Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Ncaadivision I Head Softball Coaches' Confidence, Openness and Stigma Tolerance toward Sport Psychology Consultants

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Ncaadivision I Head Softball Coaches' Confidence, Openness and Stigma Tolerance toward Sport Psychology Consultants

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Coaching on the collegiate level has become increasingly more demanding. It would seem as though coaches live vicariously in a "fishbowl" that knows only winning and losing (Giges, Petitpas, and Vernacchia, 2004). Coaches are responsible for guiding and developing athletes, not only from the physical perspective but they must develop the mental and emotional aspects as well (Tutko and Richards, 1971). A coach is expected to bring together a group of young and sometimes immature individuals to work in unison for one common goal, Win! Some expectations placed on a coach are the result of large salaries, intense media scrutiny, as well as from the pressures of recruiting top level athletes. In addition, the coach is expected to teach and lead those athletes to championship seasons. Advancement and job security for a coach often depends on these young and sometimes inexperienced athletes, over which the coach has literally no control of once the athletic competition begins (Gieges, et al.). So, it is only natural that coaches are constantly in search of new tactics and strategies, techniques, plays, drills, and skills: both physical and mental, to help them attain their goals.

Sporting events are competitive in nature and one usually gauges success by whether they win or lose. Winning is traditionally one of the outcome goals that athletic teams set, no matter the level of athletic competition. This goal calls for people to cooperate and communicate with one another and have good cohesion in order to achieve success on the court or playing field. So why is it some teams are more successful than others and what are these teams doing differently? Evidence shows that one thing they may be doing differently is seeking out mental training and counseling services of a sport psychology consultant (SPC) (Ludwig, 1996). For example, National Hockey League (NHL) teams are utilizing an SPC for profiling the mental toughness of future draftees and for conducting team sessions to work on team dynamics, like leadership, team-building, and role clarity. The SPCs are in attendance at approximately 50-75% of their games (Schinke, Hancock, Dubuc, and Dorsch, 2006). Other elite teams, such as National Football League Super Bowl Champions, Major League Baseball World Series Champions, and the National Basketball Association World Champions, also utilize SPCs (Cole, 2007). Coaches are beginning to realize the positive influence that sport psychology has to offer their teams (Mallett and Cote, 2006; Werthner and Trudel, 2006; Sullivan and Hodge, 1991). This realization has caused an increase in a coach's tendency to want to learn more about sport psychology principles or to have an SPC working with them, as shown by Zakrajsek and Zizzi (2007). Coaches moved from precontemplating to contemplating the utilization of an SPC and were more aware of the benefits of utilizing an SPC after only a brief workshop designed to increase their perceived behavioral control, self-efficacy, openness and their intentions to utilize an SPC (Zakrajsek and Zizzi, 2008). This realization by coaches can be of great importance, because when psychological tools and knowledge are implemented correctly they can contribute to the wellbeing of both coaches and athletes (Cratty, 1973). Coaches are beginning to understand that in order for success to occur; their teams need to learn both physical and mental performance enhancing skills for their sport. Gradually, coaches are starting to realize the importance of enhancing the mental skills of their players on a regular basis and not just utilizing sport psychology as a tool to "fix" a problem or issue (Schinke et al., 2006). Perhaps coaches are starting to have similar opinions to those athletes interviewed by Ferraro and Rush (2000); of the 20 athletes surveyed, only two had been to an SPC. When asked what exactly an SPC does in a session, six said "talk about sports," while the others stated things, like "control the mind," "help with stress," and "help one to visualize. …

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