COED 6140 – Psychology of Sport Coaching

This course is designed to help the student to demonstrate an understanding of the role sport psychology plays in coaching and athletic performance; demonstrate an understanding of player development, including elite player development and mental skills; demonstrate an understanding of how an athlete or coach is affected by psychological considerations and develop application ideas to achieve optimal psychological performance.

This class was a major eye-opener for me.  Some of the terms were unfamiliar to me but what I did not know was that I was already using some of the psychology techniques.


Complete a final paper addressing how one area addressed by the course can be applied to their current or prospective coaching situation.

In order to determine how imagery can be applied to my current coaching situation, I would need to be able to define “imagery”.

Murray (1994) wrote “The term “imagery” has been used in many ways by various researchers, but a clear and useful definition of the term is proposed by Richardson:

Mental imagery refers to all those quasi-sensory or quasi-perceptual experiences of which we are self consciously aware and which exist for us in the absence of those stimulus conditions that are known to produce their genuine sensory or perceptual counterparts (51, pp.2-3)” (pg. 486).

Murray (1994) continues to say, “Richardson highlights several key issues concerning the nature of imagery. First imagery experiences mimic sensory or perceptual experience. The individual talks of “seeing” an imaginal performance routine, of “feeling” the crack of the baseball off the bat during an imaginary swing. Second, the individual is consciously aware of imagery experiences, which differentiates imagery from dreaming or daydreaming. Third, imagery takes place without known stimulus antecedents” (pg. 486).

Since I coach children between the ages of 6-14, would I be able to teach them how to be able to use mental imagery to mimic performance or personal experience when most of the children are attending football training that have little to no experience of playing football? I believe that I can teach them how to use imagery by having them visualize in their heads the tasks that are needed to be performed before actually showing them.

Sheikh and Korn (1994) stated that “Mahoney and Avener found that internal imagery is better than external imagery in enhancing performance. . . . This finding is consistent with bio informational theory: internal imagery more readily facilitates the processing of response propositions because the person imagines actually doing the activity rather than merely watching it” (pg. 5).

Recently, I spent time working with a 12-year-old offensive lineman on snapping the football, first steps and blocking techniques. Since he has been playing for the past three years, he was never taught how to block or snap and it has been difficult teaching him the proper fundamentals and techniques as we work on removing the bad habits he has developed over the years.

About 45 minutes into our training, I can see that the kid was getting frustrated with understanding a new concept in regards to blocking. I stopped our practice, asked him to remove his helmet and to close his eyes and take a deep breath. With his eyes closed, I asked him to imagine himself playing a game in three different scenarios. As I described the situation, he was able to explain to me how he was going to block the defender, his hand placements and his footwork.

After the third scenario, he opened his eyes with a big smile on his face, like a light bulb had gone off in his head. He finally got the blocking concepts that I have been explaining to him for the past 45 minutes. With renewed energy, we spent the last 15 minutes of training and he was able to perform the required tasks without any difficulty.

Hall, Rodgers and Barr (199) stated that “the most common aspect of imagery use that has been considered is the imagery perspective that athletes adopt, either external or internal. . . . An external perspective is when the athletes take a third person perspective and view themselves as though they were watching a film. An internal perspective is when the athletes see themselves performing as if they were physically doing the skill at that time. The internal perspective has the potential to include kinesthetic imagery (the feel of the movement) while the external perspective does not” (pg. 2).

Behncke (2004) stated that “mental skills training has developed from the necessity of the athlete to learn more about their individual mental life to allow a degree of control in coordinating effective movement through various psychological states of performance (Martens, 1987; Rushall, 1992). There are many different methods used to develop mental skills in task performance, but most can be separated into two basic approaches, cognitive and somatic, even though there is much overlap between the two.

Underlying both systems is the aim and motivation of the individual to attain self-mastery, that is, a desire to control their individual psychological world” (pg. 1).

There will have to be a series of steps to use the imagery process to help create a learning foundation for physical and tactical skills:

  • Evaluate the needs of the athlete
  • Identify skills to be taught
  • Chart training progression
  • Explain to the athlete what is going to happen
  • Describe imagery accordingly
  • Promote positive reinforcement
  • Evaluate performance after imagery session

The level of image control and sharpness that we will be seeking should be based off of real life experiences and/or game situations.

As positive reinforncement is being promoted, we can have a variety of reinforcement during the imagery training. We can have the athletes express “self-statements” to themselves as a way to indicate that the training was successful. Most athletes would prefer the self-congratulations, such as “great job”, “you did great” or “that was awesome” as another form of positive reinforcement. A third way to help with promoting positive reinforcement is to imagine the successful training compared to other athletes scoring a touchdown, catching the ball or even making a tackle or interception. Positive self and/or performance is what matters most to the athletes.


Behncke, L. (2004). Mental Skills Training for Sports: A Brief Review. Athletic Insight – The Online Journal of Sports Psychology, 6(1), pgs. 1-19

Hall, C. R., Rodgers, W. M., and Barr, K. A. (1990). The Use of Imagery by Athletes in Selected Sports. The Sports Psychologist, 4, pgs. 1-10

Murphy, S. M. (1994). Imagery interventions in sports. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 26(4), pgs. 486-494

Sheikh, A. A. Dr., and Korn, E. R. Dr. (1994). Imagery In Sports and Physical Performance. Baywood Publishing Co. : New York