Sports psychology is the study of people andthe way the behave in a sporting context (Gill and Williams, 2009).
Weinbergand Gould (2015) suggest two main objectives, to understand psychologicalfactors and their effect on physical performances and to recognise the effectof physical exercise on psychological improvement. This assignment willcomplete a case formulation using one of the case studies provided. It willcritically analyse and identify a psychological skill needed to be developed.
- Thesis Statement
- Structure and Outline
- Voice and Grammar
The theory of the identified skill will be explored and evaluated. Followingthis, an intervention plan will be provided to support the development of thepsychological skill. To support the athlete, an appropriate plan will be put inplace outlining the steps required to improve the psychological skill. Lastly,the assignment will discuss how the intervention can be monitored to trackchanges in psychological functioning and then conclude by summarising the vitalpoints stated throughout. This assignment will follow the modelproposed by Keegan (2016), shown in Appendix 1.
This model outlines the steps asports psychologist should follow when working with athletes in sport settings.The relationship between the psychologist and the athlete is vital to theskills training development (Vealey, 2007). A study by Dunn and Holt (2003)suggests that the interactive skills and honesty of psychologists are keyfeatures for success, perhaps explaining why psychologists spend over 60% ofthe time listening during meetings with athletes (Lloyd and Trudel, 1999). Case Formulation Oli is a tennis player who has recently madehis debut on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) men’s circuit. As partof the Lawn Tennis Association(LTA), Oli t regularly consults with a sports psychologist to enhance hisoverall performance and maintain his tour status. Oli listed a couple of psychological skillsin which he considers are needed to succeed in tennis. This enabled him toestablish a good level of understanding of the importance of psychologicalaspects of sport as well as the physical side. During the interviewwith Oli, he suggested his serve had been ‘way off lately.
‘ Regainingconcentration and focus before serving would benefit Oli and help hisperformance. A study by Magnus and Klaassen (1999) suggests that in men’ssingles matches the first service is in 58.7% of the time. Data suggests thatif the first serve goes in, the players has a 77.
7% chance of winning thepoint. The playerappears to ‘look around a lot’ and seems ‘very aware’ of the crowd and coachbefore taking the serve. Due to Oli recently playing on the tour, the newenvironment during a match would be key stressor for the athlete while playing (Giacobbi et al.,2004). The performance profile required Oli toassess his own level of each skill identified out of 10, with 10 being perfectand no improvement needed. This will aid his personal perception of his currentperformances.
As shown in theperformance profile, concentration and focus scores were very low compared toothers. This emphasises two significant attributes Oli feels himself notperforming well and need improving to achieve his goal. This relates back tothe interview where Oli suggests there is ‘so much going on’ and the fact ‘morepeople are watching’. The Skill There is a certain level of mental effortthat is needed in many situations to improve an individual’s performance,through using the ability to focus on the most important factor in the givenenvironment. This is recognised as concentration (Moran, 2004). Focus isdescribed as ‘the ability to selectively direct and sustain a focus ofattention required for the successful execution of a specific activity'(Vealey, 2007, p290). Oli will need to use selective attention when serving intennis to attend to the relevant environmental signals that happen duringmatches (Burton and Raedeke, 2008). When taking a serve in tennis, externalirrelevant cues maybe the focus of Oli’s attention, for example where theopposing player is standing on the baseline.
Having the ability to ignoreunrelated cues, such as the crowd or his coach, allows him to concentrate onthe execution of skill, giving him a greater chance of success (Nicholls etal., 2005). Collecting results through the athlete’sperformance profile and the interview allowed the psychologist to evaluateOli’s game and establish parts that can be worked on in order to see animprovement with his overall performance. The psychologist can then identifythe initial needs of the athlete to effectively carry out an intervention planto ultimately make informed decisions to enhance development (Gardner andMoore, 2004).
With Oli reflecting on his performance with a sports psychologistregularly this should keep him concentrated on his skills allowing him toperform to the best of his ability more often. With mental toughness being ahuge factor in sport, concentration is considered to be extremely important.Improved focus when performing will go hand in hand with an increase inresilience, allowing Oli to handle intense situations during games and copewith the demands tennis throws at players, meaning he is likely to performbetter than his opponents (Jones, 2002). A model by Nideffer (1976) shows howattentional focus can be viewed in two different ways, width of attention(narrow/broad) and direction of attention (internal /external). These are waysin which limit the athlete’s attention elsewhere and focus purely on thespecific and relevant cues during the task. When serving the ball Oli shouldhave an external and narrow attentional focus.
