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August 3, 2013

Essay on Sports Psychology

Sports Psychology
To begin with, the study of sport psychology involves psychological factors that affect the performance of the participants of any sport directly or indirectly. It seeks to understand the implicit psychological aspects of the sport with the help of psychology and kinesiology. It examines the motives and factors that can enhance the performance of the team and athletes through various techniques such as goal setting, relaxation, visualization, and self-talk.  It also attempts to analyze the emotions of the athletes and the effects of injury and poor performance. In this paper, I will delve into the effects and results of various mental coping strategies of sport psychology on the athletes comparing their performance level with those who do not receive any such training. In recent times, a lot of researches being devoted to sport psychology  
In recent times, researches have concluded after taking into account the implementation and practice of sport-related psychological that the efficiency and performance of athletes has increased. These techniques include goal-setting, visualization, imagery, self-talk, and relaxation. A considerable number of studies have compared successful and less successful athletes keeping in view their psychological skills and characteristics. They maintain that the more successful athletes were marked by greater self confidence, self-regulation of arousal, better concentration, positive approach through thoughts and imagery and focus. Successful athletes gained enhanced performance by employing the skills such as imagery, control and management, goal setting, thought control, competitive plans, coping strategies and mental routines.
There has been a great deal of interest in understanding the relationship of personality variables to sports performance, and the bulk of the quantitative research literature has identified a cluster of six broad psychological skill areas linked to effective performance. These include: motivation, self-confidence, arousal and activation, concentration and control, regulation of stress, and coping with adversity (Beaudoin, 2006).
Self-talk involving instructional and motivational functions is considered to be to an integral part of athletes’ multi-faceted sport related self-verbalizations. Though elite athletes and coaches both strongly encourage the use of appropriate (positive) self-talk but our knowledge about this mental skill is rather inadequate. This limitation becomes quite surprising given that the use of cognitive restructuring interventions have been shown to be a more powerful treatment (d = .79) than the use of relaxation (d = .73), mental rehearsal (d = .57), and goal setting (d = .54) interventions for the enhancement of sporting performance (Shannon, McGuire, 2010).
Despite the limitations of some traditional psychological inventories and the problems with a number of research methodologies, sports psychologists generally agree that there is evidence of a psychological profile that distinguishes elite performers from less successful athletes. Much of the evidence falls into the six broad psychological skill areas referred to earlier: motivation and mental toughness, self-confidence, arousal and activation, concentration and control, regulation of stress, and coping with adversity. (Polman, Borkoles, 2010)
A general problem with sport psychology research lies in its somewhat limited appreciation as there are many aspects that remain unexplored. We need to dig deep into the uses and techniques of sport psychology to ascertain what how it enhances the performance of athletes.
Sport psychologists over the years have shown a profound interest in psychological profiling and have been naturally drawn to the quantification of personality variables. As sport itself centers on the measurement and reward of individual differences in performances therefore it should come as no surprise that scientists quantify psychological differences instead of sporting differences.

        Method and Data Analysis
In this paper, I will use qualitative method to carry out my survey. The professional and non-professional athletes belonging to whichever sport will be given a basic set of questions. They will be required to record their response to the need and effects of sport psychology. On the basis of this survey, I will try to figure out the difference sport psychology make in terms of performance enhancement and results.
Participants: Participants will consist of college student athletes of both gender---those who use sport psychology techniques such as mental coping strategy skills to enhance their performance level and those who do not find it necessary in their sporting lives. Then on, I will try to arrive at the differences and variations between them. The participants will be requested to cooperate on volunteer basis.
Procedure: As many as 50 college athletes will be questioned. Students from a variety of courses (e.g., kinesiology, psychology, sociology) at different colleges will be recruited for the study in their regular classroom settings. Those who consent to participate will be provided with a questionnaire packet containing the questions on the effects of sport psychology techniques.  Upon completion of the questionnaire packet (approximately 1 5 minutes), participants will be thanked for their cooperation, debriefed, and released from the testing session.

Any discussion of personality traits in sports should not overlook one particular trait or aspect that recur, competitive anxiety for instance. The primary job of sport psychologists has been to help athletes deal with the pressure arising out of anxiety. Achievement motivation, competitiveness, and self-confidence coupled with competition anxiety form the cluster of core psychological constructs relevent to our understanding of sport performance.

