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UK Coaching Talent and Performance
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High performance athletes Developing Mindsets

Understanding the BioPsychoSocial Model

Throughout the ‘pathway to excellence’ every participant will experience peaks and troughs in their progress and this model has become a popular way of characterising human development

Participant development in sport and physical activity is dynamic and non-linear and there are multiple pathways that individuals may take as they progress in their activity. 

This nonlinearity, coupled with the importance of ‘key events and transitions’ in the developmental pathway, makes it essential that support systems offer flexibility, individual optimisation and ‘return routes’ as features of any formal ‘pathway to excellence’.

Sports participation, like any other aspect of human development, is influenced by a host of integrating factors. The selection and classification of these factors is inherently a matter of judgement, combined with the need to balance inclusivity with parsimony. 

There are three domains that seem to represent the core subject knowledge that underpins participant development in sport: physical, individual and social domains. Taken together, these domains reflect the bio-psycho-social nature of development.

The biopsychosocial model has become an increasingly popular way of characterising human development (Kiesler, 1999). 

It posits a dynamic interaction between biological, psychological and social factors, all of which play a significant role in human functioning.

Approaches that fail to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of development, perhaps by focusing too narrowly on physiological or psychological processes, are in danger of missing the complex, dynamic and non-linear nature of development, and are therefore inherently inadequate.

In some ways, this approach can be understood as an attempt to extend the biopsychosocial form of analysis within the context of sport. Coaches and coach educators should ‘unpick’ the central elements of development – biological, psychological and social – and use these domains as focal points when developing planning and approaches to person-centred coaching.

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UK Coaching Talent and Performance