Education

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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999) is a treatment approach that views experiential avoidance, inflexible attentional processes and reduced attempts to pursue valued behaviors as the sources of psychological dysfunction. These issues result in what is known as psychological inflexibility, or the inability to change one’s behavior or focus of attention […]

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999) is a treatment approach that views experiential avoidance, inflexible attentional processes and reduced attempts to pursue valued behaviors as the sources of psychological dysfunction. These issues result in what is known as psychological inflexibility, or the inability to change one’s behavior or focus of attention in order to succeed in a given situation. The primary focus of ACT, then, is to promote the idea of psychological flexibility, or the abilities to contact the present moment fully, switch and focus attention, and behave in the service of one’s own values (Hayes, Stroshal, & Wilson., 2012).

Psychologists have recently begun applying the principles of ACT in a variety of sports, believing that if athletes can switch their attention to the relevant athletic task versus internal states such as anxiety or frustration, they will be able to perform more successfully. This may be especially true in situations of heightened stress or arousal, such as a penalty kick in football or a free throw in basketball.

ACT attempts to enhance psychological flexibility via six core processes of change: acceptance, cognitive defusion, contact with the present moment, self as context, value-driven behavior, and committed action towards value-driven behavior (Twohig, 2012). These six processes have been nicknamed the “ACT Hexaflex (Hayes et al., 2012).”

Acceptance involves adapting a willing mindset to experience any emotion or thought that may arise in the context of a particular situation, without having to judge these experiences as positive or negative and without letting these experiences guide behavior. Cognitive defusion is the process of viewing thoughts simply as automatic events in the mind that do not necessarily influence behavior. Contact with the present moment refers to nonjudgmental contact with psychological and environmental events as they occur (Hayes et al., 1999). The conceptualized self refers to self-evaluations that are formed through interactions with the environment and with others. Although the conceptualized self may be helpful in guiding behavior, ACT teaches individuals to view the self as ever-changing and influenced by both internal and external events (Twohig, 2012). Values-driven behavior is the ability to act in accordance with one’s goals and values. Committed action to these values involves engaging in values-driven behavior even in the face of undesirable thoughts, emotions, or events.

The ACT Hexaflex can be readily applied to any sport. For instance, before a World Cup match, it would be expected that even the most gifted of players would experience anxiety about the upcoming game. Instead of attempting to control, reduce, eliminate, or block out thoughts of worry and feelings of tension, players practicing acceptance would instead observe these internal events as simple, normal reactions to the upcoming match, and may even develop a certain appreciation of these thoughts and emotions and embrace them as a result of his current situation. In the same idea, cognitive defusion may be used to change the player’s relationship with their thoughts and emotions. Instead of viewing these internal events as things that should influence how they prepare for the match or perform in the game, defusing from these thoughts and emotions would allow players to have space between what they are feeling inside and what is actually happening around them on the pitch.

Becoming more in touch with the present moment may enable a golfer to become more aware of environmental cues that may impact his shot. For instance, paying attention to the present moment may allow the player to notice the direction of the wind, the lie of the grass, the slope of the green, and other factors that are important to making a good shot. The opposite of being fully present may be a golfer becoming preoccupied with their last shot, the next hole, or things unrelated to golf, which may distract the golfer from giving his full attention to the shot at hand. Regarding the conceptualized self, an elite athlete may become “fused” to their identity as a world-class athlete, which could potentially be a source of guilt and frustration for them if they do not succeed every time they step on to the field or court. In contrast, by viewing oneself in the context of the event, the athlete may realize that environmental factors such as teammates, opponents, playing surface, and other variables may also impact their performance, not just their skill level and reputation.

Values-driven behavior may help an athlete who is struggling with motivation. Athletes should clarify what they want to get out of their athletic endeavor and performance, whether it be personal satisfaction, financial success, social status, or physical health. Values clarification may provide the athlete with the motivation needed to adhere to actions that align with their values. Similarly, committed action may be used to motivate the athlete who is struggling with fatigue or apathy on a particular training day. For instance, by reminding himself of his vision of becoming the champion of his weight class, a wrestler may realize that he needs to train that day despite his low motivation in order to put himself in a better position to beat his next opponent.

The ACT Hexaflex is a useful tool for sport psychologists, coaches, and athletes who believe in the power of psychological flexibility. Through committed and values-driven behavior, present-moment awareness, and acceptance of thoughts and emotions, athletes can enhance their ability to fully attend to their athletic situations. In turn, the athlete will perform in a more targeted, focused, and motivated manner, ultimately leading to athletic success.

Article

The World Cup 2014 is upon us and all eyes will be on the host nation Brazil. The purpose of this article is to outline the concept of ‘home advantage.’ In providing this outline, there will be an opportunity to address the expectancy levels of Brazil. To supplement this, the psychological factors associated to helping […]

The World Cup 2014 is upon us and all eyes will be on the host nation Brazil. The purpose of this article is to outline the concept of ‘home advantage.’ In providing this outline, there will be an opportunity to address the expectancy levels of Brazil. To supplement this, the psychological factors associated to helping or hindering the chances of Brazil will be discussed.

Research evidence indicates that the home advantage constitutes a unique opportunity over opponents. This advantage can be determined by a multitude of factors that include ability, fans and environment amongst others. Relative to these factors one could assume that the home advantage could be determined by:

  1. Ability to win with a high percentage success rate
  2. Intimidation of the opposition
  3. Increased self-confidence with the mental toughness to win all games
  4. High levels of performance outcomes in relation to mental, technical, physical attributes

The case of home advantage and Brazil is an interesting one. Historically, Brazil is a successful nation that has won the World Cup more times than any other country. In addition, Brazil has also be labelled the ‘People’s Champions.’ In assessing chances of champion nations one could assume that Brazil have the best possibility to win another World Cup.

It would therefore be prudent to assess the psychological attributes that could contribute to success or hinder the predictive success. There are examples of success, most notably the 1966 World Cup win for England. It should be noted that not all host nations go onto to win the World Cup. Therefore, a consideration of the most important aspects that relate to Brazil will be provided.

1)   Brazil as a nation requires an understanding of its culture and heritage. The nation follows its football intensely and one common attribute relates to the ‘rags to riches story’ of football. There are many (although there are notable exceptions) Brazilian players who have had a poor upbringing but made it rich through football. This provides many aspiring footballers the same dream and ambition. Players are seen as role models and people align closely with them and their upbringing.

2)   Brazilian culture – Football in Brazil is like a carnival. The nation rejoices and dances to music. The players love music and dance to it throughout their journey from hotel to stadium. Research clearly outlines the psychological benefits of music.

3)   Brazilian fans – The fans will also contribute to success within stadiums during match days. The atmosphere of happiness and joy can lead to belief, which would evolve into success. A stadium full of home support with a patriotic following can intimidate many opponents. The fact that the Brazilian fans will allow their players to express themselves without fear could also work in the home nations favour.

4)   Performance outcomes including mental, technical and physical aspects can lead to success. These aspects could support the Brazilian players because they will believe in themselves, technically have good skill sets and physically they are a blend of a strong but creative force.

5)   Environment and conditions – in a World Cup the environment could work in the favour of the home nation. The Brazilian players will be most likely to acclimatise better (although many of their top performers now play in Europe) to conditions than European teams.

One must be cautious in their interpretation of the home advantage. This is because other factors could contribute to limit success. These factors could be increased pressure as the tournament progresses. Getting closer to the finishing line could be more difficult as the expectancy levels go through the roof. In addition, one mistake or referee decision could also contribute to failure.

In conclusion, the home advantage is an interesting concept. Teams have succeeded as a result of the home advantage but there is also evidence of non-success. Of the 19 World Cup Finals only 6 have resulted in the home nation winning.

Article

Music plays an important role in people’s everyday lives (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003). Music plays a role in the sport and exercise domain. In fact a common image of sports now a day is that of athletes entering the competition arena adorning headphones. Music elicits certain feelings and emotions depending on the situation. So how […]

Music plays an important role in people’s everyday lives (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003). Music plays a role in the sport and exercise domain. In fact a common image of sports now a day is that of athletes entering the competition arena adorning headphones. Music elicits certain feelings and emotions depending on the situation. So how does this apply specifically to sport?

Scientific inquiry has revealed five key ways in which music can influence preparation and competitive performances: dissociation, arousal regulation, synchronization, acquisition of motor skills and attainment of flow.

Dissociation– Listening to music can deflect a performer’s attention away from the negative and towards the positive thus lowering the perception of effort. Effective dissociation promotes positive aspects of mood (e.g. vigour and happiness), while negative aspects (e.g. tension, anger) are lessened (Bishop, et al., 2007).

Arousal Regulation- Arousal refers to the degree of anxiety and is manifested in both physical and psychological factors. Music alters emotional and physiological arousal and can be used prior to competition or training to calm anxious feelings (Bishop, et al., 2007), thus providing arousal regulation. An example of is Dame Kelly Holmes reported using soulful ballads of Alicia Keys in her pre-event routine at 2004 Olympic games. On the other hand, athletes can use more upbeat songs to feel more energised and psyched up.

Synchronization- The tempo of the music can also have an effect on movement. The type of music listened to may cause an person to synchronize their movements (Karageorghis & Terry, 1997). Therefore, if an athlete listens to a fast temp song they may be likely to increase their movements to a faster pace possibly enhancing performance (i.e. cycling, running). Likewise, if an athlete requires slower more graceful movements (i.e. figure skating), then slower temp music could assist optimal performance. This supports the research of Smoll and Schultz (1982) that rhythm is an important component in motor skill and performance.

Acquisition of Motor Skills– music can help to replicate aspects of human movement. It can transport the body through effective movement patterns. Music can also promote intrinsic motivation. The use of music in a learning environment can make the environment more fun for the players and promote learning.

Attainment of Flow- Flow is sometimes referred to as being “in the zone”. This is a state where during physical activity the mind and body function on ‘auto-pilot’ with minimal conscious effort. Research has shown that interventions that include self-selected music and imagery performance could enhance athletic performance by triggering emotions and cognitions associated with flow (Pates, et al., 2003).

Therefore sport psychologists have advised athletes to employ music as tool in preparation for competition. This is due to the fact that music will influence arousal if it promotes thoughts that encourage physical activity or relaxation. That is, the association between certain types of music and physical activity may act as a stimulus. If an athlete needs to increase arousal level before a game then they may listen to upbeat music that encourages them to go and compete at an intense level. If an athlete needs to lower their arousal level they may listen to music that will help them to calm down and relax. As Paula Radcliffe, the world record–holding marathoner, has said, “I put together a playlist and listen to it during the run-in. It helps psych me up and reminds me of times in the build-up when I’ve worked really hard, or felt good. With the right music, I do a much harder workout.”

 

Article

We have all heard the old adage of “practice makes perfect”… maybe even “perfect practice makes perfect”. But there is something about the way that we practice skills that matters when it comes to skill transfer and long-term retention. For years researchers have known that skills can be learned through either blocked practice or random […]

We have all heard the old adage of “practice makes perfect”… maybe even “perfect practice makes perfect”. But there is something about the way that we practice skills that matters when it comes to skill transfer and long-term retention. For years researchers have known that skills can be learned through either blocked practice or random practice

So what is the difference between the two and which practice is more effective for skill learning?

In blocked practice individuals rehearse the same skill over and over until some improvement is seen. This is commonly done in skill drills where players practice a single skill numerous times before moving on to the next drill.

On the other hand, random practice involves practicing multiple skills in a random order with minimisation of the number of consecutive repetitions of any one skill.

