Warrick Wood MSc.

The Coach-Athlete Relationship

Simple Tips to Enhance Training Effectiveness

Incorporating sport psychology into everyday practice

Posted Jan 21, 2016

The field of sport psychology continues to evolve and perceptions of the discipline are increasingly shifting from that of a remedial stance to being increasingly viewed as a critical aspect of performance preparation.  This is particularly true at the elite level of sport where we see little physical differences between athletes and teams and outcomes are often decided by who “shows up” mentally on the day. 

While the general coaching population now has a fairly good grasp of physical conditioning and, to certain degree, nutrition, the majority of coaches still have a limited understanding of how to incorporate elements within sport psychology into their coaching.  The following article provides some quick tips for increasing the effectiveness of trainings by utilizing some simple sport psychology strategies.

1. Set goals for each session

Identifying goals for training sessions will lead to a number of positive benefits.  Firstly, it will help the coach structure the particular training session so that the desired outcomes are most likely to be reached.  At times it is easy for a coach to lose sight of the main objective and include drills or exercises that are not critical to reaching the goal.  Secondly, it tells the athletes what they are working on and can provide the rationale for the inclusion of certain drills.  Make these goals clear to each member of the team at the start of each session, and it is a good idea to write them on a dry-erase board so that they are visible throughout.

2. Have athletes visualize a drill before completing it

Asking athletes to visualize themselves/the team successfully completing a particular drill can be a great way to enhance the likelihood of success.  It provides an avenue for them to take a few moments following coach instructions to make sure they understand the drill.  Engaging in visualization also promotes skill acquisition through the athlete rehearsing what the technique should feel/look like when being performed successfully.  Finally, visualizing oneself performing a task successfully enhances self-efficacy (i.e., one’s belief that they have the necessary skills to be successful). 

3. Make drills competition/game like

The purpose of training is to put athletes in the best possible positions to experience success when they arrive at competition.  However, too often we put athletes in situations in training that are vastly different to those that they will face during the stresses of competition.  Of course there are times when we need to break skills down to aid skill acquisition; however, if we can utilize games and adapt the environment to include various elements that could be experienced during competition (e.g., noise, weather, referees), then we will have a positive impact on athletes’ feelings of readiness when they arrive at the start-line (and particularly if those elements are experienced – bad referring call for instance!). 

4. Make trainings fun!

Experiencing enjoyment is a critical aspect in maintaining motivation and commitment.  Even at the elite level of sport athletes need to experience satisfaction and have an appropriate level of fun.  As a coach, one needs to be adept at finding the balance between challenging athletes and ensuring that they are enjoying the journey they are on.  While some athletes enjoy the feeling of pushing themselves to the limit physically and challenging each other, others require a nurturing approach from the coach and may define success as being developing skills whilst making new friends.  Finding this balance is one of the most important challenges a coach faces, and will go a long way in determining a coach’s success.  Do not be afraid to ask your athletes what they enjoy doing or what they are trying to achieve –such questions will help develop positive relationships, as it shows a level of interest in their preferences, and help your training sessions be as effective as possible.

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