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Áine MacNamara, Angela Button and Dave Collins

Given the complexity of the talent development process, it seems likely that a range of psychological factors underpin an athlete’s ability to translate potential into top-class performance. Therefore, the purpose of part one of this two-part investigation was to explore the attributes that facilitate the successful development of athletes from initial involvement to achieving and maintaining world-class status. Seven elite athletes and a parent of each of these athletes were interviewed regarding their own (their son’s/daughter’s) development in sport. Data were content analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Although sporting achievement was conceptualized as being multidimensional, psychological factors were highlighted as the key determinants of those who emerged as talented and maintained excellence. Accordingly, we suggest that talent identification and development programs should place greater emphasis on the advancement and application of psychological behaviors at an early stage to optimize both the development and performance of athletes.

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Jürgen Beckmann and Michael Kellmann

In this paper we discuss some of the factors sport psychologists should consider before administering questionnaires or other formal assessment instruments to athletes. To be used effectively, assessment instruments need to be (a) reliable and valid for the individual athlete or sport group in question, (b) seen as useful by the athlete(s) completing the instrument, and be (c) completed honestly by the athlete(s). Additional objectives sport psychologists should strive to achieve include a clear identification of the purpose of the assessment instrument, the commitment of athlete and coach to the assessment process, and the maintenance of a clear channel of communication with coaches and athletes throughout the period of psychological assessment, training, feedback, evaluation, and adjustment.

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Jean Côté

The purpose of the present study was to describe patterns in the dynamics of families of talented athletes throughout their development in sport. Four families, including three families of elite rowers and one family of an elite tennis player were examined. The framework provided by Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer (1993) to explain expert performance served as the theoretical basis for the study. Ericsson et al. suggested that the acquisition of expert performance involves operating within three types of constraints: motivational, effort, and resource. In-depth interviews were conducted with each athlete, parent, and sibling to explore how they have dealt with these three constraints. A total of 15 individual interviews were conducted. Results permitted the identification of three phases of participation from early childhood to late adolescence: the sampling years, the specializing years, and the investment years. The dynamics of the family in each of these phases of development is discussed.

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Jim Taylor

The objective of this article is to reply to Dr. Albert Ellis’s application of his rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT) paradigm to the issue of exercise and sport avoidance. This article begins with a consideration of why people avoid exercise and sport participation and an identification of what needs to be modified for people to initiate and adhere to exercise and sport programs. Then, in reponse to Dr. Ellis’s discussion, some of the key elements of his proposed program are reviewed. Additionally, some of his techniques are reinterpreted in a manner with which exercise/sport psychologists may be more familiar. Also, some suggestions are offered to enhance the impact of REBT to exercise and sport avoidance.

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Graham Jones, Sheldon Hanton and Declan Connaughton

The authors conducted an investigation of mental toughness in a sample population of athletes who have achieved ultimate sporting success. Eight Olympic or world champions, 3 coaches, and 4 sport psychologists agreed to participate. Qualitative methods addressed 3 fundamental issues: the definition of mental toughness, the identification of its essential attributes, and the development of a framework of mental toughness. Results verified the authors’ earlier definition of mental toughness and identified 30 attributes that were essential to being mentally tough. These attributes clustered under 4 separate dimensions (attitude/mindset, training, competition, postcompetition) within an overall framework of mental toughness. Practical implications and future avenues of research involving the development of mental toughness and measurement issues are discussed.

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Sabrina Skorski, Oliver Faude, Chris R. Abbiss, Seraina Caviezel, Nina Wengert and Tim Meyer

Purpose:

To date, there has been limited research examining the influence of pacing pattern (PP) on middle-distance swimming performance. As such, the purpose of the current study was to examine the influence of PP manipulation on 400-m freestyle swimming performance.

Methods:

15 front-crawl swimmers (5 female, 10 male; age 18 ± 2 y) performed 3 simulated 400-m swimming events. The initial trial was self-selected pacing (PPSS). The following 2 trials were performed in a counterbalanced order and required participants to complete the first 100 m more slowly (PPSLOW: 4.5% ± 2.2%) or quickly (PPFAST: 2.4% ± 1.6%) than the PPSS trial. 50-m split times were recorded during each trial.

Results:

Overall performance time was faster in PPSS (275.0 ± 15.9 s) than in PPFAST (278.5 ± 16.4 s, P = .05) but not significantly different from PPSLOW (277.5 ± 16.2 s, P = .22). However, analysis for practical relevance revealed that pacing manipulation resulted in a “likely” (>88.2%) decrease in performance compared with PPSS.

Conclusion:

Moderate manipulation of the starting speed during simulated 400-m freestyle races seems to affect overall performance. The observed results indicate that PPSS is optimal in most individuals, yet it seems to fail in some swimmers. Future research should focus on the identification of athletes possibly profiting from manipulations.