Research investigated which form of practice was more beneficial. Shea and Morgan (1979) conducted a test in which subjects practice three different tasks (A, B, and C). The experiment involved responding to a stimulus with a correct series of rapid hand movements, with each task having a predetermined sequence. There were two experimental groups; one group that used block practice and one that used random practice. The blocked practice group completed all tasks in order, completing all of task A practice before moving onto task B which they completed before moving to task C. The random practice group practiced the tasks in no particular order just that no more than two consecutive trials could occur for any one task. The results of the experiment were split into an acquisition and retention phase. For the acquisition phase of the experiment the block practice group performed better. However differences during acquisition cannot be interpreted as differences in learning. Instead, retention tests are needed to evaluate learning.   In the retention tests, the results indicated that it was the random group that performed better on the retention task thus suggesting that random practice is more effective in the learning of motor skills.

But why is random practice more effective?

One possible reason for the success of random practice stems from the elaboration hypothesis. This hypothesis states that when a learner performs a series of separate skills in a random order, the learner are able to compare and contrast the different skills and as such recognise the similarities and differences between the skills.  By understanding and feeling how each movement is distinctive, the learner is able to store the movement more effectively within their long term memory.

Another possible explanation as to why random practice is more effective is the action plan reconstruction hypothesis (or the Forgetting Hypothesis).  Lee and Magill (1983) suggested that when the learner switches from task A to task B, the “solution” that was generated (in short term memory) for performing task B causes the previously generated solution to task A to be forgotten. When task A is encountered again a few trials later, the learner must generate the solution anew; this leads to a relatively poor practice performance. However, this solution generation process is assumed to be of benefit to learning (Cuddy & Jacoby, 1982). In a blocked practice, the solution generated to the first trial is simply applied to the next trial, thus reducing the number of times that the learner must generate new solutions. Given this, practice performance for blocked trials is effective as once the solution is generated s remembered for a number of trials.  However, learning is poor as the learner is not required to generate a new solution to the task for every trial. Given this, the key focus of the forgetting hypothesis is that new solutions are required frequently in random practice but not in blocked practice. Hence the development of the solution for the task is the key feature that facilitates learning.

Research has provided evidence supporting both the elaboration hypothesis and the forgetting hypothesis; but a clear “winner” has yet to emerge.  As a result, it is probably best if these hypotheses are considered as complementary rather than competing explanations of block versus random practice.

In conclusion the beneficial effects of random practice may be due to several factors:

▶ Random practice forces the learner to become more actively engaged in the learning process by preventing simple repetitions of actions.

▶ Random practice gives the learner more meaningful and distinguishable memories of the various tasks, increasing memory strength and decreasing confusion among tasks.

▶ Random practice causes the learner to forget the short-term solutions (from working memory) to the movement problem after each task change.

▶ Forgetting the short-term solution forces the learner to generate the solution again on the task’s next trial, which is beneficial to learning.

Article

Everybody working in the field of sports knows that one critical factor to develop and perform is to get in the zone. The zone is that state in which one feels optimal to perform. He/she feels confident, free in mind, looking forward to the challenge, in short everything that’s needed to perform the best that […]

Everybody working in the field of sports knows that one critical factor to develop and perform is to get in the zone. The zone is that state in which one feels optimal to perform. He/she feels confident, free in mind, looking forward to the challenge, in short everything that’s needed to perform the best that he or she can. The question of how to get in the zone and how all the psychological constructs relate to each other herein have been aching my brains and that of youth coaches in football (soccer) for quite a while now. Most of us are aware of the IZOF, the inverted U and other theories about performing. Those were groundbreaking insights on which I now try to build further, with relating the different psychological constructs in a logical manner  – so there’s a clear picture to derive practical tools from.

In this framework expectations are key. Expectations are what an athlete expects from himself, what an athlete believes his teammates and coaches expect and what an athlete believes press and audience expect. These three subjective views determine the degree of expectations. Expectations can be sky high (e.g. England win every World or European Championship Football), however that doesn’t mean they have to have a detrimental effect upon development or performance. Expectations can be met by confidence an athlete holds within himself or his team about their ability on such a task. Self-confidence consists of mainly state confidence (specific task confidence: penalty kick) and of trait confidence (overall confidence: as a football player). Expectations and self-confidence are thus related to each other. This relationship leads to three different states in an athlete before any given task. 1. If expectations clearly exceed self-confidence the athlete will experience pressure and anxiety to perform. 2. If self-confidence clearly exceeds expectations the athlete will experience nonchalance and perhaps even disinterest to perform. 3. If expectations and self-confidence match each other the athlete will experience a healthy tension to perform. That’s when he’s in the zone.

And being in the zone is what an athlete needs to look for. Expectations should slightly exceed self-confidence so that an athlete experiences a healthy dose of tension that triggers his body to get ready for optimal performance. He becomes cognitively and physically sharp to perform. On top of that, in order to succeed he has to work hard and as a consequence learns to value working hard to develop and perform. As a coach it’s possible to help balance this relationship. During training the coach can match the task/challenge to the ability level of the individual player. If the coach is able to do this he will stretch the ability of the player as  the player is in the zone of optimal development and performance.

The foregoing relationship of getting in the zone is probably applicable to the majority of players. However as every player is unique, other sorts of zones to perform are known. For example some athletes and teams thrive when expectations are low. In the Dutch Premier League RKC Waalwijk is a good example of this phenomenon. RKC Waalwijk has a budget that ranks them 17th out of 18 clubs in the Premier League. Hence, it’s no surprise they have to struggle against relegation every season. What is a surprise is that they gather most points playing against the top 9 of the league, at least at home. In last three seasons they gathered 3 points more against top 9 clubs than they did against direct competitors (ranked 10th – 18th). Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven (2nd budget), Feyenoord (4th budget) and  Vitesse (5th budget) haven’t won at RKC Waalwijk in those 3 years, PSV and Vitesse lost all 3 matches, Feyenoord lost 2. After beating PSV at home this season RKC captain Duits told the press that they ‘feel less pressure playing the giants of the league’. In this case the expectations drop so much that self-confidence is about the same level and the pressure is either gone or little. It creates a nothing to lose and everything to win feeling for them. This phenomenon might also partly explain the success of Guus Hiddink with South Korea during the World Championships Football in 2002. South Korea doesn’t have an impressive history in football, with having qualified only 5 times before 2002 and never reaching beyond the group stage. With wins against Italy and Spain in the knock out stage, South Korea surprised the entire football world by only being stopped in the semi-finals, as Germany beat them 1-0. As no one could have dreamed South Korea to reach this far, the expectations were low and in balance with self-confidence so little pressure on Hiddink’s equipe existed. Again that feeling of nothing to lose and everything to win probably emerged.

Now that I’ve made my point, let’s elaborate on the framework. It is both a way to understand and how to get in the zone as it is to have an image of how all sport psychology subjects and mechanisms are related to each other.

   Expectations  Self-Confidence Consequence  1. Pressure 2. Nonchalance 3. Healthy tension
 Given: Task/challenge at handPrevious achievements AbilityPrevious achievements Importance (interest + future)
 Tools: Goal settingCoaching/FeedbackSelf-Awareness Growth MindsetMastery ClimatePracticeCoaching/FeedbackSelf-Awareness RelaxationSelf-talkBreathing exercisesPerspective
 Results

Intrinsic Motivation

Emotions        Flow Resilience   Perseverance

Table 1. Framework of getting in the zone with an overview of sports psychology mechanisms and their relationships to each other. There’s more to it, just the core aspects are represented here.

Expectations are created by a lot of things, an athlete’s own goal setting is one of them. Goal setting can help lower or rise the expectations of himself or of those of others (press, audience). Goal setting can be seen as a tool to adjust expectations in order to make the formula right and to get the athlete in the zone. José Mourinho and Louis van Gaal are experts in lowering expectations of the crowd on their players by stating they’re not the favorite but rather the underdog in a match or competition. Besides they are also masters in shifting the focus from their players to other irrelevant topics not concerning them.

Growth mindset is a powerful tool to create self-confidence. With a growth mindset an athelete is convinced that qualities are malleable. How then does this raise self-confidence? It does because the athlete is aware that his ability level can be raised and is not fixed. If it were fixed the athlete can either perform a task or he can’t, there’s no room for improvement or future success. With a growth mindset the athlete is aware that he is able to raise that ability level through learning, working hard and practice. This raises self-confidence because the athlete knows he can overcome challenges and tasks, even if he can’t overcome those right now.

What if we have tried to match the relationship, to solve the formula, but it didn’t work? Just before the match the athlete experiences pressure or anxiety to perform. If this is the case an athlete has trouble to focus. One tool athletes can make use of is breathing exercises. Athletes can monitor their breathing and bring their breathing down by using their belly instead of their chest while inhaling. Because our brains become somewhat blocked when feeling pressure and anxious, taking deep breaths through the belly resolves the blockade by addressing those brain parts involved in relaxation, concentration and focus. Dealing with pressure is a form of ‘curing/coping’, whilst with this framework a lot can be approached or prevented by adjusting the expectations and self-confidence.

Often it’s not the content of a message that makes us feel bad, angry or sad, but it’s the why people say it to us. If I get told what I’ve done wrong and how I should improve, most of the time I’m aware of it myself and I can agree with the content. But if I have the feeling the reasons that person is telling me aren’t in my best interest I feel a resistance to listen to him and pick up his instructions, although they might even be the right thing to do! This often is the case in sales where people want to be helped in their needs and not helping the salesman achieving his targets. But also in coaching it can happen. Let me clarify this a bit more.

We have expectations about the reasons someone tells us something. Especially considering feedback it is important to be aware of this. For example, when peers in a high performance climate are coaching each other, suspicion among them might arise. Take Duncan who gets feedback from his teammate Johan. Even if Johan delivers his feedback in the right way Duncan might not pick up this feedback, for other reasons than not being able to. It could be Duncan might not want to listen because he believes Johan wants to express his superiority over him by pointing out Duncan’s mistakes or shortcomings and knowing better. In this case Johan has to clarify his intentions are in the best interest of Duncan (wanting to help him to perform better, to win the game together). Kids might not be able to do this, so the coach plays an important role. By creating a mastery climate (a focus upon development instead of being better than others)  a big deal is done to this already.

For anyone working with kids make sure your motivation is clear to them, because kids can also be resistant to a coach’s feedback. Your motivation to work with kids and give them feedback/advice should and probably is to help them improve, to see them develop. For reasons, sometimes nothing to do with you, the kid might not see your true motivation to help him. By stressing out your purpose with the kid (to develop him the best you can), coaching the right way (emphasize effort, point out good behavior, indicate what went wrong, ask and then give instructions how to do it better next time and have a positive outlook for the future) and be the right example yourself (be vulnerable, admit it when you’re wrong or make a mistake and learn from them and feedback by others) your kid will probably see your true motivation in coaching him and will start to listen and improve.

I believe expectations to be the number one reason why people have problems with communicating to each other and experience disappointments. By acknowledging it’s crucial role I am convinced you can save yourself from a lot of unwanted and unnecessary trouble!

Want to learn more about this framework plus the given psychological constructs and where other (psychological) constructs – e.g. injuries, leadership, creativity, willpower, self-regulation – are placed within? Feel free to contact me!

