Three key areas for a successful Coach-Athlete Relationship

In the universe of sport, whether team or individual, very few will attain the highest level and can be recognized as outstanding talents. Youth sport provides a valuable environment in which children can develop their motor and psychosocial skills, learn how to be “coached”, and become part of a team.

Sport and exercise psychology research has largely studied the interpersonal dynamics between coaches and athletes from a leadership approach. Emphasis is placed on how behaviors are perceived by the athletes and the coaches themselves, and their relative impact on outcomes such as satisfaction, self-esteem, and performance.

The coach-athlete relationship is viewed as a key component to athletes’ performance and wellbeing outcomes. Although knowledge and understanding of interpersonal relationships in sport were constrained at both theoretical and empirical levels, progress has been made in recent years. This progress is reflected in two special issues dedicated to coach-athlete relationships.

While coach-athlete relationships have been a relatively new area of inquiry, coach behaviors and leadership have been at the forefront of research since the 1970s. Although both coach leadership behaviors and coach-athlete relationships have been viewed as central to coaching effectiveness due to their associations with positive and negative psychosocial, emotional, motivational, and performance outcomes, these constructs have been typically studied in isolation with limited attempt to integrate them. It would appear that coach leadership behaviors and coaching relationships act synergistically.

There are three key areas to a successful coach-athlete relationship: coaching behavior, communication, and coaching style.
Coaching behavior, whether of a team or individual sports, is to determine the differences between the two in the effectiveness of coaching, where it has a main effect on the quality and the success of the athletic experience. Team sports requires the coach to focus on teamwork, confidence, guidance, and support, and create a unity. Whereas in individual sports, the behavior of the coach focuses on the athlete.

The second key area, communication. Effective communication within a team is an essential element for the development and maintenance of team structure. The importance in a sport environment of communication between coaches and their athletes to proactively prevent athlete burnout. In addition, one of the most important reasons why communication is receiving increased attention as an important factor in the field of sports is that the atmosphere of practice and training, participation, and performance are affected by how athletes perceive the coach’s method of communication.

And finally, the third key area is the coaching style. Several previous studies based on the self-determination theory have consistently demonstrated that autonomy-supportive coaching behaviors by leaders in the sports field are more effective than behaviors that are controlling. Moreover, these studies provide evidence for the argument that coaches should pursue and utilize methods that empathize with, and support, the athletes.
The coaches’ behaviors play a decisive role in helping individuals or groups reach their goals, as they are better motivators, make better strategy decisions, better coaching techniques and these can have an impact on athletes’ choosing to specialize in this sport.

Indeed, both supportive and unsupportive coaching behaviors are linked with the quality of the partnership. The coach-athlete relationship is viewed as a key component to athletes’ performance and wellbeing outcomes. Although, both coach leadership behaviors and coach-athlete relationships have been viewed as central to coaching effectiveness due to their associations with positive and negative psychosocial, emotional, motivational and performance outcomes.

How do you describe your coach-athlete relationship?

Do you see the cultural clash in sports? Or the unifying power of sport?

“Sport has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does”. Nelson Mandela’s inspirational words still hold true. The evolution sports has undertaken through the vaults of technological development has allowed it to bind with neighbouring cultural realms. Further, uniting people.

Culture is a buzz word in sport. Coaches often attribute their success or failure to this ambiguous word. But at the crux of it why should you care about your sports team’s culture?

The short answer is, while some sport team’s cultures can create sustained success, others will only deliver success in the short term, if at all.
Culture is a critical factor in the success of any organized group, whether that be a corporate organization or a sports team.

What is a Sports Team’s Culture?

Every team has a culture. Even if you do not know what yours is, one exists.

Culture is a measure of the observable behaviours your team and organization promotes and accepts. Ultimately, culture is best defined simply as ‘the way we do things around here’ or ‘the way we behave around here’. Culture is not what you think, or want to do, it is what you do. Some teams espouse a certain culture but actually behave in a very different way. That is, they do not ‘walk the talk’. Culture is the ‘talk you walk’. Your team’s culture results in either effective and productive outcomes or ineffective and unproductive outcomes.

Looking at sports teams, all coaches and athletes are confronted with team conflict at the same time.
Team conflict can affect both coaches and players and how they interact with each other. Coaches take on the burden of dealing with interpersonal members’ conflicts and the ethical challenges that those entail. If the coach is involved in the conflict another resulting problem may be the sense among the players that the coach is incompetent.

