Research on the psychological characteristics of elite performers has primarily focused on Olympic and World champions; however, the mental attributes of young developing and talented athletes have received less attention. Addressing this, the current study had two aims: (a) to examine the perceptions held by youth athletes regarding the mental qualities they need to facilitate their development and (b) to investigate the mental techniques used by these athletes. Forty-three male youth rugby players participated in a series of focus groups. Inductive content analysis revealed 11 categories of psychological qualities, including enjoyment, responsibility, adaptability, squad spirit, self-aware learner, determination, confidence, optimal performance state, game sense, attentional focus, and mental toughness. Techniques employed included personal performance strategies, refection on action, taking advantage of a supportive climate, and team-based strategies. Findings are discussed in relation to their implications for mental skills training program development and evaluation in the case of youth elite team sport athletes.
Mental Qualities and Employed Mental Techniques of Young Elite Team Sport Athletes
Mark J.G. Holland, Charlotte Woodcock, Jennifer Cumming, and Joan L. Duda
Psychological Qualities of Elite Adolescent Rugby Players: Parents, Coaches, and Sport Administration Staff Perceptions and Supporting Roles
Charlotte Woodcock, Mark J.G. Holland, Joan L. Duda, and Jennifer Cumming
The aim of the current study was to extend previous research by Holland and colleagues (2010) into the required psychological qualities of young talented rugby players by considering the perceptions and supportive role of influential others. Perceptions of players’ parents (n = 17), coaches (n = 7), and sport administration staff (SAS; n = 2) were explored through focus group discussions. Findings show that these influential others considered the same 11 higher order themes for psychological qualities previously identified as desirable by players. Their views on how they assisted in developing these player psychological qualities were classified into three higher-order themes, namely progressive development, professional environment, and performance environment. Specific behaviors contributing to each context and deemed helpful by influential others were discussed in terms of ecological systems theory (Bonfenbrenner, 1977). Recommendations for future research and applied implications for consultants are subsequently offered.
Assessing Mental Skill and Technique Use in Applied Interventions: Recognizing and Minimizing Threats to the Psychometric Properties of the TOPS
Charlotte Woodcock, Joan L. Duda, Jennifer Cumming, Lee-Ann Sharp, and Mark J.G. Holland
Drawing from the experiences of the authors in developing, conducting, and evaluating sport psychology interventions, several considerations are highlighted and recommendations offered for effective psychometric assessment. Using the Test of Performance Strategies (TOPS; Thomas, Murphy, & Hardy, 1999) as a working example, opportunities for bias to undermine a measure’s validity and reliability are discussed with reference to a respondent’s four cognitive processes: (a) comprehension, (b) retrieval, (c) decision-making, and (d) response generation. Further threats to an instrument’s psychometric properties are highlighted in the form of demand characteristics athletes perceive in the environment. With these concerns in mind, several recommendations are made relating to the process of questionnaire administration and how possible compromises to the psychometric soundness of measures used in applied interventions can be minimized.
A Qualitative Evaluation of the Effectiveness of a Mental Skills Training Program for Youth Athletes
Lee-Ann Sharp, Charlotte Woodcock, Mark J.G. Holland, Jennifer Cumming, and Joan L. Duda
The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the effectiveness of a mental skills training (MST) program for male youth elite rugby athletes. Three focus groups were held with 21 under-16 male rugby athletes and four male coaches involved in the MST program to examine the quality of service delivery, athlete responses to the MST program, the mental qualities used by athletes, and its perceived influence on athlete performance. Following inductive-deductive content analysis, 40 subcategories and 16 categories emerged. Participants believed the MST program to be an interactive, well-planned program that increased athlete understanding of MST methods and awareness of MST strategies to manage rugby performance. Athletes thought it important that their coaches develop a greater knowledge and understanding of MST methods. Finally, athletes perceived the MST skills and methods they learnt through the MST program were transferable to other sports and areas of their life outside of rugby (e.g., school).