Article

After drawing in an away match to West Brom, after the game, Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers looked forward to the following week’s fixture with Arsenal due to the home advantage they had been receiving in the season. Rodgers stated that “I sense the belief, we love playing there” when he was asked how he felt […]

After drawing in an away match to West Brom, after the game, Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers looked forward to the following week’s fixture with Arsenal due to the home advantage they had been receiving in the season. Rodgers stated that “I sense the belief, we love playing there” when he was asked how he felt about playing at Anfield, home of Liverpool FC. Rodgers went on to explain “We genuinely go into every home game expecting to win- no matter who we are playing”. These comments followed Liverpool’s home form of winning ten games, drawing one and losing one for the season so far (Pearce, 2014).

A theory that best describes and gives reason to this performance is the ‘Home Advantage’ theory (Courneya & Carron, 1992). An audience having an impact on the outcome of a sporting event is known as a ‘Home Advantage’ (Schwartz & Barsky, 1977). A home advantage is described as the home team winning 50% of the games they have played in (Courneya & Carron, 1992). This home advantage theory has been shown to happen in a variety of sports from Ice Hockey (Agnew & Carron, 1994), Basketball (Varca, 1980; Moore & Brylinsky, 1993) and American Football (Pollard, 1986).

Agnew & Carron (1994) support the theory by stating that the only predictor for the outcome of a sporting team game is crowd density. This theory was then supported by Nevil, et al., (1996) in a study that concluded that football teams with larger crowds had the significant home advantage. The theory has been modified and a model has been created that believes there are three categories to home advantage and performance outcomes; “game location, location factors and critical psychological states” (Carron, et al., 2005; Bray & Martin, 2003). This model supports the original framework but also updates it, giving a slightly different view. The game location factors of the model take into account the crowd size and density, familiarisation with the stadium and setting and finally the travel factors involved for the away team e.g. five hour journeys to arrive at an opposing team’s stadium. It is believed that the biggest contribution to the home advantage is the crowd support and size (Carron, et al., 2005) and that lack of familiarity with the venue only has a small contribution to the game outcome.

The idea of home advantage that originated with Courneya & Carron (1992) has been shown in much research and studies since.

Bray (1999) argues that home advantage should be defined as “home winning percentage minus the away winning percentage being greater than 5%”. This is because Courneya & Carron (1992), Agnew & Carron (1994), Moore & Brylinsky (1993) and Varca (1980), alongside all other previous research on home advantage, did not take into account the away record of any teams. If the away and home record are equally as good, the results must be down to other factors and not just playing at the home stadium.

Page & Page (2007) looked at how the home advantage in football, more specifically the European football cup competitions, has elaborated on research that has previously been done on the sport of football regarding home advantage in English football. (Barnett & Hilditch, 1993; Nevill & Holder, 1999; Pollard, 2006). This research showed similar results to the research before it, showing that “there is a significant home advantage effect in all three European football competitions”.

I appears that home advantage in football is an international occurring factor in competitions throughout Europe, Sanchez, et al. (2009) discovered that the top two divisions in Spanish football had the same familiarity as English football in that the home team had a significant advantage (Barnett & Hilditch, 1993; Nevill & Holder, 1999; Pollard, 2006).

To further the evidence of a home advantage in sport, Pollard (2002) conducted research which provided evidence that a team moving to a new stadium reduces the home advantage factor, proving that Courneya & Carron (1992) and Carron, et al.(2005) are correct in their conclusions of research regarding the familiarity of the home stadium being one of the key factors to home advantage. Van de Ven (2013) supports this notion by concluding that “no home advantage exists in games in which the visiting team is equally familiar with the stadium as the home team is, even if the home team has the most crowd support”. This therefore shows that familiraity with the stadium is a key variable in having a home advantage, as both teams having a similar familiarity will result in no home advantage.

Having said this, Koning (2011) noted that home advantage had been tested and researched many times in team games but had not very often been looked at for individual sports such as tennis. Koning’s findings when studying men’s and women’s tennis found that although the outcomes had been, for the men’s game, as expected and in line with previous home advantage research, woman’s tennis appears to be unaffected by the home advantage phenomenon.

The idea of home advantage is often shown through theories and the relationship between the location and the crowd size and distance travelled by competitors but there are few studies that take into account the competitors own thoughts and feelings towards home advantage. Jurkovac (1985) completed a surveyed 74 basketball players with findings that 76% of the surveyed players had greater self-confidence levels when playing at home.

Liverpool FC can be shown to be an example of the Courneya & Carron (1992) Home Advantage model due to the reliance on home form that is explained by Brendan Rodgers during an interview (Pearce, 2014). Liverpool had recently had a frustrating match at West Brom and Rodgers stated that “Any successful team has to have real strong home form. Over the course of this season to win 10 games, draw one and lose one, that’s a brilliant record”. The interview perceived expectancy on Liverpool when playing at home. Courneya & Carron (1992) explains that this run of results at home is most likely due to factors such as the familiarity with the stadium and the pitch and the fact that teams spend hours travelling to the matches. Another important factor highlighted in this model is crowd size, Liverpool FC have an average attendance 44,672 for the current season at Anfield. This amount of home support and the results, stated by Brendan Rodgers in the interview, concurs with the previously mentioned models of Bray & Martin (2003 and Carron, et al. (2005). Looking at this further using Bray’s (1999) formula to calculate home advantage of “home winning percentage minus the away winning percentage being greater than 5%”.; Liverpool have an 85.7% home win rate and a 42.8% win rate away (espn, 2014), thus proving Liverpool do have a home advantage as the final result is 42.9%.

Converting this into a potential research study , it is possible to use several methods to ensure it is possible to gain a full understanding. Firstly, it is possible to use a simple calculation to see if Home Advantage is present. This is Bray (1999) formula in which the home and away wins will need to be converted into separate percentages, followed by a subtraction on the away percentage from the home. If this result is more than 5 per cent, there is a home advantage present, as the Sharks are clearly winning more home games.

Another potential way of accessing this information could be to use a process similar to Jurkovac (1985) and giving questionnaires to players after every match in a season. The questionnaires may ask if the player felt the crowd influenced the result, if they felt tired from the journey they had had before the game and whether that had an influence on the result (Courneya & Carron, 1992). This questionnaire may use a Likert scale (Likert, 1932) in which a performer rates the answer to the given questions on a 1 to 10 scale. This will provide an opportunity to creating a scoring system which will help to analyse results.

Collecting this data will then allow a t test to be conducted (Jackson, 2010). This t test will have two variables, home and away, and will be able to tell if there is a significant difference between the results of each player in home and away settings, after matches.

If there is a significant difference between the two results on each question, the coach and the club as a whole will have the opportunity to  manipulate the current settings and variables highlighted by the questionnaire and Courneya & Carron (1992) e.g. the club could travel to away games a day early to avoid tiredness and travelling on a match day as the New York Giants have previously (Boscamp, 2013), or perhaps to combat being beaten by crowd density could offer travel to Miami Sharks supporters to away matches in order to increase the amount of away support as shown by Chelsea and Stoke City football clubs (Draper, 2013).

Article

Penalites. It is one of the cruellest methods of deciding a victor in any sport. Both ecstasy and agony in a heartbeat. A hero and a villain. One team running to celebrate with dedicated fans, and another team in despair, disappearing down a dark tunnel. After 120 minutes of intense end-to-end football the game must […]

Penalites. It is one of the cruellest methods of deciding a victor in any sport. Both ecstasy and agony in a heartbeat. A hero and a villain. One team running to celebrate with dedicated fans, and another team in despair, disappearing down a dark tunnel. After 120 minutes of intense end-to-end football the game must be decided via penalties with one team must move either a step closer, or lifting the most prized trophy in football.

The final whistle blows and teams gather around the manager, sweaty and exhausted, five players must step up to take a penalty followed by those less willing to take the test. The most confident players come first. They volunteer and stand up to be counted as a penalty taker. Preparing to risk it all for their shot at glory. Pirlo, Zidane, Ronaldo, Messi, all greats of the game were confident enough and prepared to be the hero. Although there are many great players not all have the nerve and mental focus required to be expert penalty takers. Some players lack the ability to remain calm under such high pressure and as a result often miss the goals or see their shot saved.

Once the order of takers has been decided there is the matter of who goes first and at which end of the stadium to shoot? As the referee tosses the coin each captain must decide would they rather be first and have potentially less pressure? Or shoot facing your fans and have their backing? It is a matter of personal preference and psychological mind games. Once everything is decided the shootout begins.

There are a few things to remember before a penalty is taken. Where in the goals has the highest chance of scoring? Penalties that are struck towards to top of the goals have a lower save percentage than those towards the bottom. This does increase the risk of you hitting the bar or hitting the ball over. Similarly the closer to the post the ball is struck the better. This means there is maximal distance between the ball going in the goal compared to the goalkeeper’s starting position. However if the goalkeeper is known for diving early and guessing a side then a simple strike down the middle may give you the best chance to score. Most teams that know there is the chance of penalties will have done their homework on which opposition players might take penalties, where they might place them and what the goalkeeper tends to do. This can be a huge help for goalkeepers and increase their chances of success. It is vital to have all this information in order to be as prepared as you need to be.

The long walk:

The Player: As you walk down towards the box there will be hundreds of thoughts racing through your mind. It is important to remember one thing though: Stay calm. You have kicked a ball countless times and you know you are able to put it where you want it. Many professionals have different views about taking a penalty; The first is to only focus on what you can do. You can only pick the spot, time your run and place the ball there. The goalkeeper is irrelevant, you cannot control him and thus your shot is all that matters. The other is that you draw on other information. You know the keeper likes to save to his right, that he dives early or that he stays until the ball is kicked. As you approach the spot though you should be clear in your mind where you are aiming for. Always remember it is easier for you to score than for the keeper to dive and save

The Goalkeeper: Make sure you are familiar with the goals and comfortable with your gloves and boots. Watch the player walking down and try assess his body language. Is he confident? Does he look nervous? What do you know about his previous penalties? Choose your preference of techniques – Going slightly early for the best chance of getting near the posts, or waiting until the ball is struck towards a side. Some goalkeepers try and play mind games with the opponent as they prepare for their kick. Common tactics that are used are; moving along your line to make yourself look as big as possible, throwing the ball short of the opponent so he has to come closer to pick it up and disrupt his plan, or the infamous dangly limbs used by the likes of Jerzy Dudek for liverpool. This involves wobbling along your line in an attempt to put the opponent off.

The run up:

The Player: Now that you have chosen your spot and placed the ball on the spot, take a sensible, comfortable run up. Just enough for you to take a length swing and get good contact with the ball. You dont want to be rushed. Focus your mind on hitting the ball where you want. You know where the goals are and you know where the ball is, so you can look between both. As you approach the ball be confident but try not to be too obvious where you are aiming. You dont want to give the keeper any help. Now if the goalkeeper moves very early towards your chosen direction you can change your mind if you feel confident enough to. You can alter your strike easier than he can his dive. Pirlo described his chip penalty against Joe Hart as a “calculated decision”. That Hart dived early and thus the chip was the optimal choice to maximise his chances of scoring. Be confident in your own ability.

The Goalkeeper: Watch carefully and finalise your decision on where you are diving. Then you can have the best attempt at saving the shot and try your best to alter your body position to achieve this.

The contact:

The Player: As you strike the ball be firm and ensure to get the connection you want to. Follow through and be confident that its headed to the back of the net. Your job is done. You have done everything you can to ensure victory!

The Goalkeeper: You have either already begun your movement to a side and you can either try and get your hands to the ball or you can watch it hit the back of the net on the opposite side, or if you are about to dive make a move as quick as you can to get close to where you think the ball is going.

