Daniel Gould, Diane Guinan, Christy Greenleaf, Russ Medbery and Kirsten Peterson
This study was designed to examine if mental skills and strategies such as high confidence, commitment, and the use of cooperative routines, as well as previously unexamined physical, social, and environmental factors affect Olympic performance. Athletes and coaches from 8 Atlanta US Olympic teams were interviewed. Four teams met/exceeded performance expectations and 4 teams failed to perform up to performance predictions. Focus group interviews were conducted with 2 to 4 athletes from each team. Individual interviews were conducted with 1 or 2 coaches from each team. Each interview was recorded, transcribed, and analyzed by three trained investigators using hierarchical content analyses. Differences existed between teams that met/exceeded performance expectations and teams that failed. Teams that met/exceeded expectations participated in resident training programs, experienced crowd and family or friend support, utilized mental preparation, and were highly focused and committed. Teams that failed to meet expectations experienced planning and team cohesion problems, lacked experience, faced travel problems, experienced coaching problems, and encountered problems related to focus and commitment. Results indicated that achievement of peak performance at the Olympic Games is a complex and delicate process influenced by a variety of psychological, physical, social, and organizational factors.
Daniel Gould, Ken Hodge, Kirsten Peterson and Linda Petlichkoff
This study was designed to assess the psychological principles used by coaches and to determine if various categories of coaches differed in the psychological skills and strategies they employed. Intercollegiate wrestling coaches (N=101) completed an extensive survey that assessed their opinions concerning the importance of, use of, frequency of problems arising with, and degree of success they feel they have had in changing or developing 21 psychological skills. Descriptive statistics revealed that the psychological attributes of mental toughness, positive attitude, individual motivation, and attention-concentration were judged to be most important for success in wrestling. Anxiety-stress control, attention-concentration, lack of confidence, and mental toughness were reported as the areas in which wrestlers most frequently experienced problems. The coaches indicated that the strategies most easily developed with their athletes were goal setting, team cohesion, and mental practice-imagery. Finally, the coaches felt they were most successful in enhancing team cohesion and communication, and developing sportsmanship and goal setting. Discriminant function analyses revealed that coaches who had attended USA wrestling sport science certification clinics significantly differed on several psychological principles from coaches who had not attended clinics. Coaching education implications of the results are discussed, and future research recommendations are forwarded.