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Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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6 Psychological characteristics explained

There is debate among the sports psychology community about the concept of mental toughness and the ability for it to be measured and developed. There is agreement, though, that sportspeople need to possess key psychobehavioural characteristics in order to progress (e.g. Abbot et al., 2002). One way to investigate such characteristics is by interviewing top athletes, and there are many researchers who have done this.

You will focus on MacNamara et al.’s (2010) work with Dave Collins, who you have just heard from in Activity 4. Their interviews are particularly useful since they cover research from sport, as well as musical performance.

Activity 4 Developing young athletes

Timing: Allow about 25 minutes

Read the article Developing excellence in young athletes [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , which provides a fascinating overview of the nine Psychological Characteristics for Developing Excellence (PCDE). Consider which of the nine characteristics provide you with new insights not yet fully explained on the course and which overlap and connect in some way with what you have already read about.


Of the nine characteristics identified in the article, two may be familiar to you from what you have already read. The first of these was the item about commitment, while the second was about quality practice, which McKeever discussed in particular. In Activity 3, Clough briefly mentioned resilience and self-regulation and touched upon focus control when mentioning controllable aspects of performance.

Some of the new insights were probably things you have heard of but might not have read about before. For example, imagery (picturing successful future performances), particularly in pre-performance routines, is a very important skill. When realistic performance evaluation and attribution is described, does it make you think about people who attribute something to misfortune or anything other than themselves? Also, you have heard of goal setting before, but perhaps not in such detail.

The importance of creating and using support networks was last mentioned in the very first session of the course. However, support networks are not often recognised in sport: asking for help is a sign of strength and can play a key role in times of adversity.

You will be investigating some of these in greater detail in Session 6, which specifically focuses on some of the psychological skills used in sport and in life generally.