The 5C framework, demonstrating the interaction between each of the Cs

Athletes who excel in their sport 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 qualities and skills can be grouped under the 5Cs of: Commitment, Communication, Concentration, Control, and Confidence.

As a practitioner working in youth sport, no doubt you will be familiar with the psychological concepts and theories underpinning the 5C framework. Whether your work involves directly interacting with young athletes or, rather, with other key stakeholders, for example, coaches, performance support staff, and parents, the 5Cs represents a framework that you can introduce into service delivery that captures these key psychological and social skills in a way that is simple and succinct, whilst being adaptable to suit the specific needs and demands of the sport, age, and skill level of the setting that you are working in. Adopting the framework as part of practice ensures that everyone involved in youth development is on the same page when it comes to psychological support, whether that be within individual consultation, when delivering education to groups and teams, or through the provision of advice and recommendations to inform training and competition.

Let’s take a brief look at each ‘C’ and how you might place a focus on developing each with intent as part of your practice.

A practitioner who looks to promote commitment places value on athletes demonstrating consistent effortful engagement and striving for self-improvement over comparisons with other athletes.

Within your practice, encourage athletes to set goals for improvement (e.g., performing consecutive successful dribbles in a ball manipulation drill, in a given time, and then trying to beat it) and to review and reflect on their progress towards achievement of these, allowing the athlete to comment on their effort and determine actions for the future. You might also support coaches, staff, and parents to engage in this activity with athletes, whilst also encouraging these key stakeholders to provide feedback that is specific and personalised (e.g., “Tom, great first touch, good progress!”).

Communication focuses on the athletes’ interpersonal skills and their ability to interact with others. This involves sharing information, praising their teammates, asking helpful questions, listening respectfully, and giving and accepting feedback.

As a practitioner, you can support the development of communication by encouraging athletes to display both verbal and non-verbal skills in order to be a strong HELPA – That is a player who Helps, Encourages, Listens, Praises, and Acknowledges others.

Concentration relates to athletes’ ability to attend to the right things at the right time, and in the right place, while at the same time blocking out the internal and external distractions that can impact performance.

A practitioner who looks to develop concentration will assist in supporting athletes to focus on the correct cues for a specific action, scenario, or event – potentially related to their positional responsibility. Seek to further enhance athletes’ concentration by increasing the length of time they have to focus (or renew effort to focus) and challenge them to keep their concentration under increasing fatigue.

Control skills relate to an athlete’s ability to manage their emotions before, during, and after a performance. A practitioner who looks to promote these skills will focus on helping athletes to achieve a desired state of alertness and readiness prior to performing, and to “bounce back” after challenges and mistakes that occur during performance.

To support the development of improved emotion regulation skills, encourage the athlete to share and discuss the types of thoughts and feelings they experience before, during, and after training and competing with either yourself or another key stakeholder. This will raise the emotional awareness of athletes and you can use this opportunity to introduce mental skills strategies, such as breathing and self-talk affirmations, that the athlete can use in practice and competition.

The final C, Confidence, isn’t a mental skill like Commitment, Communication, Concentration, and Control before it. Instead, it is essentially a state of mind that reflects the beliefs that athletes have in executing a skill to the desired level or achieving a specific outcome. Confidence can frequently fluctuate if it is not built on three solid foundations: the development of a positive attitude to a task or situation; the building and banking up of accomplishments; and a sense of positive support from others.

Practitioners can help and support the development of Confidence by encouraging athletes to keep a record of their achievements or their development progress, as well as by promoting reflection on their personal strengths and consideration of how they can use these in different competitive situations.

If you would like to become a 5C practitioner, or if you would like more information, check out our services page or get in touch.