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Psychological Edge Characteristics

Psychological Edge Characteristics


The purpose of this page is to help individuals working in netball foster the psychological edge of their athletes.

By psychological edge, we mean the psychological characteristics, and accompanying behaviours, known to help athletes perform well in sport environments (i.e. drive, regulation and openness).


To aid in the development of psychological edge, this document outlines some key points to keep in mind when working with netball athletes (e.g. contextual factors) to help support coaches to promote the development of psychological edge.  

Collectively, drive, regulation, and openness combine to build an athlete’s psychological edge. All three characteristics are important to consider when working with athletes but are not fixed states.

That is, each characteristic will look and sound different depending on the athlete and their unique experiences and styles. Therefore, when working with athletes to foster psychological edge, it helps to imagine the characteristics on a continuum that can fluctuate depending on multiple contextual factors. 

It is important to remember that no two athletes are alike, therefore, the characteristics presented in this document do not represent an exact or tick box approach to the psychological edge.

Instead, when using this document, we suggest you use your professional judgement and knowledge of the athletes you work with. This is important because all behaviours can be understood in context. Therefore, when the information in this document is combined with your professional knowledge and experience of working with athletes, the development of psychological edge will be individualised depending on the athlete, their age, experience, and goals. 

The options below define drive, regulation and openness, give examples of what these characteristics do and do not look like aswell as providing contextual situations to support in identifying these characteristics.



Drive is when the individual is clear on what they want to achieve, how they are going to do this, and is prepared to do what it takes, even when it is tough.


What drive looks like: What drive does not look like:
Makes the most of every opportunity. Doesn’t take responsibility / gives up.
Committed to training sessions. Lack of adherence to programme / poor organisation.
Can articulate short and long-term goals with clarity and passion. Not knowing goals or lack of ownership over goals.
Does what is needed, not just what is easy or enjoyable. Does just enough and does not push their limits.
Proactively seeks out challenges to stretch themselves. Make decisions that appear inconsistent, without seeking reassurance
Uses own initiative and is prepared to do things without being told. Reactive or complacent.
Level of commitment is consistent in both positive and negative situations. Making excuses / blaming others.
Positive self talk and self belief. Avoidance of identified weaknesses / what they find difficult.
Resisting negative peer influence and not distracted by peer suggestions. Poor organisation / time management.

When using this table, consider the two examples as being on either end of a continuum, with room in between for athletes to fluctuate depending on their current circumstances. 

Context 1

Sometimes as a teenager, it can be difficult to have long term goals (think back to when you were a teenager!) If the individual does not identify any long-term goals, consider whether they have a general inclination towards working on areas that they see as important.

In a netball context, goals might be implicit (not said or expressed) but seen in behaviour:

Does this individual work on things in practice that they know could help them improve their skill?


Context 2 

An athlete’s drive, and associated behaviours, will fluctuate, especially during tough times (think back to the idea of a continuum). The key here is balance – that is, the individual does not always see that their ability is the reason for failure (because it not always is) but can recognise when they might have areas to improve.

Does this individual have some belief in their ability? (But this is not misplaced – that is, it is not blind faith)


Context 3 

In sport, sometimes we may be told that we need to ‘take control’ or ‘take responsibility’ for performances.

This can mean many things but from our experience it seems when someone ‘blames’ a factor outside of their control for poor performance it is a ‘bad’ thing. However, sometimes factors outside of the individual’s control are responsible, at some level, for poor performances.

Therefore, it is actually an accurate judgement to blame these external factors in some circumstances and this is a ‘good’ thing.

Furthermore, it has been found that people who tend to blame themselves for the ‘good’ parts of their performance and external factors for their poor performances, are more motivated to perform at an elite level.


Regulation is where the individual can demonstrate a range of mental qualities and techniques consistent with elite performance at the required moment of execution.


