Abstract Objectives The main aim of the present investigation was to examine how athletes use observational learning (OL) through the development of a valid and reliable questionnaire. A second purpose was to determine how the functions of OL that emerged compared to the functions of imagery that have already been determined by general analytical framework for imagery. Design Four samples of questionnaire data, presented in three studies. Methods Male and female athletes in a variety of sports ranging from recreational to the elite level completed the questionnaire. Study 1 consisted of 400 athletes (197 male and 203 female) with a mean age of 21.26 (SD=2.88). For Study 2, 953 athletes (462 male, 483 female, 8 unreported), with a mean age of 22.37 (SD=5.15) completed the questionnaire. Finally, Study 3 consisted of 200 athletes (77 male, 123 female) with a mean age of 19.62 years (SD=2.17). Results Study 1 consisted of computing a principal component analysis of the functions of observational learning questionnaire (FOLQ). From this, the 17-item FOLQ emerged that contained three factors (skill, strategy, and performance). In Study 2, a confirmatory factor analysis was computed that confirmed the items and the factor structure of the questionnaire. Finally, Study 3 confirmed the concurrent validity and the test–retest reliability of the questionnaire, along with examining group differences in terms of OL usage by athletes. Conclusions Athletes use OL for both cognitive functions (skill and strategy) and motivational functions (optimal arousal and mental performance state). It seems that athletes use OL primarily for cognitive functions, whereas, imagery is mainly used by athletes for motivational functions. Overall, the results indicate that the FOLQ may be a useful tool for examining research questions surrounding OL.