smaller units. This increases the recognition of the responsibility to others and it helps to develop a cohesive unit. Increased feelings of group cohesion will lead to increased effort and commitment. Studies have shown that teams often tend to socially loaf when they fail and see this failure as a lack of ability. Researchers recommend that teams attribute the failure to internal, unstable and controllable factors, because these factors can be changed. That way, teams will try to give their all and not loaf.

Chapter 8 - Group cohesion


Often as a team, being a cohesive unit relates to success. However, this is not always the case. Some teams win despite a lack of cohesion. Some researchers in the 1950s believed that two distinct types of forces act on members in a group: the attractiveness of the group and means control. The first refers to the person’s desire for interpersonal interactions with other group members and a desire to be involved with the group. The second refers to the benefits that a person can derive by being associated with the group. Cohesion can be seen as a dynamic process and a tendency of a group to stick together in pursuit of the instrumental objectives. Cohesion is multidimensional, because there are many factors related to why a group sticks together and it’s dynamic because the cohesion in a group can change. Cohesion is also instrumental (the group has a purpose) and it’s affective. Task cohesion is the degree to which members of a group work together to achieve the group’s goals. Social cohesion is the degree to which members of a team like each other. Studies show that adherence to an exercise program increases as the social cohesion of the group increases. The distinction between these two forms of cohesion help explain how teams can overcome conflict to succeed. Sometimes teams can be low on social cohesion, but very high on task cohesion and this last form of cohesion can help them win a championship, despite their low social cohesion.


Conceptual model of cohesion

Carron developed a conceptual model of cohesion. According to Carron, there are four major antecedents affecting the development of cohesion in sport settings: personal, team, environmental and leadership factors. Environmental factors are the most general factors. These are normative forces holding a group together. These factors are present when players hold scholarships, geographical restrictions exist, when players are under contract to the management or when family members have expectations of athletes. These examples can hold a group together. Age, proximity and eligibility requirements also play a big role in keeping groups together. Group development can be fostered when individuals are in close proximity to each other. The size of a group also plays a role. Smaller groups are more cohesive than larger groups.

Personal factors are the characteristics of the individuals of a team. There is a great deal of variation in personal factors. Personal factors are classified into three categories: cognitions and motives (e.g. responsibility, anxiety), demographic attributes (e.g. sex) and behaviour (e.g. social loafing). Studies have shown that the most important personal factor associated with the development of social and task cohesion on sport teams is individual satisfaction.


Leadership factors are the leadership style and behaviours that athletes exhibit and the relationships they establish with their groups. The role of the leader is very important for team cohesion. Consistent and clear communication from coaches and captains about tasks, goals and roles influences cohesion. Perception of compatibility between the leader and group members can enhance feelings of cohesion. Coaching behaviours as ridicule, embarrassment and inequity can decrease feelings of cohesion.

Team factors are group task characteristics, desire for group success, team stability, group productivity norms, group position and group roles. Studies show that teams that stay together for a long time and that have a strong desire for group success show a high level of group cohesion. Also, shared experiences are important in the development and maintenance of cohesion. That’s because they unify a team. Collective efficacy is also positively related to perceptions of team cohesion.


Measuring cohesion

Cohesion must be measured in order to determine the relationship between cohesion and performance. There are two types of measures that have been developed: sociograms and questionnaires. Early research on cohesion used the Sport Cohesiveness Questionnaire. This questionnaire has different items that either measure interpersonal attraction or attraction to the group. However, there are no validity or reliability measures on that questionnaire. Other instruments were also developed. The Multidimensional Sport Cohesion Instrument includes four broad dimensions of team cohesion: unity, attraction to the group, valued roles and quality of teamwork. Attraction to the group reflects social cohesion and the other three factors relate to task cohesion. The Group Environment Questionnaire (GEQ) distinguishes between the individual and the group and between task and social concerns. This questionnaire has been used in different studies of group cohesion in sport settings. This questionnaire showed that level of cohesion is related to team performance, members satisfaction and team communication. The model on which the development of the GEQ was based has two major categories: a member’s personal attraction to the group and a member’s perception of the group as a totality. The beliefs and perceptions act together in creating an member’s and group’s sense of cohesion. The group as a whole and the individuals in the group have both social and task aspects.


Questionnaires are the most popular ways to measure group cohesion. However, questionnaires do not show how individuals relate to each other or whether some group members are socially isolated. With a sociogram, social cohesion can be measured. It discloses affiliation and attraction among group members. With a sociogram, researchers can find the presence or absence of cliques, friendship choices in the team, social isolation of individual group members and group attraction. First, you need to generate information for the sociogram. Individual group members need to be asked specific questions. Based on the responses to the questions, a sociogram is created. This reveals the patterns of interpersonal relationships in a group. The most frequently chose individuals are placed toward the centre of the sociogram and the less frequently chosen people are placed outside. For an image of a sociogram, look into the book. The arrows in the sociogram indicate the direction of choice. Reciprocal choice is represented by arrows going in both directions between two people. A coach needs to know about these relationships, because it can help him to deal with interpersonal problems.


Cohesion and performance

Coaches and sport psychologists have a fascination with how team cohesion relates to performance success. People often assume that the higher the level of a team’s cohesion, the greater its success. Many studies have found that this is the case. Some studies have shown that higher levels of cohesion produce higher levels of effort and this increases performance. However, there are studies that show a negative cohesion-performance relationship. These inconsistencies can be understood by considering the measurement of cohesion and characteristics of the task.


There has been some controversy regarding the effects of task and social cohesion on performance. Some researchers found that increases in both task and social cohesion were associated with increases in performance, while others had found that task cohesion was more important than social cohesion. It seems that both task and social cohesion interventions can enhance cohesiveness and improve performance. Examples of socially oriented techniques are get-togethers and team camp-outs. Task-oriented interventions are team goal setting and team communication. Scientists also need to consider task structure and demands when assessing the cohesion-performance relationship. The nature of interactions among team mates can be characterized along a continuum from interactive to coactive. Interactive sports are sports that require the members of a team to work together and to coordinate their actions. Coactive sports do not require much team interaction and coordination for goal achievement. An example of the latter is a bowling team. Studies show that more cohesiveness is related to better performance in interactive and coactive sports. The absolute level of cohesiveness is higher in interactive sports than in coactive sports. This seems logical, because interactive sports have more interactions between team members. Coaches in interactive sports will therefore introduce many of the team-building strategies associated with increased cohesiveness. In coactive sports there are fewer natural opportunities for group cohesion to develop. Therefore, team-building interventions might have a greater effect on both team cohesion and team performance in that context.


One thing to think about is the direction of causality. This refers to whether cohesion leads to performance success or performance success leads to cohesion. There are researchers that have looked as to whether cohesion leads to performance and there are researchers who looked whether performance leads to cohesion. Some have found that the effect of performance on cohesion is stronger than the effect of cohesion on performance. More recent research looked at team sports and it found no difference between the performance-to-cohesion and the cohesion-to-performance relationships. It appears that the relationship between cohesion and performance is circular. Performance appears to affect later cohesion and the changes in cohesion then affect subsequent performance. The cohesion-performance relationship is complex. The writers of this book think that increased cohesion leads to greater performance and better performance brings teams together and leads to increased cohesion. This is a circular relationship. They think that the effect of performance on cohesion is stronger than that of cohesion on performance for teams in general (not for sport teams).


Factors associated with cohesion

Most researchers have focused on the relationship between performance and cohesion, but there are also other factors that are associated with cohesion. One of these factors is team satisfaction. Satisfaction and cohesion are somewhat similar, but cohesion is about groups and satisfaction is an individual construct. Studies have found strong relationships between cohesion and satisfaction. Some scientists think that there’s a circular relationship in which team cohesion leads to performance success, which leads to feelings of satisfaction and this strengthens and reinforces team cohesion. Other scientists propose there’s a circular relationship in which performance success leads to higher cohesion, which in turn leads to greater satisfaction. Whether the first or second suggestion is true, coaches would do well in building group cohesion because being in a cohesive group is satisfying and it enhances performance.

Another factor that’s associated with cohesion is conformity. Research has shown that the more cohesive the group, the more influence the group has on its individual members. Members in highly cohesive groups might feel pressured about clothing habits, clothing styles and game behaviours. Highly cohesive groups show a greater conformity to the group’s norm for productivity than do less cohesive groups. Another factor that has been studied is adherence. Studies have found that the more cohesive a person is, the more likely that was person to attend classes, the more likely he was to be on time, the more likely he was to drop out and the more likely this person was to experience positive effect.


Another studied factor is social support a person receives. Social support usually means emotional support. Coaches should understand the importance of social support and they need to figure out how and when to use social support to enhance group cohesion. Stability is also a factor that relates to cohesion. Stability refers to the length of time group members have been together and to the turnover rate for group membership. Teams that remain relatively constant across a certain period of time will be more stable, cohesive and successful. Some researchers have suggested that there’s a circular relationship between stability and team cohesion. They think that the longer the team has been together, the more likely it is that cohesion will develop and the more cohesive a team becomes, the less likely it is that a team member will leave the team. Studies showed that teams with few line-up changes were more successful than those that changed constantly. Studies also showed that groups higher in cohesion exhibited a higher resistance to disruption than did teams that were lower in cohesion. Positive group norms for productivity need to be established to keep people working together as a unit. Group goals are often set for the group as a whole. Group goals are the shared perceptions to a desirable state for the group as a unit. Studies showed that people who perceived that their team engaged in group goal setting had higher levels of cohesion. Also, higher levels of satisfaction with team goals go together with high levels of team cohesion.


Enhancing cohesion

Many researchers have begun to focus on interventions for enhancing cohesion in sport groups. Research has found that people with higher feelings of cohesion attended exercise classes more regularly and more punctual than exercisers with lower cohesion. Strategies found for enhancing group cohesiveness in exercise groups are:

  • Distinctiveness: having a group name, having a group T-shirt, having a group slogan

  • Individual positions: make signs to label parts of the group

  • Group norms: establish a goal to lose weight together

  • Individual sacrifices: ask regulars to help new people

  • Interaction and communication: work in groups of a couple of people and take turns showing a move

With a team-building program, even large groups can maintain a sense of cohesion. In sport settings there are certain principles underlying the team-building program. These principles look at team structure (role clarity, leadership and conformity to standards), team environment (distinctiveness and togetherness) and team processes (goals, sacrifices and cooperation). Communication is also important. Coaches must not forget that cohesion changes over time.


Team building is nowadays a common technique in sport and business. This often involves identifying team goals and a team mission. Before the identification of team goals, team values need to be developed. Team values might include morality, honesty, teamwork, communication, fairness and cooperation. When a person knows that other team members share common values, he/she will act in accordance with these values. Athletes should have input into developing team goals. Athletes need to list their tam values and they should then discuss why they feel each value is important for the team. The team then needs to discuss how values support their team goals. Via group consensus the five to seven most important values should be chosen. Team values then need to be prioritized. Values with low priority, should be dropped.


Building team cohesion

Cohesion often enhances group performance. It at least creates a positive environment that elicits positive interactions among group members. Sport psychologists have created guidelines for developing group cohesion. When communication is effective, coaches can foster group cohesion in different ways. A team leader needs to create an environment where every member is comfortable expressing thoughts and feelings. Leaders should also ensure that every member participates and is committed to the group’s goals. This will improve interpersonal relationships. When communication increases, cohesiveness will develop. Team leaders should also outline individual roles to team members and they should stress the importance of each member’s role to the team’s success. When sub-units exists, coaches should foster pride within these groups. Goals set a high norm for productivity and they keep the teams focused on what needs to be accomplished. Teams should therefore set specific and challenging goals. As team members accomplish goals, they should take pride in it and strive toward new goals. Coaches should also encourage group identity. Team leaders should also try to avoid formation of social cliques. Social cliques are different than sub-units. Social cliques only benefit a few athletes at the expense of alienating most team members. Excessive turnover decreases cohesion and turnover needs to be avoided. Coaches should also conduct team meetings throughout the season. In these meetings all members can express positive and negative feelings, conflicts can be resolved and recourses can be mobilized. Team efficacy needs to be enhanced. Team efficacy can have a positive influence on the development of cohesion. There should be a good team climate and there should be communication between players and coaching staff so athletes can express opinions, ideas and feelings about the team. Coaches should need to be more aware of individual characteristics and they should enhance personal disclosure. Team members need to understand other team members’ roles, needs, motivates and views. This will increase the confidence and cohesion. Group members needs to get to know the other team members, they need to help other team members, they should give other team members positive reinforcement, they should be responsible, they should communicate honestly with the group leader. Conflicts should be resolves immediately and all members should give 100% effort at all times.

Chapter 9 - Leadership


It’s not always visible to the public, but great leaders also emerge in physical education and fitness. These leaders often increase the efficiency of all who are involved. Leadership can be seen as a process whereby a person influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. This influence often involves facilitating motivation in others and the leader tries to get other individuals to collaborate in the pursuit of a common goal. Modern leaders create a sense of vision for the group, they motivate others to join them in the pursuit of that mission, they generate trust in followers and they achieve results. Nowadays, emphasis is placed on better understanding leadership as a complex social process. This is done by examining the interaction among the leader and followers and the context in which leadership occurs. In the sport setting, dimensions of leadership also include motivating participants, establishing interpersonal relationships, directing the group, making decisions and giving feedback. Leaders provide direction to the group. Leaders provide each participant with maximum opportunities to achieve success. There’s a difference between managers and leaders. Managers are concerned with organizing, planning, scheduling and recruiting. Leaders often also perform these functions, but leaders act in some other critical ways. Leaders provide vision that helps determine the direction that the team pursues. They reply the resources and they help to get the job done. There are many coaches who become excellent managers, but that’s different from providing the leadership needed for teams to grow.


There are different methods for choosing leaders. Prescribed leaders are leaders who are appointed by someone in authority. An example of this is the principal of a school choosing the teachers. Sometimes leaders emerge from the group and take charge. These leaders are called emergent leaders. Often leaders who emerge are more effective than appointed leaders. This is because they have the support and respect of the team. These leaders have special leadership skills, a high ability in the sport and lots of experience. Leaders often have two functions: to ensure that the needs of group members are satisfied and to ensure that the demands of the organization are satisfied in the group. Studies have tried to identify leadership skills in the hope of being able to predict who is likely to become a leader. Researchers also study whether there are factors in a situation that produce effective leadership.


Studying leadership

Research has taken different types of approaches to studying leadership. One approach is the trait approach and it focuses on consistency in individuals, the behavioural approach focuses on behaviours and the third approach argues that leadership depends on characteristics of the situation. The three approaches were combined in the interactional perspective. That’s the dominant perspective for studying leadership today.

Trait approach

In the early days of studying leadership, researchers tried to determine what personality traits were common to great leaders in business and industry. These researchers considered leadership traits to be relatively stable personality dispositions, like independence, self-confidence and intelligence. Proponents of this theory argued that successful leaders have certain personality characteristics that make it likely they will be leaders no matter what situation they are in. The trait approach lost favour after many trait theory studies of leadership were reviewed and only a few consistent personality traits were found. Some traits might be helpful for a leader to have, but they are not essential for successful leadership. Not many common leadership traits among coaches, performers and exercise leaders were found and that’s the reason why today the trait approach to leadership in sport settings is not often used. Recent research shows that enduring characteristics are important in determining leader effectiveness, but they are not universal and one also needs to look at the situation.


Behavioural approach

This approach argued that anyone can become a leader by simply learning the behaviours of other effective leaders. The trait theory thinks that leaders are born, but the behavioural approach argues that leaders are made. Studies found that most what leaders do falls into two categories: initiation structure and consideration. Consideration is the mutual trust, warmth, friendship and respect between the leader and subordinates. Initiating structure is setting up rules, communication and patterns of organization to achieve goals and objectives. These are compatible and distinct categories. According to studies, successful leaders tend to score high on both initiating structure and consideration. Leadership behaviours can be studied using the event-recording technique. Researchers list several coaching behaviours and then record when and how often these behaviours occur. Many studies using this technique found that leaders often give instruction, scold errors and praise good performance. Studies using different approaches also found that coaches showed a reliance on positive and supportive feedback. From the behavioural perspective, the key to effective leadership is a focus on the positive and the provision of clear feedback and instruction.


Situational approach

This approach argues that leader characteristics are not as important as thought. This approach also argues that effective leadership depends more on the characteristics of the situation than on the traits and behaviours of the leaders in situations. There are only a few contemporary leadership researchers who endorse the situational approach. However, this approach has facilitated the understanding of leadership, because it has shown that situational features have a major influence on leader success. It’s a mistake if people don’t recognize situational influences on leadership.

Interactional approach

There are many researchers in industry who have proposed interactional models of leadership. Many researchers now look at concepts that are capable of dealing with differences in situations and with differences in leaders. Studies have shown that leaders can’t be predicted solely by their personality traits. Some traits interact in complex ways with situational factors. Studies have also found that effective leadership styles fit the specific situation and the athletes involved in the situation. Different athletes want different types of leadership from their coaches. It’s also important to realize that leadership styles can be changed when a leader wants to match the demands of the situation. Relationship-oriented leaders develop interpersonal relationships, communicate openly, ensure that everyone feels good and maintain positive social interactions. Task-oriented leaders work to get the job done and to meet their objectives. People can change between these styles. According to Fiedler’s contingency model of leadership, task-oriented leaders are more effective in very favourable or very unfavourable situations and relationships-oriented leaders are more effective in moderately favourable situations. Highly skilled players are skill oriented and a coach who has a more relationship-oriented styles appears to be more effective with these players. Less skilled players need more instructions and feedback and that’s why a task-oriented coach would be more appropriate for them. Of course, less skilled people also need a caring and emphatic coach. Coaches should assess the situation in order to determine which behaviour or style might be effective.


Sport-oriented interactional approaches

It’s important to consider both environmental and people factors in developing models of leadership. There are two sport-specific interactional approaches that provide direction to the study of leadership in sport.


Cognitive-mediational model of leadership

This model has situational approaches to leadership behaviour and it argues that coaching behaviours vary as a function of situational factors. It also argues that the effects of coaches’ behaviours are a function of the coaches’ personal characteristics. These are in turn mediated by the situational factors and the meaning athletes attribute to the coaching behaviours.


Studies that tried to assess specific coaching behaviours found that most coaching behaviours were positive and that they fall into these three categories: positive reinforcement, general technical instruction and general encouragement. Players rate their teammates more positively when they have played for coaching using behaviours that fall in one or more of these categories. Also, these players showed more self-esteem at the end of the season. One study showed that facilitating positive interactions between athletes and coaches ensured that the athletes enjoyed the experience more and that they developed positive self-esteem. This kept them involved and participating in the sport and their drop-out rate was lower.


Multidimensional model of sport leadership

This model posits that leader effectiveness in sport will vary depending on the characteristics of the exercisers and the constraints of the situation. According to this model, an athletes satisfaction and performance depends on three types of leader behaviour: required, actual and preferred. A situation, a member and a leader lead to these three kinds of behaviours, that’s why they are called antecedents. Leader characteristics are the personal factors and member characteristics and situational characteristics are the situational factors. Some researchers think that there is a direct link between the antecedent conditions and leader behaviour, while others think that the antecedent condition affect leader expectancies and values and these then affect leader behaviours. Some scientists hypothesize that a positive outcome is most likely if the three aspects of leader behaviour agree.


Organizational systems can dictate behaviours and people are expected to conform to the established norms. Teachers need to behave in a certain way in front of their athletes, parents and reporters. This is an example of required leader behaviour. actual leader behaviour is the behaviour that the leader exhibits, like initiating structure. A leader’s characteristics affect these behaviours directly. Actual behaviour is indirectly affected by group preferences and what the situation dictates. Preferred leader behaviour are behaviours people prefer their leader to have. Personality variables influence a person’s preference for guidance, support and feedback. Situational characteristics also affect a person’s preferences.


The pursuit of excellence

Leadership and the pursuit of excellence are often associated. Chelladurai identified leadership factors that are best suited to facilitate the pursuit of excellence in sport. His suggestions emanate from his multidimensional model of sport leadership and from research with a combination of transformational leadership. Transformational leadership happens when the leader takes a position to inspire people to follow his vision and work with each other to excel. This leader has the ability to motivate and inspire followers to achieve more than they first thought they could. Some of the leadership guidelines for the pursuit of excellence are inspirational communication, personal recognition, creating a compelling vision for people to follow, promoting self-esteem, facilitating flow and providing cognitive, emotional and technical training. These leaders transform the person by facilitating attributes like self-esteem and by creating a situation that supports a compelling vision.


Research on the multidimensional model

Many researchers have tested the accuracy and the usefulness of the multidimensional model. These studies have put forward some applications. Sometimes group members become used to certain behaviours and they can grow to prefer them. The leadership scale for sports (LSS) was developed to measure leadership behaviours, like an athlete’s perception of their coach’s behaviour, an athlete’s preference for specific behaviours and a coach’s perception of his own behaviour. The LLS has five dimensions:

  • Training: This coach scores high on trying to improve the athletes’ performances by giving technical instructions.

  • Democratic behaviour: These coaches allow athletes to participate in decisions about the group’s goals and strategies.

  • Social support: These coaches concern themselves for the welfare of athletes and they try to establish a warm relationship with them.

  • Autocratic behaviour: This coach makes decisions independently.

  • Positive feedback: This coach consistently praises or rewards athletes for good performance.


Antecedents of leadership

There are some studies that have concentrated on the antecedents that affect leader behaviour. Studies have found that as people get older, they increasingly prefer coaches who are more autocratic and socially supportive. More mature athletes are more serious about their sport. They therefore want a coach who gets things done, but who is also supportive. Other studies suggest that younger (10 to 13 years) and older (14-17) adolescents prefer coaches who are less autocratic. Studies have also shown that men prefer training behaviours and autocratic coaching styles more than females do. Coaches should therefore be more directive with males. Women prefer more democratic coaching behaviours. However, both sexes want a high frequency of training behaviours and feedback from their coaches. Cultural background can also influence leadership preferences. One study showed that Japanese university athletes prefer more social support and autocratic behaviours than Canadian athletes do. Canadian athletes prefer more instruction behaviours than Japanese athletes do. People from different sports also prefer different coaching styles. People who play highly interactive team sports (basketball, soccer), prefer an autocratic coaching style more than do athletes in co-acting sports (tennis). People’s personalities also need to be considered when investigating preferences for coaching behaviours.


When a coach leads in a style that matches the group member’s preferences, optimal performance and satisfaction takes place. Athletes will be less satisfied when their coach doesn’t have the coaching style they prefer. The greater the discrepancy, the lower the satisfaction. Social support and democratic decision making are associated with high satisfaction among athletes. Studies also show that coach characteristics as better previous win-loss percentages and younger age elicit higher satisfaction scores from athletes. Studies have also found that coaches who exhibited more task-related behaviours and provided task-specific reinforcement were associated with more cohesive exercise groups.

There are many researchers who have developed interventions for enhancing the leadership of people involved in sport settings.


Four components of effective leadership

There are four general components of effective leadership. These are a leader’s qualities, leadership style, situational factors and the follower’s qualities. These four components are a composite of many different approaches to the study of leadership. There is no one approach that is best. Every approach makes some contribution to understanding what makes leadership effective. Behaviour is best understood as an interaction between these four components.


Leader’s qualities

There is no distinct set of essential core personality traits that will ensure a person will become a successful leader. Some think that there are certain traits that go together with successful leadership. One of these is integrity. a leader’s philosophy must be resistant to outside pressure, it must have a sound structure and be communicated and accepted throughout the organization. Leaders must also be flexible and promote loyalty (teamwork). Leaders must also build confidence in their players and staff. This can be done by giving them decision-making capabilities. Leaders must also be accountable. They must also be well prepared and resourceful. Patience and self-discipline are also important for leaders.


Leadership styles

A coach doesn’t need to act entirely autocratic or democratic. Coaches can blend these two leadership styles together. Leaders need to be able to determine what style best suits the circumstances and whether individuals can adopt to this. Leaders can also make decisions in five different ways/styles. The autocratic style means that coaches solve the problems themselves using the information available at the time. The autocratic-consultative style means that the coach obtains the necessary information from important players and then comes to a decision. In the consultative-individual style the coach consults the players individually and then makes decision. In the consultative-group style, the coach consults the players as a group and then makes decisions. In the group style, the coach shares the problem with players and the players then make a decision without the influence from the coach. Most coaches prefer the autocratic and consultative-group decision style.


