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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, Ken Hedge, Kirsten Peterson and John Giannini

Two studies were conducted to assess strategies elite coaches use to enhance self-efficacy in athletes, in particular the degree to which coaches use 13 strategies to influence self-efficacy and their evaluation of the effectiveness of those strategies. Self-efficacy rating differences between categories of coaches were also examined. Intercollegiate wrestling coaches (iV=101) surveyed in Study 1 indicated they most often used instruction-drilling, modeling confidence oneself, encouraging positive talk, and employing hard physical conditioning drills. Techniques or strategies judged most effective by these coaches included instraction-drilling, modeling confidence oneself, liberal use of reward statements, and positive talk. In Study 2, 124 national team coaches representing 30 Olympic-family sports served as subjects. The strategies they most often used were instruction-drilling, modeling confidence oneself, encouraging positive talk, and emphasizing technique improvements while downplaying outcome. The techniques judged most effective were instruction-drilling, encouraging positive talk, modeling confidence onself, and liberal use of reward statements. Few between-coach differences were found in efficacy use and effectiveness ratings. Findings are discussed in light of Bandura's (1977) theory of self-efficacy.

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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.

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Daniel Gould, Robert C. Eklund, Linda Petlichkoff, Kirsten Peterson and Linda Bump

This study examined psychological correlates of performance in youth wrestlers by replicating and extending the findings of Scanlan et al. (18). A secondary purpose was to replicate and extend work on antecedents of pre- and postcompetitive state anxiety. A total of 202 youth wrestlers, ages 13 and 14, completed a background questionnaire assessing demographic characteristics, trait anxiety, achievement orientations, and characteristic prematch cognitions prior to participating in an age-group wrestling tournament. Prematch performance expectancies and prematch state anxiety were also assessed 10 to 20 minutes before Rounds 1 and 2 of the tournament. Postmatch assessments of satisfaction and state anxiety were conducted immediately after both bouts. Results partially replicated those of Scanlan et al. (18), that is, wrestlers who performed best had more years of experience and higher prematch performance expectancies. Pre- and postmatch competitive state anxiety antecedent variables of trait anxiety, prematch performance expectancies, and parental-pressure-to-participate anxiety were also replicated.