Notes on Sport Psychology: from Theory to Practice

By Mark H. Anshel

Chapter 1 – The Science of Sport Psychology

The most important part of sports training is the physical training itself, however athletes of similar skill will experience various amounts of success relative to their mental training routines (Anshel, 1-2). Sports psychology is founded upon psychology. Using psychological tools, sports psychologists are able to describe, explain, and predict behavior in sports settings (Anshel, 2).

Describing behavior is “the process of detecting and observing sport performance that reflects the sport psychology research literature” (Anshel, 2). Explaining behavior is defined as “the process of determining the association between certain characteristics experienced or observed during competition and the specific outcomes” (Anshel, 2). Finally, the definition of predicting behavior in this context is “the degree of accuracy with which a researcher, practitioner, or coach can accurately anticipate a particular performance outcome given the presence and, sometimes, interaction of one or more factors” (Anshel, 2).

Psychophysiology is defined as “a body of knowledge concerned with the interference of psychological processes and emotional states from an examination of physiological measures” (Anshel, 2).

Coaches can be successful without being effective. In other words, coaches can have high win-to-loss ratios without fostering a developmentally healthy environment for the players (Anshel, 5).

Contrary to coaching techniques, sports psychologists recommend not criticizing players and instead opting to provide more positive feedback (Anshel, 5). Thus, coaches tend to listen to other coaches and not sports psychologists (Anshel, 5).

Pre-game pep talks are, surprisingly, discouraged by sports psychologists. In most cases, the athletes are already significantly “pumped up” before the contest and do not need any added energy (Anshel, 6). This pre-game talk can also add to anxiety if any message of a necessity to win is present within it (Anshel, 6).

Coaching tactics that involve punishment are not advised because they create an association between exercise and punishment in the mind of the player (Anshel, 6).

Team cohesion, or essentially the feeling of togetherness, is required to perform at the maximum level during a competition. Team cohesion can distract from unsupportive crowds during competition and can aid in complete concentration and optimal performance (Anshel, 7).

Sports psychology is considered multidimensional. What this means is that it is derived from multiple areas of study. These include educational psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, psychophysiology, exercise psychology, personality psychology, psychology of sports injury, clinical psychology, and cognitive psychology (Anshel, 11).

Sports psychologists are responsible for providing aid with severe mental health issues, providing mental strategies for sports settings, and determining optimal modes of training (Anshel, 13).

The terms inventory, questionnaire, profile, and scale are used to describe what would normally be referred to as “tests” because they are less threatening sounding to athletes (Anshel, 16).

Inventories are frequently misrepresentative of sports emotion because they are simply not the correct inventory. These inventories are often developed on different populations of individuals with different emotional characteristics and thus can provide skewed results (Anshel, 16). In order to properly assess the implementation of an inventory in a given scenario, one must know the inventory’s psychometric properties, know the target audience of the inventory, keep an eye out for specific false interpretations of results, avoid exclusion inventories (also referred to as talent detection), and maintain confidentiality of results (Anshel, 17).

In many cases, sports psychologists are advised to take special precautions against developing unhealthy client relationships (Anshel, 18). These psychologists are advised to completely avoid physical contact with athletes and, sometimes, even avoid traveling with them (Anshel, 18).

Sexual orientation is especially important, as it is an incredibly sensitive subject and may affect the needs of the athlete (Anshel, 18). Notably, homosexuality is almost completely absent from sports psychology literature, barring one professional article, which addressed homophobia (Anshel, 18).

Chapter 2 – Personal Factors Affecting Sport Performance

It is important to establish a difference between traits and orientations or styles. Traits are permanent effectors of behavior that are unsusceptible to change, whereas orientations or styles are a reflection of an athlete’s tendency towards a specific coping response (Anshel, 21).

