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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.

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Daniel Gould, Christy Greenleaf, Diane Guinan and Yongchul Chung

As part of a larger project to examine variables perceived to influence performance in Olympic competition, this manuscript was designed to (a) report coaches’ perceptions of variables influencing Olympic athlete performance, (b) triangulate findings from surveys and interviews with Olympic athletes, and (c) examine coaches’ perceptions of variables influencing Olympic coaching effectiveness. Surveys were completed by 46 U.S. Atlanta Olympic coaches (46% of all U.S. coaches) and 19 U.S. Nagano coaches (45% of all U.S. coaches). A large number of variables were perceived by coaches to have influenced athlete performances and included having plans for dealing with distractions, strong team chemistry and cohesion, loud and enthusiastic crowd support, high levels of athlete confidence, and fair and effective team selection. Variables perceived to have influenced coaching effectiveness included markedly changed coaching behaviors, the inability to establish trust with athletes, the inability to effectively handle crisis situations, staying cool under pressure, and making fair but decisive decisions.