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Susan A. Jackson and Glyn C. Roberts

This study investigated relationships among peak performance, flow, goal orientation, and perceived ability in an attempt to ascertain possible conceptual bases to peak performance. Collegiate athletes (N=200) answered a questionnaire that assessed mastery and competitive goal orientations, perceived ability, flow, and experience in best and worst competitive performances. It was hypothesized that the psychological process of flow underlies peak performance and is associated with a mastery oriented focus and high perceived ability. These predicted relationships were supported by both quantitative and qualitative analyses. Analysis of athletes’ best performances indicated a total focus on performance, and other characteristics of flow were key to the perception of a superior state of functioning. In contrast, overconcern with the outcome, reflecting a competitive orientation, was often associated with athletes’ worst performances. These associations suggest that investigating positive performance states from a motivational standpoint may lead to greater understanding of the underlying conceptual bases of peak athletic performance.

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Susan A. Jackson and Herbert W. Marsh

The purpose of this study was to examine relations between women's involvment in sports and three psychological constructs: role conflict, sex-role identification, and multidimensional self-concepts. The three groups comprised female powerlifters competing in a national championship (n = 30), high school female athletes (n = 46), and high school female nonathletes (n = 46). Role conflict was not substantial except for a few specific areas related to conflicting expectations of appropriate female and athlete behavior. Both athletic groups scored substantially higher on masculinity (M) and on self-concept of physical ability than the nonathletic group, but there were no group differences on femininity (F) and few substantial differences in other areas of self-concept. Hence the results provide further support for the construct validity of androgyny and for the multidimensionality of self-concept. The major findings, that female athletes can be more M without being less F, and that female athletic involvement has positive benefits without producing any loss in F or in self-concept, dispels a popular myth about women's involvement in sports.

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Susan A. Jackson and Herbert W. Marsh

The Flow State Scale (FSS) is a new measure of flow in sport and physical activity settings. The nine FSS scales of the 36-item instrument represent the dimensions of flow discussed by Csikszentmihalyi (1990, 1993), and each scale is measured by four items. Development of items was based on (a) past research with flow state both within and outside of sport settings, (b) qualitative analysis of interviews with elite athletes, and (c) quantitative analyses conducted in the present investigation. Internal consistency estimates for the nine FSS scales were reasonable (alpha M = 33) for administration of the scale to 394 athletes. Confirmatory factor analyses supported the nine scales. Consistent with the theoretical basis of the FSS, there was also support for a hierarchical model in which one global (higher order) flow factor explained correlations among the nine first-order FSS factors. Suggestions for use of the scale and for further research are discussed.

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Susan A. Jackson and Robert C. Eklund

The Flow State Scale-2 (FSS-2) and Dispositional Flow Scale-2 (DFS-2) are presented as two self-report instruments designed to assess flow experiences in physical activity. Item modifications were made to the original versions of these scales in order to improve the measurement of some of the flow dimensions. Confirmatory factor analyses of an item identification and a cross-validation sample demonstrated a good fit of the new scales. There was support for both a 9-first-order factor model and a higher order model with a global flow factor. The item identification sample yielded mean item loadings on the first-order factor of .78 for the FSS-2 and .77 for the DFS-2. Reliability estimates ranged from .80 to .90 for the FSS-2, and .81 to .90 for the DFS-2. In the cross-validation sample, mean item loadings on the first-order factor were .80 for the FSS-2, and .73 for the DFS-2. Reliability estimates ranged between .80 to .92 for the FSS-2 and .78 to .86 for the DFS-2. The scales are presented as ways of assessing flow experienced within a particular event (FSS-2) or the frequency of flow experiences in chosen physical activity in general (DFS-2).

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Susan A. Jackson, Lisa Mayocchi and Jeremy Dover

The experiences of 18 Olympic gold medallists from Australia are analyzed relative to the changes effected by their Olympic wins. Specifically, the effect an Olympic win has on subsequent athletic performance is addressed as are athletes’ strategies for coping with changes faced after winning a gold medal and recommendations for future Olympic champions. Athletes perceived that both preparation and focus for subsequent competitions were affected by an Olympic win and saw most of these changes as negative influences. Athletes’ coping strategies were similar to those reported by other elite athletes. Recommendations for helping prepare elite athletes for the changes associated with high-level athletic success are discussed.

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Susan A. Jackson, Jeremy Dover and Lisa Mayocchi

To better understand the impact that winning an Olympic gold medal has upon athletes, a qualitative investigation of the experiences encountered by Australian athletes who won an Olympic gold medal between 1984-1992 was conducted. A total of 18 Olympic champions were interviewed on their experiences as gold medallists. While athletes recognized many positive aspects associated with their Olympic wins, a large number of negative experiences were also recounted. The win created significant and long-lasting change to most athletes’ lives. Evaluation and comparison of the athletes’ personal experiences in relation to other Australian gold medallists from this time period are discussed.

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Ken Hodge, Chris Lonsdale and Susan A. Jackson

In this exploratory study, we examined hypothesized antecedents (basic psychological needs) and consequences (dispositional flow) of athlete engagement (AE); plus the extent to which AE mediated the relationship between basic needs and flow. Structural equation modeling with a sample of 201 elite Canadian athletes (60.20% female, mean age = 22.92 years) showed that needs satisfaction (particularly competence & autonomy) predicted athlete engagement (30% explained variance); and needs satisfaction and athlete engagement predicted dispositional flow (68% explained variance). AE partially mediated the relationship between needs satisfaction and flow. Practical suggestions are offered for needs-supportive coaching programs designed to increase both AE and flow.

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Nektarios A. Stavrou, Susan A. Jackson, Yannis Zervas and Konstantinos Karteroliotis

The purposes of the current study were to examine (a) the differences in Flow State Scale (FSS) subscales between the 4 experiential states of the orthogonal model (apathy, anxiety, relaxation, and flow), (b) the relationship between challenge, skills, and flow experience; and (c) the relationship between flow experience and athletes’ performance. Two hundred twenty athletes volunteered to participate in this study. Challenge of the game and skills of the athlete were measured before and after competition. Thirty minutes after the competition, the FSS was used to measure flow experience. In addition, subjective and objective measures of athletes’ performance were assessed. Athletes in the flow and relaxation states revealed the most optimal states, whereas the athletes in the apathy state showed the least optimal state. There were positive associations between athletes’ flow experience and their performance measures, indicating that positive emotional states are related to elevated levels of performance. On the other hand, there were low or no correlations between athletes’ performance and reported challenge of the game, whereas skills of the athlete were moderately correlated with flow. Multiple-regression analysis demonstrated significant prediction of athletes’ performance based on flow experience during competition. Future research should examine the relationship between flow, athletes’ performance, and additional dispositional and state variables.

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Daniel Gould, Robert C. Eklund and Susan A. Jackson

This study involved extensive interviews with all 20 members of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team about their performances in the Seoul Olympics. Qualitative research methodology and analyses were employed to acquire and preserve rich representations of these experiences. Mental preparation strategies, precompetitive cognition, and affect were examined by having the wrestlers respond to a series of questions about their all-time best match, worst Olympic match, and most crucial Olympic match. Considerable consistency was found across wrestlers’ responses regarding all-time best and worst Olympic matches whereas striking differences were found between the best and worst matches. For example, before best matches, wrestlers followed mental preparation plans and routines and were extremely confident, totally focused, and optimally aroused. They also focused on clear tactical strategies. Before worst matches, wrestlers were not confident, had inappropriate feeling states and experienced many task-irrelevant and negative thoughts, and deviated from preparation plans. These results are consistent with other research with Olympic athletes and suggest that precompetitive states play a critical role in competitive performance.

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Daniel Gould, Robert C. Eklund and Susan A. Jackson

This is second in a series of articles reporting on a study involving interviews with all 20 members of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team regarding their performances in the Seoul Olympics. Qualitative research methodology and analyses were employed and the results of the analyses of thoughts and affect occurring during competition were examined. The wrestlers responded to a series of questions about their all-time best match, worst Olympic match, and most crucial Olympic match. Considerable consistency was found across wrestler responses regarding best and worst matches whereas striking differences were found between best and worst matches. During best matches, wrestlers were extremely confident, totally focused, and optimally aroused. They also focused on clear tactical strategies. During worst matches, the wrestlers were not confident, had inappropriate feeling states, experienced many task-irrelevant and negative thoughts, and either deviated from strategic plans or made poor strategy choices. These results are consistent with other research on Olympic athletes and with peak performance, peak experience, and flow research.