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Advocating For a Written Sport Psychology Curriculum for Youth and School Sports Teams
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The curriculum that appears below is part of the curriculum for the 2003-2004 edition. All units of study will be divided by Outcomes/Goals, Objectives/Activities, Learning Strategies, Teaching Strategies, and Assessments.

Curriculum & Text

Performance Psychology on High School Sports Teams
Main Purpose: To teach and practice life-long mental skills by implementing a written performance psychology curriculum on interscholastic sports teams.

Three general and guiding principles in performance psychology:

    1. When we have daily successes in our lives, we receive the benefits from feeling good about ourselves as people (self-worth).

    2. When we create a positive environment for ourselves and others, we learn and perform better.

    3. When we recognize harmful thoughts as they happen, and then change them to helpful ones, we learn and perform better.

    Six Life-long Mental Skills To Practice:

    1. Giving all our effort;

    2. Being positive with ourselves and others;

    3. Focusing on the details (Task-oriented);

    4. Setting written goals;

    5. Seeing and feeling success (Visualization/Imagery);

    6. Meditating to help us focus, relax and change our moods.

    I. Unit of Study

    Feeling good about ourselves as people.

    Goals we want to achieve in this Unit of Study:

    1. Athlete and Coach will understand the benefits of feeling good about ourselves as people (self-worth);

    2. Athlete and Coach will understand that the mental skills we practice increase our chances of success, and when we have successes, we improve our feelings of self-worth;

    3. Athlete and Coach will think of and then practice the Mental Skills before and during practices and games.

    Activities and exercises to accomplish the Goals of this Unit of Study:


    1. Students understand that people who feel good about themselves as people generally are more confident, more satisfied, more accepting of differences in others, more productive, more willing to understand their strengths and work on their weaknesses, more willing to risk failure, more energetic, and have the ability to bounce back from failures;

    Learning strategies for athletes

    Understand that feeling good about yourself is not an easy thing to do; most people are their own worst critics; some of you are doing things right now that should make you feel good about yourself, but you do not recognize it or take the time to enjoy these accomplishments; for some of you, feeling good about yourself as a person may be the most difficult feeling to acquire and hold on to; to have respect for yourself, you must actively do things that give you success regularly, so you feel accomplished, even if it is just the satisfaction you receive for putting in your maximum effort.

    Understand that the object of your play is to have fun playing at your highest level where you will feel good about yourself as a person; When you want to play because you want to feel good about yourself and enjoy those feelings and benefits, you are learning to motivate yourself to be the best you can be; you don't need your Coach to motivate you; your Coach will not be there to motivate you in other parts of your life and in the future; one of the goals on this team is learn how to motivate yourself by wanting to play at your very top level; Then you will play to be the best you can be, not to win the game; you are more likely to win when you think about what you need to do well in order to win;

    Both within the team and outside the team, do things wherein you will respect yourself as a person to build your own feelings of self-worth (e.g., on Sunday morning, ask yourself if the night before you did things that make you proud of yourself or took actions that lowered your own self-worth);

    Teaching strategies for coaches

    By making the object of their play to feel good about themselves as people, players are playing for something greater than the game; they are playing for themselves as people, not athletes; they are playing for self-respect; therefore, if they play for themselves, they become and remain self-motivated in practice and in games; Don’t think of your self as a motivator, but as a teacher of mental skills that lead to self-motivation.

    The discipline required in working regularly on mental skills is the same discipline required to run a play all the way through, to think of the details even during the game, to stay positive even in the most adverse conditions, etc.

    Build self-worth in players by pointing out what they are doing right and praising it regularly; encourage players to enjoy successes and work on weaknesses; e.g., Inform players frequently that when they practice as hard as they can, they will feel good about themselves, when they do physical moves correctly, praise them regularly; build on their successes;

    Treat players with respect; listen to what they have to say; encourage their input; do not use sarcasm, ridicule or shame as a tool of communication as it drives down self-worth;

    Communicate in a positive way with your reserves (bench), even more than with your starters; ask their opinions; share your thoughts; develop relationships with the person at the end of the bench; when you give your bench your attention, you are building self-worth in all of your players not just some of them; give them a chance to play and encourage them if they fail;

    Ask yourself, "Am I honestly building the self-worth of my player or tearing it down?"; DO NOT GIVE FALSE PRAISE, as it sets low demands which does not increase self-worth;


    2. Practice recognizing your thoughts as they enter your mind because those thoughts influence the way your feel about yourself and how you play: regularly ask: "What am I thinking about?"; throughout the practices and games to help you recognize those thoughts;

    Learning strategies for athletes:

    When you ask yourself regularly during practice and at games, "What am I thinking about?";, you will remind yourself to re-focus on the level of your effort, the details of what you are doing, the specific goals you have set for yourself that day, as well as being positive with yourself and others and replacing harmful thoughts with helpful ones; all of these reminders ("What am I thinking about?";) help us to practice;. we like ourselves as people when we are disciplined and are accomplishing things.

