The Antecedents and Consequences of Self-Talk in Competitive Tennis

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Judy L. Van Raalte Springfield College

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Allen E. Cornelius Springfield College

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Britton W. Brewer Springfield College

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Stephen J. Hatten Furman University

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Although a number of studies have demonstrated the effects of self-talk on sport performance, the research literature on the antecedents of self-talk in competitive sport is sparse. The purpose of this study was to examine both the antecedents and the consequences of self-talk during competitive tennis performance. Eighteen adult tournament players were observed during United States Tennis Association–sanctioned matches. Players’ audible self-talk, observable gestures, and tennis scores were recorded using the Self-Talk and Gestures Rating Scale (Van Raalte, Brewer, Rivera, & Petitpas, 1994b). Results indicated that all players used observable self-talk and gestures during their matches. Furthermore, for all players, match circumstances (e.g., point outcome, serving status) predicted the use of negative self-talk. Positive and instructional self-talk were predicted by match circumstances for some players. The results suggest that match circumstances contribute to the generation of self-talk and provide useful information for researchers interested in better understanding the antecedents of self-talk.

Van Raalte, Cornelius, and Brewer are with the Center for Performance Enhancement and Applied Research, Department of Psychology, at Springfield College, Springfield, MA 01109. Hatten is with the Department of Psychology at Furman University, Greenville, SC 29613.

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