This investigation evaluated the impact of goal specificity and task complexity on basketball skill development. Two hypotheses were tested: (a) specific goals promote greater skill improvement than general goals; (b) goal setting effects are significantly greater for simple than for complex tasks. Students in a basketball class were matched on pretest skill and assigned to either specific or general goal setting groups. During each of 15 class periods of the 8-week course, students were assigned specific or general goals for each fundamental basketball skill in a 7-station circuit. Results partially confirmed both hypotheses. Profile analyses revealed that specific-goal subjects significantly outperformed, general-goal classmates on defensive footwork and ball handling drills whereas dribbling drills approached significance. Task complexity results suggested that subjects setting specific goals performed significantly better than those setting general goals on low but not on high complexity tasks, whereas results for moderate task complexity were mixed.
Sport psychologists believe that contemporary sport’s pervasive preoccupation with winning may actually be responsible for athletes’ anxiety, motivation, and self-confidence problems. Winning is a goal that lacks the flexibility and control necessary for athletes to (a) achieve consistent success and (b) take credit for success. Martens and Burton (1982) concluded that performance goals (PGs) based on attaining personal performance standards offer the flexibility and control needed to develop high perceived ability and performance. Thus the purpose of this study was twofold: (a) to evaluate whether a goal setting training (GST) program could teach athletes to set appropriate PGs, and (b) to assess the impact of the GST program on the perceived ability, competitive cognitions, and performance of collegiate swimmers. A collegiate swim team (N=30) participated in a season-long GST program, and program effects were systematically evaluated with a multimethod approach using interteam, intrateam, and case study data. Interteam and case study data generally supported both predictions. Intrateam analyses revealed that high-accuracy GST swimmers demonstrated more optimal cognitions and performance than low-accuracy teammates, suggesting that goal setting skill mediated GST effectiveness.
The purpose of this investigation was to utilize a multidimensional measure of anxiety and a more sensitive intraindividual performance measure to evaluate the relationship between anxiety and performance. Three hypotheses were tested. First, cognitive anxiety is more consistently and strongly related to performance than is somatic anxiety. Second, somatic anxiety demonstrates an inverted-U relationship with performance, whereas self-confidence and performance exhibit a positive linear relationship and cognitive anxiety and performance exhibit a negative one. Finally, short duration and high and low complexity events demonstrate stronger relationships between somatic anxiety and performance than do long duration or moderate complexity events. Two samples of swimmers completed the CSAI-2 prior to competition, and performance data were obtained from meet results. Correlational and multiple regression analyses generally supported Hypotheses 1 and 3, while polynomial trend analyses on standardized CSAI-2 scores confirmed trends predicted in Hypothesis 2. Overall, these results not only revealed that improved instrumentation allows demonstration of consistent anxiety-performance relationships, but they also provided additional construct validity for the CSAI-2.
Jessica Daw and Damon Burton
This investigation examined the impact of a comprehensive psychological skills training for tennis (PSTT) program on collegiate tennis players. PSTT players were exposed to three psychological skills (goal setting, imagery, and arousal regulation) and then given the opportunity to develop individualized PSTT programs. Program effectiveness was evaluated through (a) case study analyses, (b) intrateam analyses comparing high- and low-commitment PSTT players, and (c) interteam analyses comparing PSTT (n = 12) and non-PSTT (n = 12) players. Results indicated that the PSTT program was successful, with case studies providing strong support for the effectiveness of individual PSTT programs. Additionally, intrateam results revealed that all PSTT players felt their PSTT program helped their tennis games, although high- and low-commitment players differed significantly on only 2 of 15 psychological and performance variables. As expected, interteam results demonstrated significant differences on only 2 of 15 variables, with PSTT players displaying higher state self-confidence and committing fewer double faults than did their non-PSTT counterparts.
Damon Burton and Rainer Martens
Previous research concludes that athletes drop out of sport because of conflicts of interest, but these findings cannot clarify whether dropouts find other activities more appealing or turn to new activities because sport fails to meet their achievement needs. This investigation assessed dropout motives by testing explanations derived from Nicholls' (1984) motivational model and comparing them with traditional dropout questionnaire responses. Wrestling coaches, participants, participants' parents, dropouts, and dropouts' parents completed a 23-item dropout inventory; and participants and dropouts responded to questionnaire items testing Nicholls' task choice predictions. Dropout inventory responses confirmed previous conflict-of-interest findings. In data testing Nicholls' model, participants demonstrated significantly higher perceived ability, better won-loss records, more functional attributions, and more positive expectancies, and valued wrestling success more than dropouts did. These findings supported predictions that wrestlers change activities when continued participation threatens their perceived ability. Disagreement between the conclusions concerning why young athletes drop out of wrestling drawn from the conflict-of-interest explanation and from Nicholls' perceived ability model are discussed, and suggestions for reducing dropout rates are offered.
Jon Hammermeister and Damon Burton
This investigation had three primary purposes: (a) investigating whether anxiety has a major debilitating effect on the performance of endurance athletes, (b) assessing whether age or sport-type differences were evident in the precompetitive state anxiety patterns of triathletes and two of their singlesport counterparts, and (c) testing the anxiety–performance hypothesis for endurance athletes using an intraindividual measure of performance. Subjects were 293 endurance athletes recruited from races in the Pacific Northwest. Results revealed that precompetitive anxiety did not impair the performance of endurance athletes. Triathletes were significantly more cognitively and somatically anxious than either runners or cyclists, and older endurance athletes were found to experience significantly less cognitive anxiety than did their younger counterparts. Results did not support the anxiety–performance hypothesis, although a significant negative correlation was found between negative thoughts during the race and performance.
Kristen Dieffenbach and Damon Burton
Jon Hammermeister and Damon Burton
This exploratory investigation examined the value of using Lazarus’ (1991; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) stress model, (i.e., primary appraisal, secondary appraisal, and perceived coping) to identify the antecedents of cognitive and somatic state anxiety for endurance athletes. This study also assessed whether endurance athletes with qualitatively similar levels of cognitive and somatic anxiety demonstrate differential antecedent profiles. Participants were 175 triathletes, 70 distance runners, and 70 cyclists who completed stress-related questionnaires 1-2 days prior to competition and the CSAI-2 approximately one hour before competing. Results revealed that all three components of Lazarus’ stress model predicted both cognitive and somatic state anxiety better than did individual model components. Moreover, perceived threat accounted for a greater percentage of variance in cognitive and somatic anxiety than did perceived control or coping resources. Cluster analyses revealed distinct antecedent profiles for high, moderate, low, and “repressed” anxious endurance athletes, suggesting that multiple antecedent profiles may exist for highly anxious athletes in endurance sports.
Zeljka Vidic and Damon Burton
This study assessed the impact of an 8-week goal-setting program on the motivation, confidence and performance of collegiate women tennis players using a quasi-experimental pretest-posttest study design. This goal-setting program used the ‘roadmap’ concept; a unique systematic approach to goal-setting that focused on setting coordinated long-, intermediate-, and short-term goals. Participants consisted of six female Division I collegiate tennis players who completed seven instruments to assess intervention effectiveness. Over the 8-week intervention, all 6 players demonstrated improvements in motivation, confidence and performance measures, particularly on targeted variables. Qualitative results further strengthen support for intervention success, with all six athletes consistently reporting that goal-setting was beneficial in enhancing their motivation, confidence and performance.