In terms of achievement motivation and competitiveness, recent advances have been built upon the interest originally enthused by the Atkinson model of achievement motivation.

Atkinson's nAch or the need to achieve was taken to be a composite of two independent factors, the motive to attain success (M ) and the motive to shun failure (M ), mediated by the probability of success (P ) and the incentive value of success (1-P ).This relationship is represented by the following formula.

nAch = (M - M ) x (P x [ 1- P ] )

        Without exploring the intricacy of this model in any depth, the single most important message to come through is that high achievers will be inclined towards competition and difficult yet conquerable challenges. Low achievers will instead try to avoid personal challenges or set unattainable goals where failure is most likely to occur.
A possible reason for the existing state of affairs in the self-talk literature is perhaps largely due to a lack of descriptive data. However, Hardy along with his colleagues attempted to solve this problem. Therefore, an inductive qualitative approach was employed in their initial study to find that both the content (i.e., what is said) and the functions of self-talk (i.e., why athletes employ self-talk) were multidimensional. Quantitative findings obtained, via the Self-Talk Use Questionnaire (STUQ), from subsequent studies offered support and extended these qualitative results. That is, athletes reported the frequent use of self-talk as categorized qualitatively as well as sex, sport, and competitive level differences examined. The STUQ was developed as a first round attempt to quantify athletes' use of self-talk in addition to supplement Hardy et al.'s previous qualitative findings. The STUQ was based on similar descriptive instrument used to examine mental imagery, the Imagery Use Questionnaire (Visek, Watson, 2008) as well as Hardy et al.'s (2001) qualitative findings. The IUQ is a valid and reliable general measure of athletes' frequency of the use of mental imagery. It places emphasis on the imagery-related habits of athletes (i.e., when athletes use imagery) as well as the content of their imagery. Hardy et al.'s qualitative findings helped guide the generation of items that were relevant to the mental skill of self-talk. Suggestions from an experienced sport psychology consultant and a national level soccer coach facilitated the wording of "athlete friendly" items. The STUQ assesses the frequency of the use of self-talk. It places an emphasis on when athletes employ self-talk, the content of athletes' self-talk as well as athletes' use of the specific functions of self-talk (i.e., the purpose of self-talk) and how athletes employ self-talk (e.g., use of self-talk in combination with imagery).
The need for developmental programming and education in the fields of counseling and sport psychology is presented. Clinical issues, programs for children and adolescents, career development, and research are discussed.
Sport psychology and sports counseling professionals are concerned about the development as well as the athletic performance of athletes with whom they work. These clinicians are searching for solutions to problems associated with this special population (Cote, Deakin, 2009). While sport psychologists concentrate on performance enhancement and mental skills training sports counselors focus on the athlete's psycho-emotional difficulties and development as an individual (Gilbert, Sailor 2009). In the 1990s colleges and universities will need to develop educational programs and research agendas that will assist athletes with performance, as well as with psycho-emotional problems and life development. Although the disciplines of sport psychology and sports counseling have traditionally been distinct, the integration of these areas will be necessary for the effective continuity of associated services and interventions. This paper will also look at ways such as educational programming and sports counseling that directly affect the performance level of an athlete.
Sport psychology programs have historically included performance prediction and enhancement, mental rehearsal, motivation and arousal, pain tolerance, and peak performance (Simpson, Loberg, 2009). Although these are vital facets towards quality performance in athletics, 5 to 15 percent of American athletes undergo psychosocial problems apt for counseling. Coaches and traditional sport psychologists are usually not ready or qualified to meet the needs of the athlete going through emotional difficulties (Burke, 1989). Likewise, counselors may not be responsive to the exclusive needs of athletes and the brunt their everyday life bears due to sport. Though counselors have superb skills in helping deal with developmental problems of athlete, self-enhancement, lifestyle consultation, program organization, competitive stress reduction, and clinical issues (Wine, Wood, 2009), they may still knowledge about a particular sport.
Athletes can profit from integrated programs initiated by sport psychologists and counselors. It goes without saying that athletes may enhance their performance by working closely with a sport psychologist. And, educational programs and counseling can help ensure prevention, coping skills, relaxation training, decision-making skills, crisis intervention and life management. Often, though, performance enhancement and counseling services are provided with little cooperation between service providers. This lack of connection or integration is now improving.
Another technique of sport psychology is imagery and visualization. Many self-help manuals for coaches and athletes currently support the use of imagery for a wide variety of purposes including skill acquisition, skill maintenance, competition preparation, and arousal control.
A number of these studies also explore the various variables thought to mediate imagery effects. Studies have shown that more successful athletes have used imagery than unsuccessful athletes. However, despite these apparently supportive findings, the recent research has not been without criticism.