Different values generate different behaviours and cause different interpretations of others’ behaviour. Moreover, communication rules and conflict styles are reflected in cultural values. It is also likely that different value orientations initiate misunderstandings between individuals and set the stage for intergroup conflict.

Football and professional sports in general are one of the very few global enterprises in which players and coaches are brought from all over the world and put into a team which is then expected to communicate and achieve positive results immediately, regardless of cultural or linguistic differences. Yet, even though the topic of intercultural training has been more widely reported in the world of business than in sports, intercultural communication should be given attention whenever and wherever international success is expected.

An employee who is assigned to a foreign country without any sort of previous experience of the cultural customs, traditions or language can hardly be expected to thrive regardless of his subject expertise or football abilities.

  • A good example to illustrate this point is the one around a familiar face to England fans: Sven-Göran Eriksson.

How is it possible for such an experienced football manager to fail in the seemingly easier level of Central American Football, having previously succeeded in the highly competitive European leagues? There are surely several answers to that question but there is one that focuses on the fact that Sven’s success in Europe was just not transferrable to a different cultural setting like Central America.

Sven is Swedish and as a European football expert he kept up to date with the European leagues and worked for clubs in Italy, Sweden and Portugal. While these countries differ widely in terms of culture, Europeans are clearly more aware of each others’ football traditions thanks to the proximity of their countries and European tournaments such as the Champions League, Euro or the UEFA Europa League.

So Sven-Göran Eriksson’s failure can be seen as his lack of expertise in Mexican football, the wider culture and the football tradition. It is unlikely he had heard much about the Mexican league or the players before his assignment in Mexico. So Sven’s failure could be blamed on a lack of intercultural awareness and a lack of adaptation on his side. It could also be blamed on the assumption of the Mexican Federation that his expertise could be used in any context, despite the cultural differences.

This example shows the importance of intercultural training courses and cross-cultural awareness whenever different cultures meet. Whether it is a multinational company or a football coach, expertise and a previously outstanding record do not necessarily ensure a successful international assignment.

A takeaway message.

Cross-cultural awareness training courses will ensure international assignees are equipped with the practical tools and skills necessary to live and work in a multicultural environment, whether they are responsible for the roll-out of an international merge or the success of any club.

What is an athletic identity and how it develops?

Sports in general start at a very young age, maybe it starts as a hobby and you just want to have fun, or maybe you love the sport and you’re passionate about it to think of it in a different way.

Parents often enourage their children to get involved in any type of activities in order to encourage them to be active, meet some new friends, be involved in a team, grow their personalities, and so on. Some of those kids will either be talented and get serious about the sport and want to pursue a career, or, after a certain age they drop out either for psychological reasons, either finding different interests.

Motivation can be defined in cognitive and behavioral terms. Motivational orientations refer to youths’ reasons for participating in sport (e.g., intrinsic, extrinsic), whereas motivational behaviors refer to participation characteristics such as effort and persistence. Both cognitive and behavioral motivation are important for understanding youths’ involvement in sport and for exploring predictors (e.g., social, environmental) and consequences (e.g., skill, health) of participation.

Strong athletic identity can be a positive asset in fostering motivation and sport commitment;
however, a combination of strong and exclusive athletic identity has been shown to leave athletes vulnerable to psychological distress if they encounter poor performance, severe injury or athletic retirement. Furthermore, student athletes with strong athletic identity have been reported to have lower career maturity than their nonathlete peers, indicating that they might encounter additional challenges when making career choices and transitioning to the job market. Therefore, supporting the development of multifaceted identities to safeguard adaptability and wellbeing has been lifted as a central concern for those working with athletes, including sport psychologists, coaches, career counsellors and lifestyle advisors.
Although identity development is a lifelong process, adolescence is considered the prime time of
exploration of and commitment to identities and activities that come with them. Identity formation during late adolescence consists of integrative issues: to balance and control one’s needs and wishes in relation to others’ and to find a place for oneself in the
future’.

Let us take gymnastics and retirement as an example, to talk more about athletic identity and its psychological meaning.
Given the young age at which gymnasts begin and end their sport careers,
particular attention was afforded to the role of identity and the physical self in the process of
adaptation. Retirement from gymnastics engendered adjustment difficulties and the challenge of athletic retirement was intensified because the gymnasts had heavily invested in sport during adolescence, a period demarcated for the pursuit of an identity. Furthermore, their retirement coincided with a time when adolescents typically undergo profound changes physiologically.

