As much as I hated sports psychology during my time as a student, I must admit that it is a huge part of athletic performance and I appreciate its importance more and more as I grow as a coach. The cliche says that “Psychology trumps physiology” has a lot of truth in it:
- Athletes will only derive maximum benefit from a programme when they believe in it maximally.
- A psychologically robust team with a shitty strength programme will typically beat a world class programme full of mentally fragile athletes.
- Culture, leadership and the personal behaviour of athletes comes before all other aspects of the programme, as these elements will not only influence the success of the team as individual factors, but will dictate the effectiveness of every other department, strength and conditioning included.
In light of the above, I’d recommend that all strength coaches at least have a basic understanding of sport psychology principles and how to include an element of this discipline in everything they do.
Obviously we are strength coaches first, so building “mental toughness” or culture should never come at the expense of the physical preparation programme itself, but we should be aware that a programme by itself with no concern of psychology is an incomplete programme.
One of the most influential people in my development as a coach is Paul Russell, who in addition to being my programme director at the University of Bolton is also a chartered psychologist who has worked with a ton of different professional Olympic athletes and teams.
Paul got in touch me this week to share a new series of sports psychology infographics he has developed just for young rugby players. I thought it was a great idea so I want to share it with you all on this blog. Feel free to share it with your athletes and people in your network, as a great introduction to one of the principal areas of athletic preparation.
If you would like to learn more about Paul and his work, make sure you check out his webinar presentation on the psychological traits of elite performance inside the rugby strength coach community. Paul can also be reached through his website www.thepop.org.uk.