The wait:

The Player: As you watch the ball move your heart will pound. Blood will race through your veins as either the net rustles, frame of the goal rattles or the goalkeeper battles and saves your kick. Then you can then feel the relief of success or the despair or missing.

The Goalkeeper: You either get your hands or body in the way to stop the shot, feeling that buzz of excitement and celebration, or you celebrate the rattle of the post. Or you pick yourself up after the net rustles, preparing for the next kick.

There is no perfect technique and no perfect area of the goal to put the ball that make a perfect penalty. A combination of confidence, focus and ability are all that is required because at the end of the game all that matters is that your penalty hits the back of the net. It is the fine margins of self belief and confidence as well as complete and total focus that determine who the great penalty takers are compared to the good ones.

Article

Public perceptions of an athlete are usually that they are fit, well-trained machines capable of accomplishing the impossible. When viewed either from a seat in a stadium or on the television, their honed bodies and muscles, which complete intricate and demanding moves are aspirational for many people. These types of physiques are cultivated over years […]

Public perceptions of an athlete are usually that they are fit, well-trained machines capable of accomplishing the impossible. When viewed either from a seat in a stadium or on the television, their honed bodies and muscles, which complete intricate and demanding moves are aspirational for many people. These types of physiques are cultivated over years of intense and specific training, focussed on producing the best outcome for a particular sport.

Disordered eating affects not only the general public, but also some athletes with statistics showing that females participating in aesthetic sports are more likely to be affected by this illness. It has been acknowledged as covering all aspects of abnormal eating patterns which in turn, can lead to clinical eating disorders (Sundgot-Borgen & Torstveit, 2010). Sports such as figure skating or gymnastics and also those where the apparel is revealing, for example, athletics or swimming have a pressured environment to look great when competing.

Sports which have a spotlight on the physical appearance of an athlete alongside the technical attainment are quite often early specialisation sports. This means that young children and adolescents grow-up within a sport environment and changing bodies are noticed. Puberty may also mean that technical aspects of their performance may start to falter (particularly in sports where jumping and rotation is key) which can be mentally difficult to cope with. Often these elements return, but some athletes may not, in the long term, cope psychologically with this, begin comparisons between team mates and start the downward spiral to overly-disciplined eating patterns.

Aspects which can lead an athlete to take such control over their dietary intake are a pressure to “fit in” with expectations within a sport, a need to gain control over an aspect of their life, technical elements which may be perceived to be easier with altered body weight, a perfectionist attitude or personality, negative self-image and low self-esteem. These are just a few issues which can lead to disordered eating patterns but their effects can be devastating both physically and psychologically.

Research has identified four risk factors:

Sport task: fear of being physically assessed, wearing specific uniform for the sport

Sport environment: comments from teammates, coaches, parents or judges

Biological characteristics: individuals metabolism and physical size

Psychological characteristic: self-esteem, body image, anxiety, stress levels

These can all combine to produce anxiety and stress and lead to abnormal eating behaviours. When this occurs it can lead to a lack of focus from the performing athlete and completion of technical elements compromised, thus possibly leading to injury. Recovery times can vary depending on the injury sustained and therefore can heighten anxiety and the need to have control over some aspect leading to further eating issues.

When an participant is experiencing problems with their diet over an extended period of time, it can lead to other issues such as:

  • Reduction in bone strength
  • Reduced cognitive functioning
  • Reduced menstruation in females (NCAA, 2008)
  • Negative self-perception / self-image
  • Emotional issues / mood swings
  • Heightened anxiety and stress levels
  • Secrecy and isolation
  • Reduction in energy intake 
  • Lack of progression in the sport / leaving the sport

There is responsibility to all involved within a sport to be open about this issue and to recognise signs where disordered eating could become a problem. Recommendations to help combat negative perceptions towards food and dietary intakes are:

  • Coaches need to be open regarding this issue and be positive when addressing athletes, never critical (Muscat & Long, 2008). Remove the focus on physical appearances (looking good) and reinforce building strength, power and endurance relevant to the sport. Never criticise a person for their weight or physical appearance as everyone is an individual.
  • Realise that people who experience this are not seeking attention – providing support can help increase confidence
  • Bring in psychological skills training to build confidence, self-esteem and mental toughness which are needed when competing.
  • Support from parents, judges and coaches is invaluable to help build self-esteem, particularly with younger athletes.
  • Introduce education regarding nutrition and the demands that sport places on the body: if there is a lack of energy intake then technical skills will become increasingly difficult to complete leading to a lack of progression.
  • Make the athletes environment positive and an exciting place to be.
  • Ensure that an athlete knows that their wellbeing and happiness are paramount.
  • Older athletes and coaches should be positive role models for younger aspiring sports people.
  • Refer people to the relevant professionals who can assess, diagnose, monitor and treat any athlete with an eating disorder.

 

Article

A complex process of self appraisals and self persuasion form the basis of judgements that individuals create with regards to whether they believe they have the capabilities to achieve. This is known as self efficacy and it relies on cognitive processing from a wide range of sources of efficacy information (Bandura, 1990). Self efficacy is […]

A complex process of self appraisals and self persuasion form the basis of judgements that individuals create with regards to whether they believe they have the capabilities to achieve. This is known as self efficacy and it relies on cognitive processing from a wide range of sources of efficacy information (Bandura, 1990).

Self efficacy is a psychological mechanism that inhabits an individual’s belief surrounding their capabilities to formulate control over situations that affect their lives (Bandura, 1989). How well one believes they can organise and execute courses of action enabling the attainment of successful performance is not based on the skills one has, but what the individual believes they can achieve with the skills (Bandura, 1986).

Self efficacy can be seen as a situationally specific self confidence, influencing the types of activities individuals choose to approach, the effort they put forth and the degree of persistence they demonstrate in situations of failure (Moritz, Feltz, Fahrbach & Mack, 2000).

At the core of self efficacy lie two distinct aspects of self efficacy that play their own part with regards to the behaviour of an individual and the outcome. Outcome expectancies involve an individual’s belief that a given behaviour will lead to certain outcomes. Efficacy expectations are the key cognitive variable and determine how much effort an individual will put forth and how long they will persist when facing adversities (Bandura, 1977).

According to Bandura (1977), expectations of personal efficacy are based on four main sources of information. Performance accomplishments are the most influential source of self efficacy information (Bandura, 1997), with strong efficacy expectations developed through continual successful performances. Greater self efficacy derived from previous performance accomplishment determines sustained effort and persistence, which is key to overcoming occasional failures, ultimately improving performance.

Vicarious experiences involve directly observing one’s own performance or the performance of another, which enhances efficacy expectations specifically when observing successful performances. Self efficacy can determine performance in sport and exercise through observing others as individuals persist in their efforts until the performance outcome matches the self created standards made from vicarious experiences (Bandura, 1977). Research has shown how vicarious experiences in terms of modelling can enhance the self efficacy of individuals and leads to enhanced performance (Feltz, Landers & Raeder, 1979; McAuley, 1985).

Verbal persuasion is used frequently due to ease, with individuals persuaded that they can cope successfully with what may have overwhelmed them in the past. Individuals who are socially persuaded by coaches, parents and peers to believe they have the capabilities to achieve are more likely to exhibit greater effort and persistence, enhancing their performance (Bandura, 1977).

In terms of physiological states, simply acknowledging that physiological arousal is informative and motivating determines the levels of motivational inducements such as effort and persistence towards action (Weiner, 1972).

The consequences of how these various sources of efficacy information are processed to create judgements on different tasks determines an individuals’ level of motivation which is reflected in their effort put forward and persistence shown.

Sport

The Self Efficacy Theory (Bandura, 1977) suggests that self efficacy beliefs predict one’s behaviours, thought patterns and motivation.  Individuals with high self efficacy will participate readily and more frequently, will put more effort in and persist longer, enhancing performance in sport and exercise (Bandura, 1986).

Previous research has examined the relationship between self efficacy, motivation and its mediating roles upon performance in sport. Studies have found that the higher the self efficacy, the greater the persistence and effort, as measured by motor performance (Weinberg, Gould & Jackson, 1979) and muscular endurance (Gould & Weiss, 1981; George, Feltz & Chase, 1992). Although the latter two of these studies only used female participants minimising the generalisability, these earlier studies show how high beliefs about one’s capabilities to use their skills and execute a successful performance can drive effort and persistence, consequently improving performance.

Early research has explored self efficacy as a determinant of performance in marathon runners. Pre and post questionnaires were completed by 90 marathon runners completing their 2nd marathon (Okwumabua, 1986). Analyses indicated that marathon finishing time was related to self efficacy, with 46% of the variance in marathon finishing time due to self efficacy. Having high self efficacy can lead to greater performance accomplishments in marathon running.

More recently, Moritz, Feltz, Fahrbach and Mack (2000) conducted a meta-analysis in order to clarify the existing literature surrounding self efficacy and performance in sport and exercise. Self efficacy and performance had a positive and moderately significant relationship, with an average correlation of .38. This research provided clear evidence for a significant relationship between self efficacy and performance, with studies including different tasks and measures allowing for generalisation over a number of sporting situations. However, the conclusion drawn from the meta-analysis is compromised by inadequate data reporting practises in several included studies.

Hazelwood and Burke (2011) investigated whether self efficacy beliefs play the mediational role of predicting performance in triathlon, conducting a study on a competitive ultra endurance triathlon group. Performance self efficacy was found to be the only measure that was significantly related to the performance of the tri-athletes. Athletes with a higher self efficacy performed better than those with lower self efficacy.

These studies show how self efficacy determines effort, persistence and performance in sport. Individuals with higher self efficacy hold stronger beliefs regarding their capabilities to run certain times, finish in a specific position and execute a particular skill. With the enhanced self efficacy comes a strong willingness to put in more effort and persist even when met with an aversive condition. The effort and persistence works to enhance performance in sport and exercise (Bandura, 1977).

Many studies have provided results showing that having enhanced self efficacy results in the individual putting more effort in, persisting longer and performing better compared to individuals with low self efficacy. However, research has also shown contrasting findings.

In a study by Gernigon and Delloye (2003), the influence of unexpected outcomes in a first sprint trial on an athlete’s self efficacy and performance were measured. Successful feedback increased self efficacy however, there were no subsequent changes in performance due to the differing self efficacy.

Beattie, Lief, Adamoulas and Oliver (2011) conducted experiments to explore the reciprocal relationship between self efficacy and performance.  Novice golfers took park in two putting conditions, with the task difficulty varying in each. At the between person level self efficacy and performance were positively related but at the within-person level there was a weak non-significant, negative relationship between self efficacy and sport performance (2.7% at best).

These findings show that self efficacy may not always strongly predict subsequent performance. At the within-person level on tasks that are skill based, the evidence surrounding a positive self efficacy and performance relationship is questionable. It has been argued that individuals with high self efficacy may become optimistic to the extent that they apply fewer resources when meeting goals, decreasing their performance (Vancouver & Kendall, 2006).

Exercise

Central to the Social Cognitive Theory is self efficacy, which has continuously been identified as a determinant to a range of health behaviours including physical activity (Bandura, 1997; McAuley & Blissmer, 2000). Depending on what stage an individual is currently at with exercise participation, it will determine the salience of self efficacy perceptions for most individuals (Bandura, 1997). During the initial stage of exercise participation, self efficacy is suggested to impact upon an individual’s performance strongest due to barriers such as fatigue and lack of time augmenting the perceived difficulty of maintaining the exercise (Oman & King, 1998).