Situational factors

Leaders should be sensitive to the specific situation. They need to consider different situational factors that are relevant to planning for effective leadership in exercise. They need to consider whether the sport is a team sport or an individual sport. They also need to consider whether the sport is interactive or not. If it’s a team, they need to consider the size of the team. When group size increases, it’s more difficult to effectively use a democratic leadership style. They need to consider how much time is available. When little time is available, a task-oriented leader is more desirable. Leaders also need to consider whether the group has a particular leadership tradition. Groups with a tradition of one style of leadership will typically have difficulty changing to another leadership style.


Followers’ qualities

The effectiveness of the leader also depends on the characteristics of the followers. As said before, older and more experienced athletes often prefer an autocratic coaching style and women prefer a democratic coach. More examples were given in the previous text.



Chapter 10 - Communication


Communication is an important part of our lives and it’s a critical element in sport settings. The success of a coach depends partly on being able to communicate effectively with athletes, parents, assistant coaches and the media. Communication skills are important ingredients contributing to the personal growth and performance enhancement of athletes. Much has been written about communication in general, but only recently have sport psychologists begun to study communication. That’s the reason why researchers often have to apply general communication findings to sport and exercise settings. The biggest problem in communication is that we often expect others to be mind-readers. A coach might communicate with a simple gesture, expecting it to be enough information to the athletes. Breakdowns in communication are often contributors of many problems between coaches and athletes. Ineffective communication may lead people to dislike each other and to lose confidence in each other.


The communication process

One-way communication always follows the same basic process. First, one person decides to send a message to another person. The sender translates (encodes) thoughts into a message. The message is then channelled (usually verbal, sometimes non-verbal) to the receiver. Then, the receiver interprets (decodes) the message. At the last step, the receiver thinks about the message and responds internally.

The same processes occur in all communications, but the purposes of the communication can vary. A coach can communicate to persuade someone, he can communicate to evaluate someone, he can communicate to inform someone and he can communicate to deal with a conflict between two members. Communications can also incorporate different purposes at once.


Types of communication

Communication occurs in two ways: interpersonally and intrapersonally. We usually mean interpersonal communication when we speak about communication. Interpersonal communication involves at least two people and a meaningful exchange. The sender tries to affect the response of a person. The message might be received by the person for whom it was intended, but it can also be received by someone whom it was not intended to. Sometimes a message can get distorted, so that the sender’s intended message does not get transmitted. Nonverbal communication is also a big part of interpersonal communication. Studies found that nonverbal behaviours and clothing of players influenced ratings of performance and the outcome expectations of observers.


Intrapersonal communication is the communication people have with themselves. The inner dialogue is important to people. It helps shape and predict how we act and perform. Self-talk can affect motivation. The communications of coaches influences the self-talk of their athletes. Both positive and negative statements made by coaches influenced their athletes’ self-talk. Positive and negative feedback by coaches produced more positive and negative self-talk in the athletes. This is an example of how interpersonal communication influences intrapersonal communication.


Sending messages

Effective communication is important in the exercise world. Coaches need to understand how to send effective messages. Studies have shown that effective communication skills can be taught to coaches. Researchers have proposed that coaches need to feel good about their communication style. The self-awareness about their communication styles also needs to be increased. Self-awareness is very important. Sometimes coaches may think they verbalized instructions to athletes, but this may have never happened. Because of this, there is a need to develop methods for increasing coaches’ self-awareness of communication.


Verbal messages should be sent clearly and the receiver should receive it and interpret it correctly. People have to pick the right time and place to deliver their communication. However, coachers often do not pick the right time for a message. Breakdowns in communication occur because messages are not received, ineffective or misinterpreted. It sometimes occurs because of a lack of trust between coach and athlete. Problems can be in the transmission of the message. Some people talk too much and distract others, while other people talk too little and don’t communicate enough information. There are many nonverbal cues used in communicating. Studies have shown that approximately 50% to 70% of the information conveyed in a communication is nonverbal. Studies also showed that nonverbal communication increased during competition. It is therefore important for coaches and athletes to become observant of their nonverbal cues. The sending and receiving of messages improves when the understanding of the different kinds of nonverbal communication improves. Nonverbal messages are less under conscious control and they are therefore harder to hide than verbal messages. These messages can give away our unconscious attitudes. Nonverbal messages are powerful, but they are often difficult to interpret accurately.


The physical appearance is the first impression when get of a person. Clothing can convey powerful information. Studies have found that athletes reported lower confidence when their opponent was wearing sport-specific sportswear. Postures also send messages. Athletes often recognize discouraged opponents by how they move. They decide to go in for the kill. Studies on penalty kicks showed that penalty kick players with dominant body language were perceived more positive by goalkeepers and players and they were expected to perform better than players who showed submissive body posture. Posture can influence athletes’ perceptions of the competitors, but how it actually affects performance needs to be studies further. Gestures also convey messages. Folding one’s arms across the chest expresses that you’re not open to others. Body position is the personal space between a person and others and it’s also a form of nonverbal communication. Touching can also be a powerful form of nonverbal communication. Touching can be used to calm someone or to express feelings. The face is the most expressive part of the body and especially eye contact is important in communicating feelings. Eye contact means that the listener is interested in the message. The sound of a voice can also reinforce (or the opposite) communication. A voice’s quality (pitch, volume, speed and articulation) can betray true feelings and attitudes. In order to send messages effectively, one needs to be direct, be complete, be consistent with verbal and nonverbal messages, own what he/she says, focus one thing at a time, reinforce with repetition, look for feedback that the message was correctly received and be supportive. The six Cs are the main points of communication: clear, concise, correct, constructive, courteous and complete.

Traditionally, communication has been seen as a verbal conversation between two or more people. Technology has changed significantly in the past few decades and coaches now often communicate through electronic means, like e-mail, text messages and cell phones. Many teams have established social media presences. Studies show that twitter is often used by athletes as a tool for increasing fan-athlete interaction. Young athletes have grown up with all the electronic means of communication. These athletes feel more comfortable communicating in that fashion, because they are familiar with electronic communication devices. It has become necessary for coaches to familiarize themselves with electronic forms of communication in order for a more smooth interaction with athletes.


Receiving messages effectively

It turns out that people send 40% of their communication time listening. Listening is rated as one of the most important communication skills. Most students learn writing and speaking skills, but they seldom receive formal training in listening. Listening actively is the best way to listen better. Active listening is attending to main ideas, responding, giving appropriate feedback and paying attention to a speaker’s total communication. There is also some nonverbal communication involved in active communication. Some of the nonverbal contact is nodding and active eye contact. Being listened to is the most vital thing for an individual to feel accepted. People need to show that they are putting effort in listening to others. People may think they are available to others, when in fact they’re not. Good listening shows sensitivity and it encourages an open exchange of feelings. Active listeners often paraphrases what the speaker has said. Asking specific questions to allow a person to express his/her feelings is also a part of active listening. When someone paraphrases a person’s thoughts, he/she lets the speaker know that he/she is listening and that he/she cares. This will lead to more open communication and exchange, because the speaker senses that they are interested. Listening sometimes requires mental preparation. Listeners should avoid the word ‘why’ when they ask questions, because this can seem judgmental. When you’re a supportive listener, you are with the speaker and value the person’s message. People also need to show aware listening. People may react differently to the way someone communicates. Listeners have to be flexible. Different situations require different strategies. People need to be alert for barriers and breakdowns in communication. Empathy is the ability of a person to perceive and understand the feelings and attitudes of others. Studies have found that sharing similar ideas helps coaches and athletes understand each other and empathize with each other’s thoughts and feelings. Empathy is not always accurate. Coaches need to concert effort to get to know their athletes.


Breakdowns in communication

Effective communication requires skill and effort of the listener and speaker. The communication process can be complicated and it often breaks down. Technology has improved the speed and efficiency of some types of communication, but no big progress has been achieved in the interpersonal aspects of communication. This often occurs because people think that others are ineffective, not themselves, and they don’t see the need to improve their own communication skills. Another issue is that people show a lack of trust. Honesty needs to be developed between individuals before effective communication can occur. Breakdowns can result from either receiver or sender failures.


Sender failures

Senders may transmit a message poorly. Ambiguous messages are not effective. Senders should be more specific. Inconsistent messages also cause communication breakdowns. It’s annoying to hear one thing today and another thing the next. Inconsistency results when verbal and nonverbal channels conflict. A coach might offer encouraging word to an athletes who is trying a new skill, but the coach’s face may express impatience. Coaches want to establish credibility in their communications. They need to be consistent with all athletes.


Receiver failures

One failure receivers can make is misinterpreting the message. Receivers also cause problems when they fail to listen. A sender may convey information very well, but if the listener is looking out of the window, communication will break down. The receiver should make an effort to listen. Some researchers identified three levels of listening. The first level is active listening, which is a desired way of listening. The second level refers to hearing only the content of the message when listening. The speaker will feel that the listener is uninterested. In the third level, the listener hears only part of the message and therefore true understanding is not possible. Today’s society is rushed and people are often thinking about what they want to say rather than pay close attention to what the sender is saying before formulating a response. Interpersonal conflict can be the result of poor listening. Other results are frustration and a breakdown in communication.


Improving communication

There are some barriers to effective communication, but people can improve communication through active attention and exercises. Studies show that well-designed interpersonal-communication training can improve team morale and cohesion and people can communicate more effectively. This may result in better performance. Another way to improve communication is to set up team meetings. The meetings should be held regularly, focus on team difficulties and they should also provide constructive assessment of the situation. The coach needs to set rules for the meeting. Team members need to be receptive of the opinions of others, information should be confidential, everyone needs to have a chance to speak, team members need to be constructive and each person should have at least one positive thing to say about all the other members. Some researchers recommend role playing in practices, in order to place oneself in the shoes of another person.


Improving team coordination

Coaches need to develop game plans that emphasize the coordination of all team players. Everybody needs to be on the same page. Every player needs to know their position and roles. Coaches should use multiple sensory modes to present plans. They can talk a team through a plan, they can draw it up on a whiteboard, they can show a video or provide a written playbook. Coaches should also use constant reminders to increase redundancy. It can also be helpful for players to access play information at all times. Coaches could therefore also decide to provide instructions with tangible items, like handouts. Coaches also need to explain why they choose for such a gameplay. Coaches need to increase the chances that players listen and understand what they are saying. They can encourage team members’ listening skills, they can encourage questions and they should check that plans are received. People want to improve communication skills so that athletes and coaches can maintain better interpersonal relationships. The COMPASS method is the method used to maintain coach-athlete relationships

  • Conflict management: proactive strategies (clarifying expectations and avoiding conflict) and reactive strategies (cooperating during discussion)

  • Openness: talking about personal issues

  • Motivation: coaches and athletes demonstrating effort and motivating each other

  • Positivity: a coach’s adaptability and external pressures

  • Advice: giving and receiving feedback in a positive and open way

  • Support: showing that one is therefore for another

  • Social networks: spending time with each other


Dealing with confrontation

The nature of communication can be difficult. Examples of this is when coaches need to inform players that they are cut from the team, removed from the start-up or being punished for a rule violation. If there’s a moderate amount of conflict between athlete and coach, they can still have positive interactions as long as they both express their points of view. One study showed that interpersonal conflict was more destructive than performance conflict. Things that can help alleviate interpersonal conflict are engaging in team building, addressing conflicts early, holding structures team meetings and engaging mediators. Some researchers think that athletes should be taught conflict resolution skills. If conflicts and communications are not handled carefully, communication breakdowns can occur and this may lead to confrontations. A confrontation is a face-to-face discussion among people in conflict. Confrontations are not always negative. When properly used, they help parties understand the issues more clearly. One thing is sure: confrontations need to be avoided when someone is angry. People feel uncomfortable with confrontations because they anticipate a stressful encounter. A confrontation between athletes and a coach can have an additional problem and that’s the difference in power. Confrontations can be used in certain situations. Confrontations should not be used to put others in their place, but to examine behaviour and consequences. Once someone decides that confrontation can be used, they need to know how to confront a person. There are certain assumptions for approaching conflict. The first one is that all needs are important and must be attended to. The second is that there are enough resources to meet all needs. Another approach is that every person can offer solutions to problems. The next one is that the listener needs to pay attention to what is going on with the person communicating. The next approach is that improving situations is not the same as solving problems. Also, everyone is right from his or her own perspective. There are always two sides to a story and people must listen to the other side. The last approach is that solutions are temporary and they are not absolute. People need to be flexible and change as necessary.


Constructive criticism

Sometimes, criticism is necessary. People often take criticism as a threat to self-esteem. People focus more on defending themselves than listening to the message. Studies show that the sandwich approach is the most effective way to give criticism. This is a way for offer constructive feedback in a sensitive manner. The three sequential elements of this method are a positive statement, future-oriented instructions and a compliment. Usually, when someone makes a mistake they anticipate a negative remark from the coach. People often turn out the anticipated unpleasant message and they never hear it. Therefore, it’s important to make the first comment positive. This will ensure that he/she will pay attention to the second part of the feedback. For the sandwich technique to be effective, the recipient of the communication must perceive the positive statement as sincere and not as an effort to make him/her feel better. The most important aspect of the sandwich approach is the future-oriented instruction. This is a message about what the person should do next time. The last part of the sandwich is a compliment. If an interaction is ended on a positive note, it makes it more likely that the instruction will be remembered.

Chapter 11 - Psychological skills training


When athletes lose a game, coaches often try to correct the poor performance through more practice time. Often, a lack of physical skills is not the real problem, but a lack of mental skills is. Psychological skills training (PST) is the systematic practice of mental skills for the purpose of enhancing performance, increasing enjoyment and/or achieving greater sport self-satisfaction. Most methods that are part of PST come from mainstream psychology. The areas that are included are cognitive theory, behaviour modification, attentional control, emotive therapy and progressive muscle relaxation. Athletes and coaches know that physical skills need to be regularly practices through many repetitions. Psychological skills (e.g. focusing, regulation of arousal, maintaining motivation) also need to be systematically practiced. When you tell an athlete to relax, he/she won’t produce the desired response unless he/she already knows how to relax through prior practice. This is the reason why scientist have developed guidelines to make mental training more effective.


The importance of PST

All athletes fall victim to mental mistakes (e.g. feeling disgust because of a loss, feelings depressed, lack of motivation and wandering mind). The importance of mental skills is seen in the attribute mental toughness. Studies show that Olympic gold medalists perceived mental toughness as a crucial prerequisite of athletic success. Mental toughness is the athlete’s ability to cope with pressure, mental resilience, to focus and to rebound from failure. With PST, these mental skills can be developed. Most coaches think that sport is at least 50% mental when their team/athlete competes against an opponent of similar ability. Some sports are even viewed as 80-90% mental. Psychological testing can help identify each person’s psychological weaknesses and strengths and this knowledge can be used to create an appropriate training program. Many athletes put much hours in a week in physical practice and no or little time in mental practice. This proportion is not good. In most competitions, athletes of somewhat equal skill are matched (a nationally ranked swimmer will not compete against a B swimmer). In those competitions, winning or losing depends on how someone performs that day. Because physical ability is fairly equal, the winner will be the one who has better mental skills.


Neglecting PST

Psychological skills are important for success, but why do people spend so little time developing psychological skills? PST is neglected by many coaches and athletes for three basic reasons: lack of knowledge, lack of time and misunderstanding about psychological skills.


Lack of knowledge

Many people don’t really understand how to teach psychological skills. Telling an athlete to just relax, doesn’t do the trick. If an athlete had no training in relaxation skills, then he probably doesn’t know how to relax. Many coaches have told sport psychologists that they do not feel comfortable teaching mental skills. Coaches know about skill execution and technique, but not about how to teach specific mental skills. According to a survey, tennis coaches thought that they were knowledgeable in sport psychology, but their knowledge of mental skills training did not come from books or formal courses. The coaches thought that their knowledge came from actual experience in working with athletes or attending clinics. Coaches have also suggested that mental training information could be made more user friendly. They even made suggestions for this. One of the suggestions is that there should be more concrete examples, another is that more mental skills training resources should be developed, especially in audio and video. The last suggestion is that coaches should be involved more actively in mental skills programs.



People don’t ‘just’ have mental skills. People often falsely assume that champions are born rather than made. Some think that the popular athletes were blessed with a congenital mental toughness and a competitive drive as a part of their personality. However, this is not true. People are born with certain psychological and physical predispositions, but skills can also be learned and developed. It all depends on the experiences people encounter. There is no great athlete who has achieved stardom without many hours of practice and without refining physical skills.


Lack of time

Some studies have shown that coaches saw lack of time as the most important roadblock to teaching mental skills to their athletes. People often state that they lost a particular game because they couldn’t concentrate or because they weren’t up for the game. Coaches should see that if their team lost because of poor concentration, they need to make time to practice concentration skills instead of adding more time to physical practice. Practicing mental skills is starting to change. Studies found an overall increase in athletes’ openness to seeking out mental training. Team-sport athletes were more interested in mental training that focused on group cohesion and team dynamics and individual-sport athletes were interested in mental skills that would improve performance in competition and practice.


PST myths

There are several myths that circulate about the use of psychological techniques in optimizing performance. Studies have shown that younger athletes, male athletes and athletes who have been socialized in sports that involve physical contact assign a particular stigma to sport psychology consulting. The myths will be discussed in the following section.


1: PST is for problem athletes

Many athletes think that all sport psychologists only work with athletes who have psychological problems. This is, of course, not true. Most athletes’ psychological needs can be addressed by educational sport psychology specialists who focus on helping develop mental skills in athletes with a normal range of functioning. Examples of PST needs addressed by educational sport psychology specialist are goal setting, arousal regulation, mental preparation and concentration. Examples addressed by clinical sport psychologists are eating disorders, personality disorders and severe depression.


2: PST is for elite training only

PST is appropriate for all athletes, including developing, young athletes and special populations (mental disability, impaired hearing). Professionals work to help improve performance and personal growth.

3: PST gives quick fix solutions


Many people think that sport psychology gives a quick fix to psychological problems. Some coaches and athletes think that they can learn how to concentrate or stay calm under pressure in a couple of lessons. Psychological skills take practice and time to develop. PST won’t turn an average player into a superstar, but it can help athletes reach their potential.


4: PST is not useful

Some people think that sport psychology doesn’t contribute to something. Research shows that psychological skills enhance performance. Studies also show that effective PST efforts must be carried out in a systematic fashion, over time and using a variety of psychological techniques.


PST knowledge

The knowledge base from PST comes from two sources: the experience of coaches and athletes and original research studies conducted with elite athletes. There are different studies that have compared successful and less successful athletes in terms of their psychological skills and characteristics. It appears that more successful athletes were characterized by higher confidence, better concentration and focus, greater self-regulation of arousal, more determination and commitment and more positive thoughts. Successful athletes also achieve peak performance by using the mental skills of imagery, arousal control, coping strategies, mental preparation and goal setting. Researchers are asking athletes about the content and core sport psychology topics to be included in PST programs. Coaches and athletes rated concentration, team cohesion, self-talk strategies and relaxation training as important topics. Studies with Olympic athletes showed that the success of the athletes depended on them developing plans for competition, performance evaluation and dealing with disruptions. The athletes were committed to pursuing excellence and they overcame adversity by sticking to their plans. Coaches also use psychological skills to help them perform their jobs more effectively. Elite coaches used self-talk and imagery during training and competition. Self-talk was used to overcome concerns in performance, to give themselves confidence and to get themselves in an appropriate mind-set. They used imagery to control emotions.


PST effectiveness

Well-controlled studies that are conducted in competitive environments are needed to learn how effective PST programs can be in improving sport performance. Research has shown that educationally based psychological interventions improve competitive performance in adult athletes. Many studies have found that there are positive performance effects of psychological interventions. Research shows that international-calibre athletes use more mental training compared to national-level athletes. They also employ more complex mental strategies. Applied sport psychologists are beginning to understand that in order to be effective, a psychological interventions must be carried out in an individualized, systematic manner over time. This goes together with the use of a variety of psychological techniques.


Three phases of PST programs

PST programs can take many forms to match participants’ individual needs, but they generally follow a structure with three distinct phases: education, acquisition and practice.


Educational phase

The first phase of the PST program is educational. In this phase, participants quickly recognize how important it is to acquire psychological skills. They also recognize how the skills affect performance. Usually, one can ask participants how important they think the mental side of sport performance is. Most athletes will say that it’s very important. The next question to ask is how often they practice developing mental skills compared to practicing physical skills. The answer will probably be hardly ever. Then, one needs to explain how psychological skills can be learned. The education phase can last for as little as an hour or for as long as several hours over the course of a few days. This depends in part on the individual differences in using PST. Another big part of the education phase involves increasing athlete awareness of the role that mental skills play in performance.


Acquisitions phase

This phase focuses on strategies and techniques for learning the various psychological skills. Formal meetings might help develop arousal regulation skills. The formal sessions can be followed up with individual sessions. In these sessions, specific strategies to an athlete’s unique needs and abilities are given. Cognitively based strategies and physically based relaxation techniques can be given.


Practice phase

This phase has three primary objectives: automating skills through overlearning, teaching people to systematically integrate psychological skills into their performance situation and to stimulating skills people will want to apply in actual competition.



PST has an ultimate goal and that goal is to have athletes effectively function on their own without needing constant direction from a coach or sport psychologists. An athlete should be able to self-regulate his/her internal function after PST. Self-regulation is working toward one’s short- and long-term goals by managing and monitoring one’s thoughts, behaviours and feelings . Kirschenbaum developed a five-stage model of athlete self-regulation. The first step is problem identification. That’s the ability to identify a problem, the ability to determine that change is possible and taking responsibility for its solution. The second stage is making a commitment to change and to deal with obstacles. The third stage is execution. This is the primary stage of self-regulation. People need to self-evaluate, self-monitor and self-reinforce in this stage. Environmental management is the fourth stage. In this stage, a person needs to plan strategies for managing the social and physical environment that affect the athlete. The final stage is the generalization stage. This involves sustaining efforts over time and extending behaviours to new settings. Many researchers have found that various self-regulation strategies improve performance and facilitate positive thoughts and feeling states.


Conducting PST programs

Ideally, a consultant should administer the PST program. Usually a consultant sets up the program and he/she either monitors it periodically or trains the coaching staff to implement it. The selection of a qualified sport psychologists is critical. A person needs to have backgrounds in both psychology and sport sciences and some practical, supervised experience in implementing PST with teams and athletes. A sport psychologists doesn’t see athletes daily, while coaches often do. Coaches are in a position to administer psychological interventions over the course of a season. However, this dual role of a coach can present an ethical dilemma. Athletes may have difficulty revealing personal information that the sport psychologist-coach might perceive negatively. It’s because of this reason that the sport psychologist and coaching roles should be separated whenever possible. There are many athletes who don’t have access to a mental training specialist. Therefore, some researchers have developed a method for providing online mental training that is affordable, internet based, fully automated, taught by sport psychology experts, generates individualized mental training programs, following best practices in mental training and it provides useful tools that enhance individual program success and innovative parent and coach education programs. There is also a smartphone app that gives athletes the ability to download a mental training program.


Implementing PST programs

The best time to initiate a PST program is during the off-season or preseason, because there is more time to learn new skills and athletes are at that time not so pressured about winning. Some people say that it can take months to a year to fully understand new psychological skills and integrate them into actual competitions. Mental training is an ongoing process and it needs to be integrated with physical practice over time. Coaches can sometimes become desperate by the performance of an athlete and they may want to start a PST program in the middle of the season. However, mental training in such a situation is rarely effective. The time needed for practicing mental skills varies according to what is being practiced and how well it is to be learned. If a new psychological skill is being learned, a special 10- to 15- minute training sessions 3-5 days a week may be necessary. After a while, athletes may be able to integrate the mental training ore with physical training and may need fewer special training sessions. When someone has effectively integrated a skill into physical practice, he/she should try using it during simulated competition before using it during real competition.

Sport psychologists who give a PST training, usually start with a group session to explain general principles. They then meet athletes individually. Athletes need to be assigned training exercises to practice between meetings with the SPC. The coach can conduct the training exercises or to provide time for athletes to practice. Ideally, PST continues as long as athletes participate in their sport. PST is an ongoing process, but an athlete’s first exposure to PST in a formal program should last 3 to 6 months.


