This is a shortened version of a coach psychology intervention I did as part of my degree. It was based on a mythical Scottish coach called Stevie, who has recently moved to a new club in Spain as the assistant coach. Stevie is currently going through a turbulent period as his new team are not winning games which has led to criticism from both the fans and media. This has resulted in a decreased level of self-belief which stems from the negative images he is beginning to see in his head, detailing scenarios of him being incapable of turning things around and the coaching staff losing their jobs.

The intervention is made up of two 12 week periods with two psychological techniques being introduced in each phase. The main aim of this programme is to increase self-belief and motivation. To achieve this phase one is made up of imagery as Stevie currently uses it and goal setting which he also has experience of using.

Imagery

PETTLEP imagery will be used which involves picturing the physical, environment, task, timing, learning, emotion, and perspective of the images which helps to bring them to life. An imagery script (see below) will be recorded on Stevie’s phone which will last around two minutes and will be listened to each day. Throughout the week Stevie will be encouraged to watch videos to aid his imagery. He has already achieved success in his relatively short coaching career which will help the process as he has a lot of video footage of his team succeeding in matches and their training sessions are always recorded.

Stevie will use imagery before, during and after both training and competition, which will take place at home, in a hotel or at the training ground, depending on his preference and whether the team is home or away.  The teams training sessions are planned well in advance of each session so Stevie can run through each session in his head of what he is going to do and to see himself carrying it out successfully. He will also watch the recording of the session back afterward to self-reflect and learn from any mistakes he may be making and to gain self-belief from the positive aspects of his sessions.

The head coach will also watch the recording and give Stevie feedback on the good things he is doing and the areas where he needs to improve. Before competition he will watch videos of the opposition to aid PETTLEP imagery so he can see what colour the opposition will be wearing, the surroundings of their stadium, and their style of play. This will also help Stevie plan his training sessions to exploit the opposition’s weaknesses and to counteract their strengths.

Coaches PETTLEP imagery script

Find a comfortable position to lie down… Close your eyes and focus on your breathing…  Find that relaxing breathing rhythm and open your imagination… Remember how far you have come from coaching youngsters in Scotland to senior internationals in Spain… Remember how much success your hard work achieved in Portugal… Your training sessions brought success on the pitch… Remember that feeling of satisfaction and belief that brought to you…

In your own time imagine walking onto the training field… See the green grass and the big white goals at either end of the pitch… See all of the cones you have set out in preparation for the session… Hear the conversations between the players and coaching staff… Feel the clipboard in your hand and the stopwatch around your neck… Feel the breeze against your skin and smell the fresh air… You’ve prepared well for this session… You planned it well in advance and have mentally rehearsed it during your mental preparation… You are ready to deliver your session…

I want you to think of yourself as a knowledgeable coach who is competent and well respected by the players…You are a confident coach who is highly thought of member of the coaching staff…See the demonstration and hear the instructions you are successfully giving to the players for the exercise they are about to commence… See the players manoeuvring around the grid carrying out the exercise as you specified… Listen to the communication the players give one another when on the ball… Feel the positive emotion when a player does something you like… See yourself stepping in to make an intervention and hear the concise information you give to the players… Feel the satisfaction when they begin to put your ideas into practice…I want you to think about the walk back to your office having delivered a successful session which the players both enjoyed and learnt from…

Goal-setting

Stevie mentioned that he uses goal setting but does not find it very effective as his goals focus on the outcome rather than the process and he does not evaluate or revisit his goals enough. Outcome and process goals will be set by Stevie with the goals being moderately difficult which leads to enhanced performance, which suits Stevie as he is a highly ambitious young coach. The SMART goals method will be used to ensure the goals are specific, measurable, agreed, realistic, and set within a time frame which increases the effectiveness of the goals. This structure was lacking from Stevie’s original goals which is another reason why he was finding them ineffective.

The goals will focus on the performance and process which provides the direction to achieving the outcome goal. Process goals also allow Stevie to focus on what is in his control and what he can affect as opposed to whether the poor run of form is going to cost him his job. Similar to imagery soccer coaches’ goals were focused on competition more than practice and were mostly short-term due to the lack of job stability. Stevie’s goals will be both short term and long term as the short term allows Stevie to see how he is going to turn this run of poor form around resulting in a better team and a better coach, while the long term goal provides the motivation reminding him why he is working so hard to be where he wants to be in the future. Training goals will be the focus as his main role is to lead training sessions and his performance in this setting will impact on the team’s performance in competition.

Stevie will be asked to put the goals in a prominent place which he will see each day to remind him of what the daily process requires and to remind him why he is carrying out these plans. He will be asked to review his goals once a week and record a log book of his progress. He will also be asked to get feedback from the head coach to see if he is on track to achieving his goals. Stevie’s head coach and social support network such as his family and friends will support him by showing an interest in the progress of his goals.

Goals sheet

Short term outcome: Improve the performance of the team.

Action plan:

  1. I will work at improving my imagery skill and carry it out before, during and after competition which will improve my performance and subsequent self-belief in my methods. It will be measured by how I perceive my self-belief level after 6 weeks.
  2. I will self-reflect on every session immediately after and note down my positive aspects which I can gain self-belief from and areas for improvement which I will aim to address with guidance from the head coach. The self-reflections will be reviewed to ensure the same mistakes are not being repeated.
  3. I will look at my goals every morning as a motivator that reminds me why I am working so hard to improve my performance and fulfil my potential in the game. I will also look at the process I need to follow which breaks the goal down to seem more achievable. They will be reviewed each week to measure the effectiveness.
  4. I will record a log each day to monitor my progress which will be reviewed each week.

Long term outcome: Take over a club as head coach.

Coach signature: _________________________

Conclusion

Coaches recognise the need to prepare their players mentally but often forget to prepare themselves. Every coach would benefit from the use of psychological techniques to handle the stress coaching can bring and to improve performance. The techniques above are relatively straight forward for each of us to implement. Many of us may not be fortunate enough to have our sessions video recorded but we will have a reservoir of training images in our minds which we can use for motivation/confidence and to improve our coaching performance, especially when planning and reflecting. Improving our personal use of psychological skills will also aid our coaching performance as it will enable us to utilise the skills with our players. This is definitely an area that needs to be developed to help coaches prosper in an inherently stressful and challenging environment.

 

 

Originally posted: 18th May 2017