Autonomy Supportive Coaching - Task 6

FOUNDATIONS OF SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY ASSIGNMENT Weinberg, R. S. & Gould, D.(2015,2011,2007) Foundations of sport and exercise psychology. 6th edition. Champaign, Il.: Human Kinetics.

Chapter 4 Chapter 4 was about a general overview on the stress and arousal sources and how to contrast and compare arousal, stress and anxiety. Arousal is a physiological and psychological activation that varies on a continuum from deep sleep to intense excitement. Anxiety is a negative emotional state in which feelings of nervousness, worry and apprehension are associated with activation or arousal of the body. While this one is a temporary ever-changing emotional state of subjective tension associated with the activation of the autonomic nervous system, trait anxiety is a behavioral disposition that makes you see something that is not dangerous as threatening. One practical application would be the Comprehensive State Anxiety Inventory (CSAI): there are several statements that athletes sometime say before a competition and one has to think about a previous competition day and mark how he was feeling about that from 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much so). Then the coach can assess and understand his athlete, especially if they also do the Sport Anxiety Scale (SAS) that on the other hand assess the trait anxiety level. Research has shown that those who score high on trait anxiety measures, tend to have more state anxiety in highly competitive situations. About stress, it occurs when persists imbalance between physical and psychological demands placed on a person; for example the more important an event is, the more stress-provoking it will be. In this occasion I already do practical applications in this area, as in my sport orienteering this is very important and the athlete's feelings before and during the competition are determining factors. An athlete has to be focused all the time before the start and along the course not to lose contact with the map and make silly mistakes. That's why I need to make sure they are aware of their well learned skills so to help their performance. The interpretation of the arousal level is crucial as well and it influences the outcome. Interesting is Jones' model of facilitative and debilitative anxiety, that summarizes the process from a 'stressor' to a facilitative or debilitative symptom, considering individual differences. Athletes need to know also that increased arousal and state anxiety cause muscle tension and fatigue, and so they can interfere with coordination. One more practical idea is the 'signs and symptoms of increased stress and anxiety' that I might use in the competition phase of our season if necessary: I can accurately detect an individual's anxiety level following these symptoms. Among some more obvious ones like negative self-talk, some more rare and cold hands, need to urinate frequently, headache, cotton (dry) mouth or performing better in non-competitive situations.

Chapter 11 Chapter 11 treated psychological skills training, definitely already part of an orienteer training programme. In fact, maybe more two thirds of mistakes are due to lack of concentration of feeling under pressure; some of this comes from lack of physical skills but a big part is due to lack of mental skills. Good to read about myths on PST and why they are wrong (like that only elite athletes use it or that is a 'quick fix' and others). Also the 3 phases of psychological skills training that occur in an individual are first an awareness period (education), then learning strategies (acquisition) and only then automatisms are created and a teaching phase can begin (practice). Definitely the performance profiling to individualize psychological interventions is also very important and I already did it with my athletes during the profiling phase of Autonomy Supportive Coaching course. It provides me with basis for goal setting, identifies athletes mental strengths and weaknesses, raises athletes awareness, evaluate and monitors athletes performance and most importantly facilitate discussion, communication and interaction, that is quite important especially when I am a new foreign coach that talks only in English and my athletes are generally shy. But apart from that, this would tell me also how much practice time will be devoted weekly to PST, depending of course how much interested are athletes in receiving PST and how many weeks of practice are available in the preseason phase. Also, will it be necessary to keep practicing PST after the competitive part begins? In orienteering, definitely yes; it is a constant and active presence in our training, sometimes even if both athletes and coaches are not aware about. From this profiling it came out that my athletes have no big problems, but I will do it again next season to assess if they have improved or stayed the same, or maybe there has been important differences since our 2018 pre-season.