Adaptation to transition is determined by the interaction of three sets of factors:
characteristics of the individual (such as age and state of health), perceptions of the transition
(including source and onset), and characteristics of the pre- and post-transition environments
(including institutional support). The individual and the transition itself determine the relative
salience of these variables. Within this framework, self-identity is particularly relevant because the impact of a transition is moderated by its effect on the individual’s assumptions about the self.

A potential explanation for the negative consequences of a strong and exclusive athletic
identity emerges from developmental theory. Adolescence has been identified as a stage in
life during which individuals form a true self-identity.
Self-identity refers to a “clearly delineated self-definition … comprised of those goals, values
and beliefs which the person finds personally expressive and to which he/she is unequivocally
committed”. True identity formation therefore resides in commitment to occupational and ideological options most congruent with an individual’s principles, needs, interests, and abilities. Such a commitment necessitates an active exploration of different roles and behaviors and the accomplishment of particular developmental tasks.

Achieving excellence in elite sport typically involves incredible sacrifice and dedication,
which often prevents athletes from engaging in adequate exploration of different roles and
behaviors associated with identity formation. Commitment of one’s identity to the sport role without exploration of alternatives indicates a state of identity foreclosure, which precludes the achievement of true identity. the nature of elite gymnastics compels the athletes to “maximize their career into the years before puberty”, the very years assigned to exploration and identity development. Accordingly, identity conflict has been strongly associated with retirement from elite gymnastics.

Gymnasts typically reach their peak in the years before adolescence. Retirement therefore occurs during adolescence, when the developmental task of identity formation is most pertinent. The process of identity formation for young females “is hard work, fraught with the anxieties of loneliness and failure”. It follows, therefore, that the identity issues provoked by disengagement from elite sport are pronounced for female gymnasts because they retire during a stage in their life that is already inherently challenging. From this perspective, and given that the
developmental endeavors of adolescence are understood to be instrumental in effecting a
productive adulthood.

Increasing athletes’ personal control and independence in sport would also serve to temper
the discrepancy between athletes’ lives before and after retirement. Allowing athletes greater
involvement in the content and structure of their training sessions and their competition
schedules might be one way to reduce the pre/post transition discrepancy. Similarly, parents
could facilitate identity development by creating opportunities for their young athlete to
establish and maintain interpersonal relationships with their non-sport peers and/or with
their sport peers outside the sport milieu. This diversification might be achieved through
the identification of mutual interests outside gymnastics. Finally, a more supportive approach
to weight control is needed in aesthetic sports. This should include access to nutritionists
well-versed in the demands of aesthetic sports, and the provision of psychological support in
retirement to facilitate athletes’ adjustment to the absence of any need to control their diet or
appearance.

In conclusion, an association between elite sport involvement during
adolescence and delayed development of self-identity. For some athletes, the extreme
dedication required to excel in elite sport was incompatible with the process of role
experimentation and the development of personal control and independence. It may also
have complicated the formation of mature peer relationships, and the ability to accept one’s
physical appearance. Therefore, in the current context, the interaction between elite sport
involvement and the process of identity formation may have negative implications for athletes’
experiences of retirement. However, this research also suggests that if parents and coaches
become more cognizant of the important developmental endeavors of adolescence, elite sport
participation could facilitate rather than hinder the process of identity formation. From this
vantage point, a sport environment that fosters excellence in and beyond the sport milieu is
conceivable, whereby: “it’s not about dedicating your life to your training but about dedicating
your training to your life” (Millman, 1999, p.15).

You can have all the talent in the world, but it takes mental strength to be a champion.

Why is that a volleyball player can serve faultlessly all match and then, when required to serve the ball on match point, miss?

How does a tennis player lose after being two sets up?

How does a footballer miss the winning conversion?

Or, a basketballer miss an important free-throw?

An athlete can spend years of developing and sculpting their body for a perfect physical performance, however, when it comes time to compete something else needs to be trained and repeated – The Brain.
After all, it has the ultimate control over the effectiveness of that body.

Through development, through practice, through more development/practice; and additional training; a perfect physical body is formed.
A simple formula: Improvement – Brain (Success) – Consistency: with the addition of Sport Psychology; training of mind -> Champions are made, and/or success can be achieved.

