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Stewart Cotterill

The ability to prepare effectively to execute complex skills under pressure is crucial in a number of performance-focused professions. While there is emerging evidence of best practice little research has sought to compare preparation strategies across professions. As a result, the aim of this research was to explore the approaches employed within a number of professions and whether there are similarities in the techniques and strategies adopted. Participants were 18 “performers,” purposefully selected from sporting, musical, performing arts, and medical domains. Participants were interviewed individually to gain an understanding of each participant’s preparation strategies and the functions these strategies fulfilled. The data were thematically analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results suggest that there are similarities in both behavioral and mental strategies adopted across professions. Future research should seek to explore the transferability of developmental approaches.

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Mike Stoker, Ian Maynard, Joanne Butt, Kate Hays and Paul Hughes

Performance pressure, defined as “any factor or combination of factors that increases the importance of performing well on a particular occasion” ( Baumeister, 1984 ; p. 610), has been shown to cause individuals to perform below their actual ability ( DeCaro, Thomas, Albert, & Beilock, 2011 ). This

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Ken Hodge and Wayne Smith

This case study focused on pressure, stereotype threat, choking, and the coping experiences of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team during the period from 2004-2011 leading into their success at the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC). Employing a narrative approach this case study examined public expectation, pressure, and coach-led coping strategies designed to “avoid the choke” by the All Blacks team. An in-depth interview was completed with one of the All Blacks’ coaches and analyzed via collaborative thematic analysis (Riessman, 2008). In addition multiple secondary data sources (e.g., coach & player autobiographies; media interviews) were analyzed via holistic-content analysis (Lieblich et al., 1998). Collectively these analyses revealed five key themes: public expectation and pressure, learning from 2007 RWC, coping with RWC pressure, decision-making under pressure, and avoiding the choke. Practical recommendations are offered for team sport coaches with respect to coping with pressure and avoiding choking.

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Denise M. Hill, Sheldon Hanton, Nic Matthews and Scott Fleming

The study examined the effect of an evidence-based intervention on choking in golf. It is informed by the work of Hill, Hanton, Matthews and Fleming (2010a) that explored the experiences of elite golfers who either choked or excelled under pressure. The perceptions of elite golf coaches who worked with both ‘chokers’ and those who excelled, were also considered. It revealed that choking may be alleviated through the use of process goals, cognitive restructuring, imagery, simulated training and a pre/postshot routine. The present study incorporated each strategy into an intervention that was introduced to two professional golfers (aged 22) who choked under pressure regularly. Through an action research framework the impact of the intervention was evaluated over a ten month period via qualitative methods. The results indicated the intervention alleviated the participants’ choking episodes and so provides information that can be of use to practitioners working with golfers who choke.

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Denise M. Hill, Nic Matthews and Ruth Senior

This study used qualitative methods to explore the stressors, appraisal mechanism, emotional response, and effective/ineffective coping strategies experienced by elite rugby union referees during pressurized performances. Participants included seven male rugby union referees from the United Kingdom (Mage = 27.85, SD = 4.56) who had been officiating as full-time professionals for between 1 and 16 years (M = 4.85, SD = 5.42). Data revealed that the referees encountered a number of stressors, which were appraised initially as a ‘threat’, and elicited negatively-toned emotions. The referees were able to maintain performance standards under pressure by adopting proactive, problem- and emotion-focused coping strategies which managed effectively the stressors and their emotions. However, the use of avoidance-coping, reactive control, and informal impression management were perceived as ineffective coping strategies, and associated with poor performance and choking. Recommendations are offered to inform the psychological skills training of rugby union referees.

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Nadav Goldschmied, Max Nankin and Guy Cafri

Icing is a common strategy used in American football during the last moments of a close game when a coach may ask for a time-out to allow an opposing kicker, who is about to attempt a decisive field-kick, an extended period of time possibly to contemplate the negative outcomes if he fails to score (i.e., rumination). Using archival data of pressure kicks from six consecutive National Football League seasons (2002—2008), a mixed-effects hierarchical linear model was applied. It was found that icing was successful in reducing scoring while other environmental factors such as experience, game location or game score were not associated with conversion success. In a secondary analysis it was demonstrated that if a time-out before the pressure kick is requested by the coaches of the kicking team, kickers are not subjected to the debilitating effects of icing. Theoretical and applied implications are also discussed.

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Samuel J.D. Cumming, Martin J. Turner and Marc Jones

Challenge cognitive appraisals are associated with superior performance compared with threat (Jones, Meijen, McCarthy, & Sheffield, 2009). However, research has not examined longitudinal temporal patterns of challenge and threat appraisals. In this study, 14 (five female) elite rowers (Mage = 25.79 years, SD = 2.67) provided self-reported appraisals data at four time points (baseline; before national trials; before the second world rowing cup regatta; and before the world rowing championships). The rowers’ predisposed appraisal style predicted subsequent appraisals. Challenge and self-efficacy increased while loss and avoidance appraisals decreased over time. The rowers were highly predisposed to challenge, becoming more challenged through events of increasing magnitude. This suggests that athletes’ predisposed appraisal style can predict their approach to competition. Future studies could identify protocols for encouraging challenge states in athletes, observe the physiological indicators of challenge and threat longitudinally, and consider the interaction between challenge and threat appraisals.

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Andrew G. Wood, Jamie B. Barker, Martin Turner and Peter Thomson

irrational beliefs to be matched with greater increases in systolic blood pressure (SBP) indicative of autonomic rigidity, whereas the adoption of rational beliefs was matched with decreases in SBP, which is indicative of autonomic flexibility (e.g.,  Harris, David, & Dryden, 2006 ). Most notably, research

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Christopher Mesagno, Daryl Marchant and Tony Morris

“Choking under pressure” is a maladaptive response to performance pressure whereby choking models have been identified, yet, theory-matched interventions have not empirically tested. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether a preperformance routine (PPR) could reduce choking effects, based on the distraction model of choking. Three “choking-susceptible”, experienced participants were purposively sampled, from 88 participants, to complete ten-pin bowling deliveries in a single-case A1-B1-A2-B2 design (A phases = “low-pressure”; B phases = “high-pressure”), with an interview following the single-case design. Participants experienced “choking” in the B1 phase, which the interviews indicated was partially due to an increase in self-awareness (S-A). During the B2 phase, improved accuracy occurred when using the personalized PPR and, qualitatively, positive psychological outcomes included reduced S-A and decreased conscious processing. Using the personalized PPR produced adaptive and relevant, task-focused attention.