For many minor-level coaches, access to reliable, evidence-based sport psychology resources is simply beyond their reach. In response to this, a University of Lethbridge kinesiology professor and her colleagues have developed a new website, Sportpsychologyforcoaches.ca, devoted to putting the latest sport psychology research and advice in their hands – for free.
Dr. Paige Pope says that coaches at all levels of sport incorporate varying aspects of sport psychology into their practice naturally, but while professional coaches and those at higher levels often have access to sport psychologists or consultants, those at lower levels are left wanting.
“It’s a resource primarily designed for lower level coaches who are looking for this type of information and support,” says Pope, an Ontario-born-and-educated professor and former post-secondary rugby player. “We conducted a study with over 250 coaches and asked whether they used online resources to help them with sports psychology. They overwhelmingly said they didn’t trust what was available.”
Western University’s Dr. Craig Hall, Pope’s PhD supervisor, Dr. Barbi Law (Nipissing University, and one of Hall’s former students) and Dr. Melanie Gregg (University of Winnipeg) came up with the idea of creating a sport psychology website that summarized recent research, communicated it in accessible language and was a free resource for coaches at all levels. The focus is simply to help coaches help their athletes.
“The end goal is to provide coaches with the information and tools they need to help their athletes improve the mental side of their game, such as setting goals or increasing their motivation and self-confidence,” says Pope.
Pope’s specific area of expertise deals with how perceptions of coaches’ interpersonal styles affect athlete motivation and well-being. The site breaks down a number of mental skills, including topics such as imagery, goal-setting, performance routines, anxiety regulation and coping with adversity.
“For each mental or psychological skill, we explain what it is, what the benefits are and then present tips on how to maximize the skill – and it’s all evidence-informed advice,” says Pope. “Coaches can then print out worksheets that offer a step-by-step guide to activities they can do with their athletes.”
The worksheets are those the website creators use in their consultant work.
“The idea is this will be a continuous process and we’ll keep adding to the worksheets, as well as to the actual mental skills we discuss on the website, ensuring the research remains current,” adds Pope.
The other unique aspect of the website is that coaches will have access to a practicing consultant and can post questions if the information presented on the website does not address a question or concern they may have.
Pope says the website only went live within the last month and she currently has two U of L undergraduate students helping with various aspects of the launch. She looks to incorporate their applied study final projects into the website.
The website creators see the website evolving with input from coaches who sign up and use the resources. Eventually they’d like to secure funding to make it a bilingual site and push it nationally.
“Our short-term goal is just to get the word out, get coaches signed up and then gather feedback on what they like and what they’d like to see changed or added,” says Pope. “In the long term, what we’d really love to do is partner with a national coaching certification program.”