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Anne Krendl, Izzy Gainsburg and Nalini Ambady

Although the effects of negative stereotypes and observer pressure on athletic performance have been well researched, the effects of positive stereotypes on performance, particularly in the presence of observers, is not known. In the current study, White males watched a video either depicting Whites basketball players as the best free throwers in the NBA (positive stereotype), Black basketball players as the best free throwers in the NBA (negative stereotype), or a neutral sports video (control). Participants then shot a set of free throws, during which half the participants were also videotaped (observer condition), whereas the other half were not (no observer condition). Results demonstrated that positive stereotypes improved free throw performance, but only in the no observer condition. Interestingly, observer pressure interacted with the positive stereotype to lead to performance decrements. In the negative stereotype condition, performance decrements were observed both in the observer and no observer conditions.

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Gretchen Kerr and Larry Leith

The authors investigated the effects of a stress-management program on performance, mental rehearsal, attentional skills, and competitive anxiety. The subjects included 24 male and female, international-caliber gymnasts, matched into pairs and assigned to either an experimental or control group. Over an 8-month period, both groups completed attentional, competitive anxiety, and mental rehearsal inventories and received performance scores from competitions. The experimental group received a stress-management program, based upon Meichenbaum’s stress inoculation training. Compared with the control group, the experimental group demonstrated superior performance, mental rehearsal, and attentional skills. Competitive anxiety levels were significantly higher for the experimental group, perhaps due to an increase in facilitative rather than debilitative anxiety. Specific implications for optimizing athletic performance are discussed.

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Lynda B. Ransdell and Christine L. Wells

Do women out-perform men in endurance sports? Are women as strong, pound for pound, as men? Many questions have been raised about the ability of women and men to perform physical tasks equally well. The issue of sex differences and similarities in performance has considerable significance today as women seek physically demanding careers in police-work, fire-fighting, the military, industry, and athletics. As more women participate in recreational and career opportunities formerly open only to men, knowledge about sex differences in response to physical exertion and training becomes increasingly important. In this paper we describes differences between the sexes in athletic performance.

Most performance differences are due to variations in morphological (structural) or physiological characteristics typical of women and men (Wells, 1991). Nevertheless, variations in these characteristics are often as large or larger within each sex as they are between the sexes. The same is true of physical performance. Thus, when the entire population is considered, there are extensive differences in performance within each sex, and considerable overlap in performance between the sexes.

We will base our examination of performance differences on the most outstanding performances of each sex: those exemplified by World Records in athletic events. We seek to answer such questions as: How large are sex differences in world record performances? Can existing performance differences be explained entirely by biological differences between the sexes? Or, are a large portion of these performance differ-ences attributable to sociocultural factors?

We will analyze sex differences in performance relative to the human energy system. This system allows an extraordinary range of mechanisms for neuromuscular coordination and metabolism. Because of this, the human has a virtually unlimited movement repertoire and is capable of movements requiring large bursts of energy over very brief periods of time, as well as movements requiring low levels of energy production over very long periods of time. We will progress from sports that require very high intensity and explosive quality movements such as jumping and power lifting, through the “energy spectrum” to feats of endurance such as marathon running, ultra-distance triathlon, and open-water distance swimming.

Due to our desire to focus this paper on a reasonable amount of data, our analysis will be limited as follows:

1) for sex differences in high intensity-brief duration, explosive per-formance, we will discuss the high jump, long jump, and various mea-sures of strength (powerlifting),

2) for sex differences in high intensity-short duration performance, we will present data on sprint running (100m, 400m) and swimming (100m),

3) for sex differences in moderate intensity-moderate duration performance, we will discuss middle-distance running (1500m, 5000m, 10,000m), and swimming (1500m), and

4) for differences in low intensity-long duration performance, we will discuss the marathon, the "Ironman Triathlon," and open ocean distance swimming.

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Claire Rechichi, Brian Dawson and Carmel Goodman

Some reports suggest variation in physiological responses and athletic performance, for female athletes at specific phases of the menstrual cycle. However, inconsistent findings are common due to the inappropriate verification of menstrual cycle phase, small subject numbers, high intra- and interindividual variability in estrogen and progesterone concentration, and the pulsatile secretion of these hormones. Therefore, the oral contraceptive (OC) cycle may provide a more stable environment in which to evaluate the acute effect of reproductive hormones on physiological variables and exercise performance. To date, most of the OC research has compared differences between OC use and nonuse, and few researchers have examined within-cycle effects of the OC. It is also apparent that OC use is becoming far more prevalent in athletes; hence the effect of the different exogenous and endogenous hormonal profiles on athletic performance should be investigated. Research to date identifies potential for variation in aerobic performance, anaerobic capacity, anaerobic power and reactive strength throughout an OC cycle. The purpose of this review is to present and evaluate the current literature on the physiology of exercise and athletic performance during the OC cycle.

