The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the effectiveness of a mental skills training (MST) program for male youth elite rugby athletes. Three focus groups were held with 21 under-16 male rugby athletes and four male coaches involved in the MST program to examine the quality of service delivery, athlete responses to the MST program, the mental qualities used by athletes, and its perceived influence on athlete performance. Following inductive-deductive content analysis, 40 subcategories and 16 categories emerged. Participants believed the MST program to be an interactive, well-planned program that increased athlete understanding of MST methods and awareness of MST strategies to manage rugby performance. Athletes thought it important that their coaches develop a greater knowledge and understanding of MST methods. Finally, athletes perceived the MST skills and methods they learnt through the MST program were transferable to other sports and areas of their life outside of rugby (e.g., school).
Sharp was with the Dept. of Sport and Health Science, University of St. Mark & St. John, Plymouth, United Kingdom, at the time of this research and is now with the Sport and Exercise Science Research Institute, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, United Kingdom. Woodcock is with the Dept. of Sport & Exercise Psychology, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, United Kingdom. Holland, Cumming, and Duda are with the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, West Midlands, United Kingdom.