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Paul J. McCarthy, Marc V. Jones, Chris G. Harwood and Steve Olivier

One reason sport psychologists teach psychological skills is to enhance performance in sport; but the value of psychological skills for young athletes is questionable because of the qualitative and quantitative differences between children and adults in their understanding of abstract concepts such as mental skills. To teach these skills effectively to young athletes, sport psychologists need to appreciate what young athletes implicitly understand about such skills because maturational (e.g., cognitive, social) and environmental (e.g., coaches) factors can influence the progressive development of children and youth. In the present qualitative study, we explored young athletes’ (aged 10–15 years) understanding of four basic psychological skills: goal setting, mental imagery, self-talk, and relaxation. Young athletes (n= 118: 75 males and 43 females) completed an open-ended questionnaire to report their understanding of these four basic psychological skills. Compared with the older youth athletes, the younger youth athletes were less able to explain the meaning of each psychological skill. Goal setting and mental imagery were better understood than self-talk and relaxation. Based on these fndings, sport psychologists should consider adapting interventions and psychoeducational programs to match young athletes’ age and developmental level.

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Trey Brokaw

This presentation will share the results from a study conducted on college track and field athletes at the NCAA division II level. The study compares the results of scores on the Test of Performance Strategies (TOPS) and, individual athlete’s improvements in their event area according to the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) scoring charts for track and field. A select group of primarily middle distance and distance runners was selected for the study. These athletes were given a baseline TOPS examination to evaluate their prior knowledge and use of mental skills in their athletic experiences. Personal best times in the athlete’s primary events were recorded from the previous year. During the nine weeks of the outdoor track and field season that this study took place; athletes were introduced to a wide array of activities associated with improving their mental skills. Such activities included goal setting, imagery, relaxation, optimum level of arousal, affirmations, and the use of positive self-talk and routines. Athletes would have an organized mental skills session at least twice each of the nine weeks of the season. Athletes also had an individual meeting with the coaches to go over goal setting and the use of their mental skills to enhance their physical skills. After the outdoor season was completed the athletes took a post-examination TOPS. The scores were compared with their pretest scores as well as their improvement in personal best times in their main events on the track.

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Damon Burton

Sport psychologists believe that contemporary sport’s pervasive preoccupation with winning may actually be responsible for athletes’ anxiety, motivation, and self-confidence problems. Winning is a goal that lacks the flexibility and control necessary for athletes to (a) achieve consistent success and (b) take credit for success. Martens and Burton (1982) concluded that performance goals (PGs) based on attaining personal performance standards offer the flexibility and control needed to develop high perceived ability and performance. Thus the purpose of this study was twofold: (a) to evaluate whether a goal setting training (GST) program could teach athletes to set appropriate PGs, and (b) to assess the impact of the GST program on the perceived ability, competitive cognitions, and performance of collegiate swimmers. A collegiate swim team (N=30) participated in a season-long GST program, and program effects were systematically evaluated with a multimethod approach using interteam, intrateam, and case study data. Interteam and case study data generally supported both predictions. Intrateam analyses revealed that high-accuracy GST swimmers demonstrated more optimal cognitions and performance than low-accuracy teammates, suggesting that goal setting skill mediated GST effectiveness.

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Leilani Madrigal

Psychological skills such as goal setting, imagery, relaxation and self-talk have been used in performance enhancement, emotional regulation, and increasing one’s confidence and/or motivation in sport. These skills can also be applied with athletes during recovery from injury in the rehabilitation setting or in preseason meetings for preventing injury. Research on psychological skill use with athletes has shown that such skills have helped reduce negative psychological outcomes, improve coping skills, and reduce reinjury anxiety (Evans & Hardy, 2002; Johnson, 2000; Mankad & Gordon, 2010). Although research has been limited in psychological skill implementation with injured athletes, these skills can be used when working with injured athletes or in the prevention of injury. Injured athletes may use psychological skills such as setting realistic goals in coming back from injury, imagery to facilitate rehabilitation, and relaxation techniques to deal with pain management. In prevention of injury, the focus is on factors that put an individual at-risk for injury. Thus, teaching strategies of goal setting, imagery, relaxation techniques, and attention/focus can be instrumental in preparing athletes for a healthy season.

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John M. Giannini, Robert S. Weinberg and Allen J. Jackson

This study investigated the effects of different goal and feedback conditions on performance of a basketball shooting task and a more complex one-on-one offensive basketball task. Subjects (N= 1(D) were matched, based on pretest performance, into one of five conditions: competitive goal, cooperative goal, mastery goal, "do your best" with feedback, and "do your best" without feedback. Subjects also responded to questionnaires to allow an assessment of the strength of mastery, competitive, and social goal orientations, which reflected personal achievement goals held before goal-setting instructions were offered. Results indicated that the competitive goal group performed significantly better than the do-your-best-without-feedback group in one-on-one posttest trials. No other between-group performance differences were significant. Subjects' goal orientations were not related to performance in the competitive and cooperative goal conditions, but significant relationships were found for mastery goal group subjects. The results are discussed in terms of Locke's theory of goal setting as well as achievement motivation research on goal orientations, and future directions for research are offered.

