Many athletes struggle with lack of confidence, especially in adverse situations. They lack the belief to use their overlearned skills, trust in their training, or just plain “go for it” and as a result become tight and hesitant in their performance. Coaches often struggle to help these athletes despite their expertise in teaching their sport. Unfortunately, coaches are not always equipped to deal with the psychological dynamics that create decrements in confidence, including perfectionistic thinking, self-presentation concerns, self-handicapping, and in general, harmful patterns of thinking. This article will describe the patterns of thinking that are troublesome for sustaining high confidence in pressure situations, and important principles and strategies for enhancing the confidence of athletes’ in and out of competition. Often, helping athletes deal with their lack of confidence comes down to focusing on controllable aspects of preparation and performance, developing new patterns of thinking, challenging old, negative habits, and accepting that doubts are normal for the high-achieving athlete. The objective will be to provide coach educators an opportunity to expand their own knowledge of coaching athletes to include confidence and composure.
Artur Poczwardowski and Larry Lauer
Think tanks are small, cooperative learning groups that have the potential for unique learning outcomes. Addressing the “art” component of sport psychology service delivery via think tanks allows deep professional and personal exploration and meaningful exchange. In this article, we describe Dr. Ken Ravizza’s think tank organized in Redondo Beach, California, November 20-22, 2003. Ten established sport psychology professionals, 14 young professionals/graduate students, and 9 experienced coaches met to share important lessons from applying sport psychology in competitive settings. In this report written as “anecdotal reflection,” we provide an in-depth account of the process of the Redondo think tank to allow potential replications by those seeking ongoing professional growth and the advancement of applied sport psychology. Additionally, recommendations on how to rigorously study future think tanks are offered.
Larry Lauer and Craig Paiement
The Playing Tough and Clean Hockey Program was developed to teach youth hockey players ages 12 and older to play within the rules and enhance their ability to respond positively to their negative emotions (i.e., through emotional toughness). Hockey players were taught cognitive and emotional skills within a 3 R’s routine to decrease aggressive acts. Three youth ice hockey players identified as frequently exhibiting aggressive behaviors participated in 10 sessions. A single-subject design was used to analyze participants’ aggressive behaviors as well as emotional toughness. Results reveal slight improvements in all participants, with the largest reductions in retaliatory and major aggressive acts. Several key implications for practice are provided including the use of routines and managing emotional responses.
E. Earlynn Lauer, Mark Lerman, Rebecca A. Zakrajsek, and Larry Lauer
In this paper, we describe the development and content of a mental skills training (MST) program and how a strength and conditioning coach/certified mental coach delivered this program within a United States Tennis Association (USTA) Player Development (PD) program. The purpose of the MST program was to create resilient, confident youth tennis competitors. Specific mental strategies (i.e., journaling, routines, breathing, imagery, self-talk) were identified to best meet the objectives of the MST program and were delivered using a three-pronged approach: (a) classroom lessons, (b) strength and conditioning sessions and on-court lessons, and (c) homework assignments. Specific ways that the USTA PD coaches reinforced the use of these strategies during tennis practice are described. Recommendations for coaches to integrate an MST program in high-performance youth sport environments are also provided.
Daniel Gould, Larry Lauer, Cristina Rolo, Caroline Jannes, and Nori Pennisi
This study was designed to investigate experienced coaches’ perceptions of the parent’s role in junior tennis and identify positive and negative parental behaviors and attitudes. Six focus groups were conducted with 24 coaches. Content analysis of coaches’ responses revealed that most parents were positive influences and espoused an appropriate perspective of tennis, emphasized child development, and were supportive. In contrast, a minority of parents were perceived as negative, demanding and overbearing, and exhibiting an outcome orientation. New findings included parents’ setting limits on tennis and emphasizing a child’s total development, as well as the identification of behaviors that represent parental overinvolvement and that negatively affect coaching. Results are discussed relative to sport-parenting literature, and practical implications are outlined.
