Sport Psychology

Business coaches would be smart to borrow from sports to create high-performance teams.

Patrick Heller
3 min readMar 7


In a previous article, I talked about Positive Psychology — in which a therapist tries to lift someone up from a zero-base level into the positive. If you take the positive even further upwards, you enter the realm of high performance.

One of the fields interested in high performance is of course sports. Where sports used to focus entirely on the physical prowess of athletes, it nowadays takes the psychology behind sports achievements very seriously.

Even though the first careful sport psychology was already conducted in the 1920s, in the last few decades it has really taken flight. Sport psychology focuses — amongst other aspects — on motivation, dealing with stress and anxiety, and finding the right state of mind for optimal performance. Techniques that sport psychologists and coaches use include goal setting, visualization, and self-talk. Coaches in business environments would be smart to borrow some of these same techniques and ideas to lift their teams into the realms of high performance.

Take for instance goal setting. A lot has to do with applying the right metrics. If you set measurable goals, you can work towards achieving them, which gives you a good feeling if you reach them, and always leaves room for improvement — because once you have reached a goal, you set the bar higher.

What is very useful to learn from sport psychology is the identification of different sorts of goals. For instance, a marathon runner might aim for a win at the New York marathon next year. That would be an outcome metric — do they win or not?

The same runner might also work — during the year of training towards the New York marathon — on setting a personal record every two months. That would be a performance metric.

The runner might at the same time be working on improving the way they place their feet on the concrete, or on improving eating habits, or sleep rhythm. These improvements would fall under the category of process metrics.

If you coach a team, outcome metrics would measure profit, cost reduction, or an increase in the Net Promoter Score.

Performance metrics would measure the number of software releases in a year, the number of production incidents in a month, or the percentage of automated tests.

Process metrics would focus on, for instance, team happiness, team skill balance, or communication skill level.

If you are interested in stories like these and more, you can buy Essential Psychology for Modern Organizations from Amazon and other bookstores:

Book cover