In particular much of the work conducted within sport psychology as been accused of being methodologically flawed and lacking a coherent theoretical framework to explain imagery effects. Although suggestions for improvement in both these areas have been made, research efforts ironically have tended to lag behind actual practice of interventions and practical guidelines for imagery use in sport.

        Another popular approach to improving sporting performance which appears to be above all else psychological is that of the Inner Game. Inner Game was an expression coined by Gallwey in the 1970's, and has been the basis for a considerable number of popular sport psychology books by Gallwey focusing on games including golf, skiing, and tennis. Gallwey claimed that the most formidable opponent a performer in sports must face is inside his or her own head. Inner Game is essentially a conflict between two selves, self 1 and self 2. They are said to have quite different characteristics.
Self 1 is conscious, self-conscious, and linguistic. It is the thinking self which evaluates, analyzes and criticizes performance and it may be responsible for inappropriate responses or it may motivate the athlete towards counterproductive actions. Self 2, on the other hand, is described as unconscious and computer like, and deals most effectively with visual and spatial information.
Self 1 can express itself linguistically and, therefore, usually gains this control inappropriately. According to Gallwey, it is not necessary to analyze why doubts and fears are away from the more relevant visual and spatial elements of the task.

Researchers indicate that professionals working with athletes must get across the message that the quantifiable measures associated with sports, such as speed, distance, and score, are not the only aspects worth considering in sports. It should be kept in mind that improvement in personal qualities such as confidence and self-control are equally important. Indeed, the fact that these improvements will naturally result in good performances must be infused among the athletes.
Athletes come across a plethora of psychosocial and emotional difficulties during their participation in sports. Anxiety arising from the peril of being evaluated by others, lack of self-confidence, and impractical expectations from coaches are but a few of the difficulties they face.
Many of the personal, interpersonal, and career-planning problems encountered by student-athletes will not always inevitably require distinctive psychological techniques or therapeutic competencies but what is all the more important are the theoretical models that add to the use of  counseling interventions with athletes and the amalgamation of counseling and sport psychology programs and services. Ethical communications between coaches, professional staff, university professors, family, and friends is also a cause for clinical concern.
Sport psychology and sports counseling professionals must focus on the forming ethical guidelines to ensure the privacy and dignity of athletes seeking such services.
Clinical intervention programs intended for athletes need to entail diverse populations participate in exercise and sports. Women and minorities may have differing reasons and objectives for taking up any sporting activity but still the process of counseling need to represent and meet the needs of these individuals as well.
There are still lots of unsettled questions and even some new concerns have added to the study of sport psychology. Take anxiety for instance. Psychologists have carved out ways to diminish anxiety but have not been fully able to eliminate it. Another example is that of aggression. Wherever there are sports, there is aggression. Psychologists have pointed out that sports help people vent out their aggression. Psychologists are also working on new methods for motivating athletes because some athletes are harder to motivate than others.
This study provides a basis for understanding the connection between the performance level of those who employ various psychological strategies such as coping skill and those who remain reluctant to internalize the importance of sports psychology. Ultimately, the connection between them may provide a greater understanding of the difference sport psychology makes. Nevertheless, there are limitations to this research that should inform future research on this topic.

Annotated References
Oleg Shor
Psyc 314
Anderson, A. G., Hodge, K. P., Lavallee, D., & Martin, S. B. (2004, November). New Zealand Athletes' Attitudes Towards Seeking Sport Psychology Consultation. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 33(3), 129-136. 

