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John H. Salmela

Since 1985 the Canadian Gymnastics Federation (CGF) has used a sport psychology consultant to work with elite male gymnasts who were preparing for two World Championships and the Seoul Olympic Games. The present paper outlines the chronology of this relationship, giving specific attention to how the initial contact phase that centered upon group goal-setting was expanded to encompass a range of services that were more personalized. The extension of services to elite age-group gymnasts is also described along with the problems and advantages of dealing with the full spectrum of developmental stages. A detailed recounting of the various initiatives, successes, and setbacks underlines how the long-term intervention process evolves between the coaches, the gymnasts, and the sport psychology consultant. Special emphasis is given to the importance of using “teachable moments” throughout the training and competitive process.

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Jean Côté and John H. Salmela

The purpose of this study was to report the knowledge used by expert high-performance gymnastic coaches in the organization of training and competition. In-depth interviews were conducted with 9 coaches who worked with male gymnasts and 8 coaches who worked with female gymnasts. Qualitative analyses showed that coaches of males and coaches of females planned training similarly, except that coaches of females appeared to emphasize esthetic and nutritional issues to a greater extent. Coaches of males revealed more concerns about the organization of gymnasts’ physical conditioning. Analysis indicated that expert gymnastic coaches of males and females are constantly involved in dynamic social interactions with gymnasts, parents, and assistant coaches. Many areas of coaches’ organizational work, such as dealing with the athletes’ personal concerns and working with parents, are not part of the structure of coaches’ training programs and emerged as crucial tasks of expert gymnastic coaches for developing elite gymnasts.

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Alberto Cei and John H. Salmela

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Jean Côté, John H. Salmela and Storm Russell

An expert system approach (Buchanan et al., 1983) was used to identify and conceptualize the knowledge of 17 Canadian expert high-performance gymnastic coaches. By using a qualitative research methodology based on the traditions of cognitive anthropology and grounded theory, the first two stages of the knowledge acquisition process for building an expert system (identification and conceptualization) were examined. Open-ended questions and various questioning methods were used to unveil, explore, and probe important information (Patton, 1990; Spradley, 1979) about various coaching situations. All coaches’ interviews were transcribed verbatim, and the unstructured qualitative data were inductively analyzed following the procedures and techniques of grounded theory (Côté, Salmela, Baria, & Russell, 1993; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). This article provides the underlying methodological framework used for the entire project. Details about the coaches studied and the methodological framework used to collect and analyze the data are presented.

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Jean Côté, John H. Salmela and Storm Russell

The purpose of this study is to report the knowledge used in training and competition by 17 expert high-performance gymnastic coaches. A qualitative research methodology was used to collect and inductively analyze the data. The knowledge elicited for the competition component was categorized as competition site, competition floor, and trial competitions. These categories indicated that the coaches are minimally involved with the gymnasts in competition. The knowledge of the coaches elicited within the training component were categorized as coach involvement in training, intervention style, technical skills, mental skills, and simulation. Properties of these categories that were extensively discussed by the expert coaches, such as teaching progressions, being supportive, and helping athletes to deal with stress, are consistent with the literature on coaching and on sport psychology. Other aspects considered important in the sport psychology literature, such as developing concentration skills, were not discussed as thoroughly by the expert coaches.

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Jean Côté, John H. Salmela, Abderrahim Baria and Storm J. Russell

In the last several years there has been an increase in the amount of qualitative research using in-depth interviews and comprehensive content analyses in sport psychology. However, no explicit method has been provided to deal with the large amount of unstructured data. This article provides common guidelines for organizing and interpreting unstructured data. Two main operations are suggested and discussed: first, coding meaningful text segments, or creating tags, and second, regrouping similar text segments, or creating categories. Furthermore, software programs for the microcomputer are presented as a way to facilitate the organization and interpretation of qualitative data.

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Natalie Durand-Bush, John H. Salmela and Isabelle Green-Demers

The purpose of the present study was to assess the psychometric properties of the Ottawa Mental Skills Assessment Tool (OMSAT-3), an instrument developed to measure a broad range of mental skills (Salmela, 1992). The OMSAT-3 was administered to 335 athletes from 35 different sports. An initial first-order confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) revealed that the model displayed an inadequate fit, which led to the postulation of a more robust version, the OMSAT-3*. A CFA on this latter version, which included 48 items and 12 mental skill scales grouped under three broader conceptual components—foundation, psychosomatic, and cognitive skills—indicated that the proposed model fit well the data. A second-order CFA assessing the validity of the three broader conceptual components also yielded adequate indices of fit. The OMSAT-3* significantly discriminated between competitive and elite level athletes and its scales yielded acceptable internal consistency and temporal stability. Implications for consultants, coaches, and researchers are discussed.

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Gordon A. Bloom, Natalie Durand-Bush and John H. Salmela

Little or no empirical research has examined the pre- and postcompetition routines of coaches. The purpose of this study was to address this oversight by conducting in-depth open-ended interviews with 21 expert coaches from four team sports. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and inductively analyzed following the procedures outlined by Côté and colleagues (1993, 1995). The results indicated that coaches had set routines for themselves and their players before and after a competition. Prior to the competition, coaches prepared and mentally rehearsed their game plan, engaged in physical activity to maintain a positive focus, held a team meeting, and occupied themselves during the warmup. Their words immediately before the game were used to stress key points. After the competition, coaches emphasized the importance of controlling their emotions and adopted different behaviors to appropriately deal with the team’s performance and outcome. A brief meeting was held to recapitulate the essential elements of the game and a detailed analysis was not presented until the next practice or meeting.