Why We Play

Understanding Well-Being, Learning and Performance in School Sport



  • Who Am I?
  • Self-Image and Identity
  • Why Isn’t Sport Fun Any More?
  • Where Does Pressure Come From?
  • Key Elements of Leadership and Culture.
  • Connection and Team Spirit
  • How We Learn and Develop Skills
  • Working with Parents

It’s OK Not To Be OK…..

But then what?


The recent increase in awareness of mental health and well-being in sports is welcome.

However, increased awareness does not mean that people are feeling happier and more resilient.

In many ways this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people feel more able to talk about ‘not feeling OK’, then statistics indicating a decline in well-being are bound to rise.

Unfortunately, the willingness of young people to speak up has not been matched by a growth in effective interventions and advice.

For teachers and coaches, finding a balance between participation, learning and player well-being isn’t easy. Managing expectations from players, parents and elsewhere can be frustrating and time consuming.

 This program offers solutions to these problems. It addresses a fundamental misunderstanding that affects learning, enjoyment, motivation and resilience in young players.

The same misunderstanding is the cause of the pressure often felt by teachers and coaches and shows up in the expectations and worries of parents.

Understanding where well-being and performance come from helps everyone in school sport to work together, helping young players to realise their potential, both on and off the field.

Lesson 1 – Introduction

Who Am I?

This lesson will shine a light on a misunderstanding most people in sport, education and in wider society are living in.

Could the reason so many people are struggling – be a conflict between the way we believe life works, and our direct experience?

If so, could seeing past that belief help us to feel more resilient, happier and less insecure?

When we uncover who we really are – rather than who we think we are – we realise that our potential to perform, connect and thrive in the world is unlimited.


Lesson 2

Self Image and Identity

This lesson will examine the labels which we give ourselves, give other people, and the labels which sport and society give to us.

What impact might the label ‘sports scholar’ or ‘1st Team Player’ have on how we feel? How might other people feel about us?

What happens when we strip away the labels to find out what lies underneath?

What or who are we referring to when we say “I am…?”

When we see that we are more than the story about who we think we are, a new perspective on potential, learning and performance opens up.

Lesson 3

Why Isn’t Sport Fun Any More?


When we fall in love with a sport, it’s for the feelings we have when we play, not for what we might get from the game.

This lesson will explore a question many young athletes ask themselves from time to time.

Unfortunately, as some players improve and sport becomes more ‘serious’, the fun seems to evaporate.

Why does this happen? Has the game changed – or is it something else?

Are there any down sides to being ambitious, to having targets and expectations?

Understanding where happiness and fulfilment really come from can help keep things in perspective.

The game continues to be an expression of happiness rather than becoming the means to an end.

Lesson 4

Where Does Pressure Come From?


Every sports person knows the feelings of anticipation and excitement which accompany a big match or important performance.

But what happens when the feelings ratchet up from anticipation to stress and pressure?

Who defines success and failure?

Why does the winning feeling only last for a short time, while losing can feel like the end of the world?

When we understand our true nature, we see that our capacity to perform with creativity, confidence and resilience is present whatever the circumstances.

Lesson 5

Key Elements of Leadership and Culture

In this lesson we will explore the most important elements of a successful sporting culture.

Why do some people find it easy to lead, while others find it more difficult?

How can every member of the group feel empowered to speak up and contribute in establishing the team values?

Why do the best sporting cultures have the fewest rules?

Attempting to control behaviour and manage motivation without addressing the misunderstanding which underpins them can only work in the short term.

We can explain why.

Lesson 6

Where Do Connection

and Team Spirit Originate?

In this lesson we will explore the true nature of relationships and emotional intelligence in sport.

Why do we feel more connected to some people than others?

Why do these feelings come and go?

For many young people, the feelings of belonging and being part of something are strong drivers for their involvement in sport.

Knowing where these feelings come from and what happens when they disappear can prevent misunderstandings from affecting friendships and impeding team spirit.

Lesson 7

Learning and Developing Skills

‘Growth Mindset’ has become something of a religion over recent years. This is the theory that in order to learn and develop skills you need to be in a particular state of mind and think in a certain way.

But is this true? Can we control our mindset?

Is one frame of mind better than another for learning, or for performance?

Young children are perhaps the best examples for learning, yet they seem to do it effortlessly, without striving or even understanding how they are learning?

When we see that the capacity to learn and develop is innate, and that the learning process doesn’t need to be managed or controlled, creativity and resilience come to the fore.

Training becomes fun again, motivation shines through.

Lesson 8

What Are ‘Sporting Values’

 A great team culture flows from an understanding of sporting values, which at the end of the day are no different from human values.

 A value is primary. It needs to be realised and understood first.

From our values we derive our principles or beliefs, how we want to live our life or play the game.

 From our principles, our habits, policies or behaviours will flow.

 Beliefs, habits, policies and behaviours will change over time, and differ from person to person. Values derive from something permanent, unchanging, constant.

 Where people and organisations run into problems, is when they take a behaviour that they want to see and attempt to make it into a value or a principle.

Helping Parents and Coaches

Different Voices – One Message

Understanding and managing the worries, concerns and expectations of players and parents can be difficult and time consuming.

At the end of the day, coaches, teachers and parents have the same outcomes in mind. Ensuring the well-being of young players while helping them to realise their potential, both on and off the field.

Problems can arise when there are differing ideas about the ways and means to achieving this outcome. 

We offer additional programs for parents and coaches to help both parties understand the different perspectives.

Doing so helps build strong, enduring relationships and ensures a consistent approach at home and in the school sporting environment.


Get In Touch To Learn More

 These lessons can be delivered as modules in an ongoing program, or as stand alone discussions or workshops.

Our experienced facilitators will be happy to answer questions and offer examples from their own sporting and coaching experience.

Please use the contact form to arrange a conversation.


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