Elite athletes generally:

  • exert reduced effort while training relative to during competitive performance
  • feel more confident with more detailed competition plans
  • create backup plans, in case the predominant plan does not work as anticipated
  • prefer to be alone before a contest
  • prefer to have a coach present during warm-up periods
  • do not worry about competitors before performance, but instead acknowledge their strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies without being consumed by these thoughts
  • are nervous and tense before competitions, which translate into high levels of controlled arousal and can be optimal for performance
  • are capable of regaining composure after being overwhelmed by an emotion
  • engage in mental rehearsals of the performance before hand
  • can concentrate fully on the upcoming event during warm-up
  • can usually assess how well they will do before a competition
  • can handle unusual or strange events before a competition
  • are relatively unaffected by unfamiliar environments
  • “play their own contest,” meaning they use specific strategies to avoid reacting to the movements or actions of opponents
  • concentrate on technique and effort rather than correctness after fatigue sets in
  • compete when injured, although sometimes to their detriment
  • do not “give up”
  • prefer productive use of time-outs
  • concentrate on using specific aspects of strategy throughout the contest
  • learn and later reuse the information from each contest (Anshel, 22-23)

A model called the Fitts-Posner Three-Stage Model of Motor Performance has been used to show that the learning of a motor skill occurs in three stages (Anshel, 23). These are the cognitive phase, associative phase, and autonomous phase (Anshel, 23). The cognitive phase is very verbal in nature, as the learner is still understanding the basics of the motor skill (Anshel, 23). The associative stage moves on to “proper practice conditions” and the learner begins to use “information feedback” to learn (Anshel, 24). Finally, the autonomous phase is the phase at which the athlete must complete the motor skill regularly and correctly, with minimal conscious effort (Anshel, 24).

There are two opposing sides in sports psychology — one that is in favor of athlete personality testing and another that is against it (Anshel, 24-25). The side that is for it recommends it on the basis that athletes have individual needs that are based upon their personalities, however the side that is against it highlights inaccuracies in the inventories used to test personality (Anshel, 25).

Athletes that compete at a high level are consistently predisposed to risk-taking activities during performance, which can result in bodily harm (Anshel, 28). These same athletes are also generally stimulus-seeking, whether that is manifest as tactile or mental stimulus, and highly competitive (Anshel, 28-29).

Professionals also agree that high levels of self-confidence and attentional style are necessary for the optimal performance of elite athletes (Anshel, 29).

Expectations of success can be both beneficial and detrimental. These expectations can cause upset if one team expects to win and therefore does not feel threatened by an opposing team, but can also aid in the success of the athlete in individual sports (Anshel, 29).

Attention in the context of sports has four elements. These are concentration, selective perception, mental time-sharing ability, and vigilance (Anshel, 33). Concentration is the ability to focus on the most important aspect of a given situation (Anshel, 33). Selective perception is the ability to exclude irrelevant information in a busy scene (Anshel, 33). Mental time-sharing is the ability to perform two or more concurrent actions (Anshel, 33). Finally, vigilance is the ability to direct one’s focus towards only randomly occurring events that are relevant to the task at hand (Anshel, 33).

Athletes use trigger words to help inspire specific emotions in themselves (Anshel, 34). Additionally, athletes generally “switch off” their competitive mindset as soon as the game is over (Anshel, 34).

Fear of failure is a mindset in which the athlete expects failure (Anshel, 37). Because of this mindset, the athlete avoids training and practice and thereby ensures failure (Anshel, 37). Athletes can reduce fear of failure by ensuring that competitive success is not the only thing maintaining positive self esteem (Anshel, 37). Replacement motives for self esteem can be personal fitness, health, family needs, social relationships, academic successes, and even religion (Anshel, 37).

Although less common, some athletes can fear success (Anshel, 38). This fear of success can be caused by anything from guilt to a fear of the social isolation that is often followed by success (Anshel, 38).

Talent Identification (TID) is “the planned, methodological process for predicting performance over time by obtaining information on the prospects’ physical, physiological, and technical abilities” and is chiefly used to identify those who have the potential to become elite athletes (Anshel, 41). The main argument against the use of TID programs is that psychological factors alone do not dictate success in sport (Anshel, 42). For example, these tests do not account for sport availability or frequency and quality of coaching (Anshel, 42).

When athletes become injured, they can become fearful about reentry into sports, which can include the fear of not recovering properly, the fear of re-injuring oneself, or even the fear of disappointing others (Anshel, 45). Once athletes have re-entered into the sports scene, they often feel the need to win the respect of peers and superiors once more (Anshel, 45). They can also develop tendencies toward lower amounts of risk-taking, lower level attentional focus, higher muscle tension, and lower pain threshold (Anshel, 46).

Athletes who have been injured need to use recovery strategies to make sure that they achieve a full mental recovery as well as physical recovery (Anshel, 47). This can include proper and realistic goal setting, relaxation training, and even mental imagery of successful sport participation (Anshel, 47).

In some cases, individuals that feel they are qualified to make assessments end up making assessments about players’ health that can be detrimental (Anshel, 48).