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Kathy C. Graham

This article describes the movement tasks (Rink, 1985) in which students engaged during a 14-lesson volleyball unit in an eighth-grade physical education class, and the differential motor skill responses of high- and low-skilled target students during the practice of these tasks. Audio and videotaped records were made of each lesson. Analysis focused on the identification of the movement tasks that were verbally presented by the teacher during the lessons, the determination of students’ level of engagement in these tasks, and the frequency and rate of motor skill responses/successful motor skill responses during task practice for three high- and three low-skilled students. Thirteen major movement tasks were identified that formed a simple to complex progression of activities. A high level of consistent student engagement in tasks was observed, as well as differential performance outcomes for students of high/low skill levels. The results reveal the complexity of providing appropriate instruction for different skill levels in a class. Implications for research and teacher education programs are discussed.

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Elaine M. Blinde and James E. Tierney III

This study explored in depth the process by which sport psychology ideas and techniques are diffused into elite-level swimming programs in the United States. Three stages in the diffusion process were examined: initial exposure, degree of receptivity, and rate of implementation. A questionnaire designed to measure this diffusion process was mailed to the 165 Level 5 coaches in the U.S. Sources through which coaches are exposed to sport psychology were identified, as well as factors influencing levels of receptivity and implementation. Intercorrelations among initial exposure, receptivity, and implementation were also examined and factors were identified that may reduce levels of receptivity and implementation. Findings suggest that despite only a moderate degree of exposure, coaches are generally receptive and willing to implement sport psychology into their programs. Major obstacles to both receptivity and implementation were generally related to structural aspects of amateur swimming in the U.S. or the sport psychology community. Identification of such factors can help the sport psychology community improve the process by which its knowledge base is diffused into the sporting community.

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Jorge E. Morais, António J. Silva, Daniel A. Marinho, Ludovic Seifert and Tiago M. Barbosa

Purpose:

To apply a new method to identify, classify, and follow up young swimmers based on their performance and its determinant factors over a season and analyze the swimmers’ stability over a competitive season with that method.

Methods:

Fifteen boys and 18 girls (11.8 ± 0.7 y) part of a national talent-identification scheme were evaluated at 3 different moments of a competitive season. Performance (ie, official 100-m freestyle race time), arm span, chest perimeter, stroke length, swimming velocity, speed fluctuation, coefficient of active drag, propelling efficiency, and stroke index were selected as variables. Hierarchical and k-means cluster analysis were computed.

Results:

Data suggested a 3-cluster solution, splitting the swimmers according to their performance in all 3 moments. Cluster 1 was related to better performances (talented swimmers), cluster 2 to poor performances (nonproficient swimmers), and cluster 3 to average performance (proficient swimmers) in all moments. Stepwise discriminant analysis revealed that 100%, 94%, and 85% of original groups were correctly classified for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd evaluation moments, respectively (0.11 ≤ Λ ≤ 0.80; 5.64 ≤ χ2 ≤ 63.40; 0.001 < P ≤ .68). Membership of clusters was moderately stable over the season (stability range 46.1–75% for the 2 clusters with most subjects).

Conclusion:

Cluster stability is a feasible, comprehensive, and informative method to gain insight into changes in performance and its determinant factors in young swimmers. Talented swimmers were characterized by anthropometrics and kinematic features.

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Jorge E. Morais, António J. Silva, Daniel A. Marinho, Vítor P. Lopes and Tiago M. Barbosa

Purpose:

To develop a performance predictor model based on swimmers’ biomechanical profile, relate the partial contribution of the main predictors with the training program, and analyze the time effect, sex effect, and time × sex interaction.

Methods:

91 swimmers (44 boys, 12.04 ± 0.81 y; 47 girls, 11.22 ± 0.98 y) evaluated during a 3-y period. The decimal age and anthropometric, kinematic, and efficiency features were collected 10 different times over 3 seasons (ie, longitudinal research). Hierarchical linear modeling was the procedure used to estimate the performance predictors.

Results:

Performance improved between season 1 early and season 3 late for both sexes (boys 26.9% [20.88;32.96], girls 16.1% [10.34;22.54]). Decimal age (estimate [EST] –2.05, P < .001), arm span (EST –0.59, P < .001), stroke length (EST 3.82; P = .002), and propelling efficiency (EST –0.17, P = .001) were entered in the final model.

Conclusion:

Over 3 consecutive seasons young swimmers’ performance improved. Performance is a multifactorial phenomenon where anthropometrics, kinematics, and efficiency were the main determinants. The change of these factors over time was coupled with the training plans of this talent identification and development program.