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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation of mental approach : methods used by NCAA Division 1 baseball coaches for producting peak performance Clements, Andrew Gordon


In order to be an effective coach one must be able to demonstrate exceptional qualities that contribute to the success and development of a team or individual. Effective coaching techniques involve the application of principles from sport science, which entails an understanding of physiology, nutrition, and motor learning, that have proven to be essential for producing high performance athletes (Hoffman, 2002). Natural science approaches, however, make up only part of the knowledge base and skill set that effective coaches must employ. The psychology of coaching has often been referred to as the "art" of coaching (Fuoss & Troppmann, 1981) and may in fact represent the most important investment of time, planning and energy for effective coaching. In order to better understand the "art" of effective coaching, expert coaches have been studied in a number of sports, including: wrestling (Gould, Hodge, Peterson & Giannini, 1989; Gould, Hodge, Peterson, Petlichkoff, 1987), gymnastics (Cote & Salmela, 1996; Cote, Salmela, & Russell, 1995) basketball (Bloom, Crumpton, Anderson, 1999; Schinke, Bloom, & Salmela, 1996; Tharp & Gallimore, 1976), and rowing (Sedgwick, Cote, & Dowd, 1997). Expert coaching in baseball, on the other hand, has been studied much less, with only one major observation study of a single coach (Hardin & Bennett, 2002). The present study investigated N C A A Division I Head Baseball Coaches' ideas regarding a mental approach to the game. A mental approach is much like the "winning way" described by Dorfman and Kuehl (1989), in that it serves as a set of guidelines used by a coach to produce peak performance in athletes. This was the first research to attempt to elicit the knowledge of multiple high-level baseball coaches regarding a mental approach to the sport. Seven NCAA Division I Head Baseball Coaches from the West Coast and Pacific 10 conferences were interviewed. Using semi-structured interview methodology interview questions were derived using Cote's (1995) Coaching Model (CM) and addressed training, competitive, and organizational components of coaching outlined in the CM. Data analysis followed guidelines for interpretive analysis of qualitative data and involved identifying and summarizing key themes and patterns in the findings (Cote, Salmela, Baria, & Russell, 1993; Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Results from the study support literature on coaching effectiveness emphasizing the subjective nature of coaching. It was found that the seven high-level coaches were knowledgeable about the concept of a mental approach and offered numerous principles and practical exercises for instituting and fostering a mental approach for their athletes. For instance, all coaches regarded mental training as essential for success in collegiate baseball. More specifically, the participants cited the importance of being able to utilize visualization, set specific goals, establish routines, play the game one pitch at a time, and have emotional control. Also the results indicate that while the coaches' ideas regarding a mental approach were similar, the ways in which they spoke about these approaches were quite different. The findings support the highly subjective and individual nature of coaching approaches that is described in the literature (Chambers, 1997; Fuoss & Troppmann, 1981; Martens, 1997). Furthermore, they support the use of Cote's CM as a means for conceptualizing the coaching process. Recommendations for future research are also provided.

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