PST program development

A consultant needs to discuss his/her approach. He needs to describe to athletes what kind of PST services can be provided. He needs to tell that PST is an educational approach to mental training and he needs to explain that if a more serious mental problem occurs, he can make a referral to a qualified therapist or counselling centre. The educational approach can help dispel the idea that seeing a sport psychologist means something must be wrong with you. When a consultant discusses his approach, he needs to establish trust and begin to build a quality relationship with athletes. The quality of the relationship between the sport psychologist and the athlete is closely tied to the effectiveness of PST.


Psychological factors are not the only factors that influence performance. Athletes might think that a mistake is made because of anxiety, while it was in fact made because of something biomechanical. Input from coaches, physiologists and teachers is often useful. There are certain clues with which one can determine whether an athlete would benefit from mental training and those clues are that the athlete performs better in practice than in competition or performs more poorly in important competitions than in unimportant ones.


Oral interviews and written psychological inventories can provide sport psychologists with useful objective and subjective information. However, there are certain factors that sport psychologists should consider before administering questionnaires and assessments. Some of these factors are the reliability and validity of the questionnaire, the usefulness of the questionnaire as seen by athletes and the honesty that athletes show in completing the questionnaires. The writers of this book recommend a semi-structured interview. This includes general questions and opportunities to use the athlete’s responses to form follow-up questions. The interview is a good moment to start building a therapeutic relationship. Sport psychologists should never ask why questions, because a client may not know the answer to why questions and he/she might be embarrassed or confused. Some use psychological inventories to assess different skills. There are also sport- and situation-specific inventories. Interventions should not only evaluate an athlete’s mental skills, but also the unique technical, physical and logistical demands of the sport itself.


After the assessment, one needs to decide which psychological skills should be emphasized during the program. That decision should be based on a couple of things. For one, you need to know how many weeks of practice are available. You should also know how much practice time will be devoted weekly to PST. One should also know how interested the athletes are in receiving PST and if there will be time to practice mental skills after the competitive season begins. When there is not much time and/or commitment, it is best to prioritize objectives and emphasize a few skills. Vealey proposed a model that emphasized multiple types of mental skills. These skills are foundation skills (e.g. self-confidence, self-awareness and achievement drive), performance skills (e.g. energy management and attentional focus), personal development skills (e.g. identity achievement) and team skills (e.g. leadership and cohesion).


After the assessment of skills, the training schedule can be made. Informational meetings can be held. It’s better to hold frequent, short meetings rather than less frequent, long meetings. Informal meetings can occur at any time and place. These meetings complement the structured meetings. Sport psychologists need to decide when the start a training and how long a training should last. Some researchers have proposed a systematic periodization approach to the development of mental skills. With this model, they try to maximize long-term development and peak performance. There is a preparatory phase in which an athlete performs imagery exercises every day. There is a competitive phase in which an athlete performs imagery less frequently. He imagines himself not playing on the sports-field. Then comes the peaking phase in which the athlete imagines himself performing the actual play he will play in a specific tournament against a key opponent.


A PST program should be evaluated. Psychologists want to know what technique appears to work best and what technique doesn’t work. They need to know whether the athletes thought that the consultant was available, knowledgeable and easy to talk with. Sport psychologists want to know the strengths and weaknesses of the program. There are certain common problems in PST which may occur. One of these is lack of conviction. Consultants often have to convince athletes and coaches that developing psychological skills will facilitate success. Another one is lack of time. Coaches often claim there isn’t enough time to practice mental skills. Another one is lack of sport knowledge. The last one is a lack of follow-up. Some consultants or coaches implement a PST program but they may provide little follow-up once the program is under way.

Chapter 12 - Arousal regulation


Stress is a part of our daily lives. With the media attention and more financing in sport, pressure to perform at high levels in competitive sport has increased. Society nowadays values winning and success at all levels of competition and exercisers and coaches feel pressure to be successful. There are people who don’t cope effectively with the pressure of competitive sport and they may have decreases in performance, physical illness and mental distress. A burnout can be the result of continued pressure and it can lead to migraine headaches and hypertension. There are various ways of coping with the pressure of competitive sports and they all depend on the person and the situation. Athletes respond differently to pressure, but the type of sport they perform is also an important factor in how they react. Research has found that calling a time-out before crucial field goal attempts in professional football results in a decrement in performance, but doing this in collegiate basketball does not undermine performance. Also, a specific relaxation procedure might work better for controlling cognitive (mental) anxiety, while another might be more effective for coping with somatic (physiological) anxiety. The relation between performance and arousal is somewhat complicated and athletes in competitive sport need to learn to control their arousal. Athletes should be able to increase it and decrease it when needed. Athletes need to find their optimal level of arousal without losing intensity and focus.


Self-awareness of arousal

In order to control arousal levels, one must be aware of the arousal levels during practices and competitions. This usually involves self-monitoring. Athletes can often identify certain feelings with top performances and other feelings with poor performances. The study of self-awareness of arousal states has started to focus on whether these states are felt as facilitative or debilitative. Studies have found that elite athletes generally interpret their anxiety as more facilitative than non-elite athletes. Sport psychologists can help athletes become more aware of their arousal states and interpret them in a positive manner. Studies also found that individuals who see their anxiety as facilitative are more likely to use both problem-focused and emotion-focused coping. People who view their anxiety as debilitative appear to be limited in their use of any coping strategies.


Anxiety reduction techniques

Excess anxiety can produce inappropriate muscle tension and this can diminish performance. Excess muscle tension can develop really easy. Excess anxiety can also produce inappropriate thoughts and cognitions. It’s also important to interpret anxiety in a facilitative rather than a debilitative manner, in order to reduce anxiety. Studies have shown that three time periods were critical in the interpretation of anxiety. Those are the period after performance, one or two days before competition and they day of the competition. Studies have also indicated that professional athletes engaged in more relaxation in a typical week than recreational athletes did.


Somatic anxiety reduction techniques

The progressive relaxation technique forms the cornerstone for many modern relaxation procedures. The technique involves relaxing and tensing certain muscles. It’s called the progressive relaxation because the relaxing progresses from one major muscle group to the next until all muscle groups are completely relaxed. Progressive relaxation rests on a few assumptions: it’s possible to learn the difference between relaxation and tension, tension and relaxation are mutually exclusive and relaxation of the body through decreased muscle tension will decrease mental tension. An athlete can develop his/her awareness of the difference between tension and no tension with the help of tension-relaxation cycles. When an athlete has mastered the skill, he/she can detect tension in a specific muscle and then relax that muscle. The first few sessions of this technique take an athlete up to 30 minutes and less time is needed with practice. Other researchers have also developed a variant of this technique.

Proper breathing is important in relaxation and breath control is another physical oriented relaxation technique. Many athletes have not learned proper breathing. When they perform under pressure, they often fail to coordinate their breathing with the performance of the skill. Holding your breath and breathing in increases muscle tension and breathing out decreases muscle tension. Pressure usually builds in a competition and the natural tendency is to hold one’s breath. This will, of course, increase muscle tension and it will interfere with performance. Taking a deep, slow breath usually makes the muscles relax. People can learn to inhale to a count of four and exhale to a count of eight. This helps slow breathing and deepens the relaxation by focusing on the exhalation phase. The best time to use breath control during competition is during a time-out or break. When people focus on their breathing, it relaxes their shoulder and neck muscles and the chance is higher that they will be less bothered by irrelevant cues or distractions. Deep breathing also provides a short mental break from the pressure of competition and it can renew your energy.


Biofeedback is a physically oriented technique that teaches people to control physiological responses. This often involves an electronic monitoring device that can detect and amplify internal responses. This instrument provides visual or auditory feedback of physiological responses, like muscle activity, heart rate and muscle activity. If the machine makes loud noise, the athlete knows he/she needs to relax certain muscles. Once an athlete learns to reduce muscle tension, he/she needs to be able to transfer this knowledge to the game. Biofeedback has been shown to improve performance among recreational and professional athletes in a variety of sports by reducing anxiety and muscle tension.


Cognitive anxiety reduction techniques

Some relaxing procedures focus more on relaxing the mind than others. These procedures state that relaxing the mind will also relax the body. Physical and mental techniques can produce a relaxed state, but these techniques work through different paths. The relaxation response is a technique that combines the basic elements of meditation but it eliminates any spiritual or religious significance. There are many athletes who use meditation to mentally prepare for competition. It improves their ability to relax and concentrate. However, there are not many studies that have addressed the effectiveness of the relaxation response in enhancing performance. The relaxation response requires four elements. These are a quiet place, a comfortable position that can be maintained for a while, a mental device (focusing your attention on a single thought or word and repeating it) and a passive attitude. It takes time to learn the relaxation response. People should practice it about 20 minutes a day. The relaxation response teaches a person to quiet the mind, and this will help them concentrate and reduce muscle tension. It is not an appropriate technique to use right before a competition because athletes could potentially become too relaxed.

Autogenic training consists of a couple of exercises that produce sensations. Attention is focused on the sensations someone is trying to produce. Feelings should be allowed to happen without interference. The six stages of this program are:

  • Heaviness in the extremities

  • Warmth in the extremities

  • Regulation of cardiac activity

  • Regulation of breathing

  • Abdominal warmth

  • Cooling of the forehead

It usually takes a couple of months of regular practice, 10-40 minutes a day to become proficient, to experience heaviness and warmth in the limbs and to produce the sensation of a relaxed heartbeat.


Wolpe developed the systematic desensitization technique. According to him, anxious people have learned through a process of classical condition to have excessively high levels of anxiety manifested through increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing in the presence of some stimuli. The goal of the technique is to replace the nervous activity with a competing behaviour. a client is first trained in deep muscle relaxation and then an anxiety hierarchy is constructed. This consists of 5-10 scenes ranging from least to most anxiety producing. After an athlete learns progressive relaxation, he/she is asked to imagine the first scene in the anxiety hierarchy. The athletes has to continue imagine this scene until he has no anxiety. Then, the next situation on the list is imagined until the athlete has no anxiety. An athlete needs to do this until he/she can imagine the most anxiety-producing scene without producing any anxiety. This can take weeks to months.


Multimodal anxiety reduction packages

These packages can alleviate both cognitive and somatic anxiety and provide systematic strategies for rehearsing coping procedures under simulated stressful conditions. The most popular multimodal techniques are the stress inoculation training and the cognitive-affective stress management training. These techniques help athletes develop a number of coping skills for managing a wide variety of problems coming from different stressful situations.


Cognitive-affective stress management training is also abbreviated to SMT. It is a skills program that teaches people a specific integrated coping response that uses both cognitive and relaxation components to control emotional arousal. The theoretical model of stress underlying SMT includes physiologically based and cognitively based intervention strategies. The model accounts for the person’s mental appraisal of the situation, the situation, the physiological response and the actual behaviour. This program offers specific intervention strategies, like relaxation skills, self-instructional training and for dealing with mental and physical reactions to stress. This program has five phases:

  • Pre-treatment assessment: In this phase, the consultant conducts personal interviews to assess the kinds of circumstances that produce stress, the responses to stress and the ways in which stress affects performance and other behaviours. The athlete’s behavioural and cognitive skills are also assessed.

  • Treatment rationale: During this phase, the counsellor tried to help the player understand his/her stress responses by analysing personal stress reactions and experiences.

  • Skill acquisition: In this phase, athletes receive training in muscular relaxation, self-instruction and cognitive restructuring.

  • Skill rehearsal: The consultant induces different levels of stress to produce responses in athletes. These responses are then reduced through the use of coping skills that the participant has acquired. Only trained clinicians should use this component of the technique.

  • Post-training evaluation: Different measures are used by the consultant to assess the effectiveness of the program. Evaluation of the results can be valuable, so appropriate changes can be made if necessary and it’s also valuable for planning subsequent programs.


Research has found that stress inoculation training (SIT) is effective in reducing anxiety and enhancing performance in sport settings. It also helps athletes cope with the stress of injury. The SIT approach has some similarities to the SMT approach. In SIT, an athlete is exposed to and learns to cope with stress in increasing amounts and this enhances their immunity to stress. SIT teaches people skills for coping with psychological stressors and for enhancing performance by developing productive thoughts, self-statements and mental images. The SIT has an approach which consists of four stages: preparing for the stressor, controlling the stressor, coping with feelings of being overwhelmed and evaluating coping efforts. This approach give opportunities to practice their coping skills, starting with small doses of stress and progressing to greater amounts of stress. Athletes develop a sense of learned resourcefulness by successfully coping with stressors through a variety of techniques.


Hypnosis is a somewhat controversial technique for reducing anxiety. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness that can be induced by a procedure in which an athlete is in an unusually relaxed state and he/she responds to suggestions for making alterations in perceptions, actions and thoughts. Hypnosis in sports is used as an arousal regulation technique. Studies have shown that hypnosis was related to feelings of peak performance states that resulted in improvements in certain sports. Athletes noted greater feelings of relaxation. The hypnosis interventions has certain stages. The first stage is an induction phase. A participant must trust the hypnotist and after the athlete has reached a relaxed state, he/she is put in a hypnotic trance. The second stage is the hypnotic phase. Athletes are asked to respond to specific suggestions, which are carried out after they are fully awake. These are called posthypnotic suggestions. The next stage is the waking phase. In this stage, the athlete comes out of the trance. The last phase is the posthypnotic phase. During hypnosis, athletes are given suggestions that influence the during the posthypnotic phase. These suggestions are focused on the way athletes should feel in competition.

Studies show that anxiety reduction techniques are quite effective. Multimodal approaches seem to be the most effective in terms of performance enhancement.


The matching hypothesis

The matching hypothesis states that an anxiety management technique should be matched to a particular anxiety problem. This means that cognitive anxiety should be treated with mental relaxation and somatic anxiety should be treated with physical relaxation. Studies have shown that a somatic relaxation technique was more effective than a cognitive relaxation technique in reducing somatic anxiety. And the opposite was true for the cognitive relaxation technique. The reduction in somatic and cognitive anxiety was associated with some increases in performance. Certain types of social support are more effective in reducing anxiety among athletes. The specific social support should be matched to the specific social problem of the athlete. This will produce maximum effectiveness in reducing anxiety. However, some studies did show crossover effects (somatic relaxation techniques produced decreases in cognitive anxiety and vice versa). This has led some researchers to argue that SIT and SMT are the more appropriate programs to use, because these techniques can work on both somatic and cognitive anxiety. The writers of this book recommend that when an athlete’s anxiety is primarily cognitive, a cognitive relaxation technique should be used and when it’s somatic, a somatic relaxation technique should be used.


Coping with adversity

Athletes should learn different coping strategies to use in different situations and for different sources of stress. Athletes sometimes use similar coping strategies from situation to situation, but they also change strategies across situations. Successful athletes vary in their coping strategies, but all these athletes have skills that work when they need them most.


There are many definitions of coping. The most popular is a process of constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific internal and/or external demands. This definition sees coping as a dynamic process, which involves both behavioural and cognitive efforts to manage stress. It also emphasizes an interactional perspective. Individuals appear to exhibit similar coping styles across situations, but the particular coping strategy they use depends on both situational and personal factors.

The two most popular coping categories are problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. Problem-focused coping involves efforts to change the problem that is causing the stress for the athlete concerned. It involves information gathering, goal setting, time management, self-talk and increasing effort. Emotion-focused coping involves regulating the emotional responses to the problem that causes stress for the athlete. It includes behaviours like meditation, self-blame, wishful thinking and mental withdrawal. Studies have shown that problem-focused coping is used more often when situations are able to change and emotion-focused coping is used more often when situations are not able to change. There is also a third category of coping and that’s social support coping. Social support coping occurs when a person turns for others for emotional support in times of stress. When there are multiple stressors, no single type of coping strategy is effective in all athlete settings. Athletes should therefore learn a diverse set of emotion- and problem-focused coping strategies.

Studies have shown coping techniques can help athletes. Elite athletes and non-elite athletes use different coping techniques. Elite athletes prepare for unexpected events and this helps them to be more prepared for these events. Non-elite athletes use avoidance coping techniques more than elite athletes do. Factors such as age, sex and pubertal status can influence the coping strategy employed and its perceived effectiveness. A study revealed that coping effectiveness training enhances athletes’ coping effectiveness, performance and self-efficacy. Coping styles can also differ on culture and race. Sport psychologists should be sensitive to these differences in coping when counselling athletes from different races and cultures.


The use of arousal induced techniques

Coaches often inappropriately use different energizing strategies to pump athletes up for competition. Athletes need to be at an optimal level of arousal and things like pep talks may over-arouse athletes. If arousal is to be raised, it should be done in a deliberate fashion and with the awareness of optimal arousal states. There are attitudes and behaviours that signal that someone is under-activated. These can be moving slowly, lack of enthusiasm, mind wandering and heavy feelings in the legs. Someone doesn’t need to experience all these signs to be under-activated. The more someone notices these, the more likely it is that he/she needs to increase arousal. These feelings usually indicate that someone is physically and mentally not ready to play. These feelings can come from athletes not getting enough sleep, playing too much or playing against a weaker opponent. There are certain things that someone can use to generate more energy and activate the system. One way to do this, is to increase the breathing system by taking deep breaths. Another way is to act energized. Acting energetic can help recapture the energy. An athlete can jump up and down, take a short jog or jump rope. Athletes can also use mood words and positive statements. Positive self-statements can energize a person. Yelling and shouting can also energize an athlete. Energetic music can also be a source of energy. An athlete can also use energizing imagery. This can generate positive feelings and energy. The athlete has to visualise something that is energizing to him/her. Sprinters can imagine cheetahs running over the plains. Swimmers might imagine moving through the ocean like a shark. Athletes can also complete a pre-competitive workout to activate themselves. Coaches might also energize an entire team. One way to do that is by setting team or individual performance goals and giving a pep talk.

Chapter 13 - Imagery


Athletes often practice their motor skills mentally. Mental practice has a long tradition in sport and exercise psychology. There have been many popular athletes who told of their use of imagery before performing their sport. Athletes use imagery on their own, but sometimes coaches also try to use imagery to enhance the performance of athletes. More and more scientific evidence that supports the effectiveness of imagery is coming forth and more athletes have used imagery to help their performance.


Defining imagery

There are many terms that refer to an athlete’s mental preparation for competition. Some of these terms are mental rehearsal, covert practice, visualization, imagery and mental practice. All these terms refer to creating or re-creating an experience in the mind. Pieces of information that have been store from experience are recalled from memory and these pieces are shaped into meaningful images. The pieces are essentially a product of one’s memory. Imagery is a form of stimulation. It looks like a real sensory experience, but the entire experience occurs in the mind. Every person uses imagery to re-create experiences. People are able to accomplish certain actions because they can remember events and re-create pictures and feelings of them. People can also imagine events that have not yet occurred. Imagery can help athletes prepare for difficult situations so that they are prepared with different circumstances during competition. Imagery should involve as many senses as possible. The different senses of imagery are all important. The kinaesthetic sense is useful in enhancing athletic performance, because it has to do with feeling the body as it moves in different positions. When an athlete uses more than one sense, he/she creates more vivid images and the experience is more real. Athletes can use visual senses to watch things, they can use auditory senses to hear things and even use olfactory senses to smell things, like the grass or a courtyard.


It’s also important to attach different emotional states or moods to the imagined experiences. Re-creating emotions or thoughts through imagery can help control emotional states. Researchers identified five key characteristics of the imagery process: modality (the senses used in imagery), perspective (the visual perspective take- first person or third person), angle (the viewing angle when imaging from an external perspective), agency (the agent of the behaviour) and deliberation (the degree to which imagery is deliberate).


Imagery’s effectiveness

Sport psychologists have tried to determine whether imagery does enhance performance and they have looked at three kinds of evidence: case studies, anecdotal reports and scientific experiments. There are numerous anecdotal reports. Many of the world’s best athletes and coaches include imagery in their daily training regimens and there are also many athletes who use imagery to help recover from injury. Studies show that 100% of sport psychology consultants and 90% of Olympic athletes used some form of imagery. 97% of these athletes believed that imagery helped their performance. Anecdotal reports are the most interesting evidence supporting the effectiveness of imagery, but they are also the least scientific. Case studies are more scientific. In case studies, researchers closely observe, monitor and record an individual’s behaviour over a period of time. Some case studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of imagery. Some researchers nowadays use multiple-baseline case studies. These are studies of just a few people over a long period of time. These researchers have found positive effect of imagery on performance enhancement and other psychological variables. Many studies have also focused on psychological intervention packages. These are approaches that use a variety of psychological interventions along with imagery. These interventions have shown a positive relationship between imagery and performance. There is also evidence from scientific experiments in support of imagery. These studies have shown the value of imagery in learning and performing motor skills.


Imagery in sport

Research has shown that imagery can positively enhance performance. More recent findings have revealed details of imagery use and these findings can help practitioners design imagery training programs. Studies have shown that the majority of imagery occurs in practice and competition. Imagery is used more in competition than in training. It appears that athletes use imagery for performance enhancement. Studies have also shown that athletes use imagery before, during and after practice, they also use it outside of practice (home and school) and before, during and after competition. Some studies suggest that athletes use imagery more outside of practice than during practice. Athletes report using more imagery before competition than during or after competition. They also use it more during practices than before or after practices. Imagery is underused after practices and competitions. Some studies suggest that imagery is used while athletes are injured. However, athletes use imagery more frequently during competition and practice than during rehabilitation. Imagery during rehabilitation focuses on motivation to recover and to rehearse rehabilitation exercises.

Some scientists distinguish between two functions of imagery: motivational and cognitive. People use the motivational-specific (MS) side to visualize specific goals and goal-oriented behaviours, like winning a particular contest. Studies have shown that motivational-general imagery should be classified into motivational general-mastery (MG-M) and motivational general-arousal (MG-A). An example of MG-M is imaging performing well in order to maintain confidence. MG-M appears to be a strong predictor of mental toughness. An example of MG-A is to use imagery to increase arousal. Studies have found that MS imagery was most effective in helping athletes maintain confidence and stay focused. All three types of motivational imagery have been found to be effective in enhancing motivation. MG-A and MG-M were both effective in regulating arousal.


Cognitive-specific (CS) imagery focuses on the performance of specific motor skills and cognitive-general (CG) imagery refers to rehearsing entire game plays and routines. Studies have found that CS imagery was more effective for skill execution, learning and performance enhancement. CG was most effective for strategy learning and strategy execution. Mental training should supplement and complement physical practice, it should not replace it.


Many researchers have looked exactly what and how athletes image. The findings relate to four aspects of imaging: positive or negative character of images, the perspective the athlete takes in creating imagery, images of the surroundings in which the athlete competes and the types of imagery (auditory, visual, kinaesthetic and olfactory). Athletes often report imaging competition surroundings. This can increase the vividness of the image and make it more realistic. Positive images are most often reported during practices and pre-competition. Negative images are most often reported during competitions. Imagery can sometimes have an adverse effect on performance. This happens when imagery creates too much anxiety, imagery directs attention to irrelevant factors, imagery that makes the athlete cocky and imagery that is not controllable. People often tell themselves not to do something. But is this positive or negative? Studies have shown that the accuracy of a group that used positive imagery improved regardless of imagery frequency. For the group that used imagery suppression, the results were different. Studies show that suppressive imagery produced poorer putting performance than did facilitative imagery. Telling yourself not to image something that you don’t want to do will make it more likely that you will image it and this hinders actual performance.


Studies show that athletes describe four types of imagery (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and olfactory) and that they use kinaesthetic and visual imagery most often. This does not mean that the other two are not important. The best way is to combine both the kinaesthetic and visual information in imaging skills. Athletes either take an external or internal perspective for viewing their imagery. This all depends on the situation and athlete. When you use the internal imagery, you image the execution of a skill from your own vantage point. Internal imagery comes from a first-person perspective and this images therefore emphasizes the feel of the movement. When you use external imagery, you view yourself from the perspective of an outside observer. A few reliable differences have been established between internal and external imagery with regard to performance results. The research about these two is somewhat inconclusive. Many people switch back and forth between external and internal imagery.


