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The Effects of a Mental Skills Training Package on Gymnasium Triathlon Performance

Richard C. Thelwell and Iain A. Greenlees

The present study examined the effects of a mental skills training package on gymnasium triathlon performance. Five participants took part in a single-subject multiple baseline across individuals design, which was used to evaluate an intervention package including goal setting, relaxation, imagery, and selftalk. The results of the study indicated the mental skills package to be effective in enhancing triathlon performance for all five participants. Additionally, all participants increased their usage of mental skills from baseline to intervention phases. Follow-up social validation checks indicated all participants to have perceived the intervention to be successful and enjoyable, and all were satisfied with delivery and content of the package. In conclusion, the findings provide further evidence to suggest mental skills training packages to be effective for endurance performance.

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Developing Competitive Endurance Performance Using Mental Skills Training

Richard C. Thelwell and Iain A. Greenlees

The present study examined the effects of a mental skills training package on competitive gymnasium triathlon performance and evaluated the utilization and impacts of the mental skills during performance. Four participants competed against each other on ten occasions in a single-subject multiple baseline across individuals design, which was used to evaluate an intervention package including goal setting, relaxation, imagery, and self-talk. The results indicated the mental skills package to be effective in enhancing all participants’ competitive triathlon performance and usage of mental skills from baseline to intervention phases. Qualitative data revealed that each of the mental skills were employed both prior to and during each triathlon and had varying impacts depending on when they were utilized. Issues regarding mental skill effectiveness and usage within competitive endurance performance are discussed.

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How Older Adults Are Perceived Is Influenced by Their Reported Exercise Status

Iain A. Greenlees, Ben Hall, Andrew Manley, and Richard C. Thelwell

Nelson (2002) proposed that ageism occurs as a result of the negative perceptions individuals have of older adults. This study examined whether information about an older person’s exercise habits would influence such perceptions. Participants (N = 1,230) from 3 age categories (16–25, 26–55, and 56+ yr) read a description of a 65-year-old man or woman describing 1 of 7 exercise statuses. Participants rated their perceptions of 13 aspects of the target’s personality. A 3-way (Target Exercise Status × Target Gender × Participant Age) MANOVA revealed significant main effects for target exercise status. Nonexercisers were perceived less positively than the control target and the exercising targets. The results suggest that there are self-presentational costs associated with being a nonexerciser at an older age, but few self-presentation benefits accrued to older adults who engage in regular exercise.

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“What if I Get Injured?”: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach for Fear of Injury With a Semielite Youth Snowboarder

David Price, Christopher R.D. Wagstaff, and Richard C. Thelwell

We outline the sport psychology service delivery provided to a 13-year-old male semielite youth Snowboarder, who reported experiencing a fear of injury when performing difficult tricks in training. The trainee practitioner used an approach informed by acceptance and commitment therapy that targeted the six core processes (acceptance, defusion, self-as-context, contact with the present moment, values, and committed action) to increase psychological flexibility. First, the acceptance and commitment therapy matrix was used to conceptualize the client’s “stuckness” and provide a foundation for mindfulness and defusion techniques to be implemented. Subsequently, the case reports how focus circles and “thanking the mind” exercises were introduced to increase the client’s contact with the present moment, and to cognitively defuse from the thought “What if I get injured?” Reflections from the client and their father were obtained to monitor and evaluate the service delivery process. The trainee’s reflections on practice also served to highlight the challenges of using acceptance and commitment therapy with a youth athlete, in particular the dominating “control” agenda, which in performance contexts, can be reinforced by the socially inferred narrative that athletes must control internal states as a prerequisite for optimal performance.

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Writing Manuscripts for Case Studies in Sport and Exercise Psychology

Stewart T. Cotterill, Robert J. Schinke, and Richard Thelwell

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A Novel On-Field Training Intervention Improves Novice Goalkeeper Penalty Kick Performance

Matt Dicks, Chris Pocock, Richard Thelwell, and John van der Kamp

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Negotiating Gender in the English Football Workplace: Composite Vignettes of Women Head Coaches’ Experiences

