Psychological skills and methods that can be applied to working with children and adolescents in sport are examined from a theory-to-practice as well as a practice-to-theory approach. In addition to an emphasis on the reciprocal nature of theory and practice, the philosophy adopted in this paper includes a focus on personal development rather than performance, and a multidisciplinary or integrated sport science approach to understanding children’s experiences in the physical domain. The types of psychological skills discussed are self-perceptions, motivation, positive attitude, coping with stress, and moral development. Psychological methods include environmental influences such as physical practice methods, coach and parent education, communication styles, and modeling; and individual control strategies in the form of goal setting, relaxation, and mental imagery. Numerous anecdotal stories based on the author’s experiences working with children and adolescents are used to support the major philosophical themes advanced in this paper.
Maureen R. Weiss is with the Dept. of Exercise and Movement Science, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403.