Factors affecting the effectiveness

There are some factors that determine the extent to which imagery can improve performance. One of these factors is the nature of the task. Studies have shown that tasks involving mostly cognitive components (decision making), show the greatest positive benefits from imagery rehearsal. Imagery has been proven to be effective in a wide range of tasks. Another factor is the skill level of the performer. Imagery helps performance for both experienced and novice athletes, but the effects are a little bit stronger for experienced players. Experiences athletes also used imagery more frequently. Another factor is imaging ability. The most powerful factor influencing the effectiveness of imagery is the athlete’s ability in the use of imagery. Studies show that imagery is more effective when individuals have higher ability to imagine. Imagery has multiple forms and the better athletes are at a specific imagery ability, the more they will use this type of imagery. Imagery can be seen as a skill, so with practice a person can improve the controllability and vividness of his/her imagery. Another factor is using imagery along with physical practice. It needs to be added to one’s normal physical practice. Finally, personality characteristics have been considered important to psychological preparation. Personality may influence the effectiveness of psychological skills used by athletes. Studies have shown that narcissists who used external imagery had greater increases in performance than those who used internal imagery. It was suggested that external imagery allowed narcissists to fuel their focus on themselves. That’s because the external perspective gave them the opportunity to see themselves performing. More research should investigate the influence of other personality traits on imagery.


How imagery works

How can imagining thinks help athletes accomplish the things people imagine? People can generate information from memory that is essentially the same as an actual experience. So, imaging events can have an effect on our nervous system similar to that of the actual experience. Sport psychologists have proposed different explanations of this phenomenon. However, there is no one theory that can really explain all the different findings surrounding imagery research.


Psychoneuromuscular theory

The psychononeuromuscular theory originated together with the ideomotor principle of imagery. This principle proposes that imagery facilitates the learning of motor skills because of the nature of neuromuscular activity patterns activated during imaging. So, when something is imagined vividly it innervates the muscles in sort of the same way that physically practicing the movement does. It is hypothesized that the slight neuromuscular impulses are identical to those produced during actual performance. When people vividly imagine performing a movement, they use neural pathways similar to those they use when actually performing the movement. Positron emission tomography scanning and MRI studies have shown that certain areas of the cerebral cortex are much more active when a person uses imagery than when he or she is resting. Studies have discovered that many of the areas of the brain that are used during the process of visual perception are also used during visual imagery. It seems that imagery shares some of the same brain processes with actual vision.


Symbolic learning theory

The symbolic learning theory suggests that imagery may function as a coding system that helps people understand movement patterns. One way people learn skills is by becoming familiar with what needs to be done to successfully perform them. When someone creates a motor program in the central nervous system, a mental blueprint is formed for successfully completing the movement. Studies have shown that people using imagery performed better on tasks that were primarily cognitive than on those that were mostly motoric.


Bioinformational theory

The bioinformational theory is the best-developed theoretical explanation for the effects of imagery. This theory holds that a description of an image consists of two main types of statements. These are stimulus proposition and response proposition. The former are responses that describe specific stimulus features of the scenario to be imagined. For example, imagining the people sitting on the sidelines. The latter are statements that describe the imager’s response to the particular scenario. These are designed to produce physiological activity.


Triple code model

This model states that the meaning the images have to the individual must also be incorporated into imagery models. This model also highlights understanding three effects that are essential parts of imagery. These are referred to as ISM. The first part is the image (I). The second part is the somatic response (S). This refers to the act of imagination resulting in psychophysiological changes in the body. The third aspect is the meaning of the image (M). every image imparts a meaning to the individual imager


Psychological explanations

There are a couple of psychological explanations that have been put forth to explain the effects of imagery. One is based on attention-arousal set theory and it argues that imagery functions as a preparatory set that assists in achieving an optimal arousal level. Another one suggests that imagery helps build psychological skills that are critical to performance enhancement. Yet another area suggests that imagery can serve a motivational function by helping the athlete focus on positive outcomes.

Athletes can use imagery in different ways to improve psychological as well as physical skills. For example, they can improve concentration, build confidence, control emotional responses, cope with pain and injury, acquire sand practice sport skills, solve problems and enhance motivation.


Effective imagery

Imagery skill is acquired through practice. Some athletes are good at it and others are maybe not able to get an image in their minds. There are two factors to good images: controllability and vividness.



People who are good at imagine, use all of their senses to make their images as vivid as possible. It is important to create an image that is as closely as possible as the actual experience. People need to experience the emotions of the actual competition. They need to feel the concentration, anxiety and frustration associated with their performance. When people have trouble imaging, they need to imagine that they are in their living room. They need to mentally look around and take in the details. People should also imagine a positive performance of a skill. They need to visualize themselves performing a particular skill in their sport. The third exercise is to imagine a positive performance. People need to recall as vividly as possible a time when they performed very well.



Another key to imagery is learning to manipulate the images so that they do what you want them to. There are athletes how have difficulty controlling their images and they often find themselves repeating their mistakes as they visualize. Athletes might visualize doing something wrong. Controlling the image helps them picture what they want to accomplish instead of seeing themselves make errors. The key to this is practice. An exercise which can help with controllability is controlling performance. People should imagine working on a specific skill which has given them trouble in the past. They need to think about what they were doing wrong and them imagine themselves performing the skill correctly. Another exercise is picturing themselves controlling performance against a tough opponent. Another exercise is to control emotions. People need to picture themselves in a situation in which they become angry and use management strategies to feel this anger drain from their body and try to control what they see.


Developing an imagery training program

Imagery should become part of the daily program in order to be effective. Imagery programs should be tailored to athlete’s needs and abilities. When an intervention is personalized to the specific needs of an athlete, he/she will find it more enjoyable and it will carry greater weight. Some scientists offered guidelines for making imagery more effective and this is called the PETTLEP program: the (p)hysical nature of the movement, the specifics of the (e)nvironment, the type of (t)ask, the (t)iming of the movement, (l)earning the content of the movement, the (e)motion of the movement and the (p)erspective of the person. A couple of studies have shown that the PETTLEP principles enhances effectiveness of imagery. PETTLEP groups perform often better than the traditional imagery group.


When you set up an imagery training, you first need to evaluate the athlete’s current level of imagery skill. People differ in how well they can image. However, it’s difficult to measure someone’s ability to image. That’s because imagery is a mental process and it’s therefore not directly observable. Psychologists therefore use questionnaires to try to discern the different aspects of imagery. There are different tests of imagery and the Sport Imagery Questionnaire contains questions about the frequency with which people use various types of imagery. Studies with this questionnaire have found that not the content, but the function of the image was the most critical. If an athlete uses imagery to enhance self-confidence, then it doesn’t matter what the image is as long as it enhances confidence.


After checking the results from the questionnaire, coaches can determine which areas to incorporate into an athlete’s daily training regimen. The imagery program should not be complex and it should fit well in the athlete’s daily training routine. In order for an imagery program to be successful, certain things need to be done. One of these is that athlete’s should practice in many settings. People should not just lie down on a couch to image. Athletes can start practicing imagery in a quiet setting and when they become proficient at imagery they should practice in many different settings. People should also aim for relaxed concentration. It appears that imagery preceded by relaxation is more effective than the use of imagery alone. Relaxation lets the person forget everyday worries and concentrate on the task and it also results in more powerful imagery because there is less competition with other stimuli. People should also establish realistic expectations and enough motivation. They should use vivid and controllable images, apply imagery to specific situations and maintain positive focus. Videos can even be made so that the athlete can see himself/herself. The video should be edited so that athletes can see the perfect or near-perfect skill over and over again. Another tip for good imaging is to image in real time. The time spent imaging a particular skill should be equal to the time it takes to execute the skill in actuality. Studies have found that the more congruence there is between actual and imagined practice times, the better the performance.


The use of imagery

When do people use imagery? Imagery can be used any time. Studies have found that the more athletes practice imagery, the stronger the positive effects on performance. Imaging three times a week was better than two times a week and two times was better than once a week. Imagery can be schedules systematically by including it before and after each practice session. These sessions should be limited to about 10 minutes, otherwise the athletes will not be able to concentrate on imagery. Before practice, athletes should visualize the skills and plays they expect to perform. After practice they should review the skills they worked on. Imagery can also be done before and after competition. Before competition, they need to review what they want to do. After competition, they can imagine themselves correcting things they did wrong during competition and learn from that. Athletes can also use imagery during the off-season. This is a good opportunity for them to stay in practice with imaging. Athletes can also use imagery at home or quiet places. Every person has his/her own preference time for imagery. Imagery is sometimes used to relax an athlete and reduce his/her anxiety about an injury. Athletes can use imagery when recovering from injury. They can rehearse performance as well as the emotions they anticipate experiencing on return to competition. In this way, they stay sharp and they will be ready for return. Studies have shown that positive images of healing enhanced recovery.

Chapter 14 - Self-confidence


Many coaches and athletes state that self-confidence plays a big part in their mental success or failure. Great athletes can keep their confidence high despite poor recent performance. An athlete’s confidence can also be felt by his/her competitor. Research has also indicated that the factor most consistently distinguishing highly successful athletes from less successful athletes is confidence. Top athletes, regardless of the sport, display a strong belief in themselves and their ability. This doesn’t mean that elite athletes don’t have self-doubts. They can have self-doubts sometimes, but they still seem to hold the belief that they can perform at high levels.


Defining self-confidence

Confidence is not easy to define. Sport psychologists define this as the belief that one can successfully perform a desired behaviour. First psychologists viewed self-confidence as both a state and disposition, but the latest thinking is that sport self-confidence is a social cognitive construct that can be more statelike or traitlike. It all depeds on the temporal frame used. Confidence might be something you feel today and it therefore might be unstable (state self-confidence), or it might be part of your personality and thus be stable (trait self-confidence). Another view is that confidence is affected by the general sociocultural forces surrounding sport and the specific organizational culture. Participation in some activities is seen as more appropriate for females (figure skating) or males (wrestling) and this would affect an athlete’s feelings of confidence.


When you expect something to go wrong, you are creating something that’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expecting something to happen, helps cause it happen. This phenomenon is common in exercise programs and competitive sport. Negative self-fulfilling prophecies can lead to a vicious cycle. This means that the expectation of failure leads to actual failure, which lowers self-image and it increases expectations of future failure. In the 50s of the last century, runners couldn’t run a mile under 4 minutes. They taught it was physiologically impossible. Roger bannister believed that he could break the 4-minute barrier, and he did. In the next year, more than a dozen runners broke the 4-minute mile. That’s because they finally believed it could be done. They didn’t place psychological limits on themselves anymore.


Self-confidence is multidimensional. There are different types of self-confidence in sport. Some of these are confidence about one’s ability to execute physical skills, confidence about one’s ability to use perceptual skills, confidence in one’s level of physical fitness and confidence in one’s learning potential. There are more types of self-confidence.


Self-confidence can help people arouse positive emotions, set goals, increase effort, facilitate concentration and maintain momentum. Confidence can influence affect, behaviour and cognitions. This is called the ABCs of sport psychology. The relationship between performance and confidence can be represented by the inverted U shape. The highest point skewed to the right. Performance improves as the level of confidence increases, up to an optimal point. Further increases in confidence produce corresponding decrements in performance. People with optimal self-confidence are convinced that they can achieve their goals that they will strive hard to do so. This does not mean that they will always perform well, but it’s essential to reaching their potential. Each person has an optimal level of self-confidence and performance problems can arise with too little or too much confidence.


There are many people who have the physical skills to be successful, but they lack confidence in their ability to perform these skills under pressure. Self-doubts undermine performance. Self-doubt creates anxiety and breaks concentration. People who lack confidence focus on their shortcomings and not their strengths. However, a little self-doubt prevents overconfidence. Overconfident people are falsely confident. Overconfident athletes’ performance declines because they believe that they don’t have to prepare themselves. People can’t be overconfident when their confidence is based on actual skill and ability. As a general rule, overconfidence is much less a problem than under-confidence. Overconfidence can occur when two athletes or teams of different abilities play each other. The better athlete or team often approaches the competition overconfidently. The better player/team will perform haphazardly and this will cause them to fall behind early in the competition. The opponent will start to gain confidence and the overconfident players will have more problem to come back and win. Some athletes fake overconfidence. They often do this in an attempt to please others and to hide actual feelings of self-doubt. It’s better if they express their feelings to the coach. Bandura thinks that overconfidence doesn’t exist and that it is a post hoc explanation for failure. After athletes lose to an inferior opponent, they often note that they took the opponent too lightly, and didn’t prepare well enough. If athletes win, they almost never say that they were overconfident but still won. The question whether overconfidence exists needs to be answered.

There’s a sport confidence model which consists of four components:

  • Constructs of sport confidence: confidence varies on a continuum from more traitlike to more statelike. Sport confidence is multidimensional. It includes psychological skills, physical adaptability, learning potential, decision making and adaptability.

  • Source of sport confidence: different sources are hypothesized to underlie and affect sport self-confidence.

  • Consequences of sport confidence: the effects refer to the ABC-triangle. it refers to an athlete’s affect, behaviour and cognitions.

  • Factors influencing sport confidence: organizational culture, personality and demographic characteristics influence sport confidence.


Expectations influencing performance

Self-confidence is the belief that a person can successfully perform a desired behaviour and so one’s expectation plays a critical role in the behaviour change process. Studies have shown that when people are given a sugar pill for extreme pain (and when they are told that it’s morphine), it can produce as much relief as a painkiller. Expectations have a powerful effect on performance. In one study, participants were each paired with someone they thought (incorrectly) was superior in arm strength and they were then instructed to arm wrestle. In 10 of the 12 contests, the objectively weaker subject (who both participants believed to be the stronger one) won the competition. The most important factor was not actual physical strength, but who the competitors expected to win. Many studies have shown that self-confidence was a critical factor in discriminating between successful and less successful performers. Weightlifters who were told that they had been given anabolic steroids (but who had actually been given a placebo) increased their performance. Weightlifters who were told they had been given a placebo, performed worse than before.


Coaching expectations and athlete’s performance

Coach’s expectations can affect athlete’s performances. Studies have shown that coaches’ expectations can alter their students’ and athletes’ performances. The studies showed that coaches provided more of all types of feedback to athletes for whom they had higher expectations and these athletes viewed their coaches more positively than did other athletes. The coaches’ expectations were a good predictor of their athletes’ performances. There are certain events that occur in athletic settings that seem to explain the expectation-performance relationship. The first step is that coaches form expectations. Sometimes these expectations come from a person’s sex, physical size or race. These expectations are called person cues. This can lead to inaccurate expectations. Studies have shown that psychological characteristics were the most salient factors that coaches relied on to judge athletic ability. This could be because trainers believe that athletes at that level of competition are more likely to possess the same levels of physical ability. They therefore think that psychological factors distinguish one athlete from another. Coaches also use performance information, like past accomplishments, practice behaviours and skill tests. The person and performance factors fall under four categories: physical ability, maturity, coachability and being a team player. When these lead to an accurate evaluation of ability, then there’s no problem. Inaccurate expectation lead to inappropriate behaviours on the coach’s part. Studies have shown that coaches tended not to change their initial expectations of athletes.


The second step is that coaches’ expectations influence their behaviours. Coaches who behave differently if they have high or low expectancies of an athletes, show certain behaviours. One of these is that they spend more time with high-expectation athletes and they show more warmth and positive affect toward high-expectation athletes. The coach will let athletes whom he expects less of spend less time in practice drills. The coach will also be less persistent in teaching difficult skills to these athletes. Coach gives high-expectation athletes more instructions and information to athletes he expects more off. Coaches can also exhibit their expectancies through the kind of environment they create.


The third step is that coaches’ behaviours affect athletes’ performance. The coaches’ expectation-biased treatment of athletes affects performance psychologically and physically. Athletes who consistently receive more instructional and positive feedback from coaches will show more improvement in their performance. They also enjoy the experience more. Studies indicate that low-expectation athletes exhibit poorer performances because they receive less effective reinforcement and because they get less playing time. It’s also because they exhibit lower levels of self-confidence. The last step is that athletes’ performances confirm the coaches’ expectations. This step communicates to coaches that they were correct in their initial assessment of the athlete’s ability. Some athletes look to other sources, like peers and parents to form perceptions of their competency. This can help athletes resist the biases communicated by a coach. Coaches need to be aware how they form expectations and how their behaviour is affected. They should also monitor the quantity and quality of reinforcement they give.


Examining self-efficacy theory

Self-efficacy is a situation-specific form of self-confidence. Self-efficacy is the perception of a person’s ability to perform a task successfully. The writers of this book use the terms self-confidence and self-efficacy interchangeably. The term self-regulatory efficacy is used to refer to a person’s abilities to overcome obstacles to successful performance. There are also other types of efficacy. Self-efficacy theory takes an interactional approach whereby self-efficacy and environmental determinants interact to produce behaviour change in a reciprocal manner. Bandura developed the self-efficacy theory and this theory has some underlying premises. The first one is that if a person has the requisite skills and enough motivation, the major determinant of that person’s performance is self-efficacy. The other premise is that self-efficacy affects and athlete’s choice of activities. Also, self-efficacy is task specific, but it can transfer to other similar skills. Self-efficacy is also related to goal setting.


Sources of self-efficacy

According to Bandura, a person’s feelings of self-efficacy are derived from six sources of information:

  1. vicarious experiences: demonstrations and modelling are often used by coaches to teach students new skills. People who lack experience with a task can rely on others to judge their own capabilities. People must pay attention to what they see, people must also retain this. People also need to learn motor reproduction and show motivation in order to learn the skill.

  2. performance accomplishments: if experiences are successful, they will raise the level of self-efficacy. If experiences are failures, they will lower efficacy.

  3. Verbal persuasion: coaches and peers use persuasive techniques to influence behaviour. A positive type of encouragement is important and can help improve self-efficacy. Self-talk also increases feelings of self-efficacy.

  4. Imaginal experiences: people can generate beliefs about personal efficacy by imagining themselves behaving effectively in future situations.

  5. Physiological states: physiological states can influence self-efficacy. This can be done when a person associates aversive physiological arousal with poor performance. If physiological arousal is seen as facilitative, then self-efficacy is enhanced. So when people become aware of unpleasant physiological arousal, they are more likely to doubt their competence then when they experience pleasant arousal.

  6. Emotional states: emotions can be an additional source of information about self-efficacy.

Studies have shown that efficacy can act as a determinant of performance and the sport behaviour acts as a source of efficacy information. Many studies have shown that higher levels of self-efficacy are associated with superior performance.


Assessing self-confidence

Athletes need to identify confidence levels in different situations. The Sport Confidence Inventory presents a detailed assessment of self-confidence levels. The different columns in this inventory are the confident column, under-confident column and overconfident column. Another measurement in sport confidence is sport confidence profiling. This takes an idiographic approach. Athletes have to construct a picture of themselves rather than responding to a questionnaire.


Confidence can be built through practice, work and planning. Confidence can be improved in different ways. People can focus on acting confident, performance accomplishments, using imagery, thinking confidently, optimizing physical condition and training, responding with confidence, using imagery, using goal mapping and preparing. People also need to consider the social climate when attempting to build confidence. This is because performance does not occur in a vacuum. Some social climate factors that seem to influence confidence include types of goals, social support networks, leadership style and characteristics of models. Team efficacy should also be build. Before competition, team members need to develop joint perceptions of capabilities. During competition, team members need to believe in one another before and during the game. After the game, team members need to develop intra-team interpretations of experiences and incidents during the game. Collective efficacy is an antecedent of task cohesion. It enhances the development of athletes getting along on the court and having the same goals.

Chapter 15 - Goal setting


Goal setting is important. Goals provide people directions, they keep people motivated and they help people accomplish something. It’s not just athletes who set goals. Everybody sets certain goals. Everybody sets goals, but not every person sets the right kind of goals. Goals need to enhance a person, motivate a person and learn a person how to achieve goals. It’s easier to set goals than to follow through on them. People need instruction on setting effective goals and designing a program for achieving them.


Definition of goals

People often look at goals in terms of objective and subjective goals. Subjective goals are general statements of intent (I want to have fun) that are not measurable or objective. Objective goals focus on attaining a specific standard , often with a specified time. An example of this is to lose 10 kg within three months. There are different types of goals:

  • Outcome goals: these goals typically focus on a competitive result of an event

  • Performance goals: these goals focus on achieving standards or performance objectives independently of other athletes. Usually, previous performances of the person are compared.

  • Process goals: these goals focus on the actions a person must engage in during performance to perform well.

Athletes should set outcome, performance and process goals in behaviour change. Outcome goals can facilitate short-term motivation away from competition (otherwise, people will become more anxious and will get more distracting thoughts). Process and performance goals are important because people can usually make much more precise adjustments to these goals. Studies have shown that using a combination of goal strategies produced better performance than simply relying on one type of goal.


Effectiveness of goal setting

Motivation depends on goal setting. People in sport have been setting goals for a long time. Psychologists have studied goal setting as motivational technique for a long time. They looked whether setting specific, difficult goals improved performance more than setting no goals. Studies have shown that goal setting in sports works well. Goal setting has a powerful effect on behaviour. Studies have shown that there are some factors that enhance the effectiveness of goal setting in sport environments. Some of these are goals of moderate difficulty, specificity of goals, commitment to goal attainment, the presence of feedback on progress toward goal attainment and use of a combination of different goals.


Scientists have examined the relationship between different types of goals and physical fitness tasks. The best performance was associated with specific goals that were of both short- and long-term duration and were moderately to very difficult. Many studies found that goal setting enhances performance on low-complexity tasks better than on high-complexity tasks. Sport psychologists have also learned much about the process of goal setting, including how people set goals, how different people differ in their goal setting and what goals are most important to people. Studies have found that almost all athletes use some type of goal setting to enhance performance. It appears that improving performance, enjoyment and winning are the most important goals for athletes. Athletes’ preferred goal difficulty is moderately difficult, difficult and very difficult. Female athletes set goals more often and they find goals to be more effective than men do. The more experience athletes have with setting goals, the better they become in developing effective goal-setting strategies. Goal setting is a powerful technique for enhancing performance, but it’s not a foolproof method. Goal setting must be implemented with understanding, thought and planning.

Scientists have explained why goal setting works in two ways. Goals influence behaviour indirectly by affecting some psychological factors, like anxiety and confidence. This is called the indirect thought-process view. Studies show that swimmer who were high in goal-setting ability showed less anxiety, higher confidence and improved performance compared with those who were low in goal-setting ability. It seems that goals influence performance indirectly through effects on psychological states. There is also the direct mechanistic view, which specified that goals influence performance in one of four direct ways. These ways are:

  • Goals direct attention to important elements of the skill being performed.

  • Goals mobilize performer efforts.

  • Goals prolong performer persistence.

  • Goals foster the development of new learning strategies.


Principles of goal setting

There are a number of goal-setting principle. When these principles are correctly applicated, they provide a good foundation for designing a goal-setting program. The effectiveness of a goal-setting program is dependent on the interaction between individuals and the situation in which the individuals are placed. The principles of goal setting are:

  • Set specific goals: goals should be stated in specific, measurable terms that relate to behaviour.

  • Set moderately difficult and realistic goals: studies show that moderately difficult goals lead to best performance. One needs to strike a balance between goal challenge and achievability. When it becomes clear that person is easily mastering the goals, it’s time to set more challenging goals.

  • Set short- and long-term goals: big behavioural changes do not occur overnight and people should therefore set both long-term and short-term goals.

  • Set performance, process and outcome goals: the best way to win a championship is to focus on performance or process goals. Too much emphasis on outcome goals creates anxiety during competition.

  • Set practice and competition goals: athletes and coaches often focus only on competition goals. Athletes spend a large amount of time on practicing and it’s therefore important to set practice goals.

  • Record goals: researchers have recommended that once goals are set, they should be recorded and placed where they can be easily seen. Athletes could write goals down on an index card.

  • Develop goal achievement strategies: strategies should be specific and should involve definite numbers, so a person knows to achieve a goal.

  • Consider participants’ personalities and motivations: a person’s personality, goal orientation and motivation influences the goals the person adopts and how well the goal-setting process functions.

  • Foster an individual’s goal commitment: an athlete will not achieve a goal without commitment. Coaches should promote goal commitment by encouraging progress and providing consistent feedback.

  • Provide goal support: other people can support athletes in their goal setting. These people can be parents, teachers and friends. Studies have shown that spousal support is a critical factor affecting exercise adherence.