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Michael J. Mahoney, Tyler J. Gabriel and T. Scott Perkins

To assess psychological skills relevant to exceptional athletic performance, a 51-item questionnaire was administered to a national sample of 713 male and female athletes from 23 sports. The athlete sample comprised 126 elite competitors, 141 preelite athletes, and 446 nonelite collegiate athletes. Sixteen leading sport psychologists also completed the questionnaire as they thought the ideal athlete might. Omnibus, individual item, discriminant, regression, factor, and cluster analyses all revealed significant differences among the athlete subsamples. The themes of concentration, anxiety management, self-confidence, mental preparation, and motivation were seen to have potential importance in skill-level differentiation, although age-difference confounds as well as gender and sport differences may have been involved. The ideal profile constructed by the sport psychologists generally paralleled the skill differences encountered, although the elite athletes did not report selected amplitudes in the profile.

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Kazuo Funato, Akifumi Matsuo and Tetsuo Fukunaga

In order to evaluate how mechanical power relates to athletic performance in weight lifting, specific movement power (SMP) was investigated using a newly developed dynamometer. Four simulated pull movements in weight lifting were measured: weight lifting pull (WL), second pull, back strength pull, and shoulder shrug pull. Subjects included 12 elite (EL) and 14 district (DI) level Japanese weight lifters. Athletic performance was defined as the highest total combined weight (snatch plus clean and jerk) lifted during competition. The highest SMP was observed in the WL. Force, velocity, and power relations were derived from the WL, showing higher velocity and power values in EL than DI at an identical force level. SMP in WL was found to be significantly correlated to athletic performance. SMP measured as a simulated pull movement in weight lifting employing the present dynamometer appears useful in evaluating athletic performance. Furthermore, this dynamometer provides force-velocity relationships during multiarticular explosive movements.

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William M. Sherman and Gregory S. Wimer

It is well established that adequate bodily carbohydrate reserves are required for optimal endurance. Based on this fact, it has been hypothesized that consumption of a diet with a high percentage of carbohydrate energy will optimize training adaptations and athletic performance. Scrutiny of the literature, however, does not strongly support the hypothesis that short-term or long-term reductions in dietary carbohydrate energy impairs training or athletic performance. Additional studies with well devised training protocols and performance tests are necessary to prove or disprove the hypothesis that a high carbohydrate energy diet is necessary to optimize training adaptations and performance. Because dietary carbohydrate contributes directly to bodily carbohydrate reserves, and because a high carbohydrate energy diet does not impair athletic performance, it remains prudent to advise athletes to consume a diet with a high carbohydrate energy content.

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Jacqueline C. Savis

Sleep is generally regarded important for maintaining one’s physical and psychological well-being. For the competitive athlete, many factors may negatively impact on his or her sleep, possibly resulting in compromised athletic performance. These factors include alterations in diet, changes in ambient temperature and/or altitude, traveling across time zones, and anxiety. In this article, an attempt is made to synthesize the relevant knowledge with regard to sleep and athletic performance. Sleep and performance are highly individual specific, with many interdependent factors influencing the expression of both variables. Recommendations for future research that addresses the unique demands of athletes are presented.

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Bryan Raudenbush, Nathan Corley and William Eppich

Previous research has indicated that odorant presentations can have both positive and negative effects on psychological perceptions of athletic task performance. The present study extends past research by assessing how the administration of peppermint odor affects actual athletic task performance. Forty athletes undertook a series of physical tasks under conditions of no-odor or peppermint odor. The peppermint odor condition resulted in increases in running speed, hand grip strength, and number of push-ups, but had no effect on skill related tasks such as basketball free-throw shots. The implications are particularly salient in regard to enhancing athletic performance using a nonpharmacological aid and as an adjunct to athletic training and physical therapy.

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Sian L. Beilock and Allen R. McConnell

Stereotype threat occurs when knowledge of a negative stereotype about a social group leads to less-than-optimal performance by members of that group. Although the stereotype threat phenomenon has been extensively studied in academic and cognitively-based tasks, it has received little attention in sport. This article reviews the existent literature on stereotype threat and discusses its implications for sports performance. The causal mechanisms of stereotype threat in sport are examined, followed by a discussion of why the cognitive processes thought to govern negative stereotype-induced performance decrements in academic and cognitively based tasks (e.g., GRE or SAT tests) may not unequivocally extend to sport skills. Finally, factors that should moderate the impact of stereotype threat in sport are outlined. Because stereotype threat has important consequences for athletics (e.g., impairing athletic performance, maintaining the underrepresentation of minority athletes in certain sports), it is a phenomenon that deserves greater attention in sport and exercise psychology research.