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Lewis A. Curry and Sameep D. Maniar

The purpose of this paper is to describe content and methods of an academic course offered twice annually at an NCAA Division I University. With empirical support to the effectiveness of this academic approach to psychological skills training presented elsewhere (Curry & Maniar, 2003), the focus of this paper is on the type and extent of each intervention treatment during the 15-week semester course (Vealey, 1994). Course content includes applied strategies for best performance targeting, arousal/affect control, identifying purpose, goal setting, imagery, sport confidence, trust, flow, sport nutrition, on-/off-field problem solving, self-esteem, and life skills education on eating disorders and drug/alcohol abuse. Teaching methods include narrative story telling, small group activities, journal writing, cognitive-behavioral homework, brainteasers, and active learning demonstrations.

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Daniel Gould, Susan A. Jackson and Laura M. Finch

This study was designed to better understand the positive and negative aspects of being a national champion athlete, to uncover difficulties encountered in defending a championship title, and to solicit recommendations for achieving and maintaining national champion status. Seventeen U.S. national champion figure skaters who held titles between 1985 and 1990 participated in in-depth interviews. A number of positive and negative experiences were identified. Difficulties encountered in defending a championship were associated with increased expectations and responsibilities, a shift in motivational orientation from chasing to being chased where arousal was increased and interpreted negatively, and athletic injuries and the stress related to those injuries. Recommendations focused on such things as not being afraid to grow and take risks, filtering feedback and advice, not falling into the trap of feeling one has to be perfect, and seeking and utilizing social support.

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Jessica Daw and Damon Burton

This investigation examined the impact of a comprehensive psychological skills training for tennis (PSTT) program on collegiate tennis players. PSTT players were exposed to three psychological skills (goal setting, imagery, and arousal regulation) and then given the opportunity to develop individualized PSTT programs. Program effectiveness was evaluated through (a) case study analyses, (b) intrateam analyses comparing high- and low-commitment PSTT players, and (c) interteam analyses comparing PSTT (n = 12) and non-PSTT (n = 12) players. Results indicated that the PSTT program was successful, with case studies providing strong support for the effectiveness of individual PSTT programs. Additionally, intrateam results revealed that all PSTT players felt their PSTT program helped their tennis games, although high- and low-commitment players differed significantly on only 2 of 15 psychological and performance variables. As expected, interteam results demonstrated significant differences on only 2 of 15 variables, with PSTT players displaying higher state self-confidence and committing fewer double faults than did their non-PSTT counterparts.

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Jonathan R. Males and John H. Kerr

This paper examines the relationship between precompetitive affect and performance, using elements of reversal theory (Apter, 1982): a conceptual framework that incorporates a full range of pleasant and unpleasant moods. Nine elite male slalom canoeists completed questionnaires prior to each event of a season that included the world championships. Results were analyzed using a time-series model to make comparisons of each subject’s best and worst performance of the season. Predicted variations in precompetitive levels of pleasant and unpleasant mood did not occur, despite variations in subsequent performances. As predicted, good performances were preceded by low discrepancies between felt and preferred arousal levels, but there was no support for the hypothesis that a large discrepancy between perceived stress and coping efforts would precede a poor performance.

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Sandra E. Moritz, Craig R. Hall, Kathleen A. Martin and Eva Vadocz

Despite the advocacy of a confidence-enhancing function of mental imagery, the relationship between confidence and imagery has received little attention from sport researchers. The primary purpose of the present study was to identify the specific image content of confident athletes. Fifty-seven elite competitive rollerskaters completed the Movement Imagery Questionnaire-Revised (MIQ-R), the Sport Imagery Questionnaire (SIQ), and the State Sport Confidence Inventory (SSCI). Results revealed that high sport-confident athletes used more mastery and arousal imagery, and had better kinesthetic and visual imagery ability than low sport-confident athletes did. A hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed that mastery imagery accounted for the majority of variance in SSCI scores (20%). The results of this study suggest that when it comes to sport confidence, the imaged rehearsal of specific sport skills may not be as important as the imagery of sport-related mastery experiences and emotions.

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Jeffrey E. Hecker and Linda M. Kaczor

Bioinformational theory has been proposed by Lang (1979a), who suggests that mental images can be understood as products of the brain's information processing capacity. Imagery involves activation of a network of propositionally coded information stored in long-term memory. Propositions concerning physiological and behavioral responses provide a prototype for overt behavior. Processing of response information is associated with somatovisceral arousal. The theory has implications for imagery rehearsal in sport psychology and can account for a variety of findings in the mental practice literature. Hypotheses drawn from bioinformational theory were tested. College athletes imagined four scenes during which their heart rates were recorded. Subjects tended to show increases in heart rate when imagining scenes with which they had personal experience and which would involve cardiovascular activation if experienced in real life. Nonsignificant heart rate changes were found when the scene involved activation but was one with which subjects did not have personal experience.

