sports psychology

Learning Styles for the Student Athlete

4 learning styles of student athletes

Great coaches know how to get their athletes to do more than perform. As a coach, your job is to teach your players how to become better and smarter after every rep, after every play. And teaching your players successfully can be a tricky business, especially since everyone has a unique learning style.

Researchers in Britain named Peter Honey and Alan Mumford categorized four different learning styles in order to assess and recognize the way people learn the best. 

1. Activist
Activists need to dive right in and start doing. They learn best by experimenting and trying things out. They tend to be pretty outgoing and get excited about doing new things.

On the field, consider having activists try out several different options when it comes to a play. Or consider having them adjust each rep slightly. They tend to be fairly open-minded and can learn through the experience itself.

2. Reflector
Reflectors are analysts, looking back on past experiences for their best information. They also do well watching others and then analyzing their activity for the best learning experience.

On the field, consider having Reflectors watch your Activists try different approaches for each play. They can see what works and learn from watching.

3. Theorist
Theorists like to know the whys and the hows about things. These are your athletes who like to know why certain drills are being used and what strategies are in play on the field.

These are the guys who enjoy doing research on other teams and understanding the theories behind the plays. They also have a tendency to understand the opposing team as well can can be very intuitive on the field.

4. Pragmatist
Pragmatists like to know how what they are learning will benefit them in an actual game experience. 

On the field, it's important to run scrimmages similar to what they'll be experiencing on game day. While open to new ideas and experiences while learning, they prefer to rely on what they've mastered in practice on game day.

While there are four different learning styles, Honey and Mumford insist that there are more than one way people learn. Most of us learn in several different ways and blends of those styles.

The key to successful coaching is to figure out the way your athletes learn best. And then teach them how to learn.

The Importance of Rest


We're getting close to that time of year. Spring ball is wrapping up, and fall training is a few months away. Summer is a time for both the body and the mind to rest. And rest is so important.

Rest is essential for the body to regenerate. Physically, rest allows the muscles to replenish glycogen and repair body tissue. It's the regeneration phase when the body (and mind) really develop.

There have been many studies done about the condition of overtraining, but it's always a good idea to take a break when you notice the following symptoms: 

  • Moodiness and depression
  • Overall fatigue that doesn't go away after brief rests
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased illness and injuries
  • Altered sleep patterns. 

This depression could dampen the overall competitive desire. And a team that doesn't really want to win, won't.

Physical rest is good for the body and can help the recovery process. One of the easiest ways to get physical rest is to sleep. Sleep deprivation makes it harder for the body to maintain endurance. It also raises the cortisol levels and decreases human growth hormones which are essential during tissue repair. Sleep helps mental health, hormonal balance and muscular recovery. 

Mental rest, however is just as important as physical rest for competitive athletes. Taking a break and enjoying activities that are not a part of training are important for getting quality mental rest.

The benefits of mental rest include: 

  • Increased alertness and focus
  • Help with visualization
  • Improved learning
  • Enhanced mood (which helps the entire team.)

So, enjoy the time off. Get plenty of sleep. Chill with friends. Bring on the Netflix marathon. Fall will be here before you know it. 

Keepin' it Positive

lifting a trophy - KEEPIN' IT POSITIVE

Winners win because they believe, without a doubt, that they can. Winning isn't just trying not to lose. It takes focused, positive energy to take players from envisioning their best performance and combining it with the forward momentum of the team to win.

We are surrounded by negativity everyday: news and social media, fan criticism, self-doubt. It is imperative that the team environment be buoyed by as much of a positive culture as can be generated, and that positivity begins with the coach.

Researchers in sport psychology suggest that 80%-90% of reinforcement from a coach should be positive.* On the field feedback should reward positive behavior in the form of what a player might best respond to. What should you use for your carrot? Ask your players. 

For some players, verbal or nonverbal praise may be just the ticket to creating that positive culture. Consider taking that step once further by encouraging the player to also spread that praise to teammates when they are truly doing well. And consider having the player acknowledge his successes to himself. This will help stave self-doubt and provide a platform for intrinsic motivation.

Beyond rewards for positive behavior, providing an environment for success can go a long way in establishing a culture of positivity. Set challenges that are just outside your athletes' comfort zones, but make them attainable. Allow your players to push themselves and know that success is achievable, again and again.

While some coaches see some success with negative reinforcement, that success is temporary. You are not just building a team player by player and season by season. You are building an entire culture that will constantly evolve and stand on its own, a legacy if you will. A legacy of positivity will help you attract top talent and create successful futures for your athletes long after they come off the field.…