Rushall, B. S., Jamieson, J., & Talbot, D. (1976). Psychological characteristics of Canadian Olympic Games swimmers. Unpublished research report, Canadian Amateur Swimming Association, Gloucester, Ontario, Canada.

The 1976 Canadian Olympic Games Swimming Team was assessed on the Psychological Inventories for Competitive Swimmers. Comparisons of individual question responses were made between male (N = 20) and female (N = 17) team members and those who improved their personal best performances at the Games (N = 20) and those who did not (N = 17).

The results showed a set of characteristics common to the groups as well as sets of differentiations. Male and female Olympic swimmers were sufficiently different to warrant the recommendation of separate future teams for each sex. The features which were peculiar to female swimmers were as follows:

Social Factors

  1. Would want career to be the same if they had it over again.
  2. Consider the coach always to be reasonable.
  3. Only talk about feelings associated with swimming if they think it is necessary.
  4. If other swimmers treat her badly get downhearted.
  5. Like to take an active part in swim team matters and projects.
  6. When other swimmers are unreasonable she just keeps quiet.
  7. Holds back from showing up another swimmer if he/she is behaving badly.
  8. Do not enjoy doing foolhardy things for fun.
  9. Like to plan swimming in consultation with other swimmers.
  10. Able to accept advice from other swimmers.
  11. Will do as coach says even if she would prefer to do it another way.

Activity Factors

  1. Interests in training change fairly often.
  2. No matter what difficulties arise will always stick to original intentions.
  3. Do not have dreams about swimming that disturb her sleep.
  4. Keep swimming things well-organized and ready for use.
  5. Able to produce best efforts even if the odds are against winning.
  6. If beaten in a race that she expected to win are not disappointed.
  7. Do not think of how much the effort of racing will hurt.
  8. Able to go out fast in a race if needed.
  9. When tired in a race she will try harder.
  10. If fall behind still make the race a test to do best time and effort.

Male-female Discriminatory Factors

  1. Males are never upset when things go wrong with swimming whereas females are.
  2. Males have some characteristics in which they feel definitely superior to most swimmers whereas females do not.
  3. Males are good judges of how well they will do in competition whereas females are not.
  4. Females get on edge and upset with small things before competition whereas males do not.
  5. Females are slightly embarrassed if they suddenly become the focus of attention of the team whereas males do not.
  6. If called by the coach females will use the opportunity to discuss things concerned with swimming whereas males will not.
  7. Females consider that they put more effort into competing than into training whereas males do not.

Swimmers who performed personal best swims in the Olympic Games were discriminated from those who failed to improve on a number of factors. Factors which were peculiar to those who improved are listed below.

Social Factors

  1. Can pull oneself together to deal with unusual circumstances concerned with swimming.
  2. Occasionally grouchy and do not want to work with other swimmers.
  3. Try to hide upset feelings about swimming from the coach.
  4. Keep emotions to self when in presence of other swimmers and coaches.

Performance Factors

  1. If have a disappointing race will try harder and perform better in the next race that is contested.
  2. Prefer to warm-up for race alone.
  3. At start concentrate on moving fast and diving far.
  4. Know what to do to calm down if too excited before a race.
  5. The more important the race, the more enjoyable it is.
  6. Attention to race preparation is always as much as necessary.
  7. Tend to notice shaking and trembling before a race.
  8. Want to get as much information as possible on all aspects of swimming.
  9. Being selected on a club team makes swimming seem worthwhile.
  10. Like to know progress and improvement in all aspects of swimming.

There were also a number of factors that were peculiar to those who did not record a personal best performance during the 1976 Olympic Games.

Social Factors

  1. Need a coach to direct them in what to do at important swim meets.
  2. Do not get upset by criticism from coaches and other swimmers.
  3. Show emotions as they wish in the presence of other swimmers and coaches.
  4. Consider themselves to be very enthusiastic about training and competition.
  5. Will do as coach says even if they would prefer to do it their own way.
  6. Nothing bothers them during race warm-up.

Performance Factors

  1. Do not like moderately hard training sessions all the time.
  2. Do not like to have a goal set for distance and effort times for each training session.

Implication. Female swimmers had a different set of needs, were motivated differently, and required a specific form of handling to that required of male swimmers. Based on this 1976 finding, for the following decade Canadian Swimming Teams were separated on the basis of sex while enjoying their finest international performances in the history of the sport.

There were different behaviors exhibited by successful international performers to those who were unsuccessful. The distinguishing characteristics suggest some reasonable expectations for swimmers in the way they should act and think if success is a personal goal.

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