Psychology has a marked effect on athletes training and performance. Sport Psychology is the study of the psychological and mental factors that influence and are influenced by participation and performance in sport, exercise and physical activity.

Sport Psychology can help with:

  • Performance enhancement
  • Mental skills (goal setting, imagery,…)
  • Anxiety management and relaxation
  • Concentration and mental preparation
  • Arousal management
  • Team building and leadership
  • Post-performance debriefing
  • Injury rehabilitation

Common sports psychology problems seen, include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Distractions
  • Under/Over arousal
  • Injuries
  • Poor motivation
  • Poor team cohesion

Common sports psychology problems can be overcome through psychological skills:

  • Mental Skills including: visualization, concentration, self talk, motivation, relaxation, performance routines, music, pep talks, and goal setting.

1- Concentration: concentration is the ability to maintain attentional focus to relevant environmental cues. Concentration techniques reduce the effects of distractions, focus on task ahead and the ability to rapidly change attentional focus to me the environmental demands.

2- Mental rehearsal (Imagery): Mental rehearsal/visualization/imagery, is when an athlete practices his or her mind the physical skills that the athlete wishes to perform. In this process, there is no visible physical movement, the athlete imagines the performance and rehearses the activity in his or her mind to try to prepare the mind and body for competition.

3- Music/Pep talks: Music forms part of the pre-competition environment for many athletes by evoking a relaxation response. Music’s tempo has an effect on athletes movements.
Up-beat = increase arousal motivational talks, commonly known as pep talks, by a coach, teacher, teammate or parent are popular ways of increasing athletes’ motivation and arousal.

4- Motivation: Motivation is defines as the ”Direction and intensity” of one’s efforts. Motivation is primarily concerne with encouraging others to achieve a goal. It can influence how people feel, act and think. Motivation includes: positive; negative; intrinsic, and extrinsic.

5- Self-talk: Self-talk is a technique used to improve concentration. Self-talk is based on the theory that what people say to themselves has an effect on the way they behave. It includes: positive; negative; technical or insttructional; and neutral talk.

6- Performance routine: Is a routine established by the athlete in order to maintain focus. Many athletes take a moment to perform routines, before closed skills, such as serves and pitches, to increase their concentration. For instance, a basketballer might use the same routine when shooting free-throws such as bouncing the ball a certain number of times before shooting.

7- Relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques are often used by athletes to calm themselves, thereby decreasing anxiety and controlling over-arousal. Relaxation is the state from uncontrolled tension, anxiety and negative thoughts. It is commonly characterized by feelings and ease, looseness and readiness. It includes: pprogressive muscle relaxation; meditation; focus on breathing and or bio-feedback.

Popular phrases such as ”choking” and ”spitting the dummy” have developed over the years to describe psychological issues of the performance of athletes; let’s look in more details of what they mean theoretically and how they can be dealt with pratically.

1- Choking: Is a process of increasing anxiety due to the perceived importance of an event. Performing badly at a critical time in a match with a high degree of perceived importance is commonly called choking.

2- Sport tantrum ”spitting the dummy”: It means to indulge in a sudden display of anger or frsutration, to lose one’s temper. The phrase is usually used of an adult, and the implication is that the outburst is childish. Usually when the result does not go on athletes way.

Additional topics in relation to sport psychology:

1- Psychology of injury
2- Psychological recovery
3- The debriefing process
4- Goal setting

1- Psycholoy of injury: Several research studies report that psychological factors, especially stress and anxiety, are related to sports injuries. Numerous studies have used imagery, team-building strategies, relaxation techniques and attentional control interventions in order to reduce risk of sport injury with surprisingly positive results.

2- Psychological recovery: Every athlete follows a warm (cool) down routine of some sort armed at removal of ”lactic acid” from the muscles or other such recoveries. A pychological recovery is how atheletes warm down their brains post physical activity. Psychological skills are aimed at controlling emotions and the link between the mental and physical state should never be underestimated.
Psychological recovery includes: relaxation/reflection
training/debriefing

3- Post-performance debriefing: A post-performance debriefing is the process of prividing feedback on performance in a supportive environment. The debriefing process is an opportunity for the exchange of meaningful feedback on the process of the performance as well as the outcome in a supportive environment.

4- Goal setting: Goal setting is a mean by which individuals and teams direct their focus. Goals give a team direction and mental focus, and enable athletes to focus attention on the process of achieving sucess.
Three main types of goals in sport: outcome goals; performance goals; and process goals. Goals are not to be confused with dreams or wishes. Goals need to be realistic and achievable at the performer’s skill level.

In sum, athletes cannot truly rely on physical formation to be successful. Sport psychology is an essential component of long-term sporting success.

Anxiety or Energy Management

Performance Anxiety

Do you perform well during training or practice but choke in competition? If feelings of nervousness, anxiety or fear interfere with your sports performance, learning to use a few tips from sports psychology may help you get your anxiety under control and reduce game-day nerves.

Overview

Performance anxiety in sports, sometimes referred to as “choking,” is described as a decrease in athletic performance due to too much-perceived stress. Perceived stress often increases in athletes on game day because (1) they have an audience and (2) they have extremely high expectations of their success.

This type of stress is often based on the way the athletes interpret the situation. It is rarely the external situation that causes stress, but rather the way the athlete’s self-talk describes the situation that creates feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear.

The thoughts you have about your event can be modified, adjusted or controlled with appropriate sports psychology and mental practice.

Causes

An athlete should first determine if thoughts of doubt, failure or a lack of confidence are due to a perceived lack of ability. If so, the self-talk will generally lead to continued feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and tension. Athletes need to realize that it’s tough to do your best in a sport when your own internal voice is telling you otherwise.

Coaches can also help or hinder an athlete’s ability to overcome choking during competition. Coaches often inadvertently reinforce a pattern of choking when trying to encourage (“the next shot is critical”). Such talk only increases the pressure an athlete feels to perform.

To overcome performance anxiety, a​ sports psychologist, coach, and trainer may try to help the athlete understand why those thoughts and feelings develop and then try to change or modify that process with limited amounts of success. Athletes who are returning from injuries often have emotional issues that undermine confidence.

Why self-defeating thoughts arise may be of interest, but knowing the answer isn’t always necessary to overcome them.

Energy Management

Athletes need to manage both their physical and mental arousal levels. Continuing our Psychological Skills Training series.

Introduction

Energy management has to do with helping you control your arousal- the physical and mental energy that fuels your athletic performance. This energy is on a continuum from deep sleep to intense excitement.

Arousal involves both how much the body is activated and how that activation is interpreted. It’s the body’s way of preparing for intense, vigorous activity. You have more or less arousal at different times of the day and in different situations.

Put the following on the arousal continuum: sleep, practice, watching TV, playing in a state tournament game, sitting in this session.

SleepSitting in SessionState Game
TVPractice
LOWMODERATEHIGH

When you are physically aroused complex changes happen in your body. Have you ever heard of the fight or flight response? (heart rate increases, breathing increases, adrenaline and other hormones released, etc). All gets you ready for physical action.
Did you ever get butterflies in your stomach? That’s because of decreased blood flow to the digestive system….. your body diverts the blood to where it’s needed and away from the stomach…. bladder empties making for plenty of trips to the bathroom….. blood flow to extremities slows down so your hands and feet get cold…..

Two reasons understanding arousal is important:

physical symptoms are normal and signal readiness to compete- nothing to worry about.

Athletes with elevated arousal deal with it in various ways- pacing, talking incessantly, screaming… while some yawn, nap. Both approaches can be effective in controlling arousal.

So, each person must find an energy management strategy that works for her to attain optimal arousal in practice and competition.

How does arousal affect performance?

Arousal too low: you’ll lack sufficient physical and mental energy to perform to your best.

Arousal too high: you’ll suffer from a variety of problems related to tension, attention, motor control and interpretation that prevent you from performing your best.

You want moderate arousal.

Athletes have different optimal energy zones.

How do you figure out your optimal energy zone?

Know your personality and athletic ability- introvert vs. extrovert; how much athletic ability; how long does it take me to get ready mentally; how do I respond to outside circumstances and people?

Know what you need to do in your sport position- running full out doesn’t take much precision but (coach- change the following skills to skills from your sport) tackling, passing and shooting do.

Use the Arousal Monitoring Scale: assign yourself a score repeatedly during practice (and later during competition), and over time you’ll discover what optimal arousal (5) feels like for you in various situations and be able to play more consistently in zone 4-6.

