Paradoxical performance can be described simply as a sudden decrease in a top athlete’s performance despite the athlete’s having striven for superior performance, such as the lost-skill syndrome in trampolining or “the yips” in golf. There is a growing amount of research on these phenomena, which resemble movement disorders. What appears to be missing, however, is a clear phenomenology of the affected movement characteristics leading to a classification of the underlying cause. This understanding may enable specific diagnostic methods and appropriate interventions. We first review the different phenomena, providing an overview of their characteristics and their occurrence in sports and describing the affected sports and movements. We then analyze explanations for the yips, the most prominent phenomenon, and review the methodological approaches for diagnosing and treating it. Finally, we present and elaborate an action theoretical approach for diagnosing paradoxical performance and applying appropriate interventions.
Babett H. Lobinger, Martin K. Klämpfl, and Eckart Altenmüller
Theresa C. Brown and Mary D. Fry
This study examined the relationship between college students’ perceptions of the motivational climate (i.e., caring, task- and ego-involving) in physical activity courses to their physical self-concept, hope, and happiness. Midwestern university undergraduates (N = 412), enrolled in group physical activity classes, completed the following measures: class climate, physical self-concept, hope, and happiness. Canonical correlation analysis revealed that students who perceived a caring, task-involving climate were more likely to report high physical self-concept, hope, and happiness. A gender comparison found that while perceptions of the ego-involving climate were significantly higher for males, the ego climate did not significantly contribute to the males’ canonical correlation. In addition, while physical self-concept was positively associated with climate for both genders, males were more likely to experience higher physical self-concept than females. Results suggest positive and supportive exercise environments may not only help individuals reap the physical benefits of exercise but also the psychological benefits.
Richard D. Ginsburg, Steven R. Smith, Nicole Danforth, T. Atilla Ceranoglu, Stephen A. Durant, Hayley Kamin, Rebecca Babcock, Lucy Robin, and Bruce Masek
Two developmental pathways to sport excellence have been described: early specialization and early sampling (Côté, Lidor, & Hackfort, 2009). Despite a common assumption that early specialization (defined as playing one sport exclusively and intensely before age 12) is a necessary precursor to success at the collegiate or professional levels, research to support this assumption remains unclear. To add to this literature, the current study was a survey of 708 minor league professional baseball players on the ages at which they began to specialize in their sport. Results indicated that most players sampled a diversity of sports up through late adolescence. Only 25% of players specialized before the age of 12 and the mean age of specialization was 15 years. Furthermore, those who specialized later were more likely to receive college scholarships. Finally, we examined patterns of specialization as a function of athletes’ home climate and culture. At least in this sample of professional minor league baseball players, an early sampling pathway seems to have fortified success at both the collegiate and professional levels.
Leilani Madrigal and Diane L. Gill
Using the Integrated Model of Response to Sport Injury as a theoretical framework, athletes’ psychological strengths and emotional responses were explored throughout the injury process using a case study approach. Four Division I athletes completed measures of mental toughness, hardiness, and optimism before their season (time 1), once they became injured (time 2), midway through rehabilitation (time 3), and when they were cleared to participate (time 4). Coping behavior, psychological response, and rehabilitation adherence were recorded at time 2–time 4, while recovering. In addition, interviews were conducted after time 4. Mental toughness, hardiness, and optimism varied over time and across cases, with broad individual differences in response to injury. Athletes experienced a loss of athletic identity combined with feelings of guilt and helplessness over the initial stages of injury, but positive experiences were also found. All cases also reported playing through injury. Understanding the psychological strengths and responses of athletes can help professionals work with injured athletes.
Amy Baltzell, Nicole Caraballo, Kristen Chipman, and Laura Hayden
This study explored how members of a Division I varsity women’s soccer team experienced a 6-week, 12 session mindfulness meditation training for sport (MMTS) program. The coaching staff and entire team participated in the MMTS program. Seven of the team members volunteered to be interviewed after their participation in the MMTS program. Thematic analysis was implemented. Most participants reported difficulty understanding the process of meditation at the start of the MMTS program. Post-MMTS, they reported an enhanced ability to accept and experience a different relationship with their emotions, both on and off the field. They also noted the importance of creating a phrase of care for self and team for cohesion purposes. Enhanced mindfulness, awareness, and acceptance of emotional experiences were attributed directly to the mindfulness training. Participants provided specific recommendations for future sport-focused mindfulness meditation programs.