  • Provide evaluation and feedback about goals: sometimes coaches fail to provide evaluation and feedback concerning a person’s goals.


Development of group goals

Sport psychologists have placed most emphasis on the individual goals. However, group goals are also important. Some researchers have found that there are four types of goals evident in sport teams: a team member’s goal for himself, an individual member’s goal for the team, the team’s goal and the team’s goal for the individual team member. Group goals refer to the attainment of specific standards of group proficiency. Studies show that goal setting facilitated the performance of all groups, but that it was especially effective for groups highly confident in their ability to schedule. After setting group goals, it’s critical to identify the task that the group must perform in order to accomplish its goals. Group goals are also linked to change in behaviour via increases in cohesion and motivation. Some researchers have outlined six principles of effective team goal setting. The first is to establish long-term goals first. The second is to establish clear paths of short-term goals en route to long term goals. The third is to involve all members of the team in establishing these goals. The fourth is to monitor progress toward these goals. Next is to reward progress made toward team goals. The last is to foster collective team confidence.



There are many different goal-setting systems, but the most include three stages: preparation and planning, education and acquisition and implementation and goal follow-up and evaluation. A coach should not enter a physical activity setting unprepared. Thought and preparation must precede effective goal setting. First, the athletes’ abilities and needs should be assessed. Then, goals in diverse areas should be set. Goals must be closely tied to the needs assessment. Goals should not only be set for skill improvement and performance. Influences on goal-setting systems should also be identified. The athlete’s potential, commitment and opportunities for practice must be assessed before the goals can be set. Then goal achievement strategies should be planned. Once the preparation and planning has been completed, the coach can begin educating the athlete directly on the most effective ways to set goals. Formal meetings need to be scheduled. In these meetings, coaches and athletes can identify examples of effective and ineffective goals. Athletes should also focus on one goal at a time (unless they have had considerable experience in setting goals). Once athletes have learned to set goals, the next step is to list the goals that have been identified as appropriate. Appropriate goal evaluation procedures should be identified. The coach should provide support and encouragement. He should ask athletes about their goals and publicly encourage their goal progress. The last thing that needs to be done is to plan for goal re-evaluation. Sometimes the goals that have been set don’t work out. That’s why it’s important to re-evaluate goals intermittently.


Problems in goal setting

Goal setting is not a difficult psychological technique, but that doesn’t mean that problems will not arise in the implementation of a goal-setting program. Some common problems are convincing athletes to set goals, failing to set specific goals, setting too many goals and not initiating a follow-up procedure. Another problem is failing to recognize individual differences.




Chapter 16 - Concentration


Many athletes agree that staying focused for an entire game is often the key to victory. Even a brief loss of concentration can affect outcome. It’s critical to concentrate during competition, even through weather conditions and irrelevant thoughts. Top-athletes are known to focus their attention throughout a competition. However, there are still many stories about athletes who have performed poorly because they lost concentration. The temporary loss of focus can result in defeat. Many athletes mistakenly believe that concentration is important only during actual competition.


Defining concentration

Attention has been a big part in human performance. The contemporary definition views attention as the concentration of mental effort on sensory or mental events. A definition of concentration in sport settings usually contains four parts: selective attention (focusing on the relevant cues in the environment), maintaining that attentional focus over time, having awareness of performance errors and the situation and shifting attentional focus when necessarily. Irrelevant cues should be eliminated or not intended to. Learning and practicing can help build selective attention. That’s because a performer doesn’t have to attend to all aspects of the skill because some aspects will become automated via practice. Studies have shown that an external focus (outside the body) was better than an internal focus (on the body). Maintaining focus over long time periods is difficult. Often, it’s necessary to shift attentional focus during a match. This requires a broad-external focus. Athletes should appraise the information and recall experiences with similar games. This also requires a broad-internal focus.


Explaining attentional focus

The big theories attempting to explain the role of attention in performance have used an information-processing approach. Early approaches favoured either a single-channel approach, where information is processed through a single channel, or a variable approach, where people can choose where to focus their attention. It turned out that neither of these approaches was fruitful and now we favour a multiple pools theory approach. This approach views attention like multiprocessors and each processor has its own unique relationship with the performer. Attentional is not seen as centralized, but as distributed throughout the nervous system. Within the information-processing approach, three processes have received the most focus in trying to explain the attention-performance relationship. These will be discussed next.


Attentional selectivity

Selective attention means letting some information into the information-processing system while screening out other information. Some have proposed that a useful metaphor for understanding selective attention is a person who uses a spotlight to focus only on the important things. It’s not how long athletes focus but rather what they focus on that helps produce top performance. When the spotlight is used incorrectly, three common errors can be made. One of these is the failure to focus all the attention on the essential elements of the task. The second is being distracted from relevant information by irrelevant information. The last is the inability to divide attention among all the relevant cues that need to be processes concurrently. When people become proficient with a skill, they can move from more conscious control to more automatic control.


Attentional capacity

This refers to the fact that attention is limited in that a person can process only so much information at one time. Athletes seem to be able to pay attention to many things when performing. This is because they can change from controlled processing to automatic processing as they become more proficient. Controlled processing is mental processing that involves conscious attention of what you are doing when you perform a sport skill. Automatic processing is mental processing without conscious attention. As performers become more proficient and attentional capacity become more automatic, attention is freed up to focus on different things.


Attentional alertness

Attentional alertness is that increases in emotional arousal narrow the attentional field. Studies have shown that in stressful situations, performance on a central visual task decreased the ability to respond to peripheral stimuli. Arousal can bring about sensitivity loss to cues that are in the peripheral visual field.


Concentration and optimal performance

Scientists have investigated the components of exceptional performance and they found eight physical and mental capacities that elite athletes associated with peak performance. Three of these are associated with high levels of concentration. Athletes describe themselves being mentally relaxed and having a high degree of concentration, being absorbed in the present and having no thoughts of future or past and being in a state of extreme awareness of their own bodies and the environment. Many researchers have found that attentional focus is an important discriminating factor. Successful athletes are less likely to become distracted by irrelevant stimuli. These athletes maintain a more task-oriented attentional focus and they don’t worry about the outcome. Eye studies have revealed that expert players have a different focus of attention than novice performers.


Types of attentional focus

Most people think that concentration is an all-or nothing things: you either concentrate or you don’t. however, studies have shown that various types of attentional focus are appropriate for specific sports and activities. Some view attentional focus along two dimensions: width (broad and narrow) and direction (external or internal). A broad attentional focus allows people to perceive several things simultaneously. This is especially important in sports in which athletes have to be sensitive to a rapidly changing environment. An example of this kind of sport is basketball. A narrow attentional focus occurs when someone responds to only one or two cues, like the swinger in baseball. An external attentional focus directs attention outward to an objects and an internal attentional focus directs attention inwards to feelings and thoughts.


Attentional problems

Many athletes have problems concentrating for the duration of a competition. Usually, athletes’ concentration problems are caused by inappropriate attention focus. Worries and irrelevant thoughts can cause people to move their concentration from what they are doing to what they hope will not happen. People are not focusing on the proper cues, because they become distracted by emotions and thoughts. It’s not that they have lost much concentration, but they have focused their concentration on inappropriate cues.


Internal distractors

Some distractions come from within ourselves. These can come from our thoughts and worries. Studies with elite athletes have shown that worries and irrelevant thoughts can cause performers to lose concentration and develop an inappropriate focus of attention. One of the distractors is attending to past evens. Some people can’t forget about what has just happened. When someone focuses on past events, this prevents them from focusing on the present. Concentration problems can also involve attending to future events. People sometimes worry about the outcome of the event rather than concentrate on what they need to do now to be successful. Future-oriented thinking and worry negatively affects concentration. This makes poor performance more likely.


Choking under pressure

Emotional factors, like the pressure of competition, often play a critical role in creating internal sources of distraction. Choking is an athlete’s poor performance under pressure. Athletes have different ideas about what choking is. When athletes think of choking, they tend to focus on the bad performance at a critical time of the competition. However, choking is not just the actual behaviour, but also the process that leads to impaired performance. We say that athletes are choking when their performance progressively deteriorates and they can’t regain control over performance. Sensing pressure causes your muscles to tighten. An athlete’s breathing will increase and the palms will get damp. Instead of focusing on the relevant cues, the athlete focuses on his own worries and fears of losing and the attention becomes narrow. The increased pressure reduces the flexibility to shift the attentional focus. This is followed by impaired coordination, muscle tension, fatigue and poor decision making. Some antecedents of choking are high expectations, event importance, unfamiliarity and overload.


Overanalysing body mechanics

Focusing too much on body mechanics is not always good. When you are learning a skill, its’ good to focus internally to get the kinaesthetic feel of the movement. The problem arises when narrow-internal thinking continues after someone has learned the skill. The skill should be automatic and their attention should be primarily on what they’re doing with a minimum of thinking. Sometimes, because of this, choking can occur. According to the conscious processing hypothesis, choking occurs when skilled performers focus too much of their conscious attention on the task.



Concentration can’t be lost simply through fatigue. Fatigue reduces the amount of processing resources available to the athlete to meet the demands of the situation.

Inadequate motivation is also an internal distractor. If someone isn’t motivated, it’s difficult to maintain concentration.


External distracters

External distracters are stimuli from the environment that divert people’s attention from the cues relevant to their performance. One of the external distracters is a visual distracter. There are so many visual distracters in our environment that are competing for our attention. Also, there are auditory distracters. These include crown noise, mobile phones, conversations and airplanes flying overhead. Athletic success may hinge on an athlete’s ability to ignore such distracters while focusing on the most relevant cues to complete the task they should be doing. Noise is part of most team sports and a quiet environment is expected for most individual sports. So, a loud sound from the crowd is typically more disturbing to a golfer, than a hockey player.



Self-talk can also be an internal distracter. Anytime a person talks to himself, he is in a sense talking to himself. Self-talk can enhance concentration, break bad habits, sustain effort and acquire skill. Self-talk plays a big role in reactions to situations and these reactions affect future actions. Self-talk can be categorized into three types: positive (motivational), instructional and negative. Positive self-talk focuses on increasing energy and positive attitude, but it does not carry any specific task-related cue. Instructional self-talk helps people focus on the technical or task-related aspects of the performance in order to improve execution. Negative self-talk is self-demanding and critical. It’s counterproductive and anxiety producing. Self-talk enhances concentration, motivation, confidence, it regulates arousal levels, it breaks bad habits and sustains effort. Studies found that coaching behaviour might influence self-talk. Supportive coaching behaviours help produce more positive self-talk and less negative self-talk. Negative coaching behaviours produce more negative self-talk.


Performance enhancement

Studies using a variety of different athletic samples have shown that different types of positive self-talk can enhance performance. Studies have shown that both instructional and motivational self-talk are effective for tasks varying in accuracy, strength, motor coordination and endurance. The reason this works is because interfering thoughts are reduced and the frequency of task-related thoughts is increased. Instructional self-talk is more beneficial for performance in the early stage of learning than motivational self-talk. The nature, content and delivery of self-talk is not as important as the individual interpretation of that self-talk. So negative self-talk is not necessarily detrimental to performance. Self-talk interventions are more effective for relatively fine motor tasks compared with gross motor tasks, for new tasks compared with well-learned tasks and training compared to no training. Culture also plays a role in self-talk. East Asians have a larger proportion of negative versus positive self-talk than European Americans. Negative self-talk is related to poorer performance for the European American, but it’s related to better performance for the East Asians. It seems that there are fewer negative consequences of self-criticism for people from collectivist cultural backgrounds than for those from individualistic cultural backgrounds. Supportive coaching behaviours are related to more positive self-talk than less negative self-talk in athletes. Personality also appears to be related to self-talk. People who are mastery-oriented have more positive self-talk than people who are failure-oriented.


Improving self-talk

There are certain ‘rules’ for self-talk. One of these are to keep the phrases short and specific, another is to use the first person and present tense. Another is to construct positive phrases and to say the phrases with meaning and attention. The next one is to speak kindly to yourself and the last one is to repeat phrases often. Some strategies can improve self-talk. Two of the most successful are thought stopping and changing negative self-talk to positive self-talk. Thought stopping is concentrating on the undesired thought briefly and then using a cue to stop the thought. This will clear up the mind. The trigger can be a word or a trigger like snapping the finger. It all depends on the person. It’s hard to quit habits, so you should practice thought stopping continuously. It would be nice if someone could eliminate negative self-talk, but almost everyone has negative thoughts from time to time. When negative thoughts come, one could try to change them to positive thoughts. This will provide motivation and encouragement. Try to identify what situations produce negative thoughts and why. Then try to substitute a positive statement for the negative one. This takes some practice. Most researchers try to eliminate or change negative self-talk. However, studies have found that adding self-feedback to instructional self-talk can enhance both performance and concentration. Self-feedback improved performance above and beyond self-talk.


Assessing attentional skills

The Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style (TAIS) measures a person’s attentional style or disposition. This test has different scales. Three of the scales indicate aspects of effective focusing and three other aspects indicate aspects of ineffective focusing. People who are effective attenders concentrate well. They deal with simultaneous stimuli from external and internal sources. These people can effectively switch attention from a broad to a narrow focus as necessary. They can attend to many stimuli without becoming overloaded with information. They can narrow their attentional focus without omitting any important information. Ineffective attenders don’t concentrate well and they tend to become confused and overloaded by multiple stimuli. This is the case for both internal and external stimuli. When they assume a narrow focus, it’s so narrow that important information is left out. The TAIS, however, doesn’t attend to the environment. It would be more useful if it had sport-specific measures of attentional styles. This can help identify particular attentional weaknesses for coaches and athletes to work on. The TAIS has been criticized for its validity and underlying assumptions. Researchers argue that other measures should be used. Some of these measures can be psychophysiological measures, like EEG measures. Neurological measures, like heart rate, can also be used.


Improving concentration

Concentration can be improved in different ways. Changes can be made on the field of play and athletes can practice certain exercises. There are six techniques athletes can use to improve concentration on the field. One is to use simulations in practice. Some factors are not present in the same degree during the training environment which are present in competition. One thing to do, is to use simulation training. In these trainings, the actual competitive environment is simulated. This is also done to prepare mentally. Another technique is to use cue words. These are used to trigger a certain response and it’s a form of self-talk. Cue words can also be used to change a movement pattern or to relax. Another technique is to use non-judgmental thinking. When athletes have trouble during a competition, they tend to see their behaviour or themselves as bad. This can lead to anger and discouragement. That’s why athletes need to use non-judgmental thinking. Establishing routines is another technique. This can be helpful in mental preparations for competitions. Routines can help structure the time before and between performances, so that an athlete can be mentally focused when it’s time to perform. Some routines are superstitions, like wearing a lucky pair of shorts. Another technique is to develop competition plans. Competition plans help athletes to prepare for their events and they also prepare them for what they would do in different circumstances. Overlearning skills is another technique. Overlearning skills helps make the performance of a skill automatic. This frees up the attention to concentrate on other aspects of the environment.


New developments in enhancing athletes’ concentration are eye scanner to track eye movements in different scenarios, virtual reality, video games and eye training and concentration software. This last one helps athletes to recognize advanced relevant cues in their sport.

Chapter 17 - Psychological well-being and exercise


Technological enhancements have affected the mental health and psychological well-being of society. In the US, anxiety disorders and depression are the most common disorders and they cost the public much money. Many people deal with mood disturbances through psychological counselling, drug therapy or both. However, more and more people are looking to exercise to promote their psychological well-being. Studies have noted that physical activity enhances feelings of well-being, by reducing depression and anxiety. It increases general well-being.


Reducing anxiety and depression

Relatively speaking, there are many people with mental health problems. Anxiety and depression are the mental health problems that have received the most attention. Many people have anxiety disorders and depression, but not all of them have psychopathological states. Many have subjective distress. This is a broader category of unpleasant emotions. Exercise has some therapeutic value for these people. It reduces feelings of depressions and anxiety. Most studies of the relationship between exercise and reduction in anxiety and depression have been correlational and it’s therefore not right to talk about causation. Rather, exercise appears to be associated with positive changes in mood states and reductions in anxiety and depression. The effects of exercise on depression and anxiety can be seen as acute or chronic. Acute effects are immediate and possibly temporary, arising from a single bout of exercise. Chronic effects focus on changes over time in both depression and anxiety. Most studies focus on acute (short-term) effects. Most studies have found acute and chronic effects of exercise in reducing anxiety. Although acute effects last shorter than chronic effects, they often last longer than other forms of anxiety-reducing treatments, like taking quiet rests. All durations of exercise reduce anxiety, but larger effects are found for longer periods of exercise. State anxiety returns to pre-exercise anxiety levels within 24 hours. The reduction in anxiety is not necessarily tied to the physiological gains resulting from the exercise bout. Anxiety reduction after exercise occurs regardless of duration, type of exercise or intensity. Anxiety reduction after exercise occurs for all types of participants (all sexes, fit or unfit, healthy or non-healthy and young or old).


Depression is a source of human suffering and more women are affected by it than men. Most of the time depression is treated through prescription drugs or therapy, but exercise is also seen as an effective alternative of relieving depression. Physical inactivity is related to higher levels of depression. In one study, some participants were assigned to a supervised aerobic exercise program, others were assigned to a medication treatment and a third group was assigned to a combined treatment of exercise and medication. The results showed that after 16 weeks all three groups reduced depressive symptoms and the exercise was as effective as the other two treatments. The frequency of exercise might also be important in relieving depressive symptoms. One study found that exercising three to five times per week produced more reductions in depression compared with exercising once per week. The positive effects of exercise on depression are seen across different age groups, health status, race, sex and socioeconomic status. Although people report that they feel better after exercise, 50% of people drop out of exercise programs and many more do not exercise at all. More studies should focus on exercise adherence. Findings have revealed that exercise is related to decreases in fatigue and anger and increases in clear thinking, energy and an increased sense of well-being. A variety types of exercises helps improve anger, tension and anxiety. One study also found that a positive morning mood was associated with an increased likelihood of exercising and as positive mood increased, exercise initiation and intensity both increased. So, how a person feels is related to his propensity to exercise.


The effects of exercise on psychological well-being

The psychological benefits of exercise for children and adolescents are often forgotten. Increased exercise in this group is correlated with higher levels of self-efficacy and perceived competence, increased achievement motivation and lower levels of depression. The amount of exercise is related to perceived body attractiveness, physical self-worth in adolescent girls and importance of appearance. There have been several theories proposed to explain how exercise enhances well-being. However, there is not one hypothesis that has support as the primary mechanism producing the positive changes. It’s likely that the positive changes in psychological well-being are attributable to an interaction of psychological and physiological mechanisms. Some physiological explanations are increases in cerebral blood flow, reduction in muscle tension and structural changes in the brain. Some psychological explanations are enhanced feeling of control, positive social interactions and improved self-esteem.


Changing personality and cognitive functioning

Researchers have also wondered whether exercise can change personality and mental functioning. Over the course of one study in which middle-aged men joined a fitness program, the men improved their fitness levels and they reported feeling dramatic psychological effects. They reported higher levels of self-confidence, greater sense of self-sufficiency and greater feelings of control. Many studies have shown positive changes in various aspects of personality adjustment. People believe that bodily changes that result from physical fitness training can alter one’s body image and thus enhance self-concept and self-esteem. Studies have also shown that women can enhance their self-esteem and how they perceive their physical condition and body attractiveness through continued participation in physical activity. A strong self-concept is important for the healthy psychological development and adjustment of children and exercise can be an important ingredient in helping children and adults feel good about themselves.


Hardiness enables people to cope with stressful situations. It’s a personality style. A person is hardy if he/she has the following three traits: a sense of involvement, purpose and commitment in daily life, a sense of personal control over external events and the flexibility to adapt to unexpected changes by perceiving them as challenges. There are studies that have focused on how exercise and hardiness together can reduce some of the negative effects of stress. One study showed that people who scored high in both hardiness and exercise remained healthier than those who scored high in only one or the other component. A hardy personality and exercise in combination are more effective in preserving health than either one alone.

Cognitive functioning

Psychologists and neuroscientists agree that exercising is the best thing you can do for your brain. Cognitive decline is not inevitable. Brain volume shrinks slightly, but the brain continues to make new neurons and neural connections throughout the life span. Aerobic exercise reduces the level of brain loss and keeps cognitive abilities sharp. Statistical reviews of more than 100 studies showed that exercise had a modest positive relationship with improved cognitive functioning. Many studies have also found that aerobic physical activity has a positive effect on cognition and brain function. It appears that executive central command (planning, multitasking, working memory and scheduling) and dealing with ambiguity are most affected by aerobic exercise. Chronic exercise compared to acute exercise shows greater effects on cognitive performance. Moderate to vigorous physical activity has been shown to enhance executive function in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder as well.


Enhancing quality of life

Researchers have also studied how regular exercise affects people’s quality of life. Quality of life is often seen as the perceived degree to which people are able to satisfy psychophysiological needs. Quality of life has been investigated in the workplace and it has been found that a regular exercise program can enhance employees’ feelings of life satisfaction, self-worth and job satisfaction. Quality of sleep is also important in quality of life. The positive effects of physical activity on quality of life can be grouped into four categories: subjective well-being (personal enjoyment and mood alteration), enhanced physical functioning, personal meaning and experiencing peak moments. Studies on the relationship between exercise and quality of life have shown us that exercises produce small increases in total sleep time, physical activity helps us to cope better with stress and tension and exercise programs contribute to a person’s quality of life by influencing perceived stress, affect, life satisfaction and physical health. Exercises can have negative effects on the quality of life if a person habitually over-trains, but for the most part, it has positive effects.


Runner’s high

Many regular exercisers report feeling better psychologically, spiritually and emotionally after exercising. This is so pervasive among runners, that it has been termed the runner’s high. This runner’s high includes a sense of mental alertness and awareness, a lift in the legs, feeling of liberation, a sense of ease, suppressed pain and exhilaration. The runner’s high is a euphoric sensation felt during running in which the runner feels a heightened sense of well-being, an enhanced appreciation of nature and a transcendence of time and space. Studies have tried to find what conditions facilitate the runner’s high. There are individual differences, but most runners report that the runner’s high can’t be reliably predicted but is facilitated by the presence of few distractions and cool, calm weather with low humidity. It requires long distances (6+ miles) and at least 30 minutes of running with no concern of pace and time. Preliminary studies show that the runner’s high is linked to a chemical in the brain (associated with romantic love) which brings euphoria.


It’s unfortunate that not so many psychologists use exercise as part of their interventions. Exercise therapy has been known to produce physiological benefits in a variety of rehabilitation settings, but it also has benefits for mental health and psychological well-being. Despite the benefits, exercise should not be used in all cases of depression and stress. Exercise should not be prescribed for people who are obese, who have severe heart disease or those with high blood pressure that can’t be controlled by medication. People who are severely depressed and those who have suicidal tendencies should also probably not be given exercise as therapy. For exercise to be effective, people must adhere to the program.

Chapter 18 - Adherence and exercise behaviour


Although there are more and more gyms these days and more stores have fitness gear, most people do not regularly participate in physical activity. There are many people who are overweight and/or obese and only 10% to 25% of adults of industrialized nations are active enough to maintain muscular fitness levels. Of people who start an exercise program, 50% will drop out within 6 months. As a society, people are not exercising enough and this lack of physical activity can be ascribed to certain individual differences. This occurs despite the psychological and physiological benefits of exercise. A small percentage of adults and children participate in regular physical activity.


Reasons to exercise

In order to figure out why people don’t adhere to exercise programs, one must first know why people participate in exercise. People are motivated for different reasons. One of those reasons is weight control. Western society values good looks, thinness and fitness, so staying in shape concerns many people. However, many people are overweight. The first thing most people think to do when facing the fact that they are overweight is diet. Diets can help people lose weight, but exercise often plays an important and underrated role as well. Regular exercise not only improves weight control, but is also eliminates physical inactivity as a risk factor. Exercising to lose weight can be seen as a self-presentational reason for exercising. That’s because exercising will result in enhancing physical appearance.


Another reason why people start exercising is to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise prevents or delays the development of high blood pressure and it reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension. Hypertension is a prime risk factor in coronary heart disease. People also exercise to reduce stress and depression (discussed in the previous chapter). People continue an exercise program because of the happiness and satisfaction it brings. Another reason to exercise is to enhance one’s self-esteem. The hoped-for self of adults is related to increases in exercise behaviour. Simple things, like walking around the block make people feel good about moving toward their goals. Also, people who exercise regularly feel more confident about the way they look. Studies found self-worth to be the best predictor of longer-term adherence. People also start exercise programs for the chance to socialize and be with others. They want to meet people and fight social isolation.