Recent literature has provided findings to show how self efficacy can determine effort, persistence and performance in exercise. Tenenbaum et al (2001) examined the association between goal orientation, self esteem, perceived ability, effort, commitment, exertion, feedback tolerance and process/outcome measures. Self efficacy predicted dart accuracy performance in all conditions where feedback was manipulated to be either positive or negative. In a computer-simulated running task, self efficacy and task specific psychological states accounted for 63%-68% of the performance variance. Self efficacy was shown to predict the length at which an individual can put forth effort and withstand discomfort.

Conn et al (2003) examined the predictors of exercise behaviour in 147 older adults. Self efficacy was the most important predictor of exercise frequency, intensity and duration providing strong evidence to show how self efficacy predicts effort, persistence and performance in exercise.

Linde, Rothman, Baldwin and Jeffery (2006) examined the relationship between self efficacy beliefs, weight control behaviours and weight change among 349 participants partaking in a weight loss trial. Self efficacy beliefs were strongly related to the loss of weight and control behaviours, predicting the amount of blocks walked and stairs climbed as well as adherence to an exercise plan.

Further to this, Hutchinson, Sherman and Martinovic (2008) examined the role of self efficacy in predicting sustained effort during an isometric hand grip task. 72 male and female participants were randomly assigned to three groups: High Efficacy, Low Efficacy or Control. By using false performance feedback, efficacy expectations were influenced. The High Efficacy group demonstrated greater tolerance of the task than the Low Efficacy or Control group denoted by the length of time a participant could maintain the task. This study showed how self efficacy plays an important role in enhancing performance and physical effort tolerance. However, this study recruited predominantly Caucasian participants, limiting the generalisability of the results. In addition, the study relied on the judgements of the researcher to decide when the participant was unable to sustain the contraction intensity required of them; it would have been more accurate to use an electronic hand dynamometer.

McAuley et al (2011) explored the relationship between self efficacy and exercise adherence to a 12 month exercise intervention. 117 older adults volunteered and were inactive previous to the study. Baseline measures of self efficacy were taken at three weeks to account for recalibration of self efficacy and the number of exercise classes attended for 12 months were measured. The results showed that individuals with high self efficacy at 3 weeks attended significantly more exercise classes compared to individuals with low self efficacy.

These studies show how higher self efficacy in individuals leads to a stronger adherence to exercise than individuals who have lower self efficacy. Individuals with higher self efficacy are more likely to put in the effort and persist, overcoming barriers such as fatigue or lack of time, leading to exercise maintenance and enhanced performance in the context of exercise.

A large body of research provides evidence to show that self efficacy determines effort, persistence and performance in a sport and exercise setting. However, at the within-participant level there is evidence to show no effects of self efficacy on performance. Literature is not without its limitations and with self efficacy being an unobservable variable, it is impossible to know whether what is being measured is self efficacy or another psychological variable such as motivation or goal striving. Future research should aim to measure a range of variables together with self efficacy, at the between and within-participant level in order to provide a valid conclusion as to whether self efficacy consistently determine effort, persistence and performance in sport and exercise.

Article

Research within sport psychology highlights and emphasises the potentially stressful nature of sports participation (e.g., Fletcher, Hanton & Mellalieu, 2006; Fletcher, Hanton Mellalieu & Neil, 2012; Giacobbi, Foore, & Weinberg, 2004).  Stress can significantly influence both an athletes’ well-being (DiBartolo & Shaffer, 2002; Tabei, Fletcher, & Goodger, 2012), competitive performance (Humphrey, Yow, & Bowden, 2000) […]

Research within sport psychology highlights and emphasises the potentially stressful nature of sports participation (e.g., Fletcher, Hanton & Mellalieu, 2006; Fletcher, Hanton Mellalieu & Neil, 2012; Giacobbi, Foore, & Weinberg, 2004).  Stress can significantly influence both an athletes’ well-being (DiBartolo & Shaffer, 2002; Tabei, Fletcher, & Goodger, 2012), competitive performance (Humphrey, Yow, & Bowden, 2000) and mental health (Brennan, 2001). One major stressor of note that has come around in the media of late in relation to Women’s professional football (in particular the FA WSL) has been the risk of injury, where many players and media outlets have raised a generalised view around the issue of ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury risk and a general fear around ACL injury within the world of female sports participation. This fear was highlighted most recently within my own M.Sc research study regarding organisational stress in WSL footballers and also by recent media stories and debates regarding the use of artificial surfaces at the 2015 Womens World Cup in Canada. 

One reason for this generalisation around ACL injury may originate from the participation of some WSL fixtures and training sessions on artificial surfaces. In addition, research around the link between artificial surfaces and risk of ACL injury has espoused that a greater risk of injury from playing on artificial surfaces than that of natural turf surface (Dragoo, Braun, & Harris, 2013; Dragoo, Braun, Durham, Chen & Harris, 2012). Physiological research also suggests that female athletes are more susceptible to ACL injury in particular when compared to their male counterparts (Waldén, Hägglund, Werner, & Ekstrand, 2011). However, what these recent highlighting reports in the media have not alluded to is the additional psychological risks that stem from the ACL injury lay-off itself and the length of recovery for many athletes.  ACL Injury has the capability of producing various negative and dysfunctional psychological effects, in particular, and not limited to an athlete’s self-confidence and athletic identity, and may also result in symptoms of anxiety, negative emotional response, depression and even eating disorders or self-harm.

Professional/elite-level athletes who financially benefit from their involvement in sport may feel additional pressures to return to their sport. Previous research (Bianco, 2001; Crossman, 1997) reported athletes feeling pressure in wanting to regain their position on the team, fear of letting team-mates or coaches down by not returning as they predicted, and concerns about an inability to perform at their pre-injury levels upon return. Long term injury lay-offs in professional athletes in addition to media portrayals and stereotypes of female athletes can also lead to self-objectification behaviours (Harrison, K., & Fredrickson, B. L. 2003).  These perceived stresses may lead to premature return to participation before they are psychologically ready to do so, which has subsequently been found to increase the likelihood of re-injury and illness risk. In addition, many WSL footballers also undertake part-time/full-time study, employment or a combination of both to cope with external demands and also in preparation for the eventual transition out of elite level sports participation. However, for many players, football is still considered to be the number one priority with the expectation placed upon total commitment to their football club. This in itself can bring about organisational stressors and forces compromise in order to cope with such demands (Miller & Kerr, 2002).

Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) provides an appropriate framework to which sports psychologists, physiotherapists and other members of the support team around the footballers may specifically focus on when returning the athlete into sport. It also enables the team to account for individual differences in psychological responses, to assist those key stakeholders around the athlete to identify and subsequently address dysfunctional psychological behaviours that may provide risks to the athletes mental health and well-being. If these dysfunctional responses are not regulated, it may eventually result in dropout from the sport. The key factors to consider, informed by self-determination theory include:

  • The athletes perception of their own control in their transition back in to the sport (Autonomy);
  • Their personal and honest feelings about their own readiness for returning to sport (Competence); and additionally,
  • How they perceive the available support from coaches, team-mates and other key stakeholders in their return to sport (Relatedness).

By increasing the athletes’ positive perceptions of returning to sport this increases the potential for a successful transition back into participation following injury (Ardern et al., 2012; Ardern et al., 2013). Furthermore, by involving the athlete in the process of identifying a realistic potential time of return to training, contact and game time, this will promote a sense of autonomy. Competence can be promoted by the use of goal setting with key stake holders in the rehabilitation process and also the use of imagery throughout the rehabilitation period to target a positive increase in self-confidence and self-esteem. Improvements in confidence may also be achieved via congruence from key stakeholders and social support network (e.g. coaches, parents, spouse, physiotherapist, and academic/vocational stakeholders) which will contribute to reducing potential conflicts, will aid in setting realistic performance expectations and also in recognising advancements and/or setbacks in the process (Bianco, 2001; Johnston, 1998). Consequently, when negative perceptions appear post-injury/surgery, the potential of non-return and negative psychological risk increases (Johnston, 1997).

A further component to a successful transition back into sport following injury and improved mental health and well-being provision in sport is the use of athlete psychological screening post injury, post-surgery and additionally, further along the rehabilitation phase. This enables the support team to identify potentially dysfunctional psychological responses to injury. Furthermore, by identifying potentially dysfunctional responses to injury, the ability to implement strategies to address and combat such responses increases. Any such screening may include psychological factors such as, measures of motivation (autonomy), confidence and fear (competence) and perceptions of identity within the sport/organisation (Relatedness) should be considered. The ACL-RSI is an applicable example of psychological screening for patients returning to sport after ACL injury.

Article

Vealey (1986) proposed a sport specific theory of confidence, she defined sport confidence as `the belief or degree of certainty individuals possess about their ability to be successful in sport’. Sport Confidence theory measures two factors: trait sports confidence (SC trait) and state sports confidence (SC State). Trait sports confidence (SC trait) is innate and […]

Vealey (1986) proposed a sport specific theory of confidence, she defined sport confidence as `the belief or degree of certainty individuals possess about their ability to be successful in sport’. Sport Confidence theory measures two factors: trait sports confidence (SC trait) and state sports confidence (SC State).

Trait sports confidence (SC trait) is innate and described as a natural disposition. Like all personality traits it is relatively stable. Trait confidence is different from specific confidence as it relates to a generalised belief of an individual about the extent to which their ability will bring success across a wide range of sports. For this reason trait confidence is also global.

State sports confidence (SC state) can be developed through learning and tends to be unstable and changeable. State confidence relates to an individual’s belief about the extent to which their ability will bring success at one particular moment. For this reason, state confidence is also specific to a situation.

State sports confidence directly determines the quality of the skill that is to be performed, for example a putt in golf. The degree of state sports confidence is determined by the interaction of three factors:

1)     Trait sports confidence (Innate and described as a natural disposition)

2)     The objective sports situation (The type of skill that is to be performed. This could include the situation in which the skill could be performed)

3)     The performers competitive orientation (The extent to which an individual is prepared to compete. Also , whether an individual strives to achieve a performance goal or product goal.

The interaction is shown in Fig 1 below.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 23.54.48

The extent to which the athlete perceives the performance has been successful is termed the subjective outcome. The subjective outcomes produce the following effects, firstly an outcome which is perceived to be good will increase trait sports confidence and competitiveness. State confidence will also increase. Secondly an outcome which is perceived as poor will decrease trait sports confidence and competitiveness. State confidence will also decrease.

Most importantly, the variations in the levels of trait sports confidence and competitiveness orientations produce the following effects. Table 1 showing the effect variation in levels of trait sport confidence (SC Trait) and competitive orientation.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 23.54.58

Vealey (1986) identified a number of strategies to improve state sport confidence (SC State) which are described below.

  1. Mastery of skill. This occurs when a skill has been acquired and the performer perceives that progress has been made.
  2. Styling. Confidence will increase if the athlete can demonstrate a highly skilled performance in significant others.
  3. Physical and mental preparation will increase the likelihood of successful performance.
  4. Social reinforcement. Praise and approval by significant others, particularly in the context of strong team cohesion, will raise confidence.
  5. Effective leadership promotes confidence in team members.
  6. Environmental comfort. People who lack self-confidence will be helped if the working conditions are suitable, for example the novice should not be observed when learning a new skill.

By way of conclusion, Vealey’s sport confidence model is very useful for explaining the relationship between general sport confidence and situation-specific sport confidence. An athlete who is very successful at one sport transfers much of the confidence derived from his success to other sport situations.

