Show a Critical Awareness of the Theoretical Basis to Applied Sport Psychology Techniques; Research Design, Methods and Procedures Used in This Domain, and Practical and Ethical Issues in the Delivery of Sport Psychology.
In the research article relating to sports psychology, in particular the achieving of excellence, we can see that an attempt has been made by the researchers to asses the role of certain psychological phenomena related to positive performance to see if they could determine whether or not these factors played a significant part in the success of highly acclaimed professional sportspersons, in particular tour golfers. The research involved key concepts such as imagery, goal setting, focus, distraction control and evaluation techniques that all pertained to fundamental concepts outlined in findings from sports psychology theory and research. The study itself used a questionnaire from which an interview was conducted in the hope of extracting some of the mental processes and preparations of top golfers that were believed to have become evident in their responses. These interviews were tape recorded and transcribed according to qualitative research method processes and conventions. The interviews were conducted at the convenience of the sportsperson as it was believed that this would make the process more free flowing as the interviewee would be more focused and inclined to cooperate with the questions. The findings of the research suggested in conjunction with former findings related to the field of sporting excellence that their was clear evidence of the usage of imagery, goal setting, focus distraction control and evaluation techniques in the interview answers put forward by the sportspersons. It was concluded that an integral part to the psychological phenomena detailed was the role of commitment and suggestion was made for subsequent research to be conducted into this area.
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Some of the areas that were drawn out and critiqued within the interview pertained to goal setting. Goal setting techniques can be understood as being set by psychologists to put in place the achieving of high levels of endurance in sport (Orlick & Partington, 1988). Goals are generally set to focus the individual on desirable target behaviours or performance actions. The focusing on goals or targets is believed to take away extraneous and undesirable distractions from the sportspersons conscious perception and produce a well defined path towards achievement. This can be seen being evident in some of the interview responses as being a ‘clearly defined’ target. In Bandura’s model he suggests that there are three major factors at work in the acquisition of a behaviour or performance. Three key factors are believed to inform the intention towards a desired target in this model. It was suggested that manipulation of these factors could change the intention of a person and consequently change, or shape, their behaviour to a more desirable one (Bandura, 1997). In accordance with other factors a positive attitude towards a desired behaviour would essentially increase the intention towards any goal. To function successfully, the intended goals would have to be clearly defined. This notion of clearly defined goals is included and incorporated throughout the methodology of the research article and forms an essential part of the findings according to the model of excellence proposed by Orlick & Partington (1988).
Another factor indicated in research on goal setting is that of unrealistic goal setting and the effects of negative mental attitudes when the goals do not relate to the desired outcome. For instance, unrealistically high goal settings from pressures such as media and peer pressure may lead to a high percentage of failure. This can have a very negative effect on the individual’s mental state. For example, in the model proposed by Baumeister (1990) the destructive effects of unrealistic goal setting can be understood in three steps. The first step is a mismatch between circumstance and expectation, leading to unrealistic goal setting. The second stage highlights the negative outcomes of this phenomenon. The third and final step indicates the importance and fragility of the mind if it is not focused. Essentially, to avoid disturbing ideas of failure, the individual negates responsibility for the outcomes of their actions altering their logic in a very negative and destructive manner (Baumeister, 1990). That is to say, that if the perception of realistic goals is not adjusted then the mind of the individual will begin to apply severely disturbing logic patterns to the process of goal achieving. This is not regarded in the condition of club professionals. Rather than them being simply uncommitted as is concluded, it could be that the negative effects of unrealistic goal setting has disturbed their focus or commitment. For instance, the individuals may begin to apply the successful achievement of goals to external factors such as luck, and take responsibility for only failed goals (Abramson et al, 1978).
Another key concept in achievement is learning. Essentially, objectives are considered to manage goals and goal setting. Fontana (1993) suggests that these objectives can be split into five mental processes. He defines these categories as ’identifying clearly what needs to be done, plan how we are going to do it, monitor our progress while we are doing it, assess the extent of our success when we have done it, learn more effectively from the experiences it has offered us’ (Fontana, 1993). This learning model shows of how goal setting and achieving goals can be utilised through the introspection of the experience gained. We can see from the research article that this idea of learning rather than focusing upon error is incorporated in the findings. The effects of learning can be seen in the formulation and use of educational objectives (Pearson and Tweddle, 1984). This research indicates the benefits of evaluation, reflection and consideration within the domain of sporting achievement. The notion of learning can also be seen in the role of imagery and the imagination, highlighted within the findings of the interviews. This notion is concerned not only with the role of understanding and the learning of psychological processes after the event, but also the role of psychological processes before the event.
Imagery is considered as being directly associated with the pathways of the imagination. This field of research has highlighted the importance of pre-conceived and pre-empted eventualities within the thought processes of the individual. Essentially, it focuses upon the actualisation of possibilities and outcomes within the mind. This would indicate the need for the individual to think in a certain way to achieve the best results. The imagination of sporting techniques is considered a cognitive pathway that can be honed and lead to more confidence and a more successful outcome. For instance, if the individual can visualise success then it is presumed that he/she can gain confidence in the achieving of a successful goal without the actual physical experience usually required in confidence acquisition (Kohler, 1925). We can see that this core idea has been implemented into the methodology of the research. For instance, there is an indication of imagining the ideal put before practising it. Imagery is also believed to help in the preparation for events that can not be prepared for with physical training alone. For instance, improvisation and the applying of insight into extreme circumstances can be utilised in ways that cannot be accounted for in normal physical training. In this sense the imagination and imagery is a key component in the conceptualising of an ideal action involved in a sporting technique. We can see from the methodology of our study that this notion has been incorporated. For instance, the ideal technique of a swing can be seen in the account that indicates that once the ideal stroke has been accomplished there is no longer a need to practise physically. This imagery can be seen as being indicated by the pro in the success of his action that is then carried out against the imagined goal in the learning manner put forward by Fontana. Imagery and the imagination seem to be manipulated by the golfers to hone their focus techniques as the methodology of the research article suggests. Focus is understood as being not something that is physically learned, but that is important to success. As we have seen, extraneous variables from the environment can have negative effects on the performance of actions. However, it would seem from the accounts of the tour pro’s that these extraneous factors have been removed from as they have attained focus.
It would seem that this research has backed up the findings of former research. Although, some problems may arise from its use of a confined and pre-determined model of closed questions, it can be said to be valuable. Although this may arouse critical questions of validity, it can be said this research has brought to our attention some of the psychological dynamics associated with achievement, excellence and success within the sporting domain.
Abramson, L, Y., Seligman, M, E, P., & Teasdale, J., (1978) Learned Helplessness in Humans: Critique and Reformulation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 87, 49-74.
Bandura, A. (1997) Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Self Control. New York: WH Freeman.
Baumeister, R, F., (1990) Suicide as Escape From Self. Psychology Review, 97. 90-113
Fontana, D., (1993) Managing Time: Personal and Professional Development. Leicester: BPS Books (British Psychology Society).
Kohler, W., (1925) The mentality of Apes. New York: Harcourt Brace (Reprint ed., 1976. New York: Liveright.)
Orlick, T., & Partington, J. (1988). Mental Links to Excellence. The Sport Psychologist, 2, 105-130.
Pearson , L. and Tweddle, D., (1984) The Formulation and Use of Educational Objectives. In Fontana, D. (ed.) Behaviourism and Learning Theory in Education. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.