Psychological Skill Training (PST) is a methodological system that is individually designed so that athletes can manage and regulate their psychological state. Weinberg and Gould (2007) say that the purpose of PST is to enhance performance, increase enjoyment, or to achieve greater sport and physical activity self- satisfaction. PST is effective both in and out of the sport performance environment and has been used in the education, business, and health sectors. Most athletes, especially young athletes, never identify their athletic skills as transferable and often compartmentalize the skills and only use them in their sport. Athletes must be confident that they can perform well when placed in their competitive environment. 

For example, Tiger Woods would be optimistic of making a final putt on the 18th green at Augusta in the Golf Masters. However, he may not feel as confident taking the final penalty kick in the World Cup final. This is an example of how each PST programme is individualised to the athlete, their sport, and the environment they are placed in.

Another example is the concept of stress. Stress can be described as both an environmental variable and an emotional response to a specific situation. As with anxiety, the effects of stress on performance are down to how the athlete perceives this stress. Again, this can be relevant to any situation within any environment, i.e., work, personal, and family life.

Below, I will outline three psychological skills that can be transferable between different sports but also used outside the sporting environment too.

Goal Setting

Researchers and practitioners in both sports and organisational literature have argued that a combination of both short-term and long-term goals is most effective for improving performance, changing behaviour, and increasing levels of motivation and determination.

Process and performance goals are short term whereas outcome goals long term.

Process Goals –These focus on the techniques of performance rather than the overall result.

For example, reaction and speed.

Performance Goals – These help the athlete focus on an aspect of performance that they

are in total control of and can be compared with previous performances. For example,

aiming to score more runs than in the last match.

Outcome Goals – These focus on the result of a particular event. For example, winning the


Another common method of goal setting is by using SMART goals.

Specific – Goals should be specific to what you want to accomplish.

Measurable – Goals should be measurable and objective so that they offer a benchmark to strive for.

Achievable – Goals should be both realistic and challenging. If you set goals that are too small, they will have little motivational value because you know you’ll achieve the goal without much effort. You don’t want to set goals that are too big because you’ll know that you can’t achieve them, so you’ll have little incentive to put out any effort.

Relevant – Goals that are set by parents or coaches will not inspire or motivate you fully because they come from outside of you and you won’t feel real buy-in because they aren’t yours. Use these people to set relevant goals but ultimately, they are yours to strive for.

Timely – The best goals are ones in which there is a time limit for their achievement. You will feel highly motivated to put in the time and energy necessary to reach them when you have set a deadline to achieve them. Making your goals public and reviewing them regularly has been proven to increase the likelihood of achieving them.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques are psychological skills that can be used to help cope with stress and anxiety. Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR) allows the athletes to feel what it is like to be completely relaxed and free from muscular tension. It helps relax tired and stressed bodies and minds and prepare athletes for a good night of sleep. Something that is essential when preparing for competition. Learning how to relax is a skill which can be used in any situation.

Just as it takes time and practice to learn skills for your sport, PMR takes time and practice, but the benefits can be rewarding. This activity is most effective when you can carve out 15 to 30 minutes of time with minimal distractions. Bedtime can be ideal, but there are other times when it can be effective, and it can be done both lying down and seated.


We refer to self-talk as inner speech or dialogue. These phrases may be deliberate but often they are automatic and reflect beliefs, concepts, and ideas we hold about ourselves and the world around us. Positive self-talk relates to the ability to overcome negative thinking. Negative thoughts will increase anxiety levels. In reverse, positive self-talk creates happiness and excitement that can lead to successful performance and has been shown to help increase resilience and confident levels as well as allow the performer to be more relaxed and focused. When you hear automatic responses that disrupt your focus, ask yourself if they are helpful. If not, change your response.

In conclusion, psychological skills are important tools for not only work or sporting success, but for life in general.


Weinberg, R.S. and Gould, D. (2007) Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Human Kinetics Publishers, Champaign.