Article

Sports psychology is the measurement of mental and behavioural components that can impact on performance (Singer et al, 1993). However, sports scientists and coaches alike have a difficult task observing, measuring and controlling mental processes (Lawton, et al, 1998). One way of gaining an understanding of the brain is through Electroencephalography (EEG). An EEG records […]

Sports psychology is the measurement of mental and behavioural components that can impact on performance (Singer et al, 1993). However, sports scientists and coaches alike have a difficult task observing, measuring and controlling mental processes (Lawton, et al, 1998). One way of gaining an understanding of the brain is through Electroencephalography (EEG). An EEG records potential changes in electrical activity from electrodes on the surface of the scalp (Shelley-Tremblay, 2006). The EEG is a continuous recording of waves of various frequency and amplitude. The number of waves cycles occurring over a set period of time is it frequency with hertz (Hz) being the wave occurring over the EEG in a second.

The frequencies range from 1 to 50 Hz and the amplitudes typically range from 20 to 100uV (Neidermeyer & Lopez da Silva, 1999). Four dominant frequency ranges are typically observed: alpha (8-13Hz), beta (14-30Hz), delta (1-3 Hz) and theta (4-7Hz) (see Figure 1) however sport focuses on participants during a waking state so generally only alpha and beta waves are analysed. Alpha waves, also known as Berger rhythm, are associated with a relaxed wakefulness. Kimura and colleagues (2001) suggests an increase in alpha wave amplitude has been linked with cortical deactivation. Golf putting, pistol shooting and archery are ideal for psychophysiological data collection through EEG because participants minimize gross muscle movements and increased bioelectric activity could overwhelm the EEG recording (Shelley-Tremblay, 2006).

Various studies have examined the relationships between alpha power and performance in sport. Using golf putting, Crews et al (1998) found that successful performance was associated with low level cortical activity and agreed with earlier work of Crews & Landers (1993) and Hatfield et al (1984) who suggested that increased alpha activity was related to an increased accuracy.

The increase in alpha power in the left hemisphere suggests that the performer would be using less analytical though and less visual attention on the target (Loze et al., 2001). In a study into basketball free throws Vickers (1996) found that expert performers did not fixate their gaze during performance as much as near expert-performers and so it can be suggested that suppression of visual stimuli as a benefit to the performance of closed skills.

It would be naive to suggest that these findings would suggest it would be beneficial for athletes to not concentrate on the task to improve performance. Past research dictates that expert performers will have less thought process in the seconds prior to the shot and so have completed their analytical process to achieve competent performance. By analysing the information required to have correct performance their attention focus will narrow immediately before execution. When evaluating concentration in skilled and unskilled golfers Thomas and Over (1994) found that high handicap (lower ability) golfers claimed that they continually make adjustments to their alignment, position, grip, or swing. They were more prone to errors of judgment in their shot making and generally reported a lower level of psychomotor control.

Other sports to be used in the study of alpha power and success for sports performance are archery and pistol shooting. Jannelle et al (2000) compared alpha power across the left and right hemisphere and found significant increases in the left hemisphere for elite marksmen. However Salazar et al (1990) reported that elite marksman showed a significant increase in left hemisphere alpha power compared to right hemisphere in shots with greater error in a comparison of best and worst shots in archery.

Landers et al (1994) reported that novice archers show relatively low amounts of alpha power however with practice alpha power in the left hemisphere increases and right hemisphere remains constant. This study placed participants on a 15 week training programme and at pre-test (week 2) there were no hemispheric differences in alpha power. However at post-test (week 14) there were asymmetries in hemispheric activity as well as a 62% increase in performance. During this study additional analysis between best and worst shots were compared and the authors found that greater alpha power activity was associated with worst performance. Equivocal findings in archery were found in a best and worst shot study by Salazar (1990) however in golf Crews & Landers (1993) and Hatfield et al (1984) found an opposite effect with higher levels of alpha power being associated with best shots.

Hatfield has completed a number of studies for marksmen as they approach execution. Hatfield, Landers & Ray (1984) and Hatfield et al (1982) reported that at the moment marksmen pulled the trigger there was an increase in alpha activity in the left temporal (T3) but stability in the right temporal lobe (T4). In the later study there was additionally a general quietening of the cortex reported.

Increased alpha power being associated with best performance, was also discovered by Loze et al (2001) in air-pistol shooting. In this study the six seconds (3 x 2 second epochs) prior to execution of the shot were assessed and the highest levels of alpha power were found in the 2 seconds immediately before execution for the best shots but decreased during worst shots.

One of the general findings of EEG research is that EEG correlates show an increase in alpha power as skill level increases. However is must be identified that this does not simply mean there is cortical deactivation occurring and instead that neural reorganisation and the acquisition of more efficient motor processes is taking place (Nunez, 1995; Smith, McEvoy & Gevins, 1999).

Article

There are many opinions of what a group really is defined as. According to Carron, Hausenblas, and Eys (2005) a group in a sporting context is defined as more than two people that have a common identity or objective, with an organised structure, eventually leading to the same fate at the end of their journey […]

There are many opinions of what a group really is defined as. According to Carron, Hausenblas, and Eys (2005) a group in a sporting context is defined as more than two people that have a common identity or objective, with an organised structure, eventually leading to the same fate at the end of their journey together as a group.

Carron and Eys (2012) have a theory that every group is different and unique from one another. These authors go on to explain that there are two reasons of existence for any group; to have a goal to work towards and to fill the needs of every person to belong and be a part of something involving others. This theory of needing to belong is supported by Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ (1954, cited in Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2010) in which the third tier of needs suggests each and every person has social needs and has to feel a sense of belonging.

There are two main perspectives on how a team is formed to become successful. According to Tuckman (1965, cited in Egolf & Chester, 2007) There is something seen as a more linear perspective in which a team is faced with an issue of not being able to perform or have good team cohesion but these issues are then dealt with and handled by the team and the group moves on to continue performing. Tuckman has a theory that there are four main stages to the development of a team or sporting group. Firstly the players come together to form a team, sharing the common identity with the same kit, club name or selection for a team. At this point social comparisons are made between new acquaintances. This is known as the forming stage in which all that is taken into account is the fact all of the players have been chosen to come together. The second part of the process includes friction between personalities, and often the leader of the group. Arguments often occur at this stage regarding perceptions on performance etc. which may cause unrest between people in a way that stops them from being able to complete their role in the team. After this storming process the players begin to realise similarities between each other and that personalities may be more alike than first thought. After hours practising the sport in the group environment, it helps the players or group to norm with each other and find out a way in which they are able to use each other’s strengths to help the team. Roles are created within the team as the players begin to respect one another. The penultimate stage is arguably the most important and the reason the team was formed and brought together in the beginning, to complete the common goal of performing together in the match or championships to try to be successful as not only a group of players but now as a team. In recent years Tuckman and Jensen (1977, cited in Nijstad 2009) have added to Tuckman’s original theory by including a final stage to the process. The final stage of this is that the teams adjourn, have a break in season or end of competition and rest, perhaps ready to rebuild for the next year and start the whole process again. According to Maples (2008) “Graduate students in group work find Tuckman’s theory of the stages of group development too limiting”. The author goes on to suggest a second level needs to be added to clarify the five stages.

Another perspective of how groups are formed was created by Worchel (1994, cited in Capozza & Brown 2000). This is known as the pendulum perspective. In this theory, Worchel believed the main theme or pattern that is constantly repeated is that firstly conflict occurs, followed by the team resolving this issue and finally the cohesion after this resolution. There are five main stage to this theory; firstly discontent occurs from not all group members feeling part of the group, perhaps due to others alienating them or due to an individual having different backgrounds from the majority. The next stage of this theory is called group identification and involves players renewing their commitment, e.g. a footballer may sign a new contract with a club to show his intentions of working for the team, either this or may decide to leave the club which will help the team to work out which players are really part of the team. The third stage is known as group productivity in which Worchel believes goals can now be set and the team can come together to rebuild after the conflict. The penultimate stage involves individual players wanting the recognition for their part of the team they feel they deserve. Finally, this individualisation results in more decay as players are not happy and therefore either want to leave or do not help the team as much as they could, returning the team to the beginning of the cycle to repeat this again and again.

The linear perspective of this can be applied to the formation of a professional sports team that has had its storming and performing very much in the public eye in recent years. In 2010 Manchester City football club added seven new players to the squad (Telegraph 2010), all with believed high abilities to improve the squad. The players then had to form together in the pre-season of that campaign and within weeks there were reports of players that were originally at the club unable to play in the new system provided by the manager Roberto Mancini and not being able to work with the newer players due to the perceived abilities of them and their ‘world class’ tags by the media compared to the lower profiles and reputations of players such as Stephen Ireland, Benjani and others. This then led to player Stephen Ireland leaving the club along with former talisman Robinho. This shows that it is not possible for all players to form together in a sporting team and that storming does often occur after this stage. After the storming stage the players remaining were able to norm and understand how each other’s ways of playing and personalities to produce better performances in the game situations and eventually performing well together evident by the winning of the FA Cup. The team then adjourned and had a break ready to build for the next season and start the whole process again.

Both of these theories by Tuckman & Jensen and Worchel respectively can be made to fit many situation such as the Manchester City scenario provided but it all depends on the viewer’s outlook on conflict resolution and how a team develops as a group.

Article

Despite the various benefits associated with competing in elite level sport, playing the game that they love will always remain the primary concern for the majority of athletes. Therefore, an athlete who finds themselves cut off from their sport through severe injury or an inability to reach the elite level may find difficult times upon […]

Despite the various benefits associated with competing in elite level sport, playing the game that they love will always remain the primary concern for the majority of athletes. Therefore, an athlete who finds themselves cut off from their sport through severe injury or an inability to reach the elite level may find difficult times upon them in not only their career, but also their life. In the most extreme circumstances, an athlete may be forced into leaving the sport that they have dedicated their lives to; this could be through career-ending injury or deselection. For example, statistics have revealed that 85% of youth Academy football players in the UK do not attain a professional contract. For the majority of these players, this signifies a huge loss in their life; their entire life has been devoted to reaching the highest playing level at their respective club. Aside from this, serious injury is always a risk for an athlete performing at any level. Each game represents a risk where one mistimed challenge can destroy the career of any athlete. The consequences of leaving sport, for whatever reason, can be detrimental to an athlete and the way that they regard themselves as a person in society.

Athletic identity refers to the extent to which a performer identifies with the role of an athlete. Every single athlete will possess an athletic identity however that individuals’ investment in this role can differ greatly. Research has demonstrated that a strong athletic identity can lead to improved athletic performance. However, it must be considered that athletes’ that hold a very strong athletic identity may be at risk if their career ends prematurely. A very strong athletic identity can often mean that an athlete fails to pursue any other roles in their life. For example, a young athlete may ignore potential success at school or college as they are heavily invested in progressing toward their ultimate goal: becoming an elite athlete in their chosen sport. Similarly, an athlete close to retirement may fail to plan for life after sport as they cannot see themselves as anything other than an athlete. Given this, those that hold a very strong athletic identity are at high risk of enduring tough times once their career inevitably ends. When the career ends because of unforeseen circumstances, these negative feelings can often be intensified.

