The Acquisition and Development of Cognitive Skills and Strategies: I. Making the Butterflies Fly in Formation

in The Sport Psychologist
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This study presents the first in a series of two articles extending previous findings that elite performers, compared to nonelite performers, interpret their preperformance cognitive and somatic anxiety symptoms as more facilitative than debilitating to performance (Jones, Hanton, & Swain, 1994; Jones & Swain, 1995). In-depth interview techniques were employed to investigate the cognitive skills and strategies underlying elite swimmers’ interpretations of their prerace thoughts and feelings. Participants were 10 male elite swimmers who consistently maintained facilitative interpretations. Data were drawn from verbatim transcripts and were inductively content analyzed. Four general dimensions traced the acquisition and development of the cognitive skills and strategies underlying facilitation from early competitive experiences to the present day. It was concluded that participants’ skills and strategies were acquired via natural learning experiences and various educational methods. These results extend the research literature on facilitative anxiety by identifying and clarifying the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon.

Sheldon Hanton is with the School of Sport & Cultural Studies at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, Cyncoed, Cardiff, CF2 6XD, United Kingdom. Graham Jones is with the School of Sport, Health, and Physical Education Sciences at the University of Wales Institute, Bangor, Gwynedd, LI57 2DG, United Kingdom.

The Sport Psychologist

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