Chapter 12 What I will consider from chapter 12, about arousal regulation, is the checklist of performance states (p. 274). Biofeedback is also new for me, which is a physically oriented technique that teaches people to control autonomic responses. There can be used a devise that detects responses not ordinarly known (some like skin temperature and brain waves). Then you will have some sessions with no device and the athlete will start to improve. Good are the instructions for relaxation: quiet the mind, concentrate and relax to reduce the tension in the muscles (p. 278).

Chapter 13 Chapter 13 that is about imagery. With imagery you can recreate positive experiences or picture new events to prepare yourself mentally for the next performance. It is of course something natural, but it can be enphasized with athletes. Factors that affect the effectiveness of imagery are: the nature of task, the skill level of performer, imagery ability, using it along with physical practice and personality. There are many uses of imagery: improve contectration, enhance motivation, build confidence, control emotions, acquire or correct skills, prepare for competition. These things must be known by coaches already, but it is nice to read them and to maybe realize that there are more outcomes than what I normally thought. Interesting was to read also how various professionals use imagery, and when is it recommended (before/after, in the off season, during breaks of the action, personal time, when recovering from an injury). We use imagery in my team when we do theoretical exercises, like drawing what we would need to run an orienteering leg in the forest and what we don't have to care/think about. It's very useful for us!

Chapter 14 Chapter 14 tells that self confidence can be defined as the belief that you can succesfully perform a desired behavior. State self-sonfidence = feel unstable VS trait self-confidence = very stable, in your personality. Guidelines for coaches (p. 334) are very usefull to read and keep in mind and also the sport confidence inventory, to assess self-confidence and athletes might do this by answering the questions.

Chapter 15 We already studied about goal setting, but what chapter 15 added was a remark on prioritizing general subjective goals, like in this order 'school > sport > social' depending on the age and the level of the athlete. About dispositional hope then and the 4W system for developing it. Very interesting the forms of goal evaluation (p. 363) and remark again on what not to do: setting too many goals, not adjusting them during the season, having no follow-up and final evaluation. The rest was not new and I am already implementing it with autonomy supportive coaching project in my club, with my 2 athletes.

Chapter 16 This chapter was about concentration, that is the capacity to maintain focus on relevant environmental cues. Focus must also change quickly depending on the environment changes. With exercises on this matter, we can alleviate 'choking' when under pressure, move from negative to positive self-talking, assess attentional skills and improve concentration. For example, we can use simulations of the performance during practice, use cue words, overlearn skills, develop competition plans, establish routines and use non-judgmental thinking. During our season we already take care about this things I wrote here, especially simulating the competition in practice (in particular for orienteering, we organize practices with starting intervals and methods like in real competitions, or use mass start intervals to put more pressure on the runners).

Chapter 22 Last chapter 22 is maybe the most important, because it's about children and sport psychology. It's good to read about real examples during the chapter and learn more about this, because its critical for a kid's participation or discontinuity in a sport or activity. Practically, the factors and solutions associated with burnout in young athletes I will keep in mind: high or imposed expectations, win-at-all mindset, parental pressure, long repetitive practice, inconsistent coaching, excessive time demands, high travel demands, maladaptive perfectionism. Solutions would be to use simple and fun strategies, vary or individualize approaches to the same exercise, remain positive and optimistic and use role models (or self-talk). Then also the strategies to meet the kids needs, that I will write down below. Need for skill development: effective demonstrations, contingent feedback, positive approach, know the technical and strategic aspects of the sport. Need for fun: form realistic expectations, keep practice active, joke and kid around freely. Need for affiliation or relatedness: provide time to make friends, schedule social events, incorporate periods of free time before and during practice. Need for excitement: not overemphasize time spent on drills, incorporate different activities, focus on short, crisp practices. Need for fitness: teach young athletes how to monitor their own fitness, organize planned practices specifically designed to enhance fitness. Need for success: allow children to compete, help children defining winning not only as beating others but also as achieving one's own goal and standards There were definitely many more practical ideas, but I'm not going to write all as I bought the book right to have it always ready if I need help in specific cases or the necessity to remember some parts. That is a master book that all coaches should read.