SOME DETERMINANTS IN HUMAN PERFORMANCE: A PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

Brent S. Rushall. An invited keynote address presented at the Korean Society of Sport Psychology Summer Seminar at Seoul Olympic Park, June 22, 1996.

Abstract

Some psychological factors associated with performance enhancement in serious athletes were discussed. Those factors were delimited to what occurs during a competitive performance. Five mental skills: (a) segmenting, (b) task-relevant thought content, (c) positive self-talk, (d) mood words, and (e) intensification, were reviewed. Each was substantiated by replicated independent studies showing almost universal benefits across sports, sex, nationality, and intrasport training activities. The typical research paradigm demonstrated that the type of thinking developed through sport participation, a very common control condition, was not conducive to optimal or maximal performance. The implementation of these five mental skills all showed performance enhancements, even in elite athletes, over the habitual way of thinking during sporting tasks. Improvements occurred without any extra effort or physiological cost. The main message of the paper was the teaching of these and similar skills must become part of an athlete's experience through improved coaching effectiveness.


Some Determinants in Human Competitive Performances: A Psychological Perspective

Introduction

This presentation focuses on some psychological factors associated with enhancing serious competitive performances. These are not the only factors associated with performance enhancement. The length of time available for this address necessitates this delimitation. There are many training and pre-competition factors and activities that do influence competitive performances but their discussion will have to await another forum. Additionally, because of my personal interest in elite athletes, examples and suggestions will be oriented to that group and their performance standards.

Psychology is the study of behavior, it being both covert and overt. It is relatively easy to investigate overt behaviors accurately, reliably, and to employ independent verification of phenomena, but when it comes to covert behaviors, such as thoughts and emotional interpretations, the ability to independently verify phenomena is usually thwarted. However, it is still possible to affect covert behaviors without actually observing them. While it remains possible to manipulate external events and observe behavioral outcomes, functional relationships between environmental psychological factors and performances can be described. It is not scientifically appropriate to attribute outcomes to intermediary events such as thoughts and perceptions when they have not been directly observed. My position on that restriction has been described elsewhere (Rushall, 1992). So while I will talk of thoughts and covert activities it is the external stimulating events that influence them which are really the causal factors in the research works that I will cite.

I have always assumed a weakness in sport psychology to be the avoidance or lack of concentrated research on the thought structures of athletes in performance. So I wish to focus on those factors. It is what an athlete thinks and does in a performance that has a major effect on a competitive outcome. That would seem to be an important avenue for sport psychology research.

Serious Competitive Settings

A serious competitive setting is where the consequences of performance are most important and strongest for an athlete. The pre-competition and competition ingredients are unusually complex with the performance characteristics supposedly reflecting the benefits of training. Factors that affect an athlete's perception of this setting have been described in the Sport Pressure Checklist (Rushall & Sherman, 1987). Variations in these factors produce performance inconsistencies (Teed, 1987) as well as suggest patterns that predispose excellent performances (Rushall, 1987).

In challenging and serious performance situations, it has been found that performance-oriented "strategies" (plans) of specific detail have notable effects on performance consistency and reliability (Coles, Herzberger, Sperber & Goetz, 1975; Vestewig, 1978). It is my opinion that the need for specific preparations is now commonly recognized in several fields (e.g., business, performing arts) and its founding research so convincing that it is now rarely investigated. However, it is still being neglected in the majority of sporting situations by coaches and sport psychologists.

Further, when strategies are formulated primarily by athletes they generally produce the following benefits: (a) uncertainty and interpretive distractions are reduced; (b) the stress of negative situations is reduced; (c) performance consistency is enhanced; (d) the coping capacity for problem situations is improved; and (e) performance deteriorations are minimized (Averill, 1973; Hollandsworth, Glazeski, & Dressel, 1978; Magnusson & Ekehammar, 1978).

Research reports of the value of performance strategies in sports have been published (e.g., wrestling, Horton & Shelton, 1978; basketball, Meyers & Schleser, 1980; skiing, Rotella, Gansneder, Ojala, & Billing, 1980; swimming, Rushall, 1978; rowing, Rushall, 1990). Thus, the preparation of what is to be done and thought of during a sporting contest has strong validity for enhancing athletic performance as it does in other human endeavors (e.g., music, Johnson, 1995).

It remains important to describe elements that constitute effective performance strategies when used in a competition.

Performance Segmenting

If an event is of long duration, it needs to be broken into segments. Those partitions or segments should be short enough for the athlete to totally concentrate on what needs to be thought of and done in that period. This assists focusing on the completion of successful competition elements. Structuring performances in this manner is called "segmenting." In the US Navy, a similar approach to combat missions is known as "compartmentalizing" (e.g., TOP GUN).

Segmenting originates from two sources. First, the goal-setting literature has shown that distant goals have less effect on performance than do more proximal goals (House, 1973). Short-term performance goals that focus on the processes needed for successful behavior enhance performance (Harackiewicz, Abrahams, & Wagerman, 1987). Second, individuals faced with extensive tasks usually break them down into more manageable segments (Heads, 1989, describing the across-Australia run by Tony Rafferty). Botterill (1977) noted successful young athletes spontaneously reconstructing an endurance strength-task into shorter performance segments each having its own goal or goals. A skier overcame difficulties with traversing a slope when attention was shifted to progress by parts of the task that eventually lead to completion of the total run (Syer & Connolly, 1984). World-champion target sportspersons have reported attempting to fire "one shot at a time" during extended shooting contests (Wiggers, Anderson, Whitaker, & Harmon, 1980). Performing artists have intuitively divided long performances into stages (e.g., acts and scenes, movements) so that performance quality can be maintained. Thus, theory and practice support the notion of segmenting extensive tasks for improved performance outcomes.

Manges (1990) and Wahl (1991) both tested the segmented versus total performance goal-orientation in runners. Using intrasubject research designs, the value of short-term process goals over terminal or distal goals was conclusively demonstrated. The performance differences could not be accounted for in terms of altered physiological functioning, a phenomenon noted long ago by Wilmore (1970). The effects of segmented running performances in the Ss of two studies are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Performance Changes in Male Recreation Runners Under Segmented Task Conditions.

Study

Ss

Task

Segments

% Change

Manges (1990)

S1

3200 m

8 x 400 m

2.1 %

 

S2

3200 m

8 x 400 m

2.7 %

 

S3

3200 m

8 x 400 m

2.0 %

Wahl (1991)

S1

1600 m

4 x 400 m

5.4 %

 

S2

1600 m

4 x 400 m

6.5 %

 

S3

1600 m

4 x 400 m

1.2 %

 

S4

3200 m

8 x 400 m

1.1 %

 

S5

3200 m

8 x 400 m

4.1 %

 

S6

3200 m

8 x 400 m

-0.9 %

Segmenting performances is a recommended procedure for performance strategy construction (Rushall, 1979, 1995a). It has recently been hypothesized that segments need to be shorter, the more intense the activity. The way segments are structured and their content is particularly individual (Rushall, 1995b). Differences in segmenting strategies and moderating factors need to be determined to understand this factor more clearly. The anecdotal and goal-theory literature at present is inadequate for fully explaining this phenomenon.

Task-relevant Thought Content

The need to concentrate on task-relevant thought content to complete a task proficiently is no longer investigated. It is a tenet of psychology that performance efficiency is reduced by distraction and enhanced by relevant concentration. There are some minor exceptions to this principle (e.g., