Strategies for Using Pop Culture in Sport Psychology and Coaching Education: Teachers and Coaches Can Use Pop Culture to Achieve Better Results

Article excerpt

Effectiveness in teaching comes from a number of sources. Self-reflection of the instructor, experience of the students, external evaluations, and objective student-evaluations are all valuable ways of evaluating the success of an instructor. Another way of determining success is to evaluate whether the students in the class have learned. Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was successful as both a teacher and a coach because he believed and lived by the following statement: you have not taught until they have learned (Nater & Gallimore, 2006). However, in order to get the students to learn, one must understand their perspective and engage them in the learning process. Because students play an important role in the learning process as active participants (Moreno & Mayer, 2000; Taylor, McGrath-Champ, & Clarkeburn, 2012), linking pop culture to teaching is a vehicle by which this engagement can be accomplished.

What Is Pop Culture?

The dictionary defines pop culture as "cultural activities or commercial products reflecting, suited to, or aimed at the tastes of the general masses of people" (, n.d.). Although this definition reflects common, generally accepted patterns, it fails to account for pop culture based on demographic context. In other words, the instructor's idea of pop culture may differ from that of the student. The use of pop culture as a tool for learning and instruction is paramount (Hagood, Alvermann, & Heron-Hruby, 2010). Therefore, it is imperative for teachers to be aware of, and incorporate, trends that are popular and reflect the student experience. This article addresses the pop culture trends that can positively affect teaching, coaching education, and sport psychology practice. Specifically, three different constructs--technology, television and movies, and athletic fashion trends--will be discussed. Within each category, a number of examples are provided (table 1).

Table 1. Examples of Pop Culture Use

Construct           Purpose             Example

Technology          Goal setting        Sin, Smartphone

                    Communication and   Temple Run, Cut
                    performance under   the Rope

                    Visual              iPlaybook

Movies/Television   Team culture        Remember the

                    Teaching cues       Invincible, For
                                        the Love of the

                    Performance         American Idol

                    Focus/Refocus cues  Make It or Break it

                    Parental            Dance Moms

                                        Coach Carter,

Athletic Fashion    Motivation          Practice jersey,
Trends                                  socks

                    Refocus             Pre-wrap, headbands,
                                        wristbands, cleats


Whether teaching a class in a coaching education curriculum or working with a team or a group as a sport psychology practitioner, the use of technology is essential. Technology comes in many forms, and it is important to be cognizant of the balance between face-to-face interaction for teaching/learning and the use of technology to aid in reaching learning outcomes (Murray & Olcese, 2011). To aid coaching educators and sport psychology practitioners, technology trends specific to smartphones and iPads will be considered.

It is common practice for instructors to ask students to please "turn off and put away phones" during class time. However, a different approach may prove as effective. That is, the teacher can ask the students to keep their phones out and turned on. …