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The prevalence of pseudoscientific ideas and neuromyths among sports coaches

Bailey, Richard P.; Madigan, Daniel J.; Cope, Ed; Nicholls, Adam R.


Richard P. Bailey

Daniel J. Madigan

Ed Cope

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Professor Adam Nicholls
Professor of Psychology/ Leader of the Sport Psychology and Coaching Group


There has been an exponential growth in research examining the neurological basis of human cognition and learning. Little is known, however, about the extent to which sports coaches are aware of these advances. Consequently, the aim of the present study was to examine the prevalence of pseudoscientific ideas among British and Irish sports coaches. In total, 545 coaches from the United Kingdom and Ireland completed a measure that included questions about how evidence-based theories of the brain might enhance coaching and learning, how they were exposed to these different theories, and their awareness of neuromyths. Results revealed that the coaches believed that an enhanced understanding of the brain helped with their planning and delivery of sports sessions. Goal-setting was the most frequently used strategy. Interestingly, 41.6% of the coaches agreed with statements that promoted neuromyths. The most prevalent neuromyth was “individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (e.g., auditory, visual, or kinesthetic)”, which 62% of coaches believed. It is apparent that a relatively large percentage of coaches base aspects of their coaching practice on neuromyths and other pseudoscientific ideas. Strategies for addressing this situation are briefly discussed and include changing the content of coach education program


Bailey, R. P., Madigan, D. J., Cope, E., & Nicholls, A. R. (2018). The prevalence of pseudoscientific ideas and neuromyths among sports coaches. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(MAY), Article 641.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 16, 2018
Online Publication Date May 2, 2018
Publication Date May 2, 2018
Deposit Date Apr 20, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 2, 2018
Electronic ISSN 1664-1078
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Issue MAY
Article Number 641
Keywords Learning styles; Neuro-linguistic programming; Guided discovery; Brain Gym; Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI); growth mindset; Action types approach; goal setting; Direct Instruction; coaching; Coach Behavior
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Copyright Statement
© 2018 Bailey, Madigan, Cope and Nicholls. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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