Psychological Skills and Exceptional Athletic Performance

in The Sport Psychologist
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  • 1 University of California, Santa Barbara
  • 2 The Pennsylvania State University
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To assess psychological skills relevant to exceptional athletic performance, a 51-item questionnaire was administered to a national sample of 713 male and female athletes from 23 sports. The athlete sample comprised 126 elite competitors, 141 preelite athletes, and 446 nonelite collegiate athletes. Sixteen leading sport psychologists also completed the questionnaire as they thought the ideal athlete might. Omnibus, individual item, discriminant, regression, factor, and cluster analyses all revealed significant differences among the athlete subsamples. The themes of concentration, anxiety management, self-confidence, mental preparation, and motivation were seen to have potential importance in skill-level differentiation, although age-difference confounds as well as gender and sport differences may have been involved. The ideal profile constructed by the sport psychologists generally paralleled the skill differences encountered, although the elite athletes did not report selected amplitudes in the profile.

Michael J. Mahoney and Tyler J. Gabriel are in Counseling Psychology, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106. T. Scott Perkins is with the Department of Psychology at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.

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