Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Elite Disability Sport Coaches' Views on Sport Psychology

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Elite Disability Sport Coaches' Views on Sport Psychology

Article excerpt


Although the coach is a key element in the psychological preparation of the athletes, few is known about what coaches from disability sport context think about the importance of psychological preparation. Therefore, this study aimed to explore: 1) the educational background of disability sport coaches, 2) the perceptions of the coaches on the importance of psychological preparation for their athletes, and 3) the opinions of the coaches regarding the role of sport psychologists. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with Portuguese elite disability sport coaches (n=10; male=8 and female=2; swimming =4, track and field=2, boccia=3 and rowing=1) included in the Paralympic Project London 2012. Standard qualitative methodology and content analysis were used to analyse the data. The participants revealed an educational background in sport sciences and in sport psychology. A high status of sport psychology and psychological preparation also emerged from the data. Full receptiveness to work with sport psychologists was exhibited, although some participants mentioned barriers to sport psychologists' intervention (e.g., coach awareness, athlete receptiveness, time, finances). In general, the findings of this study highlighted the importance of sport psychology in Portuguese disability sport.

Keywords: educational background, psychological preparation, sport psychologists, qualitative methodology

1. Introduction

The main goal of psychological skills training (PST) programs is to help athletes to consistently perform closer to their maximal potential in practice and in a competition setting (Burton & Raedake, 2008). However, the success of PST programs is dependent on the coach's actions and attitudes towards it. The coach is the manager of the team and has great influence in the lives of their athletes. Moreover, coaches have the power to decide if agents outside the team staff, such as sport psychologists, can interfere with their team and athletes (Morris, 1997). Consequently, a positive or negative attitude of the coach towards sport psychologists will influence the degree of adherence in PST programs showed by athletes.

Although most of the coaches recognize the importance of psychological preparation and view the training of psychological skills as one of the tools to help athletes to reach maximal performance (Gould, Flett, & Bean, 2009; Leffingwell, Durand-Bush, Wurzberger & Cada, 2005; S. B. Martin, 2005), some coaches can be unwilling to try specific psychological techniques or express negative viewpoints towards using a sport psychologist. Accordingly, Weinberg and Gould (2011) systematized a variety of barriers that can limit a coach's commitment to psychological training. For instance, coaches can erroneously believe that PST programs take too much time of the training session. The time pressure is another barrier identified by coaches to justify the lack of psychological intervention in the practice setting (Gould, Medbery, Damarjian, & Lauer, 1999). According to Voight and Callagham (2001) the lack of finance is also identified as one of the major restrictions for collaborative work between the coach and the sport psychologist. Another erroneous assumption is that psychological support is only needed when deep-rooted psychological problems occur in psychologically "weak" athletes. The stigma that links the sport psychologist to a "shrink" is one of the major barriers that sport psychologists have to face (Partington & Orlick, 1987; Ravizza, 1988). Finally, some coaches believe that PST is a miraculous recipe for a quick improvement in performance. This misconception related with unrealistic expectations can be identified in two situations. Coaches expect that a short intervention just before major competitions will produce psychological benefits among athletes. In the same way, coaches expect that psychological training will help athletes to perform above their physical, technical and tactical skills and minimal efforts are needed to reach amazing performances. …

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