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Friday, 18 December 2009

Research into Practice 3: Personal and Social Skills are Important

“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character”. (John Wooden)

Sport autobiographies are full of glowing accounts of the benefits of sport to wider aspects of life. But mostly they are rather vague and unhelpful in setting out exactly how sports achieve such outcomes. Are there core skills that contribute to both sport and life? Can anyone learn them?

What does Research Tell Us?

Some of the most interesting developments in sport psychology in recent years are linked to the so-called ‘positive psychology’ movement. Positive psychology studies the strengths and qualities that enable people to thrive in different aspects of their lives. An emerging finding from this research is that certain personal and social skills can play powerful roles in support development in other areas, in sport and life. The research field called positive youth development (PYD) presents 5Cs that have been linked to these positive outcomes:

competence – positive view of one’s actions including social competence and cognitive competence

confidence – an internal sense of overall positive self-worth and self-efficacy

connection – positive bonds with people and institutions resulting in successful relationships in family, school and community

character / caring respect for societal and cultural rules, possession of standards for correct behaviours, a sense of right and wrong and integrity

creativity – finding one’s own solutions

An interesting finding is that the relationship between sports participation and the development of personal and social skills seems to be two-way: personal and social skills help people play and succeed at sport; and sport is a powerful medium for developing personal and social skills. Therefore, sport can be a valuable way of developing positive qualities in young people (and presumably adults, too). At the same time, the development of these positive characteristics will improve the quality and the sporting experience, such as reducing the harmful effects of early specialisation and high-level training.

What does it mean for coaching?

Coaches need to take responsibility for the overall positive development of their players, making sure that their programmes offer opportunities for players to develop the 5Cs.

The development of Personal Capabilities using the concepts of the 5Cs important for players at all stages, including participants, performers and elite players. To a real extent, it is the core of sports participation.

Coach education needs to ensure that all coaching programmes include reference to positive personal development, the 5Cs, and strategies to apply them in the difference contexts in which coaches operate.

All involved with coaching ought to ensure that the natural tendency to stress competition is balanced by recognition of the importance of positive experiences and outcomes that emphasise the development of personal qualities.

Useful source of further information

Holt, N. (2007) Positive Youth Development through Sport. London: Routledge.