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Psychological Factors Impacting Exercise Performance

Purpose of this chapter is to provide a unique insight into the background of our studied athlete, Georgia Lee Dickson. Georgia began to gain an interest in tennis at the young age of 5 at school. From here her passion for the sport began to thrive, by the age of 11 she had made a commitment by representing her county. However, this prime time in her sporting career was cut short, due to unfortunate circumstances which resulted in a broken collar bone. Since this injury she hasn’t been able to reach her full potential. Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped her from continuing with her leisure time activity. Currently she represents her university playing in the women’s team, within Buccs south-eastern division (Tier 3) playing both singles and doubles matches. At this level Georgia has committed a large amount of her time to attending her 2 training sessions a week as well as playing a competitive match on a Wednesday.

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For an outcome to occur during the time with Georgia she must become more attuned to her own psychological support needs. To get an understanding of these needs we developed a performance profile (PP) to ascertain her own interpretation of what she considers to be significant. From what was gathered from the wheel, she highlighted her main issues to be focused around confidence (4/10), anxiety (6/10), optimism (6/10), ability (6/10) and self-discipline (6/10). Through this own selection of her strengths and weaknesses signifies that these issues are more meaningful to her (Doyle & Parfitt, 1997). Despite there being limited empirical research into the effectiveness of this method. Weston, Greenlees and Thelwell (2011) uses experimental research to promote the belief that PP raises an athlete’s awareness on 3 level, these levels being self-awareness, awareness of teammates and the coach’s psychological awareness of their athlete. By making these perceptions aware – despite the fact that they might not be accurate- its fundamental in influencing the athlete’s attitudes, decision making, motivation levels, etc. Butler and Hardy (1992) suggests PP to raise intrinsic motivation in an athlete, thus influencing the way they train and perform.

In spite of this, literature by Smith & Irwin (1993) suggests that PP is interrelated more to goal setting, as It uses interventions to eradicate specific characteristics deemed to be weaknesses. Other factors to considered when performing an athlete centred method, is that their egos don’t play a factor in their answers, are they rating their ability to highly to give a better image? This can be complicated for coaches helping those athletes that aren’t so experienced, as not having a good enough knowledge of their own sporting abilities can mean that the coaches would need to point the towards the more appropriate abilities (Butler 1997).

While the PP wheel enabled us to shed light on what psychological factors are currently affecting her performance. Through the use of a semi structured interview (e.g. Welch & Patton, 1992) it enabled me to get a more detailed understanding of her performance background and gives us an opportunity to discuss further in detail about why the issues are having a severe effect on her performance. Using this method enables myself to develop an opportunity to build a coach-rapport. Psychotherapy literature (e.g Petitpas, Giges & Danish, 1999) talks about that the develop of rapport between both the consultant and the athlete is a positive factor of successful support to the athlete’s needs.

Building a self-awareness of the psychological demands of tennis would allow her to cope with understanding the base to our work. (Hardy, 2006; Morris, Spittle, & Watt, 2005) outlines that mental skills such as imagery, goal setting, attention and positive self-talk have been associated in developing a range of motor tasks and sports performance. Although this research hasn’t been completely explored on elite athletes. A study by Defrancesco and Burke (1997) realised professional female and male tennis players utilized factors such as; relaxion strategies, goal setting, pre-service routine, imagery and self-talk to mentally prepare themselves for competitive matches. Another psychological demand associated with tennis is mental toughness. Sheard, Golby & van Wersch, (2009) identifies mental toughness as the process to recover swiftly and efficaciously from an adverse experience (E.g. competition) or as a response which is triggered by stable psychological factors (E.g. Optimism, self-discipline). Another way to describe mental toughness is to refer it as the “umbrella term” which reflects an athlete’s tendencies to “thrive under pressured situations, to overcome setbacks quickly and to uphold a high level of facing continues challenges” (Gucciardi, Hanton and Mallett, 2012. p. 194)

