Psychological skills training (PST) is a proven coaching method used with athletes in a multitude of sports. Psychological skills training refers to the consistent practice of mental or psychological skills for the purpose of enhancing performance, increasing enjoyment, or achieving greater self-satisfaction. This study, conducted by Middle Tennessee State University, investigated the use of PST with equestrian athletes. An online survey was administered to equestrian coaches to determine whether coaches used specific skills relative to PST.
Ninety-one percent of equestrian coaches surveyed were using PST with their riders. Confidence building and goal setting were used more frequently than other skills, followed by imagery, self-talk, and task relevant routine. Relaxation was least used. The type of skills used differed by situation (e.g., practice, competition). Confidence building was used more in practice than during competition. Goal setting and imagery were most used in practice and pre-competition, compared with during competition and post competition.
Use of confidence building, self-talk, relaxation, task relevant routine, and goal setting were correlated to PST-attributable performance improvement by increasing self-confidence and lessening anxiety. When asked which PST skills promoted a positive attitude, correlations were found between self-talk, relaxation, and task relevant routine. Lack of training was identified as the largest limiting factor of PST implementation, with 68 percent of coaches interested in more PST education and training.
These results suggest equestrian coaches actively seek methods for rider improvement beyond the saddle. Further research should explore the best PST methods to use with equestrian athletes.
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