Beth G. Clarkson, Elwyn Cox, and Richard C. Thelwell

Historically, men have dominated the English football workplace; as a result, the number of women in coaching positions has been limited. The aim of the present study was to explore the lived experiences of women head coaches to identify the extent that gender influences the English football workplace. Semi-structured interviews (N = 12) were conducted with women head coaches operating at the (a) youth recreational, (b) talent development, and (c) elite levels of the English football pyramid. An inductive thematic analysis was performed which informed the development of composite vignettes, a form of creative nonfiction. Three vignettes were developed comprising women head coaches’ stories at each pyramid level. Findings from the thematic analysis identified themes of gender stereotyping, proving yourself, and confidence at the youth recreational level; work-life conflicts, limited career mobility, and marginalization at the talent development level; and tokenism, undercurrents of sexism, and apprehensions of future directives at the elite level. The vignette stories demonstrate that gender negatively influences coaches’ interactions and confidence early in their career in youth recreational football; gender bias is embedded within discriminatory organizational practices which limit career mobility for coaches working in talent development; and gender is used to hold elite level women coaches to higher scrutiny levels than male colleagues. Recommendations (e.g., [in]formal mentoring, male advocacy, recruitment transparency) are made to practitioners for a targeted occupational-focused approach regarding support, retention, and career progression of women head coaches in football.

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Impact of Opponents’ Clothing and Body Language on Impression Formation and Outcome Expectations

Iain Greenlees, Richard Buscombe, Richard Thelwell, Tim Holder, and Matthew Rimmer

The aim of this study was to examine the impact of a tennis player’s body language and clothing (general vs. sport-specific) on the impressions observers form of them. Forty male tennis players viewed videos of a target tennis player warming up. Each participant viewed the target player displaying one of four combinations of body language and clothing (positive body language/tennis-specific clothing; positive body language/general sportswear; negative body language/tennis-specific clothing; negative body language/general sportswear). After viewing the target player, participants rated their impressions of the model’s episodic states and dispositions and gave their perceptions of the likely outcome of a tennis match with the target player. Analyses of variance revealed that positive body language led to favorable episodic impressions and low outcome expectations. Analysis also indicated that clothing and body language had an interactive effect on dispositional judgments. The study supports the contention that nonverbal communication can influence sporting interactions.

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Improvement of 10-km Time-Trial Cycling With Motivational Self-Talk Compared With Neutral Self-Talk

Martin J. Barwood, Jo Corbett, Christopher R.D. Wagstaff, Dan McVeigh, and Richard C. Thelwell


Unpleasant physical sensations during maximal exercise may manifest themselves as negative cognitions that impair performance, alter pacing, and are linked to increased rating of perceived exertion (RPE). This study examined whether motivational self-talk (M-ST) could reduce RPE and change pacing strategy, thereby enhancing 10-km time-trial (TT) cycling performance in contrast to neutral self-talk (N-ST).


Fourteen men undertook 4 TTs, TT1–TT4. After TT2, participants were matched into groups based on TT2 completion time and underwent M-ST (n = 7) or N-ST (n = 7) after TT3. Performance, power output, RPE, and oxygen uptake (VO2) were compared across 1-km segments using ANOVA. Confidence intervals (95%CI) were calculated for performance data.


After TT3 (ie, before intervention), completion times were not different between groups (M-ST, 1120 ± 113 s; N-ST, 1150 ± 110 s). After M-ST, TT4 completion time was faster (1078 ± 96 s); the N-ST remained similar (1165 ± 111 s). The M-ST group achieved this through a higher power output and VO2 in TT4 (6th–10th km). RPE was unchanged. CI data indicated the likely true performance effect lay between 13- and 71-s improvement (TT4 vs TT3).


M-ST improved endurance performance and enabled a higher power output, whereas N-ST induced no change. The VO2 response matched the increase in power output, yet RPE was unchanged, thereby inferring a perceptual benefit through M-ST. The valence and content of self-talk are important determinants of the efficacy of this intervention. These findings are primarily discussed in the context of the psychobiological model of pacing.

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A Qualitative Exploration of Psychological-Skills Use in Coaches

Richard C. Thelwell, Neil J.V. Weston, Iain A. Greenlees, and Nicholas V. Hutchings

The current study examined whether, where, when, and for what purposes coaches use psychological skills. A total of 13 elite-level coaches completed a structured interview using open-ended questions to examine their use of self-talk, imagery, relaxation, and goal-setting skills. Data were analyzed via deductive content analysis and indicated self-talk and imagery to be cited more frequently than relaxation and goal setting throughout the interviews. In addition, some purposes for using each skill were specific to training or competition across each time frame (before, during, and after), whereas there were several purposes consistent across each environment. Although the findings suggest that coaches employ psychological skills, it is imperative that they become aware of what skills they require and what skills they possess if they are to maximize their use across their wide-ranging coaching roles.