What Regulation looks like: What Regulation does not look like:
Makes effective decisions to manage roles and responsibilities on court both on and off the ball. Not displaying the required skills in the required moment of performance execution (defender contacts, giving away shot, centre pass).
Awareness of emotions to be able to crowd / umpires positively (adapt game play and zone out crowd). Not effectively managing emotions – reacting to the crowd / umpires in a negative manner. (e.g: slamming the ball, being vocal or physical back to umpires, coaches and players).
Maintains calmness under provocation deliberately done to ‘wind them up’. Reacts negatively to provocation and loses focus on their team and the game.
Aware of the key moments in the game. Can be creative to change pace / tempo of the game depending on the strategies of the opposition. Not working with others to adapt to game plans or just being in it for themselves.
Can ‘bin’ errors and learn / move on from setbacks. Not being able to ‘let go’ of mistakes (e.g. dropping their head and displaying frustration).
When on the bench, they are ready to come on when needed. Slow to start when coming off the bench.
Understanding of what preparation is needed to be game ready. Scared of failure, not wanting to go on court, not trying things.
Able to cope with unfamiliar performance environments such as tours away from family, peer interactions and ‘what if’ scenarios. Not coping with unfamiliar performance environments.

When using this table, consider the two examples as being on either end of a continuum, with room in between for athletes to fluctuate depending on their current circumstances. 


Everyone is different when it comes to emotion and emotional regulation.

Emotions are a subjective phenomenon. Some individuals may feel emotions more extremely than others.

Some people may see ‘getting angry’ as helpful for their performance. The key here is what is ‘normal’ for the individual.

Furthermore, some individuals may use the people or systems around them to help return to ‘normal’ and this is to be expected.

For example, individuals who seek support from others (e.g., family, coaches, friends) should be rated as highly in regulation as those who use individual strategies (e.g., taking a quiet moment alone to ‘calm down’)

Does this athlete normally show their emotions in this way?

Is it helpful for their wellbeing and performance?

Does this athlete have adequate coping/regulation techniques?


Openness is where the individual has good self-awareness, can communicate effectively, is open to learning, and values working with and receiving support from others.

What Openness looks like: What Openness does not look like:
Can evaluate own performance openly without taking it personally. Being defensive or reactive to peer feedback, or about training, learning new skills, structure and match play.
Can describe or identify their strengths and weaknesses realistically and identify areas to improve, aligned with coaches. Lack of awareness or ability to discuss own strengths and weaknesses.
Learns from ‘failure’ by proactively asking for feedback from others. Inappropriately blames other reasons for ‘failure’ or avoids discussing it.
Takes on challenges (e.g. performing more reps to master a skill), perseveres to work on weaknesses. Not taking risks and limiting learning by only ever doing what they are capable of in their eyes, rather than ‘trying and failing’.
Will arrive before or stay after sessions to practice and develop competency. Constantly late and/or breaking rules.
Has a growth mindset to recognise learning opportunities when playing at different levels. Is disengaged in learning opportunities and/or can’t recognise when something may be an opportunity to learn.
Recognises the importance of relationships with players both on and off the court. Only training and socialising with the same peers, sometimes excluding other people and not branching out to create new relationships.
Can recognise when others might be isolated and can connect them with the group. Missing signals that are trying to elicit care from others in their group.
Ownership of their schedule towards a common goal (e.g. managing relationships, loading, saying ‘no’). Not being curious and not asking questions when something doesn’t make sense to them.
Understands sports/life balance. Lacks appreciation of the value of other interests outside of netball.
To be engaged in either leading or following for the benefit of the team. To always want to lead or always want to follow rather than being adaptable.

When using this table, consider the two examples as being on either end of a continuum, with room in between for athletes to fluctuate depending on their current circumstances. 

Context 1

The key to openness to evaluation is that the individual arrives at a realistic and balanced appraisal of their performance.

That is, not believing what they did was all ‘bad’ if they thought their performance was poor, and vice versa for better performances.

Context 2

There are lots of qualities that show someone is a good team member.

In general, these qualities include active engagement with leadership and an ability to ‘think for themselves’.

This means that when the individual disagrees with the leader, they can voice this disagreement respectfully and offer alternative solutions.

They go beyond what the minimal expectations are and show effort to support the goals of the team/system.

During adolescence, teenagers often are establishing their own identify.

Sometimes, this identify making process may result in ‘being seen as different’ or not wanting to follow the status quo.

This may be interpreted as ‘poor team working’ but could be more to do with the individual establishing who they are.

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