If you are not in your zone, you can do rapid relaxation to lower arousal or energy to increase arousal.

Mental side of arousal: how you interpret physical changes (butterflies in stomach as a sign of excitement and anticipation of the competition to come.. or….as a cause for worry and anxiety about how going to perform) has a huge effect on how you perform.

If you interpret arousal positively, as challenge, readiness or excitement, you can experience top performance and flow.

If you interpret it negatively, you are likely to perform poorly.

If you start to experience self-doubt, loss of control or images of failure, use mental training tools to get self back in zone. First relax completely in order to lower arousal. Then use self-talk to reinterpret your arousal constructively and rebuild self-confidence.  Then use energy skills to raise arousal back to your optimal energy zone.

List 3 different skills you do in your sport position and then check if each requires low or high arousal.

As you consider your personality, do you generally need to increase or decrease your arousal level to get into your optimal energy zone for competing?

      __________  Increase         ___________ Decrease  

Think back to a competition where your performance seemed to go up or down depending on what you were thinking and feeling. If you could go back to that game. Write a bit about that.

How Bully Coaches Affect A Young Athletes Mental Game

Growing up, I loved basketball so much that I even put it as my priority before school, and worked so hard to join my school’s basketball team.

I have joined my first division A team at the age of 14. But little did I know, that this team was my joy and my nightmare at the same time. I got bullied from teammates whom I loved and cared for, yet I got used for their personal achievements, the coach didn’t like me for some reason because of my teammates, though when I did my try outs he couldn’t believe when I could join them.
This experience growing up, left me a scar and it followed me on my other team transitions though I didn’t get bullied afterwards but the fear and doubts were highly there.

Today, I want to talk about bullying and its affect that it has on us as athletes growing up, which is the most important years of our lives in order to develop, to learn and grow.

”Bullying” is a big word, that many of us face growing up, either at school, teammates, coaches, and unfortunately the consequences of bullying are major.

As professionals and members of the Sports Community, it is our responsibility to protect youth sports experience and the universal privileges of participating in youth sports.

Youth coaches are critical to kids’ sport experiences. They can influence whether young athletes enjoy sports and want to continue playing. Some coaches can get kids excited about sports, while other coaches may discourage kids or take the fun out of the game. A good coach can keep kids’ interest in sports alive. Bullied kids think there is something the matter with them. This deflates them and creates a lack of comfort and security in sports.

It is possible that young athletes are afraid to talk about being bullied by coaches. Often, young athletes’ first reaction to being treated this way is shame. They feel as if they somehow caused the coach to treat them badly. Bullying can hurt an athlete’s confidence in and out of sports. When athletes are being bullied, and singled out by coaches they begin to have doubts about their ability to perform which cause them to question their role in sports.

Athletes who are bullied, experience difficulty focusing on what they should focus on. They sometimes obsess on the bully that the kids are also afraid. They think ”Should I shoot the ball?Should I pass the ball? Should I get rid of the ball fast?” for example. They focus on the wrong things during sports because they are preoccupied with gaining the coaches’ approval, often, they are afraid of how the coach will react if they make the wrong decision.

Fear doesn’t enhance an athlete’s sports experience, and it’s not a good motivator although some coaches try to rely on it. Fear is a mental game killer. To really benefit and enjoy sports, young athletes need to feel confident and safe. That’s where the parents come in.

You as parents and coaches, can do a lot to help kids who are bullied by their coaches. Parents need to learn how to identify the characteristics a bully coach, and how to stand up to coaches who put their child athletes’ confidence, focus, self-esteem, motivation, and enjoyment of sports at risk.

  • 40-50% of athletes have experienced anything from mild harassment to severe abuse in their sport of choice
  • 4% of young athletes reported that a coach had hit, kicked, or slapped them
  • 8% of coaches acknowledged encouraging athletes to hurt opponents, 33% yelled at players for making mistakes and 20% made fun of a team member with limited skills
  • Athletes are responsible for more sexual harassment of their peers than coaches
  • Abuse occurs in all sports

Please know, that if you think your kids are being bullied by coaches or teammates, you can reach to any sports psychologist near your area to share the athlete’s experience and to be open for discussion to allow parents, athletes, coaches, students the opportunity to face any topic and to hold accountable.