Chapter 3 – Youth Sports: Special Consideration and Needs of Child Athletes – Not relevant to research

Chapter 4 – Motivation: Theory & Application

Most importantly, it is the job of a coach to help motivate the athlete (Anshel, 83-84). Coaches can increase motivation of athletes by pointing out that certain behaviors can help guide towards desirable outcomes (Anshel, 84).

There are three sources of motivation — person-centered motivational sources, situational-centered motivational sources, and interactive personal and situational motivational sources (Anshel, 84-85).

Person-centered motivational sources can be personality traits, such as self-esteem and need achievement; orientations, such as goals and competitiveness; and needs, including need for recognition or approval (Anshel, 84).

Situational-centered motivational sources come from the environment that the competitor inhabits (Anshel, 84). Without a supportive environment, athletes are less likely to be motivated to succeed (Anshel, 84).

Interactive personal and situational motivational sources are encompassed by an interaction model which proposes a combination of both personal and situational motivators (Anshel, 85). In some situations, athletes can be motivated by avoidance coping, in which athletes ignore stressors or understand their sources and do not feel the need to be worried or upset about them (Anshel, 85).

Some coaches tend to rely upon negative enforcement of proper practice, which has repeatedly been shown to be undesirable (Anshel, 85). Negative emotional motivation has two ill side-effects. First, it fails to provide long-term motivators for athletes because the athletes only change their behaviors until the source of threat is no longer present (Anshel, 85). Second, negative emotional motivation creates extrinsic and not intrinsic motivators for change, which are unreliable motivators at best (Anshel, 85).

Some elite athletes are classified by a theory of motivation called “achievement motivation” (Anshel, 86). This theory relies on an athlete’s inner desire to achieve a goal (Anshel, 86). This is encompassed by a theory called Achievement Goal Theory, or AGT (Anshel, 87). Essentially, if an athlete derives pleasure from achievement, that athlete will be more likely to initiate certain practices that reliably lead to that outcome (Anshel, 87).

There are two main subcategories of achievement motivation: mastery orientation and ego orientation (Anshel, 88). Those who experience mastery orientation want to be the best that they can possibly be and to continue improving at their craft (Anshel, 88). Those who experience ego orientation are motivated by their own comparison of skills relative to others (Anshel, 88). Slumps and injuries can lead ego-oriented athletes to question their abilities and can sometimes limit motivation (Anshel, 88).

In 1959, the theory of competence motivation was first conceived. Essentially, competence motivation theory is the idea that athletes are intrinsically motivated by a desire to increase their levels of competence (Anshel, 89-90). Again, this theory has the same two subdivisions. The only difference is that, according to this theory, athletes who are ego-oriented are more inclined to perceive themselves as incompetent (Anshel, 90).

According to self-determination theory, individuals actively pursue a sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Anshel, 90). These feelings inspire satisfaction in the individual, which can provide intrinsic motivation (Anshel, 90).

According to Deci’s Cognitive Evaluation Theory, there are two motivational categories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivators (Anshel, 90). Extrinsic motivators almost inevitably lead to a decrease in intrinsic motivation, which is detrimental to overall motivation, as intrinsic motivators are more effective than extrinsic ones (Anshel, 90-92). Extrinsic motivators in the form of rewards are particularly effective at accomplishing this (Anshel, 92). Rewards are applied to a controlling function, which determines the increment or decrement of intrinsic motivation (Anshel, 92). When these rewards are internal phenomenon, such as enjoyment or self-satisfaction, intrinsic motivation increases (Anshel, 92).

Cognitive Evaluation Theory is applied in a 3 step formula (Anshel, 94). First, the reason for participation in an activity is considered. Next, the controlling function of the athlete is assessed (Anshel, 94). Finally, the information function, or perceived ability, of the athlete is assessed (Anshel, 94).

There are 10 motivators that are generally advised against (Anshel, 98-100).