Psychologist from various Universities all over the globe collaborated their efforts in an attempt to understand the attitudes of elite New Zealand athletes, towards sport psychology (so the information they learn may be used to best suite the athletes needs). Researchers administered the Sport Psychology Attitudes-Revised (SPA-R) questionnaire to 112 male and female athletes, with athletic levels ranging from World class to Junior. The SPA-R was used to assess stigma tolerance, confidence in sport psychology consulting, personal openness, and cultural preference. The researcher concluded that athletes from New Zealand are confident in sport psychology, open to using sport psychology, identify with their culture and would prefer to work with a consultant from New Zealand.  These results were contradictive of past research done by Leffingwell et al (2002) who stated that athletes from the U.S. reported fear of being stigmatized as the main reason for avoiding sport psychology support.
Beaudoin, C. M. (2006, September). Competitive Orientations and Sport Motivation of Professional Women Football Players: An Internet Survey. Journal of Sports Behavior, 29(3), 201-212. 
The following exploratory study was conducted by Christina Beaudoin from the University of Maine in an attempt to look into relationships among competitive orientations, sport motivation, and age of professional women football players (differences between older and younger players).  No specific hypothesis was tested because the research is off exploratory nature.  The participants were recruited via emails to coaches, and the women’s ages ranged from 18-45. There were 118 professional women football players (from various pro leagues) used from 25 different teams.  Beaudoin used the SOQ (25-item scale), which is comprised of 3 subscales (competitiveness, win orientation, and goal orientation). The results showed that women football players are very competitive and highly motivated. That being said professional/competitive opportunities for women who want to play masculine sports are rare.  Future research could compare competitive orientations and motivation between male and female professional athletes. I do feel that this author may be biased towards women and that may take away from the credibility of the research.  
Clement, D., & Shannon, V. (2009, December). The impact of a workshop on athletic training students' sport psychology behaviors. The Sports Psychologist, 23(4), 504-522.

Researchers from West Virginia University used a quasi-experimental research design (quantitative), to determine whether or not athletes who sustained athletic injuries would benefit from sport psychology workshops while rehabilitating their injuries. They hypothesized that including sports psychology skills/techniques into injury rehabilitation, by athletic training students (ATS’s) would benefit the athletes in their rehabilitation physically and mentally.  The study randomly assigned 160 ATS’s Division II Universities to either a treatment group or a control group. Over 50% of the students had taken a sports psychology class before.  The results of the study supported the hypothesis. Members of the experimental group had an increase in their use of sports psychology behaviors (goal setting, how to maintain motivation etc) when compared to the control group 6 weeks later.  Previous studies by Larson and Ostrowski supported these results, stating that AT(Certified) often use motivational and goal setting strategies, when working with injured athletes. 
Cox, R. H., Shannon, J. K., McGuire, R. T., & McBribe, A. (2010, June). Predicting subjective athletic performance from psychological skills after controlling for sex and sport. Journal of Sports Behavior, 33(2), 129-145.

The purpose of this research conducted at the University of Missouri, was to show that a relationship exists between certain psychological variables and athletic performance.  Participants for this experiment included 627 male and female athletes that represented every collegiate sport.  The participants were given a demographic questionnaire (age, class standing, GPA etc) and were asked to complete the Athletic Coping Skills Inventory-28 (ACSI-28).  It was hypothesized that psychological skill would predict subjective athletic performance with self-confidence being the strongest predictor of performance. The researchers found their hypothesis to be true but also discovered that coachability and goal setting (psych skills) influenced performance negatively.  Perhaps future research should try to determine why and when certain psychological skills have a negative impact on athletic performance.  I feel that this research is closely tied to my topic because it uses collegiate athletes as the participants.
Lubker, J. R., Visek, A. J., Geer, J. R., & Wastson II, J. C. (2008, June). Characteristics of an Effective Sport Psychology Consultant: Perspectives from Athletes and Consultants. Journal of Sports Behavior, 31(2), 147-165. 
The study used 124 Division I athletes and 80 Sport Psychology Consultant’s (SPC’s) with consulting experience, recruited by convenience sampling (51 males, 73 females from 12 different sports).  The study set out to determine what characteristics make an effective SPC, from perspectives of the athletes and the SPCs. The researcher administered the Characteristics of Effective Sport Psychology Consultant Inventory to participants before/after practice. The questionnaire contained 31 items to asses’ personality/physical traits, sport knowledge/culture, standards of practice intended to judge the effectiveness of an SPC. Differences were found between the athletes and SPCs on how they ranked athletic background, professional status, and team consultation. However, both groups ranked the different factors in the same order (from most to least important). Future research could examine a broader range of athletes (youth, high school, professional, Olympic etc) and see if they have a different perspective on which characteristics are most valued in a SPC.
Nichols, A. R., Polman, R., Levy, A. R., & Borkoles, E. (2010, August). The mediating role of coping: A cross-sectional analysis of the relationship between coping self-efficacy and coping effectiveness among athletes. International Journal of Stress Management, 17(3), 181-192. 