The Effect of Cortisol & Recovery

There are approximately 3.5 million sports injuries each year in the US alone, with sprains and strains being the most common. Recovering from a sports injury can be stressful if all you want to do is get back to your favorite hobby, but this stress can slow down recovery times due to higher levels of cortisol in the body.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands.  Cortisol is known as the stress hormone as the body produces more of it when you experience stress, but it also helps regulate blood sugar and electrolytes, aids in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism and perhaps most importantly, controls inflammation in our bodies, all of which can affect recovery times.

Cortisol is produced at higher levels in the early morning hours, and then slowly descends throughout the day and is low through the night. We can’t live without this hormone, and too much of it can ruin our health.

Elevated Cortisol Effects & Its role in Recovery

However, when we become stressed, either mental-emotionally or physically, our bodies churn out much more cortisol – hence being dubbed a ‘stress’ hormone. Cortisol is our body’s natural anti-inflammatory. One of the reasons we produce it in times of stress is because nature anticipates injury when we are stressed. While we don’t have to hunt and fight off wild beasts these days, our bodies still respond in anticipation of stress-induced bodily injury. (Starvation is another stress, and cortisol elevates to help mobilize stored fats and sugar from the liver when food is scarce.)

Too much stress, such as the amounts we make when we are chronically stressed – can damage our health and limit our recovery. When we train, we are stressing our bodies. Physical training-induced stress followed by recovery is an important training principle. However, with too much training and not enough recovery comes chronically elevated cortisol, and diminishing returns on our performance gains and overall health.

In chronic stress states, elevated cortisol can lead to inexplicable weight gain (especially around the midsection) insomnia (most often evidenced by waking at 3 or 4 a.m.), tissue breakdown in the form of ‘itis’ – tendonitis, or uncontrolled tissue inflammation, suppressed immunity and lastly, interference with other hormones, namely thyroid hormone.  This is part of why in chronic stress states we can feel so rotten – the actions of our other hormones are blocked by cortisol.

Cortisol & Over-training

An athlete who trains excessively, without proper rest and recovery, will have chronically elevated cortisol levels and after time will start to experience the above problems. And if they don’t become symptomatic, their recovery will be poor and this reflects on future performance. This is part of the ‘over-training syndrome’ and is why an athlete can train and train and wake up on race day feeling flat and have a lackluster performance, despite doing loads of training.

Controlling Cortisol

All of this is bad news when recovering from an injury, which is why it’s crucial to keep cortisol levels under control for a quicker recovery that doesn’t come with any other symptoms. This is backed up by a study that found that elite athletes with elevated cortisol levels had a positive correlation with symptomatology and a prolonged recovery process was more likely.

1. Sleep

We’ve established that too much cortisol is counterproductive for training. But how can you get it under control. Here’s a list of the most important ways to get your cortisol rhythm back to normal – all of which are central tenets of recovery!

The golden hours of sleep are from 10pm to 6am. Those same 8 hours from say, 1am to 9am are of less quality, and won’t allow for your body to establish a normal cortisol rhythm.

Cortisol Manager is combination of nutrients that lower cortisol at nighttime.

2. Eat

Skipping meals, not eating after a big workout and generally getting too few calories sends a stress message to your hypothalamus and can result in cortisol secretion.  Keeping blood sugar at normal levels by consuming a mixture of protein, fat and carbohydrate immediately after a workout will stimulate proper recovery conditions. A small amount of protein at bedtime (15 grams or so – a hard-boiled egg and handful of nuts) will keep blood sugars stable during sleep, and cortisol down.

3. Deal

As in, deal with your stressors. Stress is a part of life, some of which we can’t control. But do try to engage your stressors in a productive way. Even taking small steps at stress reduction can have impressive effects on lowering cortisol levels.

4. Rest

Yes, the 4-letter word that no athlete wants to hear.  If we take real rest and recovery days, rather than further stressing our bodies with more training (raising cortisol), the body will stop churning out cortisol, allowing true recovery to take place. Less is more!

Measuring Cortisol Level

If you’re curious about your cortisol levels, you can measure them at home using a saliva test. A saliva test gives a much better indication of ‘functional’ cortisol levels, or how much your body is really producing. A standard blood test doesn’t measure cortisol in small enough units to tell us if your levels are off.

Getting cortisol levels under control is important if you want to have better results from your training. Cortisol levels left unchecked are counterproductive for athletes and the benefits we expect from training.