  1. The use of exercise as punishment is extremely detrimental to athletic performance. When coaches use exercise as punishment, it teaches athletes that exercise is an unpleasant experience, which is extremely counterproductive (Anshel, 98).
  2. Pre-game pep talks only aid some people in the arousal of helpful emotions (Anshel, 99). Additionally, any expression of need to win must be avoided at all costs, as it can add to an athlete’s already high level of anxiety (Anshel, 99).
  3. Coaches should not tell athletes that the opponent is weak. This idea may not hold true, in which case athletes will be unpleasantly surprised. Additionally, if the coach’s team still loses to the opponent, it can prove to be a crushing blow to the team’s collective self-esteem (Anshel, 99).
  4. Coaches should never state that the goal is to win, as this does not provide proper motivation for optimal lower level activities that may lead to the win (Anshel, 99).
  5. The coach should treat all players with the same respect and maturity, as this promotes a more equal team dynamic (Anshel, 99).
  6. Some coaches assume that, if athletes don’t complain, they must be happy. This is false, as some unhappy athletes are too consumed by their unhappy thoughts to speak up (Anshel, 99).
  7. Good coaches include and build upon athlete feedback in their coaching. While the athlete doesn’t always know best, coaches should always at least listen to the athletes they are coaching (Anshel, 99-100).
  8. Coaches should never engage in the “post-game rampage,” talking down to the players (Anshel, 100). These speeches should be replaced with commendation of effort and improvement of skills (Anshel, 100).
  9. Some coaches are very aggressive and develop what is called the “Napoleon Complex,” a phenomenon in which they feel the need to assert their dominance as “the boss” (Anshel, 100).
  10. Coaches should never rely upon fear to motivate athletes because these motivators increase internal anxiety, rather than promoting optimal arousal (Anshel, 100).

Advisably, coaches should build relationships with each athlete, plan out their interactions with the team, agree with athletes about their futures by convincing them of positive progressions, and make coaching sessions fun (Anshel, 101-102). It is generally found that elevated expectations of players lead to elevated outcomes and, accordingly, the perception of the athlete often becomes the reality (Anshel, 102).

In order to have an optimal team-building environment, athletes must have compatible personal and group goals (Anshel, 103). These personal goals should be built around the goals of the team (Anshel, 103). Furthermore, the goals of the team must be agreed upon by all team members (Anshel, 103). Each team member should be made aware of their role in the team and how this role affects the team as a whole (Anshel, 103).

Chapter 5 – Attribution Theory: Explaining the Causes of Performance Outcomes

One important attribution model is Weiner’s Attribution Model (Anshel, 107). This model incorporates four aspects of attribution: ability, task difficulty, effort, and luck (Anshel, 107). Explanations of performance outcomes are referred to as “casual attributions” (Anshel, 107).

This model features the locus of control as the defining factor for a team’s success. Low controllability of a situation is what is usually attributed to failure, where as high controllability is perceived to be the cause of success (Anshel, 108-109).

The attributions of an individual can be predicted through that individual’s “attribution style” (Anshel, 110). These attribution styles are important, as they can lead to an increased likelihood that an athlete will attribute failures to luck rather than lower effort, which reduces motivation to practice and achieve a desirable outcome. This phenomenon is called self-serving attributional bias, or hedonistic bias (Anshel, 110-111).

Coaches can change the locus of control (also locus of causality) by using their position to convince athletes of more developmentally healthy viewpoints (Anshel, 111-113). Notably, top athletes almost never say or believe that they are “not good enough” to beat an opponent (Anshel, 113). These successful top athletes also focus on internal causes, such as ability and effort, to explain performance outcomes (Anshel, 113).

As a result of poorly-managed loci of causality, athletes can learn to perceive themselves as helpless or hopeless, which can be extremely detrimental to motivation (Anshel, 114-116). Athletes that perceive themselves as helpless often perform as such and begin to become “helpless” without coach intervention (Anshel, 116).

Chapter 6 – Regulating Stress, Anxiety, and Arousal

Stress, anxiety, and arousal are not the same, despite their previously repeated interchangeable usage in both media scientific literatures (Anshel, 123).

“Stress refers to present bodily or cognitive responses to an environmental demand” (Anshel, 123).

Anxiety is classified as “negative feelings of worry or threat about a future event” (Anshel, 123). Anxiety is always unpleasant and has no ‘positive’ form (Anshel, 123).

Arousal, also referred to as activation, is “a natural, ongoing state that consists of neural excitation on a continuum from very low (e.g. comatose state) to very high (e.g. extreme excitement)” (Anshel, 123).

Stress has a positive form. Although stress is mainly perceived as negative, it can have positive effects on athletic motivation, positive growth, and positive achievement (Anshel, 124). Growth is a response to stress. Additionally, the negative repercussions of stress can be easily alleviated through “voluntary recovery” (Anshel, 124).

