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Exploring psychological aspects of athletic development

In this module you will explore some of the most significant psychological factors influencing the development of participants in sport. Through critical analysis of relevant research and psychological theory, you’ll consider the psycho-developmental influences of factors, such as families, coach-athlete interactions and transitional stages, on an individual’s pathway in sport. This module is suitable for you if you have an interest in sport and exercise psychology, or are working in this field in a coaching role. While the module is focused predominantly on sports performance, it does also consider some aspects of exercise participation.

What you will study

The module comprises six study topics:

Introduction to athletic development – This study topic will introduce you to the module and an explanatory framework for understanding athletic development and the development of expertise in sport.

Family influences on athletic development – The family can have a significant impact on a young athlete’s potential to develop within a sport. From a psychosocial perspective, you’ll examine research that investigates family influences on the development of young performers.

The coach-athlete relationship – The relationship between a coach and athlete is fundamental to an individual’s athletic development. You will analyse research examining some of the factors that facilitate and hinder the development of a successful coach-athlete relationship.

Coach behaviour – The coach has arguably the most significant role to play in developing the athlete. The coach will usually act in a leadership role in the coach-athlete relationship and this demands that the coach behaves in certain ways. In this study topic you’ll examine the range of leadership behaviours of the coach and their impact on the athlete or team.

Transitions through sport – As an athlete progresses through their sporting career they will make several transitions. You will examine some of the psychological influences and responses to transitions within sport (e.g. the move from junior to senior level) and out of sport (retirement).

Topical issues in athletic development – In this study topic you choose which options you wish to study. The options include investigating depression among sports performers; the issue of morality in sport in terms of an athlete’s behaviour; and the effects of other performers and an audience on performance. 

The module content will be delivered through an online study guide, a text book, a reader, and a wide range of audio and video material. This will be underpinned by tuition that will include regular group tutorials and an online forum.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject.

We recommend that you complete Sport and exercise psychology: a case study approach (E233) before starting this module. You will be required to read and interpret detailed research articles so your academic skills should reflect these expectations.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

An online study guide, module textbook, module reader, online assessment resources and study planner, and website.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones.

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your assignments, and who you can ask for advice and guidance. Contact with your tutor will be through the following methods:

  • online tutorials, which we strongly encourage you to participate in since most students find these extremely useful
  • online forum in your tutor group
  • personal email or telephone.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying E313 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Exploring psychological aspects of athletic development (E313) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2020.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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