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John M. Silva III

The data presented in this study indicate that self-reported concentration levels of volunteer undergraduate students (N = 122) are affected by the type of behavior exhibited by a performer (i.e., hostile aggression or proactive assertion) and by the nature of the social environmental setting (i.e., sport or nonsport competition). Also demonstrated was a relationship between self-report levels of concentration and subject performance in both a nonsport and sport setting. Concentration was negatively affected by aroused, angry behavior and by a social environmental setting of considerable complexity and stress. Subject performance was superior in situations where concentration levels were elevated. The results suggest that concentration is an influential factor in skilled performance and is sensitive to variations in overt behavior and social environmental settings. Future research should focus on additional factors that tend to disrupt the state of concentration as well as factors that may enhance it.

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Peter Jensen, Jorge Roman, Barrett Shaft and Craig Wrisberg

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a relatively new and rapidly growing sport within contemporary athletics yet, to date, it has received relatively little attention in the sport psychology literature. To shed more light on the sport, the aim of the current study was to examine the experiences of MMA fighters during sanctioned competitions. Audio-recorded phenomenological interviews were conducted with seven participants and the transcripts were qualitatively analyzed to identify emerging themes. The findings revealed that the most important aspect of fighters’ experience was the chaotic nature of MMA fights, which participants characterized as “cage reality.” The results also suggested that fighters’ arousal regulation skills are at least as important as their technical skills for performance success. Taken together, the present findings extend previous research on MMA and suggest several implications for sport psychology consultants interested in working with fighters.

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Veronika Leichtfried, Friedrich Hanser, Andrea Griesmacher, Markus Canazei and Wolfgang Schobersberger

Context:

Demands on concentrative and cognitive performance are high in sport shooting and vary in a circadian pattern, aroused by internal and external stimuli. The most prominent external stimulus is light. Bright light (BL) has been shown to have a certain impact on cognitive and physical performance.

Purpose:

To evaluate the impact of a single half hour of BL exposure in the morning hours on physical and cognitive performance in 15 sport shooters. In addition, courses of sulfateoxymelatonin (aMT6s), tryptophan (TRP), and kynurenine (KYN) were monitored.

Methods:

In a crossover design, 15 sport shooters were exposed to 30 min of BL and dim light (DL) in the early-morning hours. Shooting performance, balance, visuomotor performance, and courses of aMT6s, TRP, and KYN were evaluated.

Results:

Shooting performance was 365.4 (349.7–381.0) and 368.5 (353.9–383.1), identical in both light setups. Numbers of right reactions (sustained attention) and deviations from the horizontal plane (balance-related measure) were higher after BL. TRP concentrations decreased from 77.5 (73.5–81.4) to 66.9 (60.7–67.0) in the DL setup only.

Conclusions:

The 2 light conditions generated heterogeneous visuomotor and physiological effects in sport shooters. The authors therefore suggest that a single half hour of BL exposure is effective in improving cognitive aspects of performance, but not physical performance. Further research is needed to evaluate BL’s impact on biochemical parameters.

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Christian Collet, Aymeric Guillot, Olivier Bolliet and André Dittmar

Purpose:

To examine the preparation phase for the snatch lift in Olympic weight lifting. Two behavioral periods were studied, each corresponding to specific mental processes: a stance in front of the bar and placement of hands on the bar. Each period was hypothesized to elicit different responses of autonomic-nervous-system activity.

Methods:

Twelve elite male subjects completed 12 lifts at 90% to 95% of their best grade after warm-up (80% of their best grade). Because peripheral autonomic-nervous-system activity is related to arousal and activation variation, 6 variables were continuously recorded: electrodermal (skin resistance and potential), thermovascular (skin temperature and skin blood flow), and cardiorespiratory (heart rate and respiratory frequency).

Results:

Responses (ie, phasic activities) were evident during the fi rst behavioral period. Decrease in heart rate (mean = 19 beats/min) or in respiratory frequency (mean = 8.6 beats/min) was related to attention processes. These responses were weaker (−0.16°C vs −0.25°C in skin temperature) and shorter (2.7 seconds vs 4.3 seconds in skin resistance) than those recorded during execution. The second phase showed variations in basal levels (mean increase in heart rate of 25%), related to increase in activation, thus attesting the muscle system’s process of preparation for effort.

Conclusion:

Weight lifters separated the preparation phase into 2 stages that were closely matched by different physiological activities. Weight lifting requires participants to share their mental resources among the 2 demanding concentration phases by first focusing their attention on the execution and then mobilizing energizing resources.