Reasons for not exercising

Despite all the different benefits of exercising, many people still choose not to exercise. They usually cite lack of energy, lack of motivation and lack of time as their primary reasons for inactivity. These are all factors that people can control, as opposed to environmental factors, which are often out of people’s control. Older people cite more health-related reasons for not exercising than younger adults. Older adults also select more internal barriers (not being to sporty type) than situational barriers (not having the energy) than younger adults. Women also select more internal barriers than men. Internal barriers are not easily amenable, so this poses a difficult problem regarding adherence to exercise programs for these people. Sex and age need to be considered in any discussion of reasons for not exercising. For adolescents, some of the major barriers to participation in physical activity involve other factors, like lack of parental support, being female and previous physical inactivity. People also report that the reason they don’t exercise is because they lack money or inconvenience (lack of access to facilities). People often say they don’t have time to exercise, but this lack of time is more a perception than a reality. The problem is in priorities. People somehow seem to find time to watch TV or hang out, but they don’t have time for exercise.


Problem of exercise adherence

Once people have overcome the barrier to start exercising, the next barrier they face will be continuing their exercising program. About 50% of people drop out of exercise programs within the first 6 months. Relapsing is not good. Studies showed that participants who adhered to an exercise program for a year had gains in cognitive functioning, psychological well-being and functional capacity compared to people who did not maintain an exercise program.


Theories of exercise behaviour

There are different models and theories about exercise adherence. The health belief model is a popular model associated with preventive health behaviours. This model stipulates that the likelihood of a person engaging in preventive health behaviours depends on that person’s perception of the severity of the potential illness as well as his/her appraisal of the benefits and costs of taking action. When someone thinks that the potential illness is serious and that the pros of taking action outweigh the cons, he will likely adopt the target health behaviour. The model did have some success, but results have been inconsistent.


The theory of planned behaviour is an extension of the theory of reasoned action. That last theory states that intensions are the best predictors of actual behaviour. Intensions are a person’s attitudes toward a particular behaviour. Planned behaviour theory argues that intensions can’t be the sole predictors of behaviour. According to this theory, perceived behaviour control affects next to the subjective norms and attitudes behavioural outcomes. The social cognitive theory suggests that personal, behaviour and environmental factors operate as reciprocally interacting determinants of each other. The environment affects behaviours and behaviours affect the environment. Personal factors, like emotions and thoughts are also important. The most critical piece is a person’s belief that he/she can successfully perform a behaviour (self-efficacy). As self-efficacy increases, exercise participation increases, and vice versa. Self-determination theory (SDT) proposes that people are inherently motivated to feel connected to others in a social milieu (relatedness), to function effectively in that milieu (effectance) and to feel autonomy. Studies indicate that people who display autonomy in their exercise behaviour and have strong social support systems, exhibit stronger motivation and exercise adherence.


All the previous models focus on a given moment in time. The transtheoretical model argues that people progress through stages of change and that movement across these stages is cyclic and not linear. That’s because people do not succeed in their efforts at establishing and maintaining lifestyle changes. According to this model, information needs to be matched to the particular stage a person is in at the time. The models mentioned previously were also not designed specifically for exercise adherence. That’s why the physical activity maintenance model was developed. The predictors of maintenance of physical activity according to these model are goal setting, self-efficacy, self-motivation, life stress and physical activity environment. There are not so many longitudinal studies that look at maintenance data. New models are ecological models. These focus on explaining how environments and behaviours affect each other. Ecological refers to models or perspectives rather than a set of variables. One study used an ecological perspective to help promote physical activity in middle school students and found that social environmental variables (support from teachers and peers) and physical environmental variables (equipment accessibility) along with self-efficacy predicted physical activity. Different models were presented in the next above and (some) of these models might in combination with each other provide the best prediction. Some models could be integrated.


Determinants of exercise adherence

Determinants to adherence fall into two categories: personal factors and environmental factors. determinants of physical activity are not isolated variables. They influence and are influenced by each other. Studies have shown that youngsters show similar adherence factors as adults do. There are three types of personal characteristics that may influence exercise adherence: cognitive variables, behaviours and demographic variables. education, income and socioeconomic status fall in the demographic variables category and these are positively related to physical activity. Sex and age are also demographic variables and men have a higher level of participation in physical activity than women. Physical activity typically decreases with age. Of the cognitive variables, self-efficacy and self-motivation are the most consistent predictors of physical activity. Regarding behavioural factors, past participation in an exercise program is the most reliable predictor of current participation. Someone who has remained active in an organized program for a half year is likely to be active a year later. Receiving encouragement from parents and parents getting children involved in regular physical activity seem to be good predictors of continuing to exercise into adulthood.


Environmental factors can hinder or help regular participation in physical activity. Environmental factors include the physical environment (time, weather), social environment (peers and parents) and characteristics of the physical activity (duration of the exercise). Support from family and friends is social support. Throughout this text, it has already been mentioned that support from family and friends is linked to physical activity and adherence to exercise programs. Social support is also important in rehabilitation. Factors that fall in the physical environment category are a convenient location and the climate. The closer a gym is to one’s house, the greater the likelihood that the person will begin and stay with a program. Activity levels are highest in summer and lowest in winter. The frequency, intensity, setting, qualities of the leader and duration of an exercise fall in the physical activity characteristics. High-intensity exercise is more stressful on the system of a person than low-intensity exercise and that affects adherence. Studies show that people exercising at high intensity intervals had higher levels of enjoyment than people doing continuous exercise at moderate levels. Studies show that physical activity interventions based on group dynamics were more effective than were individually targeted interventions. That’s probably because group programs offer social support, enjoyment, an opportunity to compare progress levels with others and an increased sense of personal commitment to continue. Of course, certain people prefer to exercise alone for convenience. A leadership style that emphasizes being encouraging, interactive and energetic as well as providing encouragement and feedback produces the most enjoyment for new exercisers. This will lead to increased adherence rates and heightened levels of enjoyment.


Strategies for enhancing adherence

Programs of change need to be individualized as much as possible. Making the individualized changes to enhance adherence to exercise can fall in six categories of strategies: reinforcement approaches, behaviour modification approaches, decision-making approaches, cognitive-behavioural approaches, intrinsic approaches and social support approaches. Interventions can use a variety of these approaches to enhance adherence. Behaviour modification is the systematic, planned application of learning principles to the modification of behaviour. studies show that behaviour modification approaches do indeed improve exercise adherence. If someone want to promote exercise until the exercise becomes more intrinsically motivating, that person can provide cues that will eventually become associated with exercise. Some interventions are based on that.


A prompt is a cue that initiates a behaviour. prompts can be physical, symbolic or verbal. You want to increase cues for the desired behaviour and decrease cues for competing behaviours. Examples of cues for increasing exercise behaviour include posters and placing exercise equipment in visible locations. Posters and signs should be kept in clear view of exercisers to encourage adherence. Removing a prompt can have an adverse effect on adherence behaviour.


Another way to change behaviour is through contracting. Participants can enter into a contract with the exercise practitioner. The contract specifies responsibilities and expectations. Contract should include realistic goals, dates and consequences for not meeting goals. Studies have shown that people who sign such a contract have significantly better attendance than those who refuse to sign.


Reinforcement approaches

Motivation can be increasing by public reporting of attendance and motivation. This information can be converted into a graph. Charting keeps people constantly informed and the increased cognitive awareness is often all that’s necessary to bring about changes in the target behaviour. Also, if people know that their workout record is available for everyone to see, they are more likely to strive to keep up the positive behaviour. Self-monitoring behaviours is also an effective way to increase exercise adherence. Other methods are rewarding attendance and performance. Providing feedback to participants on their progress can also increase adherence.


Cognitive-behavioural approaches

These approaches assume that internal events (thinking) have an important role in behaviour change. Goal setting is a useful technique for exercise behaviour and adherence. Studies show that flexible goals that participants set themselves resulted in better attendance and maintenance of exercise behaviour than did fixed, instructor-set goals. Setting intrinsic goals seems to be better. Thought or cognitions during exercise are important to adherence to an exercise program. When the focus is on internal body feedback (breathing), it’s called association. When the focus in on the external environment (how pretty the outside world looks) it’s called dissociation. Research shows that dissociative participants were superior in long-term maintenance of exercise compared with associative participants. Focusing on the environment instead of on how you feel may improve exercise adherence because thinking about other things reduces one’s fatigue and boredom.


Social support approaches

Social support refers to a person’s favourable attitude toward someone else’s involvement in an exercise program. Social and family interactions may influence physical activity in many ways. Family members, friends and spouses can cue exercise through verbal reminders. Social support has been positively related to adherence to exercise programs. Studies show that participants receiving social support had better attendance than did members of a control group.


Intrinsic approaches

The most lasting motivation comes from within. People often start an exercise program for extrinsic reasons, but if people don’t like the exercise program (intrinsic) they will likely stop. There are certain ways to enhance the enjoyment of exercise. One of these is to focus on the experience itself. Many scholars say that people shouldn’t focus on external goals, like losing weight, but they should focus more on the present moment. People should engage in exercise for its own sake instead of some future gain. Without the move from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation, many people will drop out of an exercise program or change constantly between programs. When people have the idea that exercise is meaningful and purposeful to them, they will be more likely to adhere to the program.

Chapter 19 - Psychology and athletic injuries


Everyone who has a sport-related injury says that the injury experience involves a physical dysfunction and a number of psychological issues. Some injured athletes feel frustrated, isolated, anxious and depressed. Sport participants who have major life stress or changes and who do not have good strategies for dealing with these stresses are more likely to be injured. Every person who has rehabilitated from a big athletic injury knows that issues like motivation and goal setting are involved in a successful recovery and return to play. Being injured is a big life event and this life event happens quite often.



In this text, the term ‘injury’ means trauma to the body that results in at least temporary or sometimes permanent physical disability and inhibition of motor function. Injury is operationalized as participating while feeling pain so that the pain involves some sort of loss in function that affects performance capabilities, the pain needs mental attention during participation and the injured person must decide whether to continue participation while experiencing the pain. So, injury is not the same as discomfort.



Injuries are often physical in nature. However, there are also other factors that influence why performers get injured and how well and how quickly they recover. Physical, psychological, social and personality factors influence injuries and stress plays a role. Physical factors like overtraining, muscle imbalance and physical fatigue are the primary causes of exercise injuries. However, psychological factors also play a role. Psychological factors also play a key role in injury rehabilitation. It’s therefore important for fitness professionals to understand psychological reactions to injuries and ways in which mental strategies can facilitate recovery.


Social reasons are sometimes also causes of athletic injury. One factor is athletes’ perception that playing with pain is highly valued in our society. People appear to endure pain to reach their goals, like running a marathon. In the past, playing with pain was typically a masculine phenomenon because sport participation was traditionally seen as a masculine activity. However, nowadays there are many female athletes and they have also adopted the value to continue playing with injury.


A stressful athletic situation can contribute to injury. This situation can increase state anxiety, which causes changes in focus and muscle tension. This leads to an increases change of injury. A history of stressors and coping resources influence the stress process and this in turns influence the probability of injury. People who develop psychological skills deal better with stress and this reduces the chances of being injured.


To date, research has not yet successfully identified and measured the particular personality characteristics associated with athletic injuries. Stress levels have been identified as important antecedents of athletic injuries. Studies have looked at the relationship between injury rates and life stress. Measures of these stresses look at major life changes, like losing a loved one or experiencing a change in economic status. The studies show that athletes with higher levels of life stress have more injuries than do those with lower levels of stress. It also turns out that people with little social support and major life stress have a greater risk of athletic injury. Studies show that athletes at high risk of being injured had fewer injuries after stress management training interventions than high-risk athletes who did not take part in such training. The biggest stressors during injury are psychological, like fear or re-injury, shattered dreams and watching others perform and social, like lack of attention and isolation. Other sources of stress are rehabilitation difficulties, career worries, financial difficulties and a sense of missed opportunities. Teaching these athletes stress management techniques may help them perform more effectively and it may reduce their risk of injury.


Relationships between stress and injury

There are two major theories that help explain the stress-injury relationship. One of those theories is about attentional disruption. This view states that stress disrupts an athlete’s attention by reducing peripheral attention. When athletes have lower stress, their peripheral attention is wider. Increased state anxiety also causes distraction and irrelevant thoughts. The other theory looks at increased muscle tension. High stress can go together with muscle tension that interferes with normal coordination and this increases the chance of injury. Increased stress can also lead to generalized fatigue, problems with motor coordination and reduced flexibility.


Psychologically based explanations for injury

In addition to stress, there are also certain attitudes that predispose players to injury. Certain slogans that coaches promote, like ‘No pain, no gain’ and ‘Go hard or go home,’ can encourage athletes to play hurt. Coaches therefore also need to emphasize the need to recognize and accept injuries. Athletes might believe that they must train through pain and this can result in overstraining. Hard physical training involves discomfort, but athletes must be taught to distinguish the normal discomfort that accompanies overloading. People may feel worthless if they are hurt. Coaches might consciously or unconsciously convey that winning is more important than the athlete’s well-being. Athletes want to feel worthy.


Injury risk increases the more a culture narrowly defines success according to win-loss records and values external forms of success over intrinsic achievement. It seems that athletes who do play with injury are valued more by coaches and teammates and this increases the pressure to play when hurt.


Psychological reactions to exercise injuries

Even in the best exercise programs, people can get injuries. It’s therefore important to understand psychological reactions to activity injuries. Many different reactions can occur, but some are more common than others. In the begin days of this research, sport psychologists thought that athletes who have become injured follow a five-stage grief response process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, evidence shows that although people may exhibit many of these emotions, they do not follow a set pattern or feel each emotion in these five stages. People may be in more stages simultaneously or they may revert to a previous stage. People can expect injured individuals to exhibit three general categories of responses: injury-relevant information processing (focusing on information related to the pain), emotional upheaval and reactive behaviour and positive outlook and coping. Most athletes move through these patterns, but the speed and ease with which they progress may vary. There are also other psychological reactions to injury. Some of these are identity loss, lack of confidence and fear and anxiety.


People often work through their responses to injury. They show some negative emotions, but not great difficulty in coping. There are certain warning signs of poor adjustment to athletic injury. Some of these are feelings of anger, denial, dwelling on minor physical complaints, rapid mood swings and withdrawal from significant others. A coach who observes someone with these symptoms needs to discuss the situation with a sports medicine specialist and/or sport psychologist.


Sport psychology and recovery

Psychology can help with the recovery process. Many studies have shown that psychological interventions positively influence athletic injury recovery, coping, mood and confidence. Studies looked at the difference between injured athletes who coped well with their injury and injured athletes who didn’t cope well. There were differences between these two: the athletes who coped better complied better with the treatment program, they were more motivated and determined, they showed a more positive attitude about their injury status and they became more knowledgeable about their injuries. Injury treatment should include psychological techniques for enhancing healing. In the initial phase of injury, it’s best to focus on helping an athlete deal with the emotional upheaval that comes with the onset of injury. During the rehabilitation, a clinician should focus on helping the athlete stay motivated and adhere to rehabilitation protocols.


Identifying at-risk athletes

Studies have shown that athletes at higher risk of sustaining athletic injuries can be identified. They are characterized by combinations of high life stress, high trait anxiety, low coping and psychological skills, high avoidance coping and low social support. People need to show empathy to injured athletes. You need to be there for an injured person. A psychologist or coach needs to educate the injured person about the injury and about the recovery process. He needs to tell the athlete how long the injury will take and he should tell him how long it will take until the athlete’s injury starts getting better. A sport psychologist should also teach the athlete psychological coping skills, like positive self-talk, goal setting, imagery and relaxation. A psychologist should also teach the athlete to cope with setbacks. Injury rehabilitation is not a precise science and the athlete must therefore learn to cope with setbacks. Coaches and teammates need to show their social support.

Chapter 20 - Addictive and unhealthy behaviours


There have been many cases of popular athletes who have taken steroid (Lance Armstrong) or suffered from alcoholism. Addictive and unhealthy behaviours are not limited to elite athletes. High school and youth sport participants also abuse drugs, alcohol and steroids. Substance abuse, compulsive gambling and eating disorders are clinical problems that required treatment by specialists. Non-specialists need to learn the signs to detect these conditions and they must refer the affected students to a specialist.


Eating disorders

The two most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Anorexia nervosa has these characteristics: intense fear of gaining weight, disturbance in experiencing one’s body weight, refusal to maintain a minimal body weight normal for a certain height and age and in females, the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles. Anorexia can be fatal. It can lead to starvation and even heart disease. Affected individuals don’t see themselves as abnormal. The cognitive, psychological, biological and perceptual factors in anorexia can interact in varying combinations to produce different types of disorders. The diagnostic criteria for bulimia are recurrent episodes of binge eating, a feeling of lacking control over eating behaviour during the binges, a minimum of two binge-eating episodes a week for at least 3 months, engaging in regular, self-induced vomiting or use of laxatives and a persistent overconcern with body shape and weight. Someone with bulimia often becomes depressed because of low self-esteem and he/she eats excessively in an effort to feel better, then feels guilty about eating and then induces vomiting or takes laxatives to purge the food. Bulimia is usually less severe than anorexia. People with bulimia know they have a problem, people with anorexia do not know. Bulimia can lead to anorexia.


Disordered eating refers to an entire spectrum of exaggerated eating patterns involving increased health risks. At the extreme of this disorder are anorexia and bulimia. A great deal of middle ground is occupied by eating problems that aren’t quite severe enough to meet the criteria of the DSM for either anorexia or bulimia. Studies have shown that it’s often difficult to distinguish athletes with an eating disorder from those that have many of the psychological symptoms of an eating disorder, but without an official diagnosis of an eating disorder.


There are different reasons for why it’s difficult to accurately assess eating disorders in any population. For one, athletes with these types of disorders are often very secretive and they don’t want to share information about it until the problem becomes extremely catastrophic. Female athletes report higher frequencies of eating disorders than male athletes. Sports that emphasize leanness (gymnastics) are at greater risk of developing eating disorders.


Predisposing factors

Knowing the predisposing factors of an eating disorder might help someone prevent or reduce the probability that an eating disorder will occur in someone. Some sports, like wrestling and weightlifting, use weight classifications to subdivide competitor groups. Often athletes try to compete at a lower weight classification and this can result in an athlete trying to drop 10 or even 15 pounds immediately before weigh-ins. This will usually result in rapid dehydration. Some techniques for achieving this weight loss include fasting, purging and using laxatives. Coaches should discourage these weight loss methods. Unfortunately, coaches sometimes exert pressure on athletes to lose weight. Studies showed that athletes who received disparaging comments from coaches about their bodies had more disordered eating patterns than did those who did not receive such comments. Peer pressure can also ‘force’ someone into an eating disorder. Disordered eating can also have something to do with the cultural emphasis on thinness. The Western culture values thinness. The media constantly tells us that we should look thin like models. Men also desire to change their physique. They report less body image disturbance than women do, but they are sometimes prone to risky behaviours, like illegal steroid use to bulk up. Some well-developed males think that they are not big. When they see themselves in the mirror, they see a skinny person. This is called bigorexia. Other predisposing factors are performance demands and judging criteria. Studies have shown that athletes who recalled more critical comments than other, reported greater disordered eating and more intense negative emotions. Females at the highest level of competition were more likely to remember critical comments than athletes performing at lower competitive levels. Researchers should investigate the interaction of biological and sociocultural factors in the prediction of eating disorders.


Some factors are directly related to the development of eating disorders in sport, but this relationship is mediated by several factors. For instance, the personality factors submissiveness and conformity were all related to eating pathology in athletes. Coaches need to pay more attention to athletes with these personality types. Nationality may also be a mediating factor to develop an eating disorder. Research should look more into ethnicity and culture.


Recognition and referral

Practitioners are in an excellent position to spot people with eating disorders. Unusual eating patterns are often the best indicators of problems. People with anorexia often pick at their food, lie about eating, push it around and engage in ritualistic eating patterns. People with bulimia often hid food and they disappear after eating (to purge). Other signs to look for are changes in mood and personality, a strong need for control and atypical behaviours. If a coach identifies someone who demonstrates symptoms of an eating disorder, he should solicit the help from a specialist familiar with eating disorders. Coaches need to talk to the athlete and be supportive and keep information confidential. They should make a referral to a specific clinic or person. Put the emphasize on emotions, not eating disorders.


Substance abuse

As is known to everyone, performance-enhancing drugs have been used by top athletes and Olympians for decades. Despite the warnings about the negative physiological and psychological effects of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, their use appears to increase. Studies have shown that athletes appear to prioritize performance outcomes over health concerns. Luckily, not all drugs are bad or out of place in sport settings. Antibiotics and painkillers are needed in our lives. Drugs are not the problem if they are legal, prescribed by appropriate medical personnel and not banned in the sports world. This last point might be a tough issue, because some drugs are seen as legal in some sports, but illegal in others. The misuse of drugs and use of illegal drugs are the real problems in sport and exercise. People abuse drugs for different reasons, but all these reasons have the same negative consequences. Some of these are long-term or even fatal health and psychological problems, like addiction. Substance abuse is the continued use of a substance despite knowledge of having a social, psychological, physical or occupational problem that is caused or enlarged by the use of the substance and/or recurrent use of the substance in situations in which the use is physically hazardous. We speak about substance abuse when symptoms of the disturbance persist for at least 1 month.


Prevalence of substance abuse

It’s difficult to get an accurate picture of substance abuse because of the personal nature of the issue. The information of prevalence we do have, is usually based from self-reports and the usage estimates vary from 10% to 90%. So, the data should be viewed with caution. Some potential side effects of steroid use are acne, loss of libido, testicular shrinkage, hypertension, impaired liver function and increased aggression. A study indicated that people who take drugs for performance enhancement or physical appearance are most at risk if they are preoccupied with diet and exercise and with rigid practices. Most studies that look at us in athletes, focus on alcohol and steroid use. Studies show that student-athletes are a high-risk group for heavy drinking. Attraction to the team is also a good predictor of substance use. Alcohol use was higher but marijuana use was lower as attraction to the team increased. This is especially the case for males. Males also appear to use anabolic steroids more frequently than females. The use of performance-enhancing drugs has called into question whether it is the natural ability of a player or the addition of drugs that has led to an outstanding performance. Many people wonder whether Lance Armstrong would have won the Tour de France without substances.


Why do athletes take drugs?

Athletes don’t start out abusing drugs. They start taking these for what they perceive to be good reasons. The reasons can be grouped into three categories: social, physical and psychological. The most common physical reasons for taking drugs are to look more attractive, to enhance performance, to cope with pain and to control weight. Winning is important and athletes want to do anything to improve performance. Performance-enhancing drugs have health risks and using these drugs is cheating. Psychological reasons are the inconvenience from unpleasant emotions and dealing with stress. Other reasons are building self-confidence. Also, more intrinsically-motivated people are less likely to use performance-enhancing substances than extrinsically-motivated people. Social reasons for taking performance-enhancing drugs are the need to gain group acceptance and pressure from peers. Also, many substance abusers are in the media and youngsters who look up to them might think that one needs to take drug to be successful in sport.


Drug categories and their effects

In the sport realm, drugs are classified by their purpose: recreational or street drugs and performance-enhancing drugs. Performance-enhancing drugs include beta-blockers, stimulants for strength, calm nerves, block pain and anabolic steroids. Stimulants increase alertness, but some of their side effects are heart and psychological problems. Anabolic steroids are used to increase strength and endurance, but some of the side effects are increased risk of liver disease and development of male characteristics in females. Beta-blockers are used to steady nerves, but some of the side-effects are slowed heart rate, depression and low blood pressure. Recreational drugs (street drugs) are substances people seek out for personal pleasure. They are often used to fit in with friends, to relieve pressure and for excitement.


Detection of substance abuse

Formal (drug testing) and informal procedures (listening and observing) are used to detect substance use and abuse. Sadly, proper drug testing is very expensive. Only trained professionals work in drug treatment programs, but sport personnel plays a big role in drug prevention and detection. There are certain signs that characterize who are substance abusers. Some of these are changes in behaviour, personality, peer group, impaired judgment, poor coordination and hygiene, muscle tremors and profuse sweating.