Anxiety is one of the leading causes of poor performance in sport. It can cause athletes to “freeze-up” and to “choke” (Anshel, 126). Researchers have determined that anxiety is a learned behavior. It can be derived from appraisal of harm or loss, experiencing pain, appraisal of threat to self esteem, and experience of injury (Anshel, 127).

According to Hull’s drive theory, “performance (P) is dependent on two factors, drive (D) and habit strength (H). Notably, this is a counter-theory to the inverted-U theory, which is more widely accepted (Anshel, 130).

Coaches can aid in reducing stress, anxiety, and arousal (Anshel, 135). Coaches attempting to reduce stress, anxiety, or arousal, should instruct players to exercise lightly and should avoid telling them to “relax” (Anshel, 136). Additionally, coaches can help reduce stress by teaching athletes to develop pre-game routines and by simulating games through practice (Anshel, 136).

Choking is an athlete’s failure to meet performance expectations (Anshel, 142). This phenomenon can be avoided by practicing under game-like conditions, improving the athlete’s self-confidence, keeping expectations realistic, and developing mental plans or performance routines for use within the sport (Anshel, 144).

Chapter 7 – Coping with Sport Stress

Coping is a conscious effort to manage events that are perceived by a coach, athlete, or anyone else as stressful (Anshel, 147).

The coping process begins with the detection of a stimulus event, which is then followed by a cognitive appraisal of that event (Anshel, 147). Then, the coping process can begin. Athletes can cope in various ways. These include approach-behavioral coping, approach-mental coping, avoidance behavioral coping, and avoidance-mental coping (Anshel, 149). Approach-behavioral coping may include anything from outwardly aggressive behavior to discussion with a friend. Approach-mental coping can consist of psyching oneself up, prayer, affirmative self-statements, and positive self-talk. Avoidance-behavioral coping is broadly classified by a physical distancing of oneself from a stressor. Finally, avoidance-mental coping is mental distancing from a stressor (Anshel, 149).

Differences in coping mechanisms can be affected by race, gender, and culture (Anshel, 151-152).

Chapter 8 – Sports Psychology Interventions

“An intervention is the global concept that encompasses all of the mental skills and programs that are intended to change behavior” (Anshel, 156). Interventions in sports psychology are meant to establish self-regulation (Anshel, 156).

Self-regulation is “the process of helping athletes (and exercisers, for that matter) manage their own actions” (Anshel, 156). Cognitive strategies for self-regulation include positive self-talk, anticipation, pre-cueing, cueing, psyching-up, various coping skills, various relation technique, and visualization – also referred to as imagery (Anshel, 157).

One particularly effective model of self-regulation is the COPE model. C stands for “control emotions,” O stands for “organize input,” P stands for “plan response,” and E stands for “execute” (Anshel, 160-161). These steps are fairly self-explanatory.

Mental toughness is also an important trait to develop (Anshel, 162). Mental toughness is encouraged through mindfulness, which is a technique used to aid an individual in focusing on the present in a non-reactive and non-judgmental manner; relaxation; and positive self-talk (Anshel, 163).

One effective strategy for improving an athlete’s mental state is the use of music (Anshel, 167).

Chapter 9 – Aggression in Sport

There are two types of aggression – instrumental and hostile/reactive aggression. Instrumental aggression is the accidental or non-accidental use of aggression to accomplish a goal (Anshel, 171). Hostile or reactive aggression has the sole purpose of harming another individual in some way and should never be accepted (Anshel, 171).

The Catharsis Hypothesis concludes that athletes must feel catharsis as a result of purging an inner need for aggressive behavior (Anshel, 173). The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis postulates that aggression occurs as a result of frustration (Anshel, 174-175). The Social Learning Theory puts for the idea that aggression is a learned behavior that is promoted by the viewing of others who are rewarded for aggression (Anshel, 176).

Notably, male aggression is more common than female aggression in sport (Anshel, 181-182). This is likely because of the social response to male sport aggression compared to female sport aggression (Anshel, 181).

Anger can be applied in sports settings. This can manifest as sustaining or channeling anger, which is done by repeating the basis of the anger, if that basis is healthy or constructive. It can also manifest as justification, which is slightly more controversial and involves a feeling of the athlete that he or she is correct in being angry as the result of a stimulus event (Anshel, 183).