Daniel Gould, Sarah Carson, Angela Fifer, Larry Lauer, and Robert Benham
This study was designed to identify issues and concerns involved in contemporary school sports that are perceived as influencing sports’ potential to achieve educational and developmental objectives (e.g., psychosocial and life skill development). Eleven focus group interviews involving 67 participants were conducted with key constituency groups involved in high school athletics (coaches n=14, athletic directors n=20, school principals n=11, parents of current high school athletes n=11, and student-athletes n=21). Results were content analyzed using a three-person inductive consensus procedure and triangulated across constituency groups. Issues identified as concerns included: inappropriate behaviors in high school sport, increased expectations for success, ramifications of over-commitment, health issues, coaching and administrative issues, and unmet affiliation needs of athletes which impact the motivation. Findings are discussed relative to the professionalization of scholastic sports and threats to its developmental and educational potential. Implications for coaching education are emphasized.
Larry Lauer, Daniel Gould, Nathan Roman, and Marguerite Pierce
Junior tennis coaches commonly argue that parents must push their children and be very involved to develop their talent, despite the strain on the parent-child relationship that may occur from these tactics. To examine parental influence on talent development and the parent-child relationship, nine professional tennis players, eight parents, and eight coaches were retrospectively interviewed about each player’s junior development based Bloom’s three stages of talent development (1985). Results are presented through aggregated, nonfiction stories of three tennis development pathways: smooth, difficult, and turbulent. Smooth pathways were typical of parents who were supportive and maintained a healthy parent-child relationship while facilitating talent development. Difficult and turbulent pathways involved parents who stressed the importance of tennis and created pressure by pushing their child toward winning and talent development. For difficult pathways, parent-child relationships were negatively affected but conflicts were mostly resolved, whereas for turbulent pathways, many conflicts remained unresolved.
M. Ryan Flett, Daniel Gould, Katherine R. Griffes, and Larry Lauer
The following study explored coaching behaviors and youth coaches’ justifications for their actions by comparing more effective and less effective coaches from an underserved setting. Reasons for their coaching behaviors were also explored. In-depth interviews and ethnographic observations were conducted with 12 coaches from 6 different youth sports. Support for each theme from the analysis was compared between the 6 more effective and 6 less effective coaches. Less effective coaches tried to create a sense of family within the team, but used very negative, militaristic coaching strategies that were not developmentally appropriate. Less effective coaches justified the negative approach because of the perceived dangers in the inner city and attempted to toughen their players through harsher methods. More effective coaches challenged players while being supportive, attempted to develop close relationships along with a positive team climate, and promoted autonomy and the transfer of life skills from sport to life. More effective coaches appeared to be more open to coach training and others’ ideas—they could be described as lifelong learners. The results from this study not only reveal how more and less effective coaches differ, but provide possible insight as to why they differ. The study provides unique insights for researchers and coaching educators interested in particularly underserved settings and in developing less effective coaches.
Kristen D. Dieffenbach, Larry Lauer, and Dennis A. Johnson
Ethical concerns regarding fair play, coach athlete relationships, use of ergogenic aids, and the power dynamic inherent in coaching have been raised by those inside and outside the profession. Standards of coaching behavior and written coaching ethics are a part of most youth through elite level sport organizations. For example, the ethics code of the National Federation of High Schools and the U.S. Olympic Code of Ethics for Coaches are posted on the organization websites. Unfortunately, the “sticky” or gray situations that occur in real life often are not clearly covered in coaching ethical codes. The pressure to make decisions for reasons other than “right thing to do” is immense. These situations often do not have a straightforward answer, and the skills necessary to navigate the gray areas are often underdeveloped. This presentation discusses three approaches to teaching and reinforcing ethical thinking and problem-solving skills within different coaching education models. Best practices for teaching ethical guidelines both in and out of the coaching education classroom are discussed, and an emphasis is placed on the role of coaching education in teaching the skills critical for positive coach behavior.