One model put forth to help detect substance abuse uses deterrence theory to help understand the process people go through when deciding whether to use drugs. The drugs in sport decision model (DSDM) consists of three major components. These three are the costs of a decision to use, the benefits associated with using and specific situational factors that may affect the cost-benefit analysis of using. People use a cost-benefit analysis of the consequences of lawbreaking behaviour before deciding to break the low. Some of the costs are legal sanctions (jail, suspensions), social sanctions (disapproval, criticism), health concerns (side effects) and self-imposed sanctions (guilt, reduced self-esteem). Some of the benefits are material (prize money), social (glory) and internalized (satisfaction). There are also some situational variables. some of these are professional status, experience with punishment and punishment avoidance, type of drug and perception of authority legitimacy. Studies suggest that a person’s sense of morality is a powerful deterrent. The more ingrained a belief and the earlier in life it’s ingrained, the more likely a person will adhere to that belief. So, it’s best to tell young athletes that performance-enhancing drug use is unfair.


Prevention and control

Substance abuse is a clinical matter and sport personnel will therefore not be involved in drug treatment programs. There are some things that can be done to help prevent or reduce the probability of drug use. Sport personnel needs to provide a supportive environment that addresses the reasons people take drugs. Athletes’ self-esteem needs to be increased, because people who feel good about themselves are less likely to take drugs. Athletes must also be educated about the effects of drug use. One must be informative and accurate regarding the negative and positive effects of drug use. Athletes also need to have good examples. They also need to be taught coping skills, in order to deal with anxiety and stress.

Addiction to exercise

Another type of addiction is addiction to exercise. The intense involvement with exercise has been described in terms as compulsion, obsession, dependence and addiction. This intense involvement is usually with running. Psychologists usually use the term addiction.


Exercise addiction is a psychological or physiological dependence on a regular regimen of exercise. It’s characterized by withdrawal symptoms after 24 to 36 hours without exercise. Some withdrawal symptoms are irritability, muscle twitching, anxiety, nervousness and a bloated feeling. These only occur if a person is prevented from exercising for some reason and not just by purposefully taking a day off.

Positive addictions to exercise promotes psychological strength and increase life satisfaction. People with a positive addiction to exercise, can successfully integrate their sport activity with other aspects of their lives. Exercise can become a habit of daily activity and this level of involvement is a healthy habit. Many exercisers develop a positive addiction to their exercise, but there are also people who let exercise control their lives. When this occurs, the person has a negative addiction to exercise. His/her life becomes structured around exercise and other responsibilities (home and work) will suffer. This condition is a personal maladjustment. Many addicted exercisers recognize their symptoms of negative addiction. However, they still feel that exercise enhances their existence. There is a difference between primary and secondary exercise dependence. In primary exercise dependence, exercise is an end in itself, but it may also include altering eating behaviours for the purpose of enhancing performance. In secondary exercise dependence, the exercise is a symptom of another primary pathological condition, like an eating disorder. The criteria for diagnosing those who are hooked on exercise include three or more symptoms in a 12-month period. Some of the symptoms are: need for increased exercise, loss of control, devoting more and more time to exercise, withdrawal symptoms, continuing to exercise despite knowledge of problems and conflict as exercise takes a front seat over other activities. One study revealed that a person can become exercise dependent when they attempt to use exercise as a means to enhance self-esteem. Another study found that exercise dependence was related to alcohol-related problems in college students. Exercise dependence seems to be related to inappropriate behaviours.


When an addicted exerciser gets injured and can’t exercise, he will suffer withdrawal symptoms. Some of these include depression, restlessness, tension, feelings of guilt and interpersonal problems. These withdrawal symptoms look like the withdrawal symptoms from other addictions. Some say that people can try other activities when they’re coping with an injury. A true addict will not be satisfied with this solution. Some things an exerciser can do to help guard against falling into the trap of negative addiction is to schedule rest days, work out with a slower partner, stop exercising when you’re injured and set realistic long- and short-term goals.


Compulsive gambling

Compulsive gambling is only getting now the attention of the media in a sport setting. However, there have many quit some incidences in which athletes were betting or their own games or were bribed to lose or control the point spread. Athletes might also help bookies because they can’t pay their gambling tab. Sports betting is thriving in the US. It’s believed that 1.5% of the US population are compulsive gamblers and that 6% to 8% of college students in the US are compulsive gamblers. Gambling doesn’t start in college. High school students also gamble. In one survey, 26% of male athletes reported that they started gambling before high school and 66% reported starting in high school. It turns out that parents often don’t think of teenage gambling as a serious problem. However, they are often wrong by thinking that.


Compulsive gamblers have certain characteristics, like arrogance, extreme competitiveness, boastfulness and unbounded optimism. They are often quite intelligent. Experts say it’s impossible to pick a gambler out of a crow, because they are experts at denial. Compulsive gambling is not noticed until there are negative consequences. There are certain signs of a gambling problem in college students. Some of these are missing classes because of gambling, buying a book about becoming a skilful bettor, having trouble focusing during lectures because they are thinking about gambling and facing more financial debts than they can handle. Parents can also look for some symptoms in their children. Some of these are an unexplained need for money, displays of unexplained wealth, sudden dip in grades, increase in credit card debt, withdrawal from family, watching more televised sports and valuables missing from home.

Chapter 21 - Overtraining and burnout


In recent years, there is more pressure on athletes to win and to train year-round with intensity. This is partly caused by the huge financial rewards and status achieved from it. There were separate seasons and off-seasons for different sports, but now one season kind of like rungs into the next. This leaves not enough time for an extended rest. In the off-season, athletes also do physical fitness activities to keep in shape and getting stronger for the upcoming season. The price of the total focus on training and winning can be overtraining and subsequent burnout. It’s not only competitive athletes who overdo it, but also ‘normal’ exercisers in their quest to feel and look better. Trainers can also get caught up in the pressures to win and this can lead to increased stress and potential burnout. Burnout and overtraining have become significant problems in the world of sport and coaches and health care providers therefore need to better understand the symptoms and causes of burnout. They also need to learn strategies that help reduce the possibility that burnout will occur.


Overtraining, staleness and burnout

Periodized training is a deliberate strategy to expose athletes to high-intensity training loads that are followed by a lower training load. This last part is known as the taper or rest stage. The goal of this type of training is to condition athletes so that their performance peaks at a specific date. Coaches overload and taper athletes on purpose. They try to slowly increase the training load so that optimal adaptations take place and negative side effects do not. Overtraining is a short cycle of training during which athletes expose themselves to excessive training loads that are near or at maximal capacity. Overloading athletes is seen as normal in a training process. Trainers want their athletes to experience higher training volumes during overload and they want their bodies to adapt after the rest period. However, the overload process is not perfect and overload can sometimes result in negative consequences. If there’s a lack of rest or if the training volume is too great, maladaptions occur and overtraining results in deteriorated performance. The difference between periodized training and overtraining depends on individual differences. Overtraining (detrimental) for one athlete can be positive training for another.


Staleness is a physiological state of overtraining which manifests as deteriorated athletic readiness. Staleness is the end result or outcome of overtraining when the athlete has difficulty maintaining standard training regimens and when he/she can’t achieve previous performance results anymore. Stale athletes have a significant reduction in performance for an extended period of time (2+ weeks) that occurs after a period of overtraining. The principal behavioural sign of staleness is impaired performance and the principal psychological symptoms are mood disturbance and increases in perceptual effort during exercise. Studies have shown that about 80% of stale athletes are clinically depressed.


Burnout has received much attention. However, there is no one universally accepted definition of burnout. Basically, a burnout can be seen as an emotional, social and physical withdrawal from a formerly enjoyable sport activity. The withdrawal is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion and sport devaluation. Burnout occurs as a result of chronic stress and changes and motivational orientations in the athlete. Another characteristic of a burnout is the feeling of low personal accomplishment, failure, depression and low self-esteem. Once a person is burned out, he/she will most likely withdraw from the sport environment.



There are no large scale, systematic studies on the epidemiology of staleness, overtraining and burnout. However, studies in that subject have been conducted, so we know quite some things. 66% of college varsity athletes believed they had been overtrained and half of them reported that it was a bad experience. Almost half of the respondents in a study indicated feeling burned out at some point during collegiate career. Studies have shown that staleness is a problem for 34% of adolescent swimmers from different cultures. Studies of the frequency of burnout in teachers and coaches are sparse.


Models of burnout

Researchers have developed six sport-specific models of burnout. All models have received some scientific support and should be considered when looking at the burnout process.


Cognitive-affective stress model

This model has four stages. In this model, burnout is a process involving physiological, behavioural and psychological components that progress in predictable stages. Each of these components is influenced by level of motivation and the personality. The first stage is the situational demands stage in which high demands are placed on the athlete. Stress can occur when the demands of a situation outweigh potential resources. This can lead to burnout. The second stage is the cognitive appraisal stage and in this stage people interpret and appraise the situation. The third stage is the physiological responses stage. If someone appraises a situation as harmful, over time (when their perception becomes chronic) stress can produce physiological changes like an increase in fatigue and tension. The last stage is the behavioural responses stage. In this stage the physiological response leads to certain types of coping, like decreased performance or interpersonal difficulties.


Negative-training stress response model

This model focuses more on responses to physical training, but it recognizes the importance of psychological factors. This model states that physical training stresses the athlete physically and psychologically and that it can have both positive and negative effects. Positive adaptation is of course desirable, but too much training can result in negative adaptation. Negative adaptation leads to negative training responses, like overtraining and staleness. This will result in burnout. Physical training is involved in the burnout process and this model seems to be supported by this. However, one must consider the intensity of training as well as a variety of psychological stressors and recovery factors.


Unidimensional identity development and external control model

This model states that stress is simply a symptom of a burnout. This model thinks that the real cause of burnout is related to the social organization of high-performance sport and its effects on identity and control. According to the model, burnout occurs because the structure of highly competitive sport does not allow young athletes to develop a normal identity. They don’t get to spend enough time with the peers outside of the sport environment. This means that young athletes identify almost exclusively with success in sport. So, when they have an injury, the associated stress can lead to burnout. Also according to the model, the social worlds of the competitive young athletes are organized by coaches and parents and the athletes themselves can’t get to make decisions. This will lead to stress and potential burnout.


Commitment and entrapment theory

Some researchers argue that people commit to sport for three reasons: because they want to participate, because they believe they have to participate or both. They argue that athletes who are prone to burnout feel entrapped by sport when they do not really want to participate in it but believe they must stay involved. Many studies have shown that people may stay involved in a sport because of the social pressure, even if they don’t enjoy the sport anymore. These results support the entrapment theory and this suggests that coaches and parents should ensure that athletes enjoy their participation and not pressure them.


Self-determination theory

Self-determination theory has also been applied to sport burnout. This has been the most prevalent approach to studying burnout in recent years. According to self-determination theory, people have three basic psychological needs: autnonomy, relatedness and competence. People who do not have these basic needs met will be more prone to burnout. Many studies have supported this theory.

The integrated model of athlete burnout integrates the previous models mentioned.


Factors leading to burnout and overtraining

Some athletes start at an early age with training and/or sports. Training in most sports involves year-round workouts and off-seasons become even shorter. For certain sports, special training camps and academies have been developed where young athletes live, attend school and train. The time away from home can put great strains on the young athletes. They typically can’t maintain a normal home and family life. Because of these psychological and physical demands, they may burn out. Many studies have linked non-sport stress to the onset of overtraining. If people are able to monitor these stress sources and how they influence athletes, they may prevent overtraining in athletes. There are many factors that have been found to lead to burnout (although some of the research has been done with athletes with low to moderate levels of burnout) and some of these are lack of free time spend with significant others, parental pressure, social support, athlete autonomy and a lack of hope. There seems to be a social-psychological strain of burnout and a physically driven strain.


Symptoms of burnout and overtraining

Burnout and overtraining are psychological and physical in nature. Some symptoms of overtraining are physical fatigue, depression, apathy, sleep disturbance, apathy, appetite loss, immune system deficiency and poor performance. Some symptoms of burnout are a loss of interest, mental and physical exhaustion, depression, concentration problems, lowered self-esteem, emotional isolation and increased anxiety.


Mood states

Overtraining affects athletic performance and mental health. Studies found that the heavier the training, the greater the mood disturbance. The mood disturbance includes increased depression, fatigue and anger. Reductions in training load were associated with improvements in mood. The psychological mood profile of successful and unsuccessful athletes differs. Top-level athletic performers had an iceberg profile. This profile shows that, compared with the population average, more successful athletes tend to score higher on vigor and lower on fatigue, confusion, anxiety and depression. Overtrained athletes display an inverted iceberg profile: they have increased anger, confusion, tension, depression and fatigue and decreased vigor.


Measuring burnout

The best way to study burnout would be to find people who are leaving their sport because of a burnout and compare them with the people who are currently participating in that sport but are not feeling burned out. However, it’s difficult to find these people and many burned-out athletes stay in sport for reasons such as pressure, money or prestige. Researchers have therefore developed a paper-and-pencil test method for measuring burnout. The most widely used and developed one is the Maslach Burnout Inventory. This measures both the perceived frequency and intensity of the feelings of burnout. Three components of burnout are measures: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and low sense of personal accomplishment.


Burnout in sport professionals

Athletic trainers at the high school or college level are responsible for several teams and they work on the field or in the training room most of the day. Coaches sometimes put pressure on trainers, which adds stress. Trainers reported that because they have so many teams, it’s difficult to devote enough quality time to individuals. This can result in burnout. Studies also show that trainers are more likely to feel burned out when their several role become blurred. The fear of failure is the strongest predictor of burnout in sport officials. Officials with role conflicts also have higher levels of perceived burnout. Studies reveal that burnout in coaches stems from issues generated from both home and work. Coaches who lacked the tools to facilitate recovery and who had difficulty handling the high performance demands of elite sport were prone for burnout. Female coaches have more burnouts than male coaches. That’s probably because they are expected to not only fulfil coaching responsibilities, but also to nurture their athletes. Younger and less experienced coaches also tend to have higher levels of perceived burnout than do older coaches. Also, coaches with a consideration style of leadership (caring for people) have higher levels of perceived burnout than coaches with an initiating structure style of leadership (goal oriented). This is maybe because coaches who develop closer ties with their athletes suffer greater burnout because they care more for their athletes. Studies also found that coaches with higher level of entrapment report significant higher levels of emotional exhaustion. These coaches also showed decreased commitment in coaching. Studies also indicate that coaches who report higher levels of social support have lower levels of stress and burnout.


Some suggestions for treatments are to monitor critical state in athletes, communication, set short-term goals, take relaxation break, learn self-regulation skills, keeping positive, stay in good physical condition, manage emotions that come after competitions.

Chapter 22 - Children and sport psychology


There are many children who participate in sport. What motivates these children and is competitive sport too stressful for them? Youngsters compose the greatest population of sport participants. Many committed sport psychologists have devoted their careers to examining the psychological issues in children’s sport participation. Sport participation represents 66% of all out-of-school activities for youngsters. Many children are intensely involved in organized sport. Sport can have meaningful consequences for themselves, their family and the community. Sport participation peaks near the age of 12 years. This is the age that’s critical for certain periods in the life of children and it’s a critical period for important consequences on their self-esteem and social development. The youth sport experience can have important lifelong effects on the personality and psychological development of children. Youth sports are popular because people feel youths receive psychological and social values from participation. However, participation in organized sport is not always automatically beneficial for the child. Benefits do not magically occur through mere participation. Children need competent leaders who can provide them positive influence.


Most children report that they sport to have fun. Other reasons children cite are to do something they are good at, improve their skills, become fit, be with friends, make new friends and compete. There are some sex and cultural differences in youth motives for participation. Boys are motivated by the competitive aspects of sports and girls are more attracted by social opportunities. More differences exist within these groups than between them.


Children’s sport participation peaks between the ages of 10 and 13 years and it consistently declines to the age of 18. Only a relatively small percentage of youths remain involved in organized sport. In the US, of every 10 children who being a sport season, 3 to 4 will drop out by the start of the next season. Children often report that they drop out because they got other things to do and because they have a change in interest. Other reasons children report are that they wanted to play another sport, they didn’t like the pressure, boredom, not liking the coach and not enough excitement. Coaches and teammates are the most influential groups affecting the young athlete’s decision to discontinue. For females, a lack of teamwork, concerns about a lack of ability and team affiliation issues are more important reasons for discontinuing than for males.


Sometimes, the reasons youngsters give for dropping out are their surface-level responses, not the underlying motives some sport psychologists have sought. Children who discontinue often have low perceived competence, experience stress, tend to focus on outcome goals and exhibit self-determined forms of motivation. A task for coaches should be to discover ways to enhance children’s self-perceived ability. Sport leaders usually want to know whether children drop out because of sport-specific reasons (to enter other sports) or whether they withdraw from sport participation altogether (sport-general dropout). Studies show that most young children have multiple reasons for participation and most of these motivations are intrinsic in nature. Underlying the descriptive reasons for sport withdrawal is the child’s need to feel competent and worthy. When there’s an emphasize on individual goal setting, children will not focus solely on the outcomes of competitions and they will more likely feel competent. Sport leaders should ask children who want to drop out why they are dropping out. If a child goes to another sport, it’s not a big problem, but if a child withdraws from all sport altogether, then that’s somewhat of a concern.


Role of friends

One of the major motives children have for sport participation are affiliation motives. Sport can provide opportunities to be with friends and make new ones. Friends and peer groups can also have other important effects on young athletes. Peer relations are linked to a child’s sense of acceptance, motivation and self-esteem. Peer relations in sport can have positive and negative dimensions. Some of the positive dimensions are companionship, enhancement of self-esteem, pleasant play, help, loyalty, intimacy and absence of conflict. Some of the negative are betrayal, unattractive personal qualities (friends can be self-centred) and conflict (insults). Peer relations in sport often have a positive impact on the child and it’s often associated with prolonged engagement in sports. Coaches and parents should encourage positive peer reinforcement. Children should be taught to respect others and to refrain from verbal aggression and bullying.


Stress and burnout in children

Burnout and stress are somewhat controversial concerns in children’s competitive sport. Competitive sport can place excessive levels of stress on youngsters and they could get a burn out because of this, according to critics. Proponents say that young athletes do not experience excessive competition and that competition teaches youngsters coping skills and these can be used in other aspects of lives. Studies show that most young athletes don’t have excessive levels of state anxiety in competition. Compared to children taking academic tests, playing in a band and physical education classes, children in competitive sport have not greater levels of anxiety than the others. Children appear to have only slightly elevated trait anxiety levels. Studies examined whether sport participation could buffer the effects of social anxiety. Results showed that children participating in team sports had reduced social anxiety symptoms. Team sport participation might be valuable for helping children overcome social anxiety.

Most children who participate in sport do not have excessive levels of state anxiety, but stress can be a problem for some children in specific situations. For this reason, sport psychologists look at what situational and personal factors are associated with heightened state anxiety. They do this by measuring different personality and background measures and by measuring state anxiety assessments before and after competitions. Some of the situations that can increase stress are defeat, event importance and sport type (children in individual sports have more state anxiety than children in team sports). Leaders must understand the personalities of children who are at risk of having high levels of competitive stress and the situations most likely to produce heightened state anxiety. Burnout is a growing concern with children’s competitive sport. It occurs when children lose interest as a result of specializing in a particular sport at a very early age and practice many hours under high pressure for several years. Some children begin practicing sport by the age of 4 and some of them attain world-class levels by their early teens. When performance declines prematurely, burnout is suspected. Burnout is like a case of sport withdrawal when a youngster discontinues sport involvement in response to long-term stress. The activity is no longer pleasurable because of the stress it causes and because of shifts in children’s motivation. Young athletes who burn out have restricted control of their own destinies, both in and out of sport. The parents of these children made the decisions regarding the sporting lives and the children had no or little input. Control of one’s destiny by someone else often results in decreased intrinsic motivation.


Adults need to help children with stress or children who are at high risk of experiencing stress. Adults should create a positive environment. Stress can be alleviated by reducing the importance of winning. Adapted forms of anxiety reduction techniques (breath control, muscle relaxation and mental training) can be used with children. Adults need to use fun, simple and concrete strategies with children. They need to remain positive and optimistic for the children.


Effective coaching practices

coaching practices designed for adult elite athletes are often inappropriate for young athletes who are developing. There are other coaching practices that are more effective with youngsters. Studies show that coaches who gave technical instruction were rated more positively than those who used general communication. Coaches who used more reinforcement and mistake-contingent technical instruction were also rated more highly. Children like their coaches and teammates more when they have more encouraging coaches who gave reinforcement. These children also showed greater positive changes in self-esteem. Coaches can learn these positive behaviours. Remarks from coaches must not only be positive but also sincere to be effective. Learning a positive approach to coaching results in lower player dropout rates.


Role of parents

There are many accounts of parents pushing their children on the playing field and/or in the gym. One study found that 3 of 10 parents do things that interfere with their child’s development. Parents often play an important role as socializers, providers and role models of their children’s sport experience. Studies found that parental enjoyment of physical activity to parents encouraging their children’s involvement. The encouragement in turn influences the child’s perceived competence and actual participation. Other studies showed that the pressure perceived by young athletes was related to directing and controlling parental behaviours. Why do some parents behave badly? In our society, parents’ success is tied to the achievements and success of their children. Sport provides measures of success and that’s why parents invest tremendous amounts of money and time in their little athletes. This can cause parents to become overly involved and do things that interfere with healthy development. Negative parental behaviours will never be completely eliminated from youth sport, but much can be accomplished by educating parents and improving the lines of communication among coaches and parents. Parent orientation meetings should take place at the start of the season to inform parents.



Sport has a number of benefits for youths, but concern is growing on the part of athletic administrators, journalists and psychologists that youth sport is becoming increasing professionalized. They mean his in the sense that the focus is shifting from physical, social and psychological development to more extrinsic goals like winning, rankings and earning college scholarships. A world golf championship for children aged 6 years and under even exists! Some parents even go to the sperm bank and buy elite athlete sperm in the hopes of producing more athletic offspring. Most scientists are against the professionalization of youth sport because this focuses the majority of resources on only the most talented children and it ignores the majority of young children who could have developed through sport. Coaches and parents need to keep in mind that athletic talent can’t be accurately predicted at a young age. Also, stages of talent development should not be skipped. Single-sport specialization is not essential at an early age. Sport psychologists want programs to be carried out in developmentally appropriate ways and not pushed on children at young ages.

Chapter 23 - Aggression in sport


Incidents of aggression are become pretty common throughout the sport world. It happens on the courts of sport arenas and on the benches. Fan behaviour at professional soccer matches has also become violent. There is also increased violence in schools. Fist-fighting is bad, but there has been a growing number of children bringing knives and guns (in the US) to school and using them. This has created a climate of fear for students and teachers. Children must be taught the skills of non-violent conflict resolution. Sport has the potential to control violence. People see boxing, wrestling and even football as socially acceptable channels for aggression.

The term aggression is used in different ways in sport and exercise. There is good aggression and bad aggression. Most aggressive behaviour in sport appears not to be inherently desirable or undesirable. Whether it’s good or bad seems to depend on interpretation. Two people watching the same ice hockey game might disagree on whether a hit was good or bad aggression. It’s easier to talk about aggression if you view aggression neutrally. That is, as a behaviour you want to understand. Aggression is defined by psychologists as any form of behaviour directed toward the goal of injuring or harming another living being who is motivated to avoid such treatment. There are four criteria of aggression: it involves intent, it’s a behaviour, it involves harm or injury and it is directed toward a living organism. Aggression is physical or verbal behaviour. aggression is no attitude or emotion. Aggression is about harm and injury and this may be either psychological or physical. It’s directed toward another living thing. Punching a human or slapping an animal is aggression, but throwing the tennis racket on the ground after a loss is not aggressive. Aggression is intentional. Accidental harm is not aggressive when harm was not intended. When sport psychologists discuss aggression in general, they refer to it what many of us would call bad aggression. However, not all bad aggression is aggressive according to the sport psychology definition. There is also good aggression and this is often labelled as assertive behaviour by most sport psychologists (charging the net in tennis). Good aggression is playing within the rules with high intensity and emotion, but without intention to do harm.


