What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety has been an important concept in business for many years, however, more recently, in the world of sport. It comes as there is greater awareness around athletes’ wellbeing and mental health. It has been generally defined as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, concerns or mistakes.” Psychological safety focuses on creating an atmosphere that allows athletes to thrive and become the best athlete they can be. Creating this safe environment enables athletes to feel comfortable in taking risks, asking for help, admitting to mistakes, and seeking feedback from others.

Why is it Important to Create a Psychologically Safe Environment?

There are plenty of benefits of creating such an environment, including happier athletes that want to remain in the sport, more successful performances, and higher athlete satisfaction. These athletes are often more resilient to change and external threats, less likely to suffer from burnout, and are more likely to take educated risks.

Athletes that are in a psychologically safe environment are genuinely interested in their teammates, have positive intentions towards each other, work better together, and display signs of mutual respect especially when errors were made. This is all done without the fear of being judged by others.

How to Create a Psychologically Safe Environment

Opportunity for Feedback & To Ask Questions

Whether the opportunity to ask questions and get feedback from others is on a one-to-one basis or as a team, it is important that the opportunity is available to the athletes. These athletes need to feel comfortable in asking these questions and in doing so, athletes will improve in performance, increase in confidence, and it enable athletes to be honest in how they are feeling.

Positive Reinforcement

In an organisation, members should be supportive and encouraging, with positive reinforcement playing an important role. It helps develop personal growth in athletes.


Create an environment that welcomes everyone and encourages them to be themselves. Coaches and managers should be aware of individual differences, and this may mean adopting different approaches for different athletes. Athletes and team members that can voice their opinions and views comfortably, without fear of being shamed, shows a safe environment.

No Judgement

Often people don’t like to speak up with the fear of being judged. When people are comfortable enough to express their views and opinions, it is vital that there is respect for the athletes and team members, as well as active listening. This will show them that their opinions are valued and will encourage them to voice their opinions more often as well as be themselves whilst being in that safe environment.


In a time when mental health and wellbeing is even more significant than ever, creating an open and honest environment is crucial to the health of the athletes. They should be encouraged to bring up any issues of concern, no matter how challenging this may be. Examples of openness should be shown by coaches and managers too as to lead by example, even if this shows vulnerability.


As well as active listening, it is also good to try understanding other people’s perspectives by having open conversations and asking effective questions. Showing that you care, being honest and approachable will help to build relationships with others as well as build trust. In turn this will allow both parties to feel comfortable within the organisation.

Consider Body Language

Like being approachable, as a coach, manager, or fellow team member, if you show signs of being unhappy, bored, or tired, it may stop athletes approaching you for even the smallest of things. Eye contact and positive facial expressions can demonstrate that you are engaged and interested.

Avoid the Blame Game & Responding to Mistakes

In a psychologically safe environment, athletes, coaching staff, and managers should discourage from blaming others. Their focus should be on solutions and what needs to happen going forward. Mistakes are inevitable in sport, and it is easy to blame others, especially when stakes as well as emotions are high. Having a growth mindset is crucial when responding to mistakes; rather than feeling ashamed, athletes will learn from them.

Above, we have demonstrated the ways of creating a psychologically safe environment. Whilst this may be difficult in elite sport where results really do matter, doing this will allow for athletes to be their best selves and perform to their highest potential without detriment to their mental wellbeing.