Chapter 10 – Athletes Speak for Themselves

In practice, athletes generally wish for a few traits in a coach. Athletes generally request that coaches are discreetly honest about weaknesses, meaning not confrontational, but politely acknowledging of them (Anshel, 189). Athletes also prefer to be provided roles in each practice, so that each athlete feels that they are uniquely contributing to the practice session (Anshel, 189). Additionally, they would like coaches to separate anger from instruction. When coaches fail to do so, athletes learn almost nothing from the provided instruction (Anshel, 190).

Chapter 11 – Communication and Effective Mentoring Techniques

To ensure optimal coaching, coaches should be communicating effectively with players, assistant coaches, other coaches, referees, and educators (Anshel, 202). 10 general rules of thumb include remaining honest, refraining from becoming defensive, being consistent, being empathetic, refraining from sarcasm, praising and criticizing behavior over personality, respecting the integrity of others, using positive nonverbal cues, teaching skills, and interacting consistently with all team members (Anshel, 203).

When coaches make statements, the players on the team should feel that they can completely trust the assessment of the coach, meaning that dishonesty can ruin coaching (Anshel, 204).

When an individual becomes defensive, they feel the need to justify their actions (Anshel, 205). This can be mitigated by making an active effort to receive the opinions of others and to be a good listener (Anshel, 206).

Having a consistent outlook on performance output and attitude towards one’s players is key to maintaining the trust of the players. Responding radically differently to different situations can disrupt that trust and form poor coach-player relationships (Anshel, 207).

A few guidelines for remaining empathetic include :

  1. “Do not attack the athlete’s character”
  2. “Be sensitive to the feelings of others”
  3. “Do not allow peers or teammates to become verbally destructive toward one another”
  4. “Never embarrass anyone” (Anshel, 208)

According to Webster’s English dictionary, sarcasm is “a taunting or caustic (i.e., biting) remark” (Anshel, 208). This makes sarcasm an extreme danger to learning as it can detract from a positive learning environment (Anshel, 209).

In order to praise an individual, one suggested method is to use the “sandwich approach,” in which one leads with a positive comment, gives future-oriented positive feedback, and closes with a compliment (Anshel, 210-211). This is because the listener expects a negative comment immediately after a failure and, in order to preserve their mental health, avoids listening to this comment if it is negative (Anshel, 210-211). Then, once the player no longer feels threatened by the coach, the coach can inject criticism. This is followed by a compliment, which causes the player to reflect positively on his or her interaction with the coach (Anshel, 211).

The feelings that tend to get in the way of respecting the integrity of others are anger, frustration, and disappointment (Anshel, 213). Anger can be used constructively, but should avoid anything that attacks a player’s character (Anshel, 214). The first step to expressing negative feelings towards a team should always be to name them first (Anshel, 214).

When communicating, positive verbal cues include bodily gestures, appearance, touching the athlete, proper pitch and rhythm of voice, and making proper eye contact (Anshel, 216).

The teaching of skills requires four main aspects. The coach must have a goal established for the session, model correct usage of the skill that is being taught, reduce information overload by teaching smaller quantities of information at one time, and provide feedback on the performance of the learned (Anshel, 217).

Coaches that communicate an interest in the athlete as a person and an athlete receive full effort and concentration out of the athlete (Anshel, 218).

Contrary to how nonstarters are often treated, the nonstarter is still an important player (Anshel, 219). Despite not playing at every game, this player often has minimal differences in skill from the starter and should be treated equally, so that they can feel good enough to function during games that they do play in (Anshel, 219).

In sports settings, there is a need for coaches to mentor their players (Anshel, 223-225). Coaches should provide mentoring to the entire team by showing concern for the players’ wellbeing, listening to players’ concerns actively, being supportive of the players, and respecting each individual’s privacy (Anshel, 226).

Chapter 12 – Leadership in Sport: A Matter of Style

There is a difference between successful and effective leadership (Anshel, 238). Successful leadership occurs when the leader is able to get others to behave in a desired manner, however effective leadership accomplishes this task and satisfies the needs of the players (Anshel, 238).

One of the classic examples of good leadership is Albert Einstein (Anshel, 239). He was able to create, initiate, and produce without “stepping on the toes” of others (Anshel, 239).

Fielder’s Contingency Model suggests that the type of leadership necessary for a situation depends upon the situation (Anshel, 241). According to this model, “liked and respected leaders” have no need of formal power. These leaders are capable of using their personal attitudes to influence the group, which provides greater influence than a disliked leader could over the same group (Anshel, 241).

