Research has long attested to the important role of psychological skills and characteristics (PSCs) in determining elite athletic performance. According to Dohme, Backhouse, Piggott, and Morgan ( 2017 ), psychological characteristics are commonly defined as trait-like dispositions that can be
Lea-Cathrin Dohme, David Piggott, Susan Backhouse, and Gareth Morgan
Rosemary A. Arthur, Nichola Callow, Ross Roberts, and Freya Glendinning
This study is part of a program of research arising from the interests of Sport Wales (a U.K. National Sport Institute) in coaches delivering psychological skills (PS) to their athletes, with the overarching aim of gaining insights into the coaching of PS and developing an effective intervention to
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.
Maureen R. Weiss
Psychological skills and methods that can be applied to working with children and adolescents in sport are examined from a theory-to-practice as well as a practice-to-theory approach. In addition to an emphasis on the reciprocal nature of theory and practice, the philosophy adopted in this paper includes a focus on personal development rather than performance, and a multidisciplinary or integrated sport science approach to understanding children’s experiences in the physical domain. The types of psychological skills discussed are self-perceptions, motivation, positive attitude, coping with stress, and moral development. Psychological methods include environmental influences such as physical practice methods, coach and parent education, communication styles, and modeling; and individual control strategies in the form of goal setting, relaxation, and mental imagery. Numerous anecdotal stories based on the author’s experiences working with children and adolescents are used to support the major philosophical themes advanced in this paper.
Robin S. Vealey
This decade has been marked by the development of several approaches to psychological skills training (PST). To assess current trends in PST in order to ascertain if consumers’ needs are being met, a content analysis of PST approaches published in books in North America between 1980 and 1988 was conducted with regard to target populations, content areas, and format characteristics. Based on the content analysis, six needs representing viable future directions for PST are outlined. These needs include targeting youth and coaches in addition to elite athletes, moving beyond basic education into specific implementation procedures, differentiating between psychological skills and methods, adopting a holistic approach based on the interactional paradigm and a personal development model, defining the practice of sport psychology based on the personal development of sport consumers, and facilitating the theory/practice relationship through research-based PST programming and evaluation research.
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.
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.
Daniel Gould, Kenneth Hodge, Linda Petlichkoff, and Jeffery Simons
The present investigation examined athletes’ responses to a psychological skills training program spanning a 3-month period. Two studies were conducted to evaluate the degree to which a week-long psychological skills training program changed elite wrestlers’ knowledge, perceived importance, and use of relaxation, visualization/imagery, goal setting, and mental preparation techniques. In Study 1, 18 senior elite wrestlers ranging from 17 to 32 years of age participated in a week-long training camp involving a psychological skills training program and completed assessments immediately before and after camp and again 3 months later. Study 2 was identical to Study 1 except that 33 elite junior wrestlers, ages 14 to 18, were studied. Overall, the results demonstrate that the educational program was effective in changing the athletes’ knowledge, perceived importance, and use of the four psychological skills. MANOVA procedures revealed that the relaxation and visualization/imagery portions of the program were particularly effective, perhaps because they were incorporated into actual on-the-mat practice sessions. The importance of conducting evaluation research and methods of facilitating psychological skills development are discussed.
Rebecca A. Clark and Michael L. Sachs
One group of athletes only recently receiving attention from sport psychologists is those who are deaf. Although these athletes have a communication disability, they participate in sport at all levels, from recreational sport participant to Olympic competitor. This paper reviews the literature on sport psychology and athletes who are deaf. Issues related to assessment of psychological skills with athletes who are deaf are explored through a study with 26 National Deaf Volleyball Tournament players, using the Psychological Skills Inventory for Sport. Finally, suggestions are offered for sport psychologists considering working with athletes who are deaf.
Richard C. Thelwell, Neil J.V. Weston, Iain A. Greenlees, and Nicholas V. Hutchings
The current study examined whether, where, when, and for what purposes coaches use psychological skills. A total of 13 elite-level coaches completed a structured interview using open-ended questions to examine their use of self-talk, imagery, relaxation, and goal-setting skills. Data were analyzed via deductive content analysis and indicated self-talk and imagery to be cited more frequently than relaxation and goal setting throughout the interviews. In addition, some purposes for using each skill were specific to training or competition across each time frame (before, during, and after), whereas there were several purposes consistent across each environment. Although the findings suggest that coaches employ psychological skills, it is imperative that they become aware of what skills they require and what skills they possess if they are to maximize their use across their wide-ranging coaching roles.