Sports Psychology And The 5Cs

How can we improve exercise mindsets?

We can give children little pep talks and try our best to improve their thinking but we need a framework and script to follow.

Some can do this through their experience after donkey’s years of coaching and teaching PE.

But for non-specialist generalist teachers in the primary sector with just a few years under their belt, where do we turn?

I’ve been impressed by a handy approach called the 5Cs as something easy to remember, implement and follow.

These mental skills are potentially a vital set of tools for helping children and adults develop as individuals and teams.

Children are never too young to learn some sports psychology and from an early age they are picking it up by watching and learning from others.

We can teach the technical skills they need and tell them all about healthy eating but what about the mental skills they need?

Sports psychologist at Loughborough University Dr Chris Harwood describes the 5 C’s of mental skills in sports as: Commitment, Communication, Concentration, Control, and Confidence.



How motivated is someone?

Commitment involves effort, persistence, resilience, and working to improve weaknesses and perfect strengths.


Communication describes how effectively a player listens, acknowledges and talks to coaches and teammates (verbally and non-verbally).

Is someone positive and proactive communication with coaches, teammates, and support staff?


This describes a player’s ability to focus their attention on the right thing at the right time.

Concentration is how someone can focus on “right now” and how well they can block distractions inside and outside of the sport.


Controlling and managing thoughts and emotions, ability to react positively to stress.


This describes a player’s self-belief in their skills and ability to achieve goals.

Confidence is playing without fear of mistakes, displaying positive energy through thoughts, words, and actions.

I ‘C’ What You Mean

Harwood et al says that developing these interacting skills can give us the mental edge we need to succeed! As teachers we can share the 5Cs with our pupils and teach them one C at a time. Sessions we teach can have a specific C focus and the 5Cs can be referred to in and out of training and repeated on a regular basis.

Planning my PE lessons in the past really just focused on the technical aspects. I see now that was really never enough and I realise there needs to be time and energy given over to planning how psychological development can integrated alongside the technical.

To find out how you can develop the 5Cs in more detail then please refer to Developing the 5Cs over the Season by Pain, Harwood and Anderson (2015).

The 5Cs model described above is a useful and practical framework but remember there are other 5C models available that  focus on aspects such as Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character and Caring, Creativity or Confidence, Calmness, Consistency, Coachability, and Competitiveness.

I have to say though, the 5Cs described by Harwood et al is far more sophisticated and professional as a model to follow and implement.


See the book Coaching Psychological Skills in Youth Football: Developing The 5Cs by Chris Harwood and Rich Anderson.

Successful footballers are typically those who are best able to regulate their emotions, fix their attention, utilise effective interpersonal skills, and remain highly motivated and self-assured in the face of consistent challenges. These behaviours are the hallmark of mentally tough, emotionally intelligent players, and can be grouped under the 5Cs of: Commitment, Communication, Concentration, Control, and Confidence.

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