Kristoffer Henriksen, Carsten Hvid Larsen, Louise Kamuk Storm, and Knud Ryom
Young competitive athletes are not miniature elite athletes; they are a distinct client group to whom sport psychology practitioners (SPPs) increasingly deliver services. Interventions with this client group are often undertaken by newly educated SPPs who are in need of good guiding principles. Yet, there is a lack of research informing SPPs’ work with this group. In this current study, semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with four experienced practitioners about their most successful interventions in competitive youth sport. Analysis showed three major themes: (a) young athletes should be equipped with a holistic skills package that enables them to handle a number of existential challenges; (b) young athletes are embedded in an environment (coaches, experts, teammates etc.) that should be involved in the interventions; and (c) interventions with young athletes should maintain a long-term focus. These themes are discussed in the context of current literature on sport psychology service delivery.
Stuart Cathcart, Matt McGregor, and Emma Groundwater
Mindfulness has been found to be related to improved athletic performance and propensity to achieve flow states. The relationship between mindfulness and flow has only recently been examined in elite athletes. To build on this literature, we administered the Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and the Dispositional Flow Scale to 92 elite athletes. Psychometric analyses supported the validity of the FFMQ. Males scored higher than females on the FFMQ facet of Nonjudging of Inner Experience. Athletes from individual and pacing sports scored higher on the FFMQ facet of Observing than athletes from team-based and nonpacing sports. Correlations between mindfulness and flow were stronger in athletes from individual and pacing sports compared with team-based and nonpacing sports. Mindfulness correlated with different facets of flow in males compared with females. The results support the use of the five-facet mindfulness construct in elite athletes and suggest the relationship between mindfulness and flow possibly may vary by gender and sport type in this population.
Edson Filho, Lael Gershgoren, Itay Basevitch, Robert Schinke, and Gershon Tenenbaum
The present study was an initial attempt to capture and describe instances of shared mental models within a team from the point of view of the team captain. Specifically, the purpose of this study was to describe a range of perceived and shared behaviors aimed at facilitating the overall performance of a college volleyball team from the perspective of the team captain. This behavioral focus is congruent with the need for documenting observable task and team-related coordination mechanisms. Symbolic interactionism, via the use of systematic observations, documental analysis, and semistructured open-ended interviews, was used to gather data from the participant in the form of a case study. Data were analyzed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) theoretical thematic analysis based on categories derived from Eccles and Tenenbaum’s (2004) Conceptual Framework of Coordination in Sport Teams. Results indicated that the player’s actions were perceived as enhancing proactive information sharing within her team. Therefore, it is suggested that team leaders possess important objective and symbolic roles in the promotion of shared mental models. These results are further discussed in relation to current knowledge of shared mental models in sports. Limitations and directions for future research are outlined.
Timothy R. Pineau, Carol R. Glass, Keith A. Kaufman, and Darren R. Bernal
The present study explored self- and team-efficacy beliefs in rowers, examining the relations between efficacy beliefs, mindfulness, and flow. Fifty-eight rowers from nine teams completed sport-specific measures of self- and team-efficacy, along with questionnaires assessing mindfulness, flow, sport anxiety, and sport confidence. Self- and team-efficacy were significantly related to mindfulness, dispositional flow, and sport confidence. In addition, both self-efficacy and sport confidence mediated the association between both total mindfulness (and the describe dimension of mindfulness) and the challenge-skill balance dimension of flow. These results provide indirect support for a proposed model, which suggests that mindfulness may positively impact the integral challenge-skill balance aspect of flow in athletes through self-efficacy.
Faye F. Didymus and David Fletcher
This study investigated sport performers’ coping strategies in response to organizational stressors, examined the utility of Skinner, Edge, Altman, and Sherwood’s (2003) categorization of coping within a sport context, determined the short-term perceived effectiveness of the coping strategies used, and explored appraisal-coping associations. Thirteen national standard swimmers completed semistructured, interval-contingent diaries every day for 28 days. Results revealed 78 coping strategies, which supported 10 of Skinner et al.’s (2003) families of coping. Twenty-four different combinations of coping families were identified. The perceived most effective coping family used in isolation was self-reliance and in combination was escape and negotiation. Stressful appraisals were associated with varied coping strategies. The results highlight the complexity of coping and point to the importance of appraisal-coping associations. Skinner et al.’s (2003) categorization of coping provides a promising conceptual framework for the development of coping research in sport.