Researchers from various Universities throughout the U.K. attempted to determine whether athletes with high coping-self efficacy (belief in ability to succeed) would translate into coping effectiveness.  The researchers hypothesized that there would be a strong positive correlation between coping self-efficacy, and coping effectiveness when attempting to manage stress in athletic competition.  353 male and female athletes between 18 and 29 years old, volunteered to take part in the study (questionnaire).  The study found a positive moderate correlation between CSE and CE, which was in accordance with their initial hypothesis.  These results support prior research of Bandura, who believed that efficacy levels will directly influence effort and persistence in people (not just in sports). 

Strachan, L., Cote, J., & Deakin, J. (2009, July). An evaluation of personal and contextual factors in competitive youth sport. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 21(3), 340-355. 

Researchers from Queens University in Ontario Canada wanted to dwell into the positive and negative effects of athletic competition at the youth level. Youth sport has been reported to increase and promote positive youth development and has been linked to high levels of enjoyment, but on the other hand negative outcomes have been reported as well. The experiment used 123 youths (males + females) between the ages of 12 and 16 (minimum 3 yrs of sport involvement).  The participants were administered a questionnaire that measured developmental assets (DAPà each participant received a quantitative score for eight different categories), and were also given an athlete burnout questionnaire (ABQà 5 point likert scale).  The results found that support and positive identity have a major role in reducing sports burn out. Previous research by Holt and Dunn (2004) found has found that parental support is crucial to youth athletes.
Wilson, K. A., Gilbert, J. N., Gilbert, W. D., & Sailor, S. R. (2009, September/October). College athletic directors’ perceptions of sport psychology consulting. The Sport Psychologist, 23(3), 405-424.
Researchers from California State University conducted an online survey asking all 376 Division I NCAA Athletic Directors (ADs) about previous experiences with sport psychology consultants (SPCs), their exposure to the field of sport psychology, and their attitudes towards SPCs.  Only 72 Ads participated in the survey that included 50 items (likert scales) and took 10 minutes to answer.  The qualitative survey found that there is a huge need for programs to promote the field of sport psychology.  Awareness and interest in the field is growing, but that has not translated into mass hiring of full-time SPCs at most Div. I schools. Voight and Callaghan’s study found that only 7 Div I AD had a full-time SPC, and only 10 part time SPCs were hired by Div I schools. Future research could examine why awareness/interest in the sport psychology field does not translate into more hiring of SPCs at major Universities.  
Wilson, M. R., Vine, S. J., & Wood, G. (2009, April). The influence of anxiety on visual attentional control in basketball free throw shooting. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 31(2),152-168. 

This study was conducted by 3 researchers from University of Exeter, UK. The study was a quantitative experimental research design in which, ten college basketball players were asked to take free-throws throughout an entire season in 2 different experimental conditions that were designed to manipulate their stress levels. Their gaze was measured using a Mobile Eye Tracker.  The researchers wanted to test predictions of the Attentional Control Theory which hypothesized that stress/anxiety would reduce “quiet eye periods” (when eyes fixate on one target/focus), causing less accuracy in free-throw percentage. The researchers were correct and discovered that anxiety has a negative influence on performance, and this can be attributed to the disruptions in “intentional control”.  These finding support past research which found that “longer quiet eye periods are indicative of superior performance in aiming tasks” (Vickers, 2007).
Wrisberg, C., Simpson, D., Loberg, L., Withycombe, J., & Reed, A. (2009, December). NCAA Division-I student-athletes' receptivity to mental skills training by sport psychology consultants. The Sports Psychologist, 23(4), 470-486. 

In this study researchers from the University of Tennesse, conducted a web-based survey (using likert-ratings of high, moderate or low) of 2,440 NCAA student athletes (males/females and various sports) to determine if the athletes wanted to receive mental skills training, their view on potential benefits of mental training for the whole team, and whether they would support having a sports psychologist at their school/program. The authors hypothesized that female athletes with prior exposure to a sports psychologist consultant, would be much more receptive to getting sports psychology training.  The results found that the respondents openness to receiving mental skills training, their view on the benefits of this training for the whole team, and their support for having a consultant at their school, was highly dependent on gender (females rated “high” much more). Contrary to previous research by Martin and Wrisberg, no significant dependence was found between openness to mental training and ethnicity.


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