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Athletic development: a psychological perspective

In this module, you’ll explore some of the most significant psychological factors influencing participants’ development in sport. Through critical analysis of relevant research and psychological theories and concepts you will consider the developmental influences of factors such as families, coach-athlete relationships, mental health, and transitional experiences on individuals’ pathways in sport. It’s suitable for you if you have an interest in sport and exercise psychology and/or are working in the field in a coaching or a related role. Whilst the module is focused predominantly on sports performance, it does also consider some aspects of exercise participation.

What you will study

This module comprises six study topics to help you explore the psychological aspects of athletic development:

Study topic 1: Introduction to athletic development
In this first study topic, you're introduced to the athletic development themes that underpin the module and will consider how athletic development paths are researched. The psychological characteristics of athletic development are examined, and you will explore a framework of athletic development that is helpful in drawing together the topics studied in the rest of the module.

Study topic 2: Family influences on athletic development
The family can have a significant impact on a young athletes’ potential to develop within a sport. In this study topic you'll examine, from a psychosocial perspective, research that investigates family influences on the development of young performers.

Study topic 3: The coach-athlete relationship
The relationship between a coach and athlete is fundamental to an individual’s athletic development. In this study topic you will analyse research examining some of the factors that facilitate and hinder the development of a successful coach-athlete relationship.

Study topic 4: Mental health and wellbeing in sport
The importance of mental health is being increasingly recognised in sport. In this topic you will examine the nature and prevalence of mental health difficulties in athletes and coaches and consider how they can be prevented or treated. You'll also explore how positive mental health and wellbeing can be promoted in sporting environments to facilitate effective athletic development.

Study topic 5: Topical issues in athletic development
Mental health and wellbeing is further explored in this study topic where you choose which further options you wish to study. The options examine:

  • Resilience – In order to protect their mental health on the journey through sport athletes need to be able to cope with the potential stressors they will be exposed to. In this option you'll explore what resilience is and how it can be developed.
  • Thriving – Competitive sport can create a high-pressure environment. In order to promote positive mental health and athletic development it is important that athletes and support staff are able to thrive under this pressure rather than just survive. In this option you will examine the concept of thriving in sport.
  • Athlete welfare – With several high-profile athlete welfare and abuse cases in the media in recent years in this option you will examine the important topic of safeguarding and welfare in sports environments in the context of athletic development.

Study topic 6: Transitions through sport
As an athlete progresses through their sporting career, they will make several transitions. In this study topic you'll 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).

Entry requirements

There are no formal qualification requirements for this module. However, as it is a OU level 3 module it is recommended that you have completed at least one sport and fitness module before embarking on study in this area.

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

You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access
  • online group forums.

You’ll also be provided with a printed module reader.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

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 though the following methods: 
  • Online tutorials, which we strongly encourage you to participate in since most students find these extremely useful, particularly in helping them to complete module assessments
  • Online forum in your tutor group.
  • Personal email or by phone

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.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying E312 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

Athletic development: a psychological perspective (E312) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2028.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment