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Patrick R. Thomas and Gerard J. Fogarty

Individual differences in cognitive preferences were examined in analyzing the effects of imagery and self-talk training on the psychological skills and performance levels of amateur golfers. Thirty-two men and women participated in a series of four counterbalanced training workshops and activities conducted over 2 months at two golf clubs. A repeated measures MANOVA revealed significant improvement on five psychological and psychomotor skills measured by the Golf Performance Survey: negative emotions and cognitions, mental preparation, automaticity, putting skill, and seeking improvement. Participants’ responses to the Sport Imagery Questionnaire and ratings of their imagery and self-talk techniques increased significantly after training. Players also lowered their handicaps and performed significantly better on a Golf Skills Test after training. Imagery and self-talk training benefits were not linked to participants’ cognitive preferences. The cognitive flexibility displayed by these golfers signals the need for more research on processing preferences and has implications for practitioners working with athletes.

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Christina Lee

There is a shortage of evidence regarding exactly how mental imagery works to enhance performance. This study sought to determine whether it is the imagining of the task that is crucial or simply the positive aspects of a mental image. In the first experiment, 52 male students used task relevant imagery, task irrelevant imagery, or a distraction control procedure before performing an analogue task. Those in the task relevant condition showed significantly greater improvements over baseline. The second experiment involved 142 male students and included assessment of mood state following psyching up. Again the task relevant group showed significantly greater improvements, which were not related to mood states. These findings suggest that the specific content of mental imagery is crucial in determining its effect on performance. The effect does not appear to depend on alterations of mood state and may operate through cognitive preparation.

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Britton W. Brewer, Karin E. Jeffers, Albert J. Petitpas and Judy L. Van Raalte

Two experiments were conducted to evaluate perceptions of three different psychological interventions in the context of sport injury rehabilitation. In Experiment 1, college students (N = 161) rated their perceptions of goal setting, imagery, or counseling as an adjunct to physical therapy for a hypothetical injured athlete. In Experiment 2, injured athletes (N = 20) received brief introductory sessions of goal setting, imagery, and counseling. Subjects’ perceptions were assessed immediately following each intervention. In both experiments, subjects displayed a preference for goal setting, although positive perceptions were obtained for all three interventions. Females’ perceptions of the interventions were significantly more positive than those of males in Experiment 1, but not in Experiment 2. The findings suggest that goal setting, imagery, and counseling are sufficiently credible to be examined in controlled outcome studies with injured athletes.

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Robert L. Woolfolk, Shane M. Murphy, David Gottesfeld and David Aitken

An investigation was carried out concerning the effect of imagery instructions on a simple motor skill accuracy task (putting a golf ball). Male college students (N = 50) were randomly assigned to one of six experimental conditions in a design that allowed the presence or absence of mental rehearsal of the physical movements involved in the task to be completely crossed with the imaginal depiction of task outcome (successful, unsuccessful, or no outcome component). A significant outcome by trials interaction was found on task performance. This finding reflected the degradation of performance in the conditions employing negative outcome imagery rather than any enhancement of performance by positive outcome imagery. Self-efficacy was found to be correlated with performance, but this association seemed to be a by-product of the strong relationships between these variables and performance on the previous trial. Results are discussed in relation to the existing literature, and future research directions are delineated.

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Simon Davies and John D. West

This article familiarizes sport psychologists, counselors, and coaches with the multimodal approach to enhancing the performance of college athletes. The seven modalities of behavior, affect, sensations, imagery, cognitions, interpersonal relations, and biological functioning are examined. An individualized modality profile for a collegiate soccer player with performance problems is generated. Various applied intervention techniques are suggested to facilitate performance enhancement.

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Richard M. Fenker Jr. and Judith G. Lambiotte

This article presents a case study describing the development and implementation of a performance enhancement program for a major college football team. The program used imagery training techniques in conjunction with a process-oriented approach to performance to help the team achieve its best record in 20 years. Data on the individual players’ game grades, their evaluation of the enhancement program, and their strategy for reaching an optimal mental state were collected. In all, 86% of the starters evaluated the program’s overall value to the team as being important or very significant. Multiple regression analyses were used to predict starters’ game grades and consistency ratings from the athletes’ preparation and performance (readiness) strategies. Details of the imagery training procedures and other enhancement techniques are included.

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Jenelle N. Gilbert, Stephanie D. Moore-Reed and Alexandra M. Clifton

Adolescent athletes can use psychological skills immediately after being taught, but a dearth of empirical evidence exists regarding whether these skills are maintained over time. A 12-week curriculum (i.e., UNIFORM; Gilbert, 2011) was taught to a high school varsity soccer team with three data collection points: pretest, posttest, 4-week follow-up. Use of several skills was significantly greater posttest compared with pretest as measured by the Test of Performance Strategies (Thomas, Murphy, & Hardy, 1999). Follow-up results were also salient. Relaxation, imagery, and self-talk use in practice was significantly greater than pretest at follow-up; relaxation, imagery, goal setting, and self-talk in competition showed similar results. Descriptive statistics and qualitative data triangulate these results. The UNIFORM curriculum enabled the athletes to use the skills more consistently. This study makes a contribution by measuring the skills at follow-up and providing evidence of their continued use four weeks after the curriculum’s conclusion.

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Pamela S. Highlen and Bonnie B. Bennett

Elite wrestlers (n = 39) and divers (n = 44), representing open- and closed-skill sports, respectively, completed a survey assessing psychological factors associated with training and competition. Of particular interest were factors distinguishing qualifiers from nonqualifiers within and between each sport type. Discriminant analyses and t-tests revealed that as expected self-confidence and concentration distinguished qualifiers from nonqualifiers in both sport groups. Also, as predicted, use of imagery differentiated only the qualifying from the nonqualifying divers. Self-talk items also distinguished the two diving groups on more items than they differentiated the wrestlers. However, when all elite divers were compared with their wrestling counterparts, no differences were found for the imagery scale and self-talk frequency, instruction, and praise items. Anticipatory anxiety patterns for divers and wrestlers were different, with successful divers and less successful wrestlers reporting higher precompetition levels of anxiety. During competition nonqualifiers across sport type reported higher anxiety. Implications for a sport-specific typology of psychological characteristics are discussed.

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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.

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Urban Johnson

Objective:

To explore the effectiveness of psychological interventions for a sample of competitive athletes with long-term injuries.

Design:

Modified 2-group, pretreatment and posttreatment (repeated measure).

Patients:

58 patients, 14 in the experimental group and 44 in the control group.

Interventions:

Three intervention strategies: stress management and cognitive control, goal-setting skills, and relaxation/guided imagery.

Main Outcome Measure:

Mood level was used as the outcome variable.

Results:

The experimental group had a higher overall mood level at the midpoint and end of rehabilitation and were also feeling more ready for competition than the control group was, both as rated by themselves and by the treating physiotherapist The only strategy to show statistical differences was relaxation/guided imagery.

Conclusions:

The results of this study support the idea that a short-term intervention has the potential to elevate mood levels in competitive athletes with long-term injuries.