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Daniel Gould, Ken Hodge, Kirsten Peterson and Linda Petlichkoff

This study was designed to assess the psychological principles used by coaches and to determine if various categories of coaches differed in the psychological skills and strategies they employed. Intercollegiate wrestling coaches (N=101) completed an extensive survey that assessed their opinions concerning the importance of, use of, frequency of problems arising with, and degree of success they feel they have had in changing or developing 21 psychological skills. Descriptive statistics revealed that the psychological attributes of mental toughness, positive attitude, individual motivation, and attention-concentration were judged to be most important for success in wrestling. Anxiety-stress control, attention-concentration, lack of confidence, and mental toughness were reported as the areas in which wrestlers most frequently experienced problems. The coaches indicated that the strategies most easily developed with their athletes were goal setting, team cohesion, and mental practice-imagery. Finally, the coaches felt they were most successful in enhancing team cohesion and communication, and developing sportsmanship and goal setting. Discriminant function analyses revealed that coaches who had attended USA wrestling sport science certification clinics significantly differed on several psychological principles from coaches who had not attended clinics. Coaching education implications of the results are discussed, and future research recommendations are forwarded.

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William R. Falcão, Gordon A. Bloom and Todd M. Loughead

The purpose of this study was to investigate Paralympic coaches’ perceptions of team cohesion. Seven head coaches of summer and winter Canadian Paralympic sport teams participated in the study. Four participants coached individual sports and 3 coached team sports. Data were collected using semistructured interviews and analyzed using thematic analysis. The results addressed the coaches’ perceptions of cohesion in the Paralympic sport setting and strategies used to foster cohesion with their teams. Participants described using techniques and strategies for enhancing cohesion that were similar to those in nondisability sport, such as task-related activities, goal setting, and regularly communicating with their athletes. They also listed how cohesion was distinct to the Paralympic setting, such as the importance of interpersonal activities to build social cohesion. The implications of these results for coaching athletes with a disability are also presented.

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Sarah Carson Sackett and Lori A. Gano-Overway

Sport has the potential to foster the development of life skills, such as initiative, teamwork, emotion regulation, and goal setting, that transcend the fields and courts on which youth participate (Danish, Forneris, Hodge, & Heke, 2004). However, it is often acknowledged that this growth does not occur on its own. One factor that plays a central role in shaping positive sport experiences is the coach (Hellison & Cutforth, 1997). The purpose of this paper is to review the current literature on coaching strategies considered best practices for life skills development as well as to provide illustrative examples of many of these practices garnered from a case study of a model coach and the strategies he used in his high school tennis program. The paper concludes with additional practical considerations and recommendations for practitioners, coach educators, and scholars who continue to add to the body of knowledge regarding a coach’s role in positive youth development.

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Lea-Cathrin Dohme, David Piggott, Susan Backhouse and Gareth Morgan

Research has identified psychological skills and characteristics (PSCs) perceived to facilitate talented youth athletes’ development. However, no systematic categorisation or synthesis of these PSCs exists to date. To provide such synthesis, this systematic review aims to: (i) identify PSCs perceived as facilitative of talented youth athletes’ development; (ii) group and label synonymous PSCs; and (iii) categorise PSCs based on definitions established in Dohme, Backhouse, Piggott, and Morgan (2017). PRISMA systematic review guidelines were employed and a comprehensive literature search of SPORTDiscus, PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, and ERIC completed in November 2017. Twenty-five empirical studies published between 2002 and 2017 met the inclusion criteria. Through thematic analysis, 19 PSCs were identified as facilitative of youth athletes’ development. Eight PSCs were categorised as psychological skills (e.g., goal-setting, social support seeking, and self-talk) and eleven as psychological characteristics (e.g., self-confidence, focus, and motivation). The practical implications of these findings are discussed.

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Rikki A. Cannioto

Despite much research investigating physical activity (PA) barriers for American women, the PA barriers experienced by overweight and obese working women remain largely unexamined. This preliminary investigation assessed the PA barriers, behaviors, and beliefs of 40 overweight/obese women with full-time desk jobs for the subsequent development and implementation of a tailored “healthy weight” wellness program. Based on qualitative and quantitative data analysis, the majority of participants weren’t sufficiently active, citing motivation and time as their biggest perceived barriers. Statistically significant relationships were identified between BMI and barrier numbers, PA levels, PA enjoyment, and PA importance; as well as between PA levels and barrier numbers, PA enjoyment, and PA importance. An effective PA intervention should emphasize 300 minutes of PA a week, while incorporating evidence-based behavioral strategies (i.e., goal setting, self-monitoring, contingency management, social support, stimulus control, and cognitive restructuring) that have been proven to decrease barriers and increase PA adherence among overweight and obese individuals.