Sport Psychology Coaching – Basic Concepts for Coaches

Sport psychology coaching is an immensely valuable part of today’s sports. While trained psychologists are employed throughout the sports industry, it’s important for coaches to have a basic understanding of key concepts of sports psychology. The three that I find most helpful are mental visualization, goal setting and self talk. Understanding and applying these techniques will make you a better coach while helping your players succeed.

Sport Psychology Coaching - Basic Concepts for Coaches
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The Mind Body Connection

Sport psychology coaching is focused on improving how the mind impacts an athlete’s performance. To understand and improve this, the number one thing a coach must do is build a solid relationship with their players. This cannot be overlooked. If your players believe you have a vested interest in them as players they will more likely open up to you about challenges they are facing. They will also be more likely to embrace your guidance.

Mental Visualization for Success

In sports, more than any other setting, mental visualization is critical to success. This component of sport psychology coaching allows athletes to picture (in their mind) exactly how they want to perform. Athletes can conduct these sessions on their own, or a coach can run the athlete through visualization sessions. Either method will help the athlete see a clear picture of the performance they desire. Imagine how much improvement an NBA player could see in their free throw shooting if they shot 3,000 perfect free throws in their mind each day!

Goal Setting – Set SMART Goals

Like the business world, goal setting in sports is key to achieving desired performance outcomes. This aspect of sport psychology coaching is often overlooked as coaches and athletes focus on ‘getting better’, but they do not define what that means. As a coach, making sure your players set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time framed) is important.

The Importance of Positive Self-Talk

Getting into a players head and understanding the ‘truths’ they tell themselves is one of the more difficult skills to master in sport psychology coaching. One of the masters in this arena is Tim Gallwey. He revolutionized tennis coaching with his Inner Game methodologies. His methods focus on improving performance by reducing the internal interference that athletes struggle with.

As a coach, it’s important to recognize your athlete’s negative self talk and help them eliminate it. Self talk is extremely powerful, but in order for it to be helpful it must be positive. One technique that is often used in sport psychology coaching is to ask the athlete what they tell themselves when they make a mistake. This insight can greatly help both the coach and the player know what is going on and correct it.

Sport Psychology Coaching, It’s For All Coaches

Coaches often shy away from sport psychology coaching because they think it’s too hard, or they don’t have time. Following the simple techniques above will help you gain confidence in this arena. Understanding your athletes and helping them improve both their mental game and their physical game can be one of the most rewarding achievements of your career.

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Edna Johnson
Master’s in Business Leadership
Writer, Coaches Training Blog Community

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