From the analysis of Georgia comments its clear to understand she struggles with competitive trait anxiety (CTA), a personality temperament that tends to reflect stressful experiences in experiences that involve competition. CTA increases the chances that an athlete perceives competitive aspects intimidating as they focus on these threatening conditions resulting in heightening state anxiety, which can have a drastic effect on performance (Horikawa & Yagi, 2012; Hardy, 2006). CTA is a more specific modification of the A-trait construct. A- trait construct is fundamental in understanding behaviours in sport, especially in understanding what an athlete perceives to be threatening. The sport competition anxiety test (SCAT) was developed to assess these A-trait constructs (Martens, Burton & Vealey, 1990). SCAT was developed on the basis of several desirables that are deemed to be desirable: (a) objective rather than projective scale, (b) minimal bias, (c) unmistakable administration procedures, (d) short completion, and (e) simple tally system (book). Focussing on these factors make the SCAT test the most used test to determine the athlete’s anxiety level, for Georgia this test will be conducted prior to her games, this will allow us to compare her results and apply the appropriate training between each test.

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Self-confidence was another main factor which was currently affecting her performance, she went on about describing that due to doubting her own ability as well as other external factors (Environment, pressure, opponent) she doubts herself, affecting her self-confidence. Banduras (1997) self-efficacy theory (SET) is the most commonly used theory to investigate self-confidence in sport and motor performance. Self- efficacy and confidence work in conjunction as the more confident the athlete is in their own abilities the more likely they will succeed and develop their self-efficacy. Increasing self- efficacy can be done through tackling 4 variables; reminding the athlete of previous success in skill, vicarious experiences – observing others, verbal persuasion – convincing the athlete of their ability and emotional control – evaluate physical state.

References

  • Weston, N., Greenlees, I., & Thelwell, R. (2011). Athlete perceptions of the impacts of performance profiling. International Journal Of Sport And Exercise Psychology9(2), 173-188. doi: 10.1080/1612197x.2011.567107
  • Doyle, J., & Parfitt, G. (1997). Performance Profiling and Construct Validity. The Sport Psychologist11(4), 411-425. doi: 10.1123/tsp.11.4.411
  • Butler, R., & Hardy, L. (1992). The Performance Profile: Theory and Application. The Sport Psychologist6(3), 253-264. doi: 10.1123/tsp.6.3.253
  • Butler, R. (1997). Performance profiling: Assessing the way forward. In R.J. Butler (Ed.),
  • Welch, J., & Patton, M. (1992). Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. The Modern Language Journal76(4), 543. doi: 10.2307/330063
  • Petitpas, A., Giges, B., & Danish, S. (1999). The Sport Psychologist-Athlete Relationship: Implications for Training. The Sport Psychologist13(3), 344-357. doi: 10.1123/tsp.13.3.344
  • Hardy, J. (2006). Speaking clearly: A critical review of the self-talk literature. Psychology Of Sport And Exercise7(1), 81-97. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2005.04.002
  • Morris, T., Spittle, M., & Watt, A. P. (2005). Imagery in Sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics
  • Defrancesco, C., & Burke, K. L. (1997). Performance enhancement strategies used in a professional tennis tournament. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 28, 185- 195.
  • Sheard, M., Golby, J., & van Wersch, A. (2009). Progress Toward Construct Validation of the Sports Mental Toughness Questionnaire (SMTQ). European Journal Of Psychological Assessment25(3), 186-193. doi: 10.1027/1015-5759.25.3.186
  • Gucciardi, D., Hanton, S., & Mallett, C. (2012). Progressing measurement in mental toughness: A case example of the Mental Toughness Questionnaire 48. Sport, Exercise, And Performance Psychology1(3), 194-214. doi: 10.1037/a0027190
  • Horikawa, M., & Yagi, A. (2012). The Relationships among Trait Anxiety, State Anxiety and the Goal Performance of Penalty Shoot-Out by University Soccer Players. Plos ONE7(4), e35727. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035727
  • Martens, R., Burton, D., & Vealey, R. (1990). Competitive anxiety in sport. Leeds: Human Kinetics.
  • Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy. New York: W.H. Freeman.

 



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