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The Psychological Characteristics of Performance Under Pressure in Professional Rugby Union Referees

Denise M. Hill, Nic Matthews, and Ruth Senior

This study used qualitative methods to explore the stressors, appraisal mechanism, emotional response, and effective/ineffective coping strategies experienced by elite rugby union referees during pressurized performances. Participants included seven male rugby union referees from the United Kingdom (Mage = 27.85, SD = 4.56) who had been officiating as full-time professionals for between 1 and 16 years (M = 4.85, SD = 5.42). Data revealed that the referees encountered a number of stressors, which were appraised initially as a ‘threat’, and elicited negatively-toned emotions. The referees were able to maintain performance standards under pressure by adopting proactive, problem- and emotion-focused coping strategies which managed effectively the stressors and their emotions. However, the use of avoidance-coping, reactive control, and informal impression management were perceived as ineffective coping strategies, and associated with poor performance and choking. Recommendations are offered to inform the psychological skills training of rugby union referees.

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Alleviation of Choking Under Pressure in Elite Golf: An Action Research Study

Denise M. Hill, Sheldon Hanton, Nic Matthews, and Scott Fleming

The study examined the effect of an evidence-based intervention on choking in golf. It is informed by the work of Hill, Hanton, Matthews and Fleming (2010a) that explored the experiences of elite golfers who either choked or excelled under pressure. The perceptions of elite golf coaches who worked with both ‘chokers’ and those who excelled, were also considered. It revealed that choking may be alleviated through the use of process goals, cognitive restructuring, imagery, simulated training and a pre/postshot routine. The present study incorporated each strategy into an intervention that was introduced to two professional golfers (aged 22) who choked under pressure regularly. Through an action research framework the impact of the intervention was evaluated over a ten month period via qualitative methods. The results indicated the intervention alleviated the participants’ choking episodes and so provides information that can be of use to practitioners working with golfers who choke.