Self-Concept Contributes to Winning Gold Medals: Causal Ordering of Self-Concept and Elite Swimming Performance

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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Elite athlete self-concepts contributed to championship performances in two international swimming championships beyond that which could be explained by previous personal best (PPB) performances for 257 of the world’s top swimmers from 30 countries. Responses to the Elite Swimmer Self-Description Questionnaire (ESSDQ) completed at the start of each championship (prior to competition) were psychometrically strong and resulted in a well-defined factor structure. Whereas championship performance was highly related to PPB performance (r = .90), structural equation models demonstrated that elite athlete self-concept also contributed significantly to the prediction of subsequent championship performance, explaining approximately 10% of the residual variance after controlling for PPB. For swimmers who competed in two events, results based on the first event were replicated in the second. The results have important theoretical, substantive, and practical implications for mentors and educators.

The authors are with the SELF Research Centre, University of Western Sydney, Bankstown Campus, Penrith South DC, New South Wales 1797, Australia.

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