Psychologists distinguish two types of aggression: instrumental and hostile aggression. Instrumental aggression occurs in the quest of some nonaggressive goal. The primary goal of hostile aggression is to inflict injury or psychological harm on someone else. Some researchers argue that thinking of these two types of aggression as a simple dichotomy is too simplistic. Aggression might involve elements of both types. Both hostile and instrumental aggression involve the intent to injure and harm and often these two can’t be clearly distinguished. Most sporting aggression is primarily instrumental, but that does not make it acceptable.


Causes of aggression

Psychologists have four important theories regarding causes of aggression: social learning theory, instinct theory, frustration-aggression theory and revised frustration-aggression theory. Some have even put forward a unifying framework that ties together much of the current thinking on aggression.

Instinct theory

According to this theory, people have an innate instinct to be aggressive and this builds up until it must inevitably be expressed. The instinct can be expressed in two ways: directly and indirectly. Direct expression of aggression is through an attack on another living being and indirect placement of direction is through catharsis, in which aggression is released through socially acceptable means such as sport. For an instinct theorist, sport and exercise play an extremely important function in society. However, no biologically innate aggressive instinct has ever been identified and there is no support for the notion of catharsis.


Frustration-aggression theory

This theory is sometimes called the drive theory and it states that aggression is the direct result of a frustration that occurs because of goal failure or blockage. However, studies show that people often cope with their frustration or express it in non-aggressive ways. The frustration-aggression theorists’ counterargument is that aggressive responses that occur are not always obvious. They may get channelled through socially acceptable outlets, like competitive contact sports. This theory also views catharsis as playing a major role. There is little evidence for catharsis in sport. There’s also not really evidence that participation in contact sports lowers the aggression levels of frustrated, aggressive participants.


Social learning theory

This theory explains aggression as behaviour that people learn through observing others who model particular behaviours and by receiving reinforcement for showing similar actions. According to the model, children who watch adult models commit violent acts, repeat those acts more than children not exposed to such aggressive models. This is especially powerful when the children are reinforced for copying the actions of the adult models. Researchers showed that the observation of media violence is positively related to aggression. It seems that many individuals socially learn that such actions are appropriate ways to handle disagreements. Support for the social learning theory in sport has also been found by researchers.


Revised frustration-aggression theory

This theory is also referred to as cognitive neoassociation theory and it combines elements of the original frustration-aggression theory with social learning theory. According to the theory, although frustration doesn’t always lead to aggression, it increases the likelihood of aggression by increasing arousal, anger and other emotions and thoughts. Increased anger and arousal only result in aggression when socially learned cues signal the appropriateness of aggression in the particular situation. If the social cues signal that aggression is inappropriate, aggression shall not be shown.


General aggression model

Researchers are finding that aggression is much more complicated than originally thought. There are different personal (beliefs) and situational (provocation) factors influencing aggressive behaviour. A unified framework is developed for understanding aggression. According to the model, some sort of aggressive input exists. Both personal and situational factors and their interaction determine one’s propensity to behave aggressively. This means that situation and personality will determine the likelihood that someone will be aggressive. As the aggressive inputs are experienced, one’s internal state is altered. Complex processes are mediated by a person’s thoughts and emotions and they result in aggression.


Examining aggression in sport

Competitive sport differs from many activities in that it’s usually conducted in the presence of a public. Fans are usually not passive observers. Fans are involved with their team and they are usually well mannered and supportive. However, instances of fan violence are on the rise. Sport psychologists have studied spectator aggression. Studies have found, when testing the catharsis theory, that watching a sporting event doesn’t lower the level of the spectator’s aggression. Watching violent contact sports actually increased a spectator’s readiness to be aggressive. Aggression usually doesn’t occur unless other environmental or game-related factors are present. Fan aggression is also more likely to occur with younger, disadvantaged male spectators in crowded conditions and under the influence of alcohol. Losing was associated with a greater propensity toward fan violence and rivalries were also associated with fan violence.

One research finding shows that many athletes view some aggressive acts as inappropriate in general but appropriate in the sport environment. Fighting is deemed appropriate in certain sport situations, but no form of fighting would be tolerated in a school band. This double standard is called game reasoning. People are believing and learning that it’s not a problem to be more aggressive in sport than in other life context. This can presents problems. One of those is that aggression carries the risk of injury and harm. Sport should teach children how to behave appropriately, but allowing aggressive behaviour in sport sends the wrong message to children.


Some research on aggression in sport focuses on moral disengagement or how athletes justify their aggressive actions. This is guided on the social cognitive theory of moral thoughts and action. This identifies eight psychosocial mechanisms for justifying a person’s aggressive actions. Some of the mechanisms include displacing responsibility to others or cognitively restructuring the violent action so that it’s not viewed as immoral. Evidence shows that aggressive play is related to athletic injuries. Some athletes and coaches believe that aggressiveness enhances athletic performance at the team or individual level. The relationship between performance and aggression is complex and there have been cases in which aggressive acts have paid off regarding outcome. Studies found that the primary predictors of aggressive tendencies in young basketball players included perceptions of their teammates’ aggressive behaviour in the same situation and also their willingness to injure others at the coach’s request. Findings also show that the more frequently teams compete with each other, the more likely they are to be aggressive. Studies also show that males exhibit high frequencies of aggression when compared to women. There is also a difference between aggression in cultures: members of a collectivist culture are less likely to accept aggression as a means of goal achievement.


Professional practice

Certain situation provoke aggressive behaviour. aggression is more likely when athletes are frustrated. Athletes are frustrated when they are losing, when they are playing in pain and when they are embarrassed. Athletes who perceive failures as a threat to their identity are more likely to be aggressive. We can’t always control situations that cause frustration. But athletes can be removed from the situation at the first signs of aggression. Athletes can be taught skills for controlling their emotions and their reactions to frustration. Also, an overemphasis on winning is at the root of much frustration, because loss can result in aggression. A strategy for decreasing sport aggression is to help establish appropriate team norms. Team leaders need to talk about the difference between aggression and assertive behaviour. Team leaders also need to monitor team members’ actions. Spectator aggression also needs to be controlled. This can be done by developing strict alcohol-control policies or ban alcohol for spectators. Spectators also need to be penalized immediately for aggressive acts.

Chapter 24 - Good sporting behaviour


Most people have heard that sport and physical activity build character and develop moral values. However, some of the most popular role models have been the bad men or women of sport. It’s not just elite athletes behaving badly, but also college sport students. High school athletes sometimes also put their morals aside.



It’s difficult to define character and good sporting behaviour. Most people know what these terms mean, but they seldom define them precisely. Some say that good sporting is acting respectfully. Character and good sporting behaviour fall in the general area of morality in the sports context. They have to do with our beliefs, actions and judgments concerning what is ethical. Some scientist say that morality in sport comprises three related concepts: fair play, good sporting behaviour and character. Fair play is needed if all athletes are to have an equitable chance to pursue victory. It requires that all athletes understand and adhere to the formal rules of the game and the unwritten rules of play necessary to ensure that a contest is fair. Good sporting behaviour is adhering to fair play even when it may mean losing. Good sporting behaviour consist of full commitment toward participation, respect for social conventions (shaking hands after the game), respect for rules, respect for the opponent and avoiding poor attitudes toward participation. Character refers to an array of characteristics that can be developed in sport. Participants learn to overcome obstacles, develop self-control, cooperate with teammates and persist in the face of defeat. Character in sport comprises four interrelated virtues: good sporting behaviour, fairness, compassion and integrity. Compassion is related to empathy and it’s the ability to take on and appreciate the feelings of others. Integrity is the ability to maintain one’s morality and fairness with the belief that a person can fulfil his/her moral intensions.


Approaches to developing character

There are three particular approaches about the development of character that are accepted today: the social learning, structural-developmental and social-psychological approaches.


Social learning approach

Character development and aggression are linked in many ways. According to the social learning approach, specific positive sporting attitudes and behaviours deemed appropriate by society are learned through observational learning, modelling and social comparison. It is then internalized and used to guide behaviour. According to this approach, people’s social learning history determines their level of good sporting behaviour. More recent versions also emphasize that behaviour is determined by an interaction of situational and personal factors.


Structural-developmental approach

This approach focuses on how psychological growth and developmental changes in a child’s judgments and thoughts underlying behaviour interact with experiences from the environment to shape moral reasoning. Moral reasoning is the decision process in which a person determines the rightness or wrongness of a certain action. Moral development is the process of growth through which a person develops the capacity to reason morally. Moral behaviour is carrying out an action that is deemed right or wrong. Moral reasoning results from individual experiences and also from the psychological growth and development of the child and this is thought to guide moral behaviour. Some scientists have stated that the ability to reason morally depends on a person’s level of mental or cognitive development.


Developmental psychologists have discovered sequential stages of moral development in children. This happens in five stages. Not everyone reaches the last level and people often don’t always use the highest level of moral thinking that they’re capable of. In the first level reasoning is at the external control stage. It’s basically okay as long as you don’t get caught. Children determine what is right or wrong based on self-interest. The second level also focuses on maximizing self-interest, but the child no doesn’t see only the action’s outcome. In the third level, the person treats others as he would like to be treated. Self-interest is not the sole focus anymore. People adopt an altruistic view. The fourth level focuses on following external rules. In this stage, the person recognizes that official rules were developed for the common good. The last level focuses on what is best for everyone involved. This is the most mature reasoning, because the individual seeks to maximize the interest of the group through mutual agreements.


Social-psychological approach

This approach considers the structural-developmental approach and a wide range of social factors that go beyond modelling. Social agents (coaches and parents) label good sporting behaviour. Studies have found evidence supporting the social-psychological approach. Studies found that poor sporting behaviours were predicted by coach actions, team norms and perceptions of parental and coach norms.


The connection between moral behaviour and moral reasoning

Scientists have found that a consistent relationship exists between aggression and people with less mature moral reasoning. People behave more aggressively when their moral reasoning is less mature. Certain steps need to be taken to translate moral reasoning into moral action. There are four stages of moral action in the moral reasoning-behaviour link: interpreting the situation, deciding on the best course of moral action, making a choice to act morally and implementing a moral response. In order to understand the people we work with, we need to know how individuals morally reason and how they translate the reasoning into action.


Character development and physical activity

There is little evidence that supports the belief that physical programs automatically build character. Character is taught in sport activity settings. Teaching moral reasoning and good sporting behaviour involves the systematic use of certain strategies. Studies have found that the systematic and organized delivery of moral development information can change children’s character. Coaches and community leaders often claim that taking part in sport keeps youths off the street, out of trouble and away from games. Studies have shown that participants in organized sport are less likely than non-participants to engage in delinquent behaviour. One of the reasons for this is that athletes have less frequent and shorter interactions with delinquent others. So, athletes have a differential association. The social bonding view contends that children who participate in sport develop attachments with others who represent dominant and prosocial values. Young athletes will identify with their coach and team and they learn certain values. According to the labelling hypothesis, being an athlete often leads to special treatment. According to this view, because of their athletic status, some youngsters receive preferential treatment and get away with more delinquent behaviour than non-athletes. According to the economic strain explanation, because many youths are impoverished but still want the high standard of living they see others enjoying is what causes the sport-delinquency relationship. Some of the reasons that youths join gangs are alienation from peers, family, low self-esteem and a lack of positive role models. Sport can alleviate all these things. Also, kids stay in gangs because gangs fil their needs, like providing an identity. However, a membership in a sport team can also provide this. In order to positively influence negative behaviour, sport participation needs to be combined with psychological and social teaching. There are nine strategies that can enhance character development. The first one is that good sporting behaviour needs to be defined in the program. The second is that good sporting behaviours need to be reinforced and encouraged. The next one is that appropriate behaviours need to be modelled. The fourth one is that counsellors need to explain why certain behaviours are appropriate. The next one is that moral dilemmas and choices need to be discussed. Another one is that coaches need to build moral dilemmas and choices into practices. The next one is that cooperative learning strategies need to be taught. The eight one is to create a task-oriented motivational climate and to employ autonomy-supportive coaching. The last one is to transfer power from leaders to participants.


Guiding practices

Some people believe that coaches have no business teaching morals and values to youngsters and that these values need to be taught by parents. The writers of this book argue that basic values like empathy and honesty also need to be taught by coaches. Moral development must become part of a leader’s mind-set. A coach needs to look for opportunities to develop and enhance positive qualities in athletes. According to a study, effectively developing morals and characters in young people, coaches must teach the values, become enlightened leaders of moral discussion, be an example of the values embodied in sport and provide mentoring to athletes who have difficulty with moral issues. Some researchers say that resiliency is one of the most important life skills coaches can give to unprivileged athletes. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back successfully after exposure to severe risk. Resilient youth possesses three primary attributes: social competence (ability to interact socially with others and creating networks of social support), autonomy (the ability to act independently) and optimism and hope. Values learned in the sport school will not automatically transfer to other environments. Coaches who want to teach young athletes values that can be carried over to non-sport situations should discuss with their athletes how and when this is useful in other contexts.


Check more related content in this bundle:

Teaching materials for teaching abroad and learn to play games - Bundle

Memory game

Memory game


Education Category: Games
Ages: 0-4, 4-8, 8-12, 12-16, 16+

Donated by Erwin

What do you need?
memory game(s) (multiple)

How does it work? 
The students team up in groups of four. The students place the memory cards picture down on the table. The first student picks a memory card and tries to find a similar one by picking up one of the other cards. If this card is not the same as the one he already picked up his turn is over. The other students will do the same thing until there are no cards left on the table. The students with the most matching cards wins.

What else do I need to know?
Bring more memory games so multiple groups can play at the same time. Memory can be played by a limited number of people so this prevents a lot of students from doing nothing. If you don’t have memory cards you can let the group make them together. You can also make a set of memory cards with a certain theme, like animals, countries, flags, numbers or words.

Purpose of this activity?
It's all in the name. With the game memory the students can train their brain and especially their memory. If you add al theme like countries, words or numbers the game has more educational value.

Introduction game

Introduction game


Education Category: Games
Ages: 0-4, 4-8, 8-12, 12-16, 16+

Donated by Marjolein

What do you need?

  • A group of young people that you don't know yet!
  • Blackboard Crayons

How does it work?
This game is a way to get to know your students and to train their English pronunciation. You can play this game with a maximum of 15 students. One of the students starts by telling his or her name and adds something they like to do. Student number two repeats this and adds his own sentence, this continues until the whole group has been introduced.

Student 1: 
My name is Louise and I like to read a book (mimics reading a book).
Student 2: 
Her name is Louise and she likes to read a book (mimics reading a book). And my name is Susan and I like to jump (Jumps) etc.

What else do I need to know?
As a teacher you can write down the names and the things they like to do on a board. This helps the students memorizing all the names and things.

What is the purpose of this activity?
This game makes it easy to get to now each other. The students not only have to remember all the things other students have said, they also learn more about them. By writing down the names during the game not only the students benefit from this game but you as their teacher get to know your students.

Team games

Team games

Education Category: Language
Ages: 0-4, 4-8, 8-12, 12-16, 16+

Donated by Lisa

Donated by Lisa

What do you need?

Big paper/chalk board


Directions, when you prefer to have pre-prepared directions

How does it work? 
Everyone loves competitive games. This type of game can involve running and writing the answer on the board, throwing balls, or the quieter tabletop version of simply holding up the correct answer. Don’t forget: adults can be just as competitive as children, so introduce these games to all age ranges. They take little preparation and can be used as a starter or a main activity in your lesson. This version tests listening skills and comprehension of directions, but can equally be used for numbers, items of clothing, or even animals.
1. Go over directions (turn right, turn left, go round the corner, take the second right etc)
2. Split class into 2 or 3 teams, line each team up in front of board
3. Shout out a direction; the first student from each team must then run to the board and draw the corresponding direction. The first person to draw the correct direction wins a point.

What else do I need to know?
If you prefer, you can have the directions pre-prepared so the student selects the correct direction and pins it to the board, but we find that students gain more from the process of drawing out the direction.

What is the purpose of this activity? 
With this game, memory, working in teams and being competitive will be trained. Of course it is also a great way to spend time together and to enjoy.

Playing an easy game with only words!

Playing an easy game with only words!


Education Category: Language, Creative
Ages: 0-4, 4-8, 8-12, 12-16, 16+

Eigenlijk is het het makkelijkste spel ooit uitgevonden, maar wij hebben het op alle projecten gespeeld omdat het zo leuk is! Schrijf verschillende Engels woorden op een papiertje en maak teams van minimaal 2 p. Gooi alle kaartjes in een pot en geef ze 2 minuten de tijd om zo veel mogelijk woorden uit te laten leggen. Per goed woord 1 punt. Als alle woorden op zijn, tellen wie de meeste heeft!

Schrijf verschillende Engels woorden op een papiertje en maak teams van minimaal 2 p. Zoek een pot waar alle papiertjes in gegooid kunnen worden. 

Eigenlijk is het het makkelijkste spel ooit uitgevonden, maar wij hebben het op alle projecten gespeeld omdat het zo leuk is! Schrijf verschillende Engels woorden op een papiertje en maak teams van minimaal 2 p. Gooi alle kaartjes in een pot en geef ze 2 minuten de tijd om zo veel mogelijk woorden uit te laten leggen. Per goed woord 1 punt. Als alle woorden op zijn uit de pot, tellen wie de meeste heeft! Je kunt het zo makkelijk/moeilijk maken als je wilt. Is er een hoog Engels niveau? Schrijf moeilijke woorden op bv generous. Is het een beginnende klas? Schrijf makkelijke woorden op bv dog. Hebben sommige in de groep een hoog niveau en andere een laag niveau? Deel zelf kaartjes uit en geef makkelijke woorden aan het lage niveau en moeilijke aan het hoge niveau. Dit is altijd zo'n leuk spel omdat je lol hebt met elkaar, de woordenschat wordt verbeterd en je het niveau elke keer wat kunt verhogen. Daarnaast speel je elke keer met de klas samen zodat ze elkaar ook beter leren kennen  :-)

Leuk om te spelen met mensen van alle leeftijden en alle niveaus 

Play Shape and Seek Game

Play Shape and Seek Game

Education Category: General, Games

Play Shape and Seek Game

Shapes are all around us and young kids love learning about them!  
Our surrounding gives us plenty of excuses to talk about shapes.  
For example:
while you are sitting at the backseat of a car you can show your kid the differences in traffic signs,
the circle roundabout ,
the rectangular parking ,
space  or the octagon stop signs etc.

When you go for a walk ask your kid what shape the bricks on the neighbor's house are made of or talk about
the triangle shaped roof as an example.

Here is a Shape and Seek Game:

What You Need:

  • 5-10 pieces of construction paper- all the same color (to avoid distraction and keep focus only on shapes)
  • scissors
  • tape

What You Do:

1. Using the construction paper,  cut out squares,  circles,  triangles,  and rectangles.  
    Once your child masters these basic shape names  you can excercise with more difficult shapes  like diamonds,  hexagons and octagons.   
    While you may be tempted to break out a rainbow of paper choices,  resist!  
    Keeping all shapes the same color will help kids focus on the shape itself rather than the color and speed up the learning curve.

2.   Ask your child to cover her eyes and count to 20.  
      In the meantime,  take your pile of shapes and tape them around the house.  
      When she opens her eyes,  send her off to find one particular shape.
      When she's got them,  move on to the other shapes,  one by one,  until she finds all.

3.   Fair's fair! so it's your turn now!
     Collect all the shapes and hand them over to your child.  
     Close your eyes and him/her hide these.
     Count to 20 and when time's up,  ask your child to assign you a shape.  
     Pretend to need to have reminders of what each shape looks like before you find it.  

     Ask questions like:
     'How many sides does a triangle have again?'
     'Is the square the one with four equal sides?'  
     'Is that a rectangle?'

changing teaching roles will reinforce the concepts about shapes and your child will feel great being able to help you learn something for a change!

4.   Once you both get fluent in recognizing shapes , you can add a guessing game element to the mix.
      Give clues rather than naming the shape.
      For example: 'I  am thinking of a shape that has at least 4 equal sides' and head on over to the kitchen for some shape snacking.  
      You can cut sandwiches into circles with a cookie cutter or the back of a glass or just pick shapes ready to eat such as cookies, sliced carrots make great circles,  crackers etc.
      If you can't find things in the cupboard it might be time to take your shape hunt to the next location...the grocery store!

© Copyright 2006-2012 All Rights Reserved.

Buried Treasure Game

Buried Treasure Game

Education Category: Games
Ages: 4-8, 8-12, 12-16, 16+

Buried Treasure Game

Has your child ever wanted to become a pirate?
Let's put her healthy imagination into action!
Pirates hide their treasure , bury it in the sand of distant island beaches.
Help your preschooler hide  a treasure in an empty bottle, and make a pirate map and show where the treasure lies!

What You Need:

  •        an empty bottle
  •        Sand or rice  
  •        Treasures that will fit through the mouth of the bottle such as marbles, coins, sequins, plastic animals, etc.
  •        Paper
  •        Markers

What You Do:

    1.  Let the child fill the plastic bottle at least 3/4 full with sand or rice.
    2.  Let the child slip various treasures into the bottle. Explain she has just created a
        mixture — something composed of two or more materials. How is the each indgredient
        different in the mixture?
    3.  Show your child how the treasures can be 'buried'  and 'dug up'  simply by rolling the bottle and
        shifting the sand inside.
    4. Now it's time to make a treasure map! Find a special place for the buried treasure in your child's
       room. Draw the outline of the room and have your child add windows, doors, and furniture that
       can be labeled and remember that  marks the spot for buried treasures!

To extend this project, challenge another family member to follow the map to the buried treasure. Does it

© Copyright 2006-2012 All Rights Reserved.

Educational Food Game

Educational Food Game


Education Category: Health
Ages: 0-4, 4-8, 8-12, 12-16, 16+


Donated by Worldsupporter Juliette Kwee

This is an educational game in which the children can learn about healthy food.

The teacher makes a circle (from paper or on a blackboard). The children get the different kinds of food and they can put it on the right place on the blackboard or paper.

There is also food which shouldn’t be on the circle, because it is unhealthy food. The children have to place this on a ‘garbage place’.

Also it is possible to evaluate with the children about what they did right and what went wrong.



Traditional Dutch Games

Traditional Dutch Games


Education Category: Games
Ages: 0-4, 4-8, 8-12, 16+


Donated by Worldsupporter Maaike Arts

It is nice to teach the children some things from your own country.
So organize a day where you will play traditional games from your culture.
Let them try some typical food or teach them some words in your language.
They will love it!

For Dutch volunteers
Traditional Dutch games include

  • Koek of snoephappen (picture below)
  • Zaklopen
  • Eier-race
  • Blikgooien
  • Spijkerpoepen
  • Kloslopen (with empty soup tins)
  • Ezeltje Prik


Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (Weinberg)

Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (Weinberg)

Summary of Foundations of sport and exercise psychology by Weinberg donated to WorldSupporter

Chapter 1 - Introduction to sport and exercise psychology

The scientific study of people and their behaviour in the exercise and sports context is called sport and exercise psychology. Psychologists working in that field identify principles that professionals can use to help others benefit from and participate in sport and exercise activities. There are usually two objectives in mind when a person studies sport and exercise psychology: (1) understanding how psychological factors affect an individual’s physical performance and (2) understanding how participating in sports and exercises affects a person’s psychological health, development and well-being. There are different questions psychologists ask during the study. When they study the first objective, they may ask how anxiety affects a player’s accuracy or how a coach’s reinforcement influences the team’s cohesion. When studying the second objective, they may ask if running reduces anxiety and depression and if daily participation in physical education improves self-esteem. Sport psychology has a broad population base. Professionals can use it to help elite athletes achieve ultimate performances, but most sport psychologists are concerned with people who are physically or mentally disabled, seniors and average participants. In the last couples of years more sport psychologists have focused on the psychological factors involved in exercise and health, encouragement to exercise and the assessment of the effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for depression. Because of the broadening of interests, the field is called sport and exercise psychology.


Specializing in sport psychology

Sport psychologists pursue varied careers. There are three primary roles in their activities: conducting research, teaching and consulting. Of course, one of the functions of scientists is to advance the knowledge in the field by conducting more
This content is related to:
Sport Psychology: concepts and applications, door Cox - Samenvatting
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