What do young athletes implicitly understand about psychological skills?

Paul McCarthy, Marc Jones, Chris Harwood, Steve Olivier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


One reason sport psychologists teach psychological skills is to enhance performance in sport; but the value of psychological skills for young athletes is questionable because of the qualitative and quantitative differences between children and adults in their understanding of abstract concepts such as mental skills. To teach these skills effectively to young athletes, sport psychologists need to appreciate what young athletes implicitly understand about such skills because maturational (e.g., cognitive, social) and environmental (e.g., coaches) factors can influence the progressive development of children and youth. In the present qualitative study, we explored young athletes’ (aged 10–15 years) understanding of four basic psychological skills: goal setting, mental imagery, self-talk, and relaxation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-172
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Clinical Sport Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010


  • young athletes
  • sport psychology
  • psychological skills


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