Fielder’s Contingency Model also suggests that the job that a leader receives should be tailored to fit the personality of the leader (Anshel, 242). If the leader’s personality fits better in smaller group activities, that leader should not be assigned to lead a large group (Anshel, 242).

The Life Cycle Theory states that, as maturity increases, the need for task-structured decreases (Anshel, 243). Maturity here, means job maturity. In the sports context, this manifests as individual players’ ability to set and reach their own team goals and accept responsibility for them. The other main qualifying quantity of job maturity is competence of the group (Anshel, 243).

Two theories proposed by McGregor, called Theory X and Theory Y propose two different sets of assumptions that leaders make about their subordinates (Anshel, 246).

Theory X states that subordinates:

  • “Inherently dislike their jobs and will avoid work whenever possible”
  • “Must be coerced, controlled, directed, and even threatened to work at optimal efficiency”
  • “Prefer to be directed; avoid responsibility and have relatively little ambition to achieve or in any way to get ahead” (Anshel, 246)

Theory Y states that subordinates:

  • “Perceive physical and mental effort on the job as necessary”
  • “Are capable of exercising self-direction and self-control to meet group objectives to which they feel committed”
  • “For the most part, learn to perform their jobs under appropriate conditions”
  • “Accept and actually seek responsibility” (Anshel, 246)

Essentially, there is no “best” way to lead. Different styles and theories provide different results in differing situations. The best coaches mix leadership strategies and modify the strategy based on the situation at hand (Anshel, 248-249). Specifically, task- and relationship-oriented leadership styles should be mixed because neither is perfect and both provide differing results that are most optimal when combined (Anshel, 248).

Behavioristic coaching is a strategy in which coaches modify their behavior towards players that exhibit desired behaviors (Anshel, 251-252). As mentioned before, threatening statements can initially provide good motivators, but almost always end up harming the player (Anshel, 253).

Humanistic coaching is separated from authoritarianism and behaviorism because humanistic coaches view the team as a group of individuals gathered to accomplish a common goal, whereas other methodologies can view the athletes as a group (Anshel, 254).

Some coaches prefer democratic styles of leadership, in which the athletes are capable of making some of their own decisions (Anshel, 257). While this can be beneficial because it is nonthreatening to the athletes themselves and promotes mature behaviors and initiative within the team, it also requires a coach that is willing to witness some degree of failure and endure a slower decision-making process (Anshel, 258-259).

In a 2010 study, it was found that approximately two thirds of athletic directors were “unaware of certification for sport psychology consultants” (Anshel, 264). Only 23.5% of the respondents actually employed a sport psychology consultant. Athletic directors were also found to question the importance of sports psychologists and were generally unaware of the primary issues around sport psychology (Anshel, 264).

Chapter 13 – Team Cohesion and Group Dynamics

Teams are defined as “groups in which individuals interact with and influence the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of each other” (Anshel, 267). Groups become teams when they begin to answer the following questions:

  1. “What is our goal? Learn skills? Improve performance? Win in a competitive environment? Have fun? Some of each?
  2. How shall we organize ourselves with respect to determining the position of each team member and formulating team leadership, rules, decisions, and policies?
  3. What are the roles of the coach, coaching assistants, team captains, and other team members?
  4. Who are our team supporters? To whom are we accountable? Members of the community? School officials? Parents of the athletes?
  5. How do we work through problems and challenges? Is the team leader open to the contributions of team members, and is there an open communication style for team members to interact with team leaders? Are team meetings held, and if so, for what purpose?
  6. How should we work together to perform successfully as a team? Should we separate starters and non-starters in how we develop our skills and fulfill team goals, or should there be a supportive team climate in which all team members are encouraged to make their respective contributions? In other words, should there be a within-team rivalry?
  7. What are the benefits of being a team member? Establishing new friendships? Affiliation with the sports organization? Recognizing player competence? Learning new skills? Having fun?
  8. How, and under what conditions, should the team be included in determining team policies and regulating team members’ behavior?” (Anshel, 267-268).

There are four stages to team development: forming, storming, norming, and performing (Anshel, 26-269).

Forming – To form team bonds, it is recommended that the amount of turnover in team personnel be severely limited (Anshel, 268). Additionally, when new team members join the team, established members should be assigned to welcome them by introducing them to the rest of the team and engaging them in social interactions (Anshel, 268).