What is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant? (CMPC)

YOU MAY BENEFIT FROM WORKING WITH A CMPC IF YOU FIND YOURSELF SAYING…
• I don’t perform as well in games/competitions as I do in practices
• My performance in “big” games/competitions is worse than in regular games/competitions
• I have difficulty concentrating or frequently lose focus
• I have difficulty recovering from setbacks
• I’m coming back from an injury and don’t feel confident
• I wish my performances were more consistent
• I have a hard time coping with my high-stress or high-risk occupation

Why Should You Select a CMPC?
Certified Mental Performance Consultants recognized by the Association of Applied Sport Psychology are the most capable sport and performance psychology providers. They have met the highest standard in education, training, and supervised practice, and they have passed a required certification exam to demonstrate their competence as a practitioner.
CMPCs also are governed by and committed to high standards of ethical conduct when providing services to the public.

CMPCS ARE SPECIFICALLY TRAINED TO HELP ENHANCE PERFORMANCE IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS:
• Reducing performance anxiety
• Improving concentration
• Setting both short- and long-term goals
• Increasing and maintaining motivation
• Building self-confidence
• Improving communication
• Recovering from injury
• Starting and maintaining an exercise program

Sports Psychology: body & mind

Our society loves sports, and (for better or worse) this love of sports means there is a need for psychologists to help those involved in athletics.

Besides psychology, it is also concerned with disciplines such as biomechanics, physiology, and kinesiology.

Sport Psychology addresses the interactions between psychology and sport performance, including the psychological aspects of optimal athletic performance, the psychological care and well-being of athletes, coaches, and sport organizations, and the connection between physical and psychological functioning.

Based on this definition, sports psychologists can participate in various activities, mostly focused on working to understand what motivates athletes and how athletes can improve their performance. These activities can range from counseling athletes who might have anxiety issues that hamper their performance to instructing athletes (individually or in groups) on methods of mental conditioning (e.g., visualizationconcentration, and relaxation) to helping athletes deal with injuries.

To put all of this in another way, a sport psychologist is working from the perspective that success in sports relies on both the body and mind. To add one other important point, sports psychologists are often found working with elite athletes—Olympians and professionals. However, sports psychologists can be found working with athletes at all levels as well as with coaches and sports administrators.

An Overview of Sports Psychology

This domain will focus mainly on Sports psychology, the different areas of this field, its benefits on athletes or any normal individual who likes to improve his lifestyle.

This blog, will cover all aspects related to Sports psychology and its key points, this blog is for those who are interested to read and learn about the psychological effect on our mental skills before our physical skills.

My aim here is to educate the youth and the children to overcome challenges and obstacles that prevents them to continue, or to become a professional athlete in a sport they love or enjoy to do. Below, you will read an overview about sport psychology and how it works.

Sports psychology is the study of how psychology influences sports, athletic performance, exercise, and physical activity. Some sport psychologists work with professional athletes and coaches to improve performance and increase motivation. Other professionals utilize exercise and sports to enhance people’s lives and well-being throughout the entire lifespan.

Professional sports psychologists often help athletes cope with the intense pressure that comes from competition and overcome problems with focus and motivation. They also work with athletes to improve performance and recover from injuries.

Sports psychology and athletics

But sports psychologists do not just work with elite and professional athletes. They also help regular people learn how to enjoy sports and learn to stick to an exercise program.

Sports Psychology Today

Contemporary sports psychology is a diverse field. While finding ways to help athletes is certainly an important part of sports psychology, the application of exercise and physical activity for improving the lives of non-athletes is also a major focus.

Major Topics of Sports Psychology

There are a number of different topics that are of special interest to sports psychologists. Some professionals focus on a specific area, while others study a wide range of techniques.

  • Attentional focus: Involves the ability to tune out distractions, such as a crowd of screaming fans, and focus attention on the task at hand.
  • Imagery: Involves visualizing performing a task, such as participating in an athletic event or successfully performing a particular skill.
  • Motivation: A major subject in sports psychology, the study of motivation looks at both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Extrinsic motivators are external rewards, such as trophies, money, medals, or social recognition. Intrinsic motivators arise from within, such as a personal desire to win or the sense of pride that comes from performing a skill.

Article source

American Psychological Association. (n.d). Sports Psychologists Help Professional and Amateur Athletes. Psychology Help Center.

Voelker, R. (2012). Hot Careers: Sports Psychology. GradPSYCH Magazine.