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Richard Mullen and Lew Hardy

The three experiments reported here examined the process goal paradox, which has emerged from the literature on goal setting and conscious processing. We predicted that skilled but anxious performers who adopted a global movement focus using holistic process goals would outperform those who used part-oriented process goals. In line with the conscious processing hypothesis, we also predicted that performers using part process goals would experience performance impairment in test compared with baseline conditions. In all three experiments, participants performed motor tasks in baseline and test conditions. Cognitive state anxiety increased in all of the test conditions. The results confirmed our first prediction; however, we failed to find unequivocal evidence to support our second prediction. The consistent pattern of the results lends support to the suggestion that, for skilled athletes who perform under competitive pressure, using a holistic process goal that focuses attention on global aspects of a motor skill is a more effective attentional focus strategy than using a part process goal.

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David Adams, Brendan Cropley and Richard Mullen

The purpose of the current study was to empirically examine the potential course content, structure, and delivery mechanisms for a dedicated elite youth coach education programme in football (soccer) in the UK. By achieving this aim it was the intention of the authors to use the findings of this study for the future development of a customised coach education programme. Fifteen elite coaches, working in youth football at the time of the study, participated in one of three focus groups. Emerging from content analysis procedures, the findings placed specific importance on the development of an athlete-centred coaching philosophy, a focus on behaviours and activities associated with positive youth development, a movement away from traditional practices, and the development of the skills required to learn through reflective practice. In addition, a range of pedagogical approaches, including social approaches to learning, mentoring, and blended learning, were highlighted as ways to better deliver education programmes.

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Matthew A. Pain, Chris Harwood and Richard Mullen

The aim of the current study was to facilitate systematic reflection and action to improve the performance environment of a soccer team during a competitive season. Using the Performance Environment Survey (PES; Pain & Harwood, 2007) as a diagnostic instrument, the researcher worked with the coach to collaboratively identify areas in which team preparation and functioning could be improved. Completed by the players and coach after each match, the PES captured feedback around team preparation and performance in the physical, psychological, coaching, social, planning/organizational and environmental domains. Analysis of this feedback provided the stimulus for weekly discussions with the coach. Results suggested that coach and player reflection increased during the study, and the coach reported that the PES data and his reflections on that data were beneficial to managing the performance environment. In areas where change was targeted—in particular the social and the phaysical domains—improvements in team functioning were reported. Team feedback meetings were also perceived as helpful to improving player ownership and cohesiveness.

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Leigh Jones, Lynne Evans and Richard Mullen

This is a follow-up article to an action research study that explored the effects of an imagery intervention on an elite rugby union player conducted over a 14-week period during the competitive season (Evans, Jones, & Mullen, 2004). A key feature of the study was that the same individual fulfilled multiple roles, specifically those of trainee sport psychologist, coach, and researcher. The aim of this article is to explore, from a trainee sport psychologist’s perspective, some of the issues that resulted from fulfilling multiple roles, both in the context of the study and in professional practice generally. The issues that emerged were consistent with the dual-role literature and involved role conflict surrounding areas of responsibility, scientific evidence versus social validity, confidentiality versus public statement, and the interpersonal welfare of both athlete and coach-sport psychologist (Ellickson & Brown, 1990). The findings highlighted (a) the importance of establishing ground rules (and planning), (b) the intensified emotional demands placed on the multirole practitioner, (c) the importance of involving a critical friend or outside agent, and (d) the potential for role conflict and the threat to objectivity.

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Lynne Evans, Leigh Jones and Richard Mullen

The purpose of the present study was to explore the use of imagery by an elite rugby union football player and to examine the effects of an imagery intervention in a practical performance environment. The study took place over a 14-week period of the competitive season. Data collection comprised semi-structured interviews, diaries, and the Sport Imagery Questionnaire. The findings suggested that the participant primarily used cognitive specific and cognitive general imagery. Post-intervention, the participant reported greater clarity; detail; control over his anxiety, activation, and motivation levels; an improvement in his ability to generate confidence in his playing ability prior to games; and more structure to his imagery use. The study highlighted the importance of individualizing imagery interventions to meet the specific needs of different athletes.

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Richard Mullen, Lew Hardy and Andrew Tattersall

The aim of this study was to examine the conscious processing hypothesis as an explanation of the anxiety/performance relationship. The study was designed to identify conscious processing performance effects while controlling for an alternative attentional threshold explanation identified in previous research. Participants completed 60 golf putts. They completed 3 blocks of 10 putts in single task, task-relevant shadowing, and task-irrelevant tone-counting conditions. Each set of 3 × 10 putts was completed in low and high anxiety conditions. Anxiety was elevated using an instructional set. Self-reported effort and spectral analysis of heart rate variability were used to examine the patterning of effort across the different putting conditions. Findings indicated that performance was impaired in the high anxiety shadowing and tone-counting conditions, supporting an attentional threshold interpretation. Spectral analysis of heart rate variability indicated that potential compensatory increases in spectral power in the high frequency band associated with dual-task putting in the low anxiety condition were absent in the high anxiety tone-counting and shadowing putting conditions, partially reflecting the performance findings. No effects were found for self-reported effort. Taken together, the performance and heart rate variability results support an attentional interpretation of the anxiety/motor performance relationship.