‘External’ means to focus onthings happening in the specific environment, as to focus on to the athletesown thoughts and mind-sets. ‘Narrow’ suggests focussing completely to one ortwo specific cues. For example, when serving, this may be the position in thecourt Oli wants the ball to land and the positioning of the opponent. Duringthe interview Oli mentions the attention from his coach and the crowd. With Oliadopting an external and narrow attentional focus this would allow him to puthis attentional focus only towards the key parts that are important inexecuting the perfect serve. With Oli stating his serves are ‘way offlately’, this indicates a recent loss of accuracy. A study undertaken by Wulf(2013) suggests that attentional focus can constantly enhance factors such asaccuracy, movement effectiveness and balance. This is with an internal focusinstead of looking from an external view.
Although a study from Wulf et al.,(2002) suggests that athletes who are externally focused are more likely to beaccurate in the skill, this may not be transferable to a match situation infront of your coach and a large crowd. Research on darts shows us that accuracymay increase when the external focus is the distal as oppose to proximal suchas focusing on the bullseye rather than the dart throwing technique (McKay& Wulf, 2012). This shows that technique does not only effect the accuracy,rather, looking at the target and focusing on where you want the serve to endup will further enhance an athlete’s performance. Overall, it seems that the athlete needs tobe able to adopt an external focus attentional in situations where the matchstandard and intensity rises and individual elements become more difficult (Van Schoyck and Grasha, 1981). During the execution of a serve, having anexternal focus increases the probability of performing the skill superiorly andprogresses levels of performance while learning (Wulf and Prinz, 1998). WithOli looking to develop his tennis serve, further theories suggest that itdepends on what his focus of attention is directed towards (Wulf, McNevin andShea, 2001).
Intervention The use of an intervention plan is to supportthe additional focus in the use of a performance routine. This is best definedas ‘a sequence of task relevant thoughts and actions which an athlete engagesin systematically prior to his or her performance of a specific sports skill'(Moran, 1996, p.177). Following this, astudy from Mesagno and Mullane-Grant (2010) discuss that routines which includeboth cognitive and behavioural factors are most successful. Williams and Reilly(2000) also supports this, by suggesting it is more likely to be cognitive skillswhich decide the success amongst players playing at the highest level, ratherthan physiological factors and other sport specific domains. Relating this toOli would help improve his serve and support him in achieving his goals asexecuting a serve in tennis involves many details, meaning all aspects ofperformance need to be optimised, including his psychological mentality. A model from Cotterill, (2001), shows thatpsychologist can develop five-step approach towards an athlete’s performanceroutine.
This should be produced with both the athlete and psychologisttogether in order for the routines to be successful and there is a goodunderstanding between them. Starting the intervention plan during pre-seasonallows the athlete time to practice and learn through all the informationwithout the pressure of winning (Weinberg and Gould, 2015). This would be aperfect fit for Oli as his main goal set for the season is to stay on the tour.Being able to improve through pre-season to get thing right would enhance hisperformance during the competitive season. As well as the intervention plan setin place, it is important for the psychologist to remind the athlete to performthe routine in training and not just matches as it is more likely the athletewill learn from it (Cleary and Zimmerman, 2001). The use of visualisation can also be very helpful whentrying to enhance concentration as it deliberately focuses the individuals mindand on just the fundamental aspects needed for the activity (Shweta and Deepak,2015).
Thedevelopment of training imagery techniques allows an athlete to gain moreknowledge and information before improving the skill by identifying strengthsand weaknesses. For Oli, the use of imagery techniques allows him to focuspurely on the task and the factors that are required to enhance his serve. Eachtime he pictured the type of goal he wished to score and focused solely onachieving this. More specifically, Oli’s visualisation involved looking throughthe key stages of taking the serve from start to finish and the technique thatis required to how he was going to produce the perfect serve. Conclusion This assignment has given a summary ofattentional focus, performance routines and visualisation which may support andtennis player in improving his skills. Throughout this assignment a caseformulation was completed using one of the case studies provided.
Theassignment discussed and identified a psychological skill which needed to bedeveloped by the athlete. Following this, an intervention plan was deliveredwith ideas and support for the athlete to help enhance his tennis serve. Thecase formulation underlined the process and the interaction between Oli and thesports psychologist he regularly used. This allowed them both to understand andidentify a psychological skill that required improvement for the athlete suchas concentration.
Following this, the assignment established the psychologistcould work with Oli to produce can intervention plan in which he could useduring training and matches to improve. Although psychology has a great impacton athlete’s performances, it is important to understand that improvementthroughout performances are not only because of psychological intervention.Performance can also be supported by physical and technical factors.