In this respect, monitoring athletic identity in an athlete must become more of a concern to both coaches and applied sport psychologists alike. Interviews with former Academy football players in the UK demonstrated that they felt that inadequate social support was provided to them once they had been released from their respective club (Brown & Potrac, 2009). The negative feeling experienced by these athletes was due, in part, to the strong athletic identity that they had developed throughout their time at the Academy. As their chances of becoming an elite athlete diminished, it led to disturbances in the athletes’ life. It was even suggested that coaches were not bothered about the athletes’ education and participants mentioned that the college qualifications were viewed as a ‘joke’ to the coaches and players. Drawing upon this, coaches in any organisation should try and equip their young athletes with the skills to encounter major events in their life. For anyone involved in sport, it is known how short a career may be for any athlete. Therefore, ensuring that athletes (both young and old) have the necessary support if their career does come to an abrupt end must be something that is considered for coaches and managers across the board. The coach has a responsibility to encourage life beyond sport whilst also ensuring excellent athletic performance and investment in training and competition.

Article

Professional players in the world of sport are expected to be, as they are labelled, professional. With recent events highly publicised in the media, how professional and level-headed are these athletes at the elite level? Are cases of over-the-top aggression becoming the norm? Or due to media coverage are we just hearing more about them? […]

Professional players in the world of sport are expected to be, as they are labelled, professional. With recent events highly publicised in the media, how professional and level-headed are these athletes at the elite level? Are cases of over-the-top aggression becoming the norm? Or due to media coverage are we just hearing more about them?

Firstly we start with what a professional athlete can be. Some say they must train and/or play in excess of 40 hours per week. Others state that they have paid employment from an organisation or team. Either way in today’s society it is expected that these professional athletes, whatever the sport or role they hold, are consistently at the top of their game.

With the label professional, comes pressure. This can be from sources such as; fans, employers, team members, the media, to name a few. How players deal with this pressure can be seen in every scenario that arises during every event you watch. Some players choke, others thrive. However at this elite and professional level, that we love to watch every week, sometimes this pressure can be released as uncontrollable aggression. This is when your sport suddenly becomes public.

Throughout history there have been numerous occasions when players’ frustration and anger has been vented on a global sporting stage. For the purposes of this article we will look at one topical case in particular. Initially it is important to understand that the term “aggression” is not always bad. The old adage “controlled aggression” is a real thing. This is evident every time you watch Rugby, Football, Squash, or any other sport in fact. Players perform tasks that require them to use instrumental aggression, where by the aim is to successfully achieve an object but some form of physical harm may be a by-product, such as tackling an opponent in Rugby. Yes the aim is to stop the ball carrier, but as a result you can cause harm to the opposition. Then, in games such as Rugby, it becomes an intrinsic battle to stop that becoming hostile aggression. This is when the aim is to intentionally cause physical harm.

It is the intentional act of causing harm to another person which has recently been seen in high level sport. For example in Super League Grand Final only two minutes in Ben Flower took the law of the game into his own hands. An off the ball incident involving Flower and Saints Wellens, led to the Wigan man receiving a red card for striking an undefended opponent.  As a result of this act it sparked a nationwide debate on social media about the justification of the players’ actions. The consensus was deemed that the player went above and beyond any reasonable reaction and force. This in turn led to Flower receiving a six month ban, the longest in Super League history.

Why and how did this happen? It’s complicated, only the player himself can truly justify the actions, if there is any justification at all. However we will look at some reasons that could account for this behaviour.

Firstly looking into the pre-match schedule being completed by the players and staff is important. The players will need a certain amount of direction and control during the pre-match rituals. This should be a combination of match specific skills and, with a sport like rugby, you would hope for a certain degree of physical contact. Perhaps this was where the player began to fuel their frustrated state? Although from a professional team a vast amount of money, time and effort is poured into these simple things to ensure players are physically and mentally prepared for kick-off. There are no excuses or reasons here; one should be led to believe.

The player holds a lot of clues as to whether or not situations like this are avoidable. This brings me back to the point on professionalism. These parts of the game I agree are rare, nevertheless they are remembered. They cause debates and people will write about them. During every situation they are avoidable. Professionalism is at the forefront of what spectators view, whether this in the stands of a sport such as rugby, or on television in the comfort of your own home. You would not expect your Postman to rip up your mail before they deliver it.

These flash points are always down to psychology. Are the players psychologically prepared, able, and fit for purpose? Whether their mind sate is that of a professional athlete or not is arguable. It was only at the start of this Premier League season that Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton declared himself as mentally unprepared to play. He chose to take the steps to remove himself from a situation he could not handle, the correct decision from him at that time.

Yet the player may not always see this as the case. This is when the responsibility falls to the staff and people around them to highlight the fact. Being in the greatest possible situation and being professional has its benefits. Access to the finest facilities and staff should lead to the decline in situations like this from ever occurring. Again, with the best will in the world, athletes must be in control of their own actions and ultimately cannot shift the blame for these situations.

Having said this athletes being sent off in the opening exchanges of games is nothing new. They go from the controlled environment of the changing room, to the uncontrollable on the field. Sometimes this is dealt with in a poor manor and results in stupidity. In the changing room players go through cycles of emotion, with high arousal and adrenaline among others. When this arousal becomes too much, as stated in Hardys’ (1987) Catastrophe Model, something has to give. Perhaps what was seen with Flower was this release of arousal in a hostile way through violence.

Ultimately it is up to the athlete, and them alone to control the way they act during a sporting occasion. In the professional environment especially, players have a duty to respect the game they play. The core values, whatever they may be, must be upheld. A future where emerging athletes feel these situations are acceptable should never happen. All persons involved at sport, at any level must promote the morals of their game. However it is important to understand that from time to time these things happen. It is vital to not tar every player with the same brush and disciplinary boards are in place to deal with such events.  But at the end of the day could these situations truly be avoided? Or are they just another part of sport?

Article

Much research within the sport psychology field looks at how our minds can lead to be detrimental on our performance. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects, such as worry, pessimism and fear, this article shall be looking at how positive psychology, such as hope and optimism, can positively impact our sporting performance. Optimism and […]

Much research within the sport psychology field looks at how our minds can lead to be detrimental on our performance. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects, such as worry, pessimism and fear, this article shall be looking at how positive psychology, such as hope and optimism, can positively impact our sporting performance.

Optimism and hope can be perceived as positive mindsets which some people do or do not have. Synder et al. (1991) defined hope as a goal-directed cognitive construct, formed by two reciprocal components; agency and pathways (Feldman and Sills, 2013). When referring to agency, Synder (1991) explained it as a goal-directed determination, which without acquiring it may be thought that you cannot reach high levels of hope. Pathways on the other hand are the potential routes which an individual plans to take in order to reach their goal. Individuals who are hopeful tend to be optimistic agentic thinkers who have clear pathways to reach their goals. Alike the definition of hope, Scheier (1985) specified optimism as a determinant of the differentiation between ‘continued striving’ and ‘giving up and turning away’ (Youssef and Luthans, 2007).

Although hope and optimism may be perceived as just a frame of mind, it can in fact help coaches and sport psychologists to predict and understanding an athlete’s sporting performance. Those who are hopeful have the willpower and determination to overcome obstacles which may be blocking the pathway of their individual goal oppose to ‘throwing in the towel’. This is due to the strong power of agentic thinking, whereby the determination and motivation is based on achieving a particular goal. With this in mind, goals/targets can be made more challenging for the individual.

Those taking part in competitive sports, whether team or individually based, need to be motivated in order to strive towards long- and/or short-term goals. As previously mentioned, one of the components of hope is clear, goal-directed pathways. Having set goals is naturally motivating, as it is expected that there is an intrinsic underlying desire or external motive pushing you towards that goal. If the goal is irrelevant, it is unlikely that you will continue to strive towards that goal if it is difficult to get to. In addition, having numerous goals reflects the characteristics of hopeful and optimistic individuals, as optimistic people believe there is nothing to hold them back or prevent them from reaching their goals, so if this is the case, why not have numerous amounts of them?! Even if the goals aren’t reached, optimistic people are thought to have “leniency for the past, appreciation for the present, and opportunity seeking for the future” (Schneider, 2001). This suggests that if something fails it can be overlooked and thought as a result of external and temporary reasons, oppose to personal and permanent explanations (Seligman, 1998). Therefore because the individual isn’t held back by feelings of fear, guilt and negativity, they can continue to strive towards a goal even when things get difficult, rather than give up.

In sport, having the ability to continue to strive towards an end goal even when things get hard is crucial because within most sports the margin between winning and losing is by a matter of points or goals which can be quickly scored or conceded. With the correct mindset of positivity those crucial points/goals that you require can easily and quickly be achieved, as long as you remain hopeful and optimistic.

Article

Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, once said that “motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it”. Research in the area of motivation suggests that he wasn’t too far wrong. Motivation is an internal energy that can determine aspects […]

Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, once said that “motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it”. Research in the area of motivation suggests that he wasn’t too far wrong.

Motivation is an internal energy that can determine aspects of our behaviour: it impacts on how we think, feel and interact with others. An essential prerequisite in sport for getting athletes to fulfil their potential is high levels of motivation. However, given its abstract nature this is a force that is often difficult to fully exploit. Some coaches, like former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, appear to have the ‘magic touch’ so to speak in being able to get a great deal more out of a team than the sum of its individual parts; on the other hand others find motivation to be an elusive concept that they are forever struggling to master.

There are numerous approaches to the study of motivation.  Some are based on schedules of positive and negative reinforcement (e.g. BF Skinner’s and Ivan Pavlov’s behaviourism) while others focus on an individual sense of mastery over a set of circumstances (e.g. Bandura’s self-efficacy theory). This article explores the constituents of motivation using contemporary approach know as self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan) which emphasises the role of individual choice.

Different types of motivation

Self-determination theory is one of the most widely tested approaches to motivation in sport (Deci & Ryan, 1987). This theory is based on a number of motives or regulations, which vary in terms of the degree of self-determination they reflect. Self-determination has to do with the degree to which your behaviours are chosen and self-initiated. The behavioural regulations can be placed on a self-determination continuum. From the least to the most self-determined they are amotivation, external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation, integrated regulation and intrinsic motivation.

Amotivation represents a lack of intention to engage in behaviour. This is accompanied by feelings such as incompetence and a lack of connection between one’s behaviour and the expected outcome. Athletes who are amotivated may be heard to be saying things such as ‘I can’t see the point in training- it just makes me tired’ or ‘I just don’t get the buzz from competition anymore’/ Such athletes exhibit a sense of helplessness and are highly prone to dropping out.

External and introjected regulations represent non-self-determined or controlling types of extrinsic motivation because athletes do not sense that their behaviour is choiceful and, as a consequence they experience psychological pressure. Participating in sport to receive prize money, win a trophy or medal typifies external regulation.

Identified and integrated regulations represent self-determined types of extrinsic motivation because behaviour is initiated out of choice, although it is not necessarily perceived to be enjoyable. These types of regulation account for why some athletes devote hundreds of hours to repeating mundane drills; they realise that such activity will ultimately help them to improve. Identified regulation represents engagement in behaviour because it is highly valued, whereas when behaviour becomes integrate it is in harmony with ones sense of self and almost entirely self-determined. Completing daily flexibility exercises because you realise they are part of an overarching goal of enhanced performance might be an example of integrated regulation

Intrinsic motivation comes from within, is fully self-determined and characterised by interest in and enjoyment derived from sports participation. There are three types of intrinsic motivation; intrinsic motivation to know, intrinsic motivation to accomplish and intrinsic motivation to experience stimulation. Intrinsic motivation is considered to be the healthiest type of motivation and reflects an athlete’s motivation to perform an activity simply for the reward inherent in their participation.