    Teaching strategies for coaches:

    In the beginning of the season, establish what you mean when you ask them "What are you thinking about?"; One suggestion is to have them think about their level of effort, the details of what they are doing and any personal goals they have when you are asking the question; Do this repeatedly in the beginning and soon, you will have the players respond to the question in their own mind, "Effort, details, goals";, and you will see the change right away.


    3. Think of mental skills before beginning practice or games; through dedication, attempt to make the mental skills your "trait"; (they are with you all the time, so you don't have to think of them), not just your "state"(you think of them some of the time);

    Learning strategies for athletes:

    While you may believe that these mental skills may help you in your performance, remembering to practice them is the most difficult job ahead of you; for instance, the more you practice working to your very highest level of effort, the more "high energy" becomes your "trait" and not your "state"; when you are known as a hard working person, it makes you feel good about yourself as a person, not just as an athlete;

    Consciously feel good about your successes, work on your weaknesses;

    Note progress in your play;

    Teaching strategies for coaches

    For example,if you want effort to become your team's trait, you must see and then correct when you see lack of effort regularly; sometimes the effort is not there no matter how many times you call their attention to it; stop and take the time to have them recognize this failing, to see if they can re-commit themselves to it;

    Use constructive, positive criticism; Make criticism impersonal and about the play, never about the player as a person; Encourage players to view mistakes as having something to do with their play, not with who they are as people; always distinguish the play from the person;


    4. Create success daily to increase your self-worth through skills we can control; we control:

     Whether we reach our level of maximum effort and sustain it as long as possible;

     Whether we write down goals each day for practices and games;

     Whether we are positive with ourselves and actively support and encourage others;

     Whether we focus on the details of our play and not just on the result we want;

     Whether we will spend the time away from practice to imagine ourselves correctly completing little details that are contributing to our mistakes in play;

     Whether we will take the time away from practice to meditate to help learn to how to focus, relax, and change unhelpful moods

    Learning strategies for athletes

    Life is all about choice: if you want to improve, you can make the choice do something about it by deciding to train the mind to think the thoughts necessary for improvement;

    Determine how badly you want to improve; enough to practice mental skills, even outside the time allotted for practice?

    Live with your choice; if you decide to make the effort to really improve, enjoy the good feelings you will have about yourself; If you take no actions on improving the mental part of sport, understand you made a conscious choice and have to live with the consequences of the decision you made to not play at your very best!

    Teaching strategies for coaches

    Harp on "Choice" as a life decision that will play a large part in determining their future lives. Tell them that your team is a place where we practice making choices; show them that when we make bad choices, there are consequences, not punishments; for example, dropping down to do five pushups after not running at full speed is not viewed as punishment, but a reminder to focus on our effort as a skill; during the game, there are different consequences for not giving us all our effort; the consequence from giving all our effort is feeling good about ourselves, getting praise, and, hopefully, better performance and results;

    Encourage students to focus on the mental skills they control by finding ways to have them succeed daily (see Unit on Effort) and by enforcing the metal skills rigorously as a form of discipline that will translate onto the field of play;


    5. Emphasize that the team's long-term goal for the season is to reflect at the end of the season and honestly say "We did everything we could to put ourselves in the best possible position to win. We feel good about ourselves and our season together."

    Learning strategies for athletes

    When we work on mental skills daily, we foster feeling of confidence as we know we are prepared, we are thorough, we work hard, and we are disciplined, all of which make us feel good about ourselves as people;

    Teaching strategies for coaches

    Teach athletes that when we practice all of the mental skills, we become self-disciplined, which makes us feel good about ourselves as people;

    Giving confidence to players by informing them as they practice that they are mentally preparing and doing everything possible to be in a position to be successful;

    Assessing what we have learned:

    Goals of Assessment are:

    1. Do we know the benefits of self-worth?

    2. Do we understand and know the mental skills to practice to raise one's self-worth?

    3. Do we practice the activities and exercises?

    4. Do we employ the applicable strategies?


     Quiz on subject matter

     Subjectively assessing through communication with athletes

     Coach's checklist

     Usage Evaluations

Our Mission
To bring positive change to the general school curriculum and sports programming by:
 •  Building a positive school environment
 •  Enhancing emotional health
 •  Reducing violence, addictions and eating disorders including obesity

"He tells us there is an 'I' in 'team'. I'd never heard anyone say that before….feeling good about yourself will only help your team win."

 -- Senior, Varsity Football, Newton North High School, Newton, MA.

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