Storming – Unfortunately, after the formation of bonds, teams tend to start infighting (Anshel, 268). This can be caused for any number of reasons, but is usually caused because athletes desire social control or attention from the coach (Anshel, 268). Understandably, the risk of infighting is severely diminished when coaches provide equal attention to each team member (Anshel, 268).

Norming – Norming is the phase in which teams get organized and, finally, each member of the team has an appreciation for each other member’s contribution (Anshel, 269).

Performing – Performing, the final stage of team development is when teammates have developed “mature closeness” (Anshel, 269). Mature closeness is “characterized by close rapport among group members; relationships among the members are secure” (Anshel, 259).

The three groups of team members are core team members, supportive team members, and temporary team members (Anshel, 269-270). Core team members are the starters of the team and should also serve as group leaders on the team (Anshel, 269). Supportive team members are the nonstarters, whose job it is to ensure that the team functions efficiently and effectively (Anshel, 269).

Coaches that provide some form of at least occasional autonomy promote are more likely to host healthy team climates (Anshel, 271).

Properly formed team climates are defined by high levels of “cohesion” (Anshel, 273). Cohesion is “a measure of a person’s attraction to, sense of belonging to, and desire to remain a part of a group” (Anshel, 273).

One important team role is the “positive leader,” or PL (Anshel, 275). The PL, or PLs, of a team are meant to be supportive team members who never quit (Anshel, 275). PLs can appear as “pseudo-coaches” because they tend to be given roles that assign them power over the other players, which is something they do not want. Athletes are sometimes more responsive to the actions of teammates than the actions of coaches and, by giving PLs positions of power, this removes them from their strong position as a peer (Anshel, 275).

Opposite to PLs are negative leaders, or NLs. These are generally the coach’s worst nightmare and generally reduce team cohesion (Anshel, 276). Coaches can properly handle NLs by speaking to them privately, in a generally positive and constructive manner, about how their behavior affects others (Anshel, 276).

Two additional roles, which are rather self explanatory are the follower and the isolate (Anshel, 277).

The scapegoat of a team tends to take the fall, regardless of who is at fault in a situation (Anshel, 279). Some forms of teasing and joking can be positive and help reinforce team bonds, however scapegoating always harms team cohesion (Anshel, 279). Unfortunately, scapegoating can be hard to identify and separate from other forms of possibly productive teasing (Anshe, 279).

Finally, most teams need a “clown” (Anshel, 280). The clown is someone who frequently likes to be a form of comedian. Coaches can help facilitate the proper development of the clown role by explicitly specifying when it is okay to be comedic (Anshel, 280). This can be done through selective ignorance or even direct confrontation, but the reaction should always be appropriate to the situation (Anshel, 280).

Group sizes can affect group productivity. For example, in basketball, a study in 1990 showed that optimal group sizes were between three and six, where groups of 12 tended to be too large to promote group cohesion (Anshel, 284).

A phenomenon called self-handicapping is a strategy used by individuals to protect their self-esteems by preemptively providing excuses for an anticipated lack of success (Anshel, 289). These individuals tend to take full responsibility for group success and accept little to no responsibility for group failure (Anshel, 289).

Social loafing is the decrease in individual effort and performance due to the physical presence of other persons as opposed to performing the task alone (Anshel, 290).

Chapter 14 – Applied Exercise Psychology: An Emerging Area in Sport Psychology

Exercise psychology is “the study of psychological factors underlying participation and adherence in physical activity programs” (Anshel, 295). One inventory used to measure exercise motivation is called the Exercise Motivations Inventory (EMI-2), takes into account 12 sources of exercise motivation, which it then uses to measure the intensity of overall exercise motivation (Anshel, 296).

Unfortunately, dropping out of exercise programs happens very frequently (Anshel, 297). This can be as a result of any number of factors, some of which include lack of time; experience of discomfort, injury, or pain during exercise; fear of injury; unavailable exercise equipment or facilities; lack of knowledge about proper technique; or even feeling intimidated (Anshel, 297-299).

Exercise is beneficial, as it has been shown to reduce stress and help manage anxiety, as well as positively affect mood and self-esteem (Anshel, 300).

According to the Theory of Reasoned Actions (TRA), the intentions of an athlete are the best and most accurate predictors of their actions. Additionally, surrounding oneself with physically active people will help promote physical activity (Anshel, 301-302).

Anshel, Mark Howard. Sport Psychology: from Theory to Practice. Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2012.

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