According to psychologist Csikszentmihalyi, the highest level of intrinsic motivation is flow state (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975; 1990). Flow is characterised by complete immersion in an activity, to the degree that nothing else matters. Central to the attainment of flow is a situation in which there is a perfect match between the perceived demands of an activity and an athlete’s perceived ability or skills. During flow, self0consciousness is lost and athletes become one with the activity. For example, a tennis player may describe how their racquet feels like an extension of their arm while they are in flow.

An overbearing or unrealistic challenge can cause excess anxiety, which means that coaches need to ensure that athletes set realistic goals. Conversely, if athletes bring a high level of skill to an activity and the challenge that it provides is relatively low, the can result in boredom. Apathy transpires when both challenge and skill are low. To promote flow it is important to fins challenges that are going to stretch athletes just a touch further than they have been stretched before.

Enhancing motivation is primarily about a change in attitude, developing a positive mind-set and engaging in behaviours (in this case short term process goals that can be used to help keep focused on checkmarks that lead to the overall long term goals) that facilitate improvement in performance.

Article

Psychopathy is a personality style that refers to certain effective and interpersonal traits such as selfishness, self-centeredness and a lack of empathy. Psychopathy is considered to involve the concept of evil when people enjoy inflicting both emotional and physical pain, such as that of Sadism Disorder. Salient features include a lack of empathy, manipulation and […]

Psychopathy is a personality style that refers to certain effective and interpersonal traits such as selfishness, self-centeredness and a lack of empathy. Psychopathy is considered to involve the concept of evil when people enjoy inflicting both emotional and physical pain, such as that of Sadism Disorder. Salient features include a lack of empathy, manipulation and vulnerability spotting. Psychopathy is not a personality disorder in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), therefore Psychopathy is screened using checklists such as the Hare Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R).

The Media portrayal influences our perceptions of psychopathy to be highly intelligent, murdering individuals. However many psychopaths function within the law or as part of their job, for example military personnel, police, business men; and our argument, traits in athletes and sport.

Many people initiate in sport to: lower boredom, self stimulation and control aggression. These are characteristics associated with psychopathy according to Hare’s model. On the other hand however, there are factors that are associated that do not correlate with sporting behaviour or athleticism, such as: no realistic long term goals, anti-social acts, low frustration tolerance; which are core essentials for team sports.

Most athletes, specifically Olympic athletes have psychopathy traits:

  • Ability to maintain a ‘cool’ head under pressure
  • Extreme focus
  • Ruthlessness, and desire to win
  • Opponent vulnerability spotting
  • Mental toughness
  • Living in the present
  • Charm and charisma
  • Lack of empathy and remorse, particularly from winning

We believe that psychopathy is extraordinarily rare in professional athletes however traits are clearly existent; but perhaps as part of their sport or professionalism. We are all thinking aggressive, contact, team sports right? But what about rock climbing? Probably some of the most athletic people in the world, but not really classed as a sport. These athletes have similar traits (highlighted above in bold) that consequently relate to psychopathy.

The fact that many psychopaths are within criminal law does not distinguish them from criminal psychopaths. However does this therefore mean that there are psychopaths in sport, but due to their law abiding nature of their chosen sport they are not seen as such, but rather a mixture of a few correlating traits. With this in mind it could be seen that, players who get penalized are showing psychotic tendency as they have acted on such impulses, with clear disregard to the laws. However such rule breaking is often, one time offences and does not inherently make a bad player or psychopath, as such checklists consider many traits, and high scores to classify an individual as psychopathic.

In order to categorically label an athlete as a psychopath, a thorough evaluation of their social standing and external behavior must be considered. Therefore in conclusion psychopathy is rare in professional sport, but the term ‘psycho’ is ambiguous in many sports, as a reference to losing their cool (the irony as one of psychopathic traits is to keep calm under pressure).

This was a joint article written by Charles Gardiner and Ryan Hesp. Ryan is a third year Psychology with Forensic Psychology BSc (Hons) at The University of Lincoln. Currently working on numerous project but has a keen interest in Sports Psychology in general whilst playing Rugby Union. You can find him on Twitter @RyanHesp

Article

It is common knowledge that people get stressed, any one person can suffer stress for numerous different reasons; work, studies, social situations, family situations, and in this case competitive training. Athletes can become stressed just as easily as anyone else, more so in some cases depending on the time and situation, for example, balancing; training, […]

It is common knowledge that people get stressed, any one person can suffer stress for numerous different reasons; work, studies, social situations, family situations, and in this case competitive training. Athletes can become stressed just as easily as anyone else, more so in some cases depending on the time and situation, for example, balancing; training, studies, social interaction and family, can be difficult to an individual, so how can we help?

According to Calmeiro, L., Tenenbaum,G., Eccles, D, W., (2014) elite athletes will be more likely to use negative appraisal in stressful situations than any other coping mechanism, when compared to non-elite athletes. This can have a potentially detrimental effect on performance if not handled correctly.

People in the best position to help athletes suffering from stress are their trainers/coaches, due to the proximity and time spent with the athletes. Dawson, M, A., Hamson-Utley, J, J., Hansen, R., Oplin, M., (2014) concluded that injured athletes who have spent time away from training can be prone to stress upon return to activity, often cause by the frustration of not being able to complete training the same way prior to injury. They had also found that one of the most effective ways to aid the return to full time activity would be to use relaxation techniques; this can positively encourage cognitive appraisals to performances. Trainers and health care professionals, however, should be competent to indentify; when and how to use such techniques, particularly with female athletes.

Belem, I, C,. Caruzzo, N, M,. Nascimento jnr., J, R, A, d,. Vieira, J, L, L,. Vieira, L, F,. (2014) suggested as a practical application to their findings, coaches encourage the use of coping mechanisms, aiding athletes in indentifying challenges so that, even if mistakes are made, the negative impact to the athlete is reduced. Also challenges then become something to overcome as opposed to something that is to be approached with caution reducing the stress an athlete may suffer otherwise. According to Belem et. al (2014) this can aid in the production of more resilient attitude towards training and competition increasing the athletes overall performance.

A review conducted by Tamminen, K., Crocker, P, R, E., (2014) looked into previous research conducted in the field of stress management and found that although it is a very relevant area of performance enhancement more research needs to be done. However, a model in coping, suggesting a process to aid in the alleviation of stress, produced in 2010 by Schinke, R.J., Tenenbaum, G., Lidor, R., & Battochio, R.C.,  was discussed as being over simplified and misleading encouraging athletes to focus on the emotional cause of stress which is now advised against.

Research above suggests that athletes and trainers need to work together to identify what has caused the stress, and use appropriate coping mechanisms such as; relaxation, and goal setting. It should be noted that if the stressor is not dealt with properly it can have a detrimental effect on the athlete’s performance and can in some cases cause a knock on effect. However when using coping mechanisms those conducting the activity should able to adequately apply and utilise the technique put into place. Once the stress is dealt with athletes should be encouraged to think differently about problems changing the mind set can change the reaction, leading to a more productive performance and a more resilient attitude towards training and competition.

Article

Performance profiling is a valuable technique, used to identify and organise training, preparation and the development of an individual (Richards, 2008). This technique can provide important information on athletes, which can be used to implement realistic goal setting strategies and help maximise their intrinsic motivation (Butler et al. 1992; Jones, 1993). If applied correctly, these […]

Performance profiling is a valuable technique, used to identify and organise training, preparation and the development of an individual (Richards, 2008). This technique can provide important information on athletes, which can be used to implement realistic goal setting strategies and help maximise their intrinsic motivation (Butler et al. 1992; Jones, 1993). If applied correctly, these interventions can help focus the individual on the key aspects of their performance and help direct their training to the areas of perceived need.

A Theoretical Overview

The premise underlying the coach-athlete relationship is the ability to help the performer reach his or her full potential. Butler et al. (1992) suggest that the rapid spread of performance profiling across a number of sports is because coaches have now recognised the potential in enhancing their understanding of an athlete. Performance profiling allows the athlete to have a more active role in evaluating their own performance (Butler et al. 1992; Gucciardi et al. 2009). Characteristically, sports psychology includes undertaking a subjective analysis of the athlete and their chosen sport, individual assessments of the athlete, implementation of appropriate training techniques and the evaluation of the effectiveness of the programme (Butler et al. 1992).

Performance profiling can be an effective tool in raising the individual’s self-awareness of their current ability and enhancing adherence to different programmes of intervention (Butler et al. 1993; Jones, 1993). The flexibility of their performance profile has previously helped coaches and sport psychologists gain a better understanding of their athlete’s vision of a champion performer, monitoring of the athletes progress, discrepancies between the coach and athlete and an improved analysis of performance following an event (Butler et al. 1992). In order to work effectively alongside each other it is important that the discrepancy of opinion is reduced, as both the athlete and practitioner (e.g coach) must be aware that there may be disagreement at some stage.

The Method

Intrinsic motivation may be enhanced when the athlete is comfortable within the environment (Kremer et al. 1994). Therefore, it is essential the athlete choses a familiar environment to perform the performance profile, for example a training complex or a gym.

To avoid any major discrepancies or misunderstandings between athlete and practitioner, a process of ‘gaining entry’ must take place (Fifer et al. 2008). This helps to establish a more secure relationship between the two parties, by gaining an understanding of each of their expectations for the process.

The first stages of performance profiling involve the athlete selecting a number of personal performance factors for which to base the performance profile around. These factors can be broken down into 4 performance components; Tactical, Technical, Physical and Mental (the TTPM model). Using the example of Soccer, performance factors could include; Shot Accuracy, Sliding Tackle, Sprint Speed or communication. The athlete is required to complete a self-rating assessment of their current level on a 1-10 scale before rating the selected performance factors due to their importance (1 – not at all important, 10 – crucial). Realistic self-assessments are hard to achieve if an athlete is completing his/her first performance profile, or if they are an inexperienced individual. Therefore the practitioner may need to offer guidance to the athlete in order to produce a fair self-assessment.

Finally, the athlete must decide a performance rating (1-10 scale) for their ‘Ideal’ or ‘Champion’ performer. This does not have to be a real athlete for example, Gareth Bale – World Class Winger, but should be their image of a top performer in their chosen sport. More effective performance profiling has taken place when the athletes’ ‘ideal’ performer competes at a similar level, therefore providing a more realistic target to aim for.

The equation used in order to produce the ‘Final Score’ for each performance factor is:

Difference between ‘Ideal’ (Champion) and ‘Self-Assessment’     x     Importance    =   ‘Final Score’

The ‘Final Score’ enabled the athlete to identify which performance factors scored highest and therefore needed improvement.

Conclusions for the athlete

The performance profile serves to provide the athlete with a developmental agenda and training focus in order to improve their performance.  For team sports such as Soccer, any individual improvements made by an athlete may appear to have less impact than improvements in a solo sport, for example Golf.

After analysing an athletes’ performance profiling results, the next stage of the process would be planning and implementing an effective goal setting strategy. This can be done using the SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-Phased, Exciting, Recorded) principle of goal setting. Erez et al (1983) stated that the most effective goals were set by the athletes themselves. However although performance profiling does encourage accurate self-assessment by the athlete, Butler (1997) realised that athletes may not always set appropriate goals, and may need guidance from the practitioner to steer them towards more suitable ones.

The outcome of performance profiling is to motivate athletes to improve factors of their performance, therefore enhancing their overall ability. Performance profiling has been demonstrated to be a useful tool for any athlete in order to analyse their own performance effectively (Jones, 1993). Through motivation and determination, carrying out performance profiling and implementing a subsequent goal-setting programme, the athletes’ performance in training and competition can improve.