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The AS&K Sports MSD

RESOURCES FOR COACHES


Resources for Coaches

10 MENTAL SKILLS


TOOLS


ROLE

STRENGTHENING YOUR ATHLETES' MENTAL SKILLS

As a coach, you know how important an athlete's attitude is to his/her success. The "right attitude" is, in fact, the outward expression of the athlete's mental skills. You can help the athlete develop the right mental skills. The right mental skills will ensure that you develop an athlete to their fullest potential. You can develop your athletes' mental skills by educating them about what mental skills are and why they're important - and you can also teach good mental skills by being a role-model for them. Below are some tips you can use to teach your athletes about mental skills.

TIPS FOR COACHES

Note that for most athletes, mastery of the ten mental skills is greater in some situations than in others. Strive to achieve higher levels of mastery of these skills and consistency across key performance situations such as these six that are assessed by the MSA.


EFFORT

How much Effort do your athletes make? How high were their Effort scores on the MSA? In which situations was Effort high and in which situations was it low?

High levels of Effort cannot be sustained in an athlete who does not genuinely value and enjoy success in the sport. Discuss with your athletes how enjoyable and important are participation and achieving the highest level of mastery possible.

  1. You can increase the level of effort your athletes make by improving their mental skills especially those related to goals (Goal Setting, Goal Implementation, and Mastery Approach) and self-concept (Task Confidence, Self-Worth, and Personal Control).
  2. Increase athletes’ Effort by improving their Goal mental skills. Review their goals with them. Make sure they Set Goals that are important to them, that are specific, challenging, and realistic (See Goal Setting). Check that they created and put into action specific plans to implement your goals (see Goal Implementation). Reward athletes for achieving their sub-goals, milestones, and goals. Avoid setting goals that are externally focused (e.g., be ranked #1, be better than another player or competitor, and receive special recognition). Set goals that are internally focused (33% improvement over last year’s performance, mastering specific skills).

OPEN TO FEEDBACK

Which athlete(s) had high scores on Open to Feedback in the MSA? Am I Open to Feedback about my own role as coach? Is the feedback I provide clear? Is my feedback specific? Is it given to athletes in a positive context?

  1. Select as your team leaders or team captain the athlete or athletes who score well on most or all of the MSA mental skills. Select your team leaders or team captain based upon whether their teammates do or will respond to him/her as a role model.
  2. Recognize that different athletes may act as leaders in different situations. The athlete who is the leader in a game or following a setback may not be a leader during practice or in off-the-field situation. Ideally your team captain and formal leaders act as leaders in all or most situations.

GOAL IMPLEMENTATION

What methods do your athletes have for tracking goal implementation? Do you emphasize specific milestones towards meeting a goal? Do your athletes generally accept the team's goals as their own?

  1. Review your athletes’ goals and sub-goals and make adjustments to improve them but be sure to include the athlete in any decisions to adjust the goals and sub-goals. If the athlete does not genuinely accept the goals as their own, there is a greater risk that they will not achieve them.
  2. When making adjustments to goals that were not met because they may have been too difficult, avoid any suggestions that the athlete is not capable of achieving the more challenging goal at a later date. Instead, describe the more challenging goal as one to be achieved at a later date and the new, still challenging, but more realistic goal is still a positive step toward achieving the longer term, more challenging and currently unrealistic goal. Especially avoid negative comments or BITEs regarding the athlete’s character, innate ability, or self-worth.

GOAL SETTING

What are your athletes' goal setting BITEs? Are your athletes' goals specific, measurable and time limited?

  1. Help athletes establish short-term sub-goals and longer term goals that are properly aligned and represent a logical and achievable progression of skill and performance.
  2. Review your athletes’ goals and make adjustments to improve them but be careful to include them in any decisions to adjust them.

PERSONAL CONTROL

What drives your athletes to succeed? Are they strongly affected by setbacks that affect performance? Do they blame themselves for setbacks? Are you a good role model for strong Personal Control?

  1. Note tendencies in your athlete to blame others for his or her mistakes, losses, frustrations, obstacles, or setbacks. Without making statements that diminish the athlete’s character, ability, or self-worth, redirect the conversation to ways in which the athlete can positively influence events.
  2. Help your athletes understand and come to believe that most mistakes, losses, frustrations, obstacles, or setbacks can be most effectively managed by focusing on positive actions (BITEs) the athlete can take that are under their control. Focus on what can be learned from the mistakes, losses, frustrations, obstacles, or setbacks. Consider setting or adjusting goals based on the mistakes, losses, frustrations, obstacles, or setbacks.

LEADERSHIP

Which athlete(s) had high scores on Leadership in the MSA? Did these athletes score well on most mental skills, especially Goal Setting, Goal Implementation, and Open to Feedback?

  1. Select as your team leaders or team captain the athlete or athletes who score well on most or all of the MSA mental skills. Select your team leaders or team captain based upon whether their teammates do or will respond to him/her as a role model.
  2. Recognize that different athletes may act as leaders in different situations. The athlete who is the leader in a game or following a setback may not be a leader during practice or in off-the-field situation. Ideally your team captain and formal leaders act as leaders in all or most situations.

MASTERY APPROACH

Do your athletes have a strong Mastery Approach? Are they motivated to improve their skills & knowledge or to be the best on the team? Are you a good role model for strong Mastery Approach?

  1. As a coach, be aware of your own Mastery Approach. Do you tend to set goals and give performance feedback that focuses on an athlete’s specific behavior and personal improvement (a mastery approach) or do you compare athletes’ skills and performance to other athletes (a non-mastery approach)?
  2. When formally setting goals with your athletes for games, competitions, practice, or training sessions, set mastery-oriented goals (see Goal Setting).

SATISFACTION

How important are goals to your athletes? Do they distinguish between short-term and long-term goals - do they realize the different amounts of effort that they require? How do your athletes chart their progress?

  1. Provide emotional and verbal support for the athlete after failures and setbacks and provide supportive comments and examples of previous successes or examples of progress.
  2. Monitor the level of perceived effort compared to perceived level of performance to be sure the athlete believes that the performance justifies the effort.

SELF-WORTH

What is your role in developing your athletes' Self-Worth? Can I distinguish between an athlete's accurate and inaccurate negative BITEs?

  1. An athlete whose Self-Worth is not overly dependent on performance in sports is more able to handle pressure situations in sports and respond positively to setbacks.
  2. When criticizing behavior or performance that requires improvement, criticize the behavior and not the person.

TASK CONFIDENCE

What are your athletes' behaviors and emotions during the targeted task or skill? Which behaviors and emotions facilitate success?

  1. Set a goal for the athlete to increase the BITEs that facilitate task performance and decrease or eliminate those that do not (see Goal Setting and Goal Implementation). For example, teach the athlete to repeat to her or himself (and believe) statements such as, “I don’t worry about the score or the game situation, I just concentrate on visualizing the ball dropping through the hoop the way I’ve done it a thousand times before.”
  2. Put the athlete in situations that, increasingly, are similar to the target task and desired level of performance. Be sure that, to the extent possible, the athlete is able to perform the task successfully. For example, during practice recreate the final minutes of a close game as nearly as possible and then have the athlete come in to shoot foul shots. After mastering the skill in that situation, have the athlete shoot fouls during actual games but in less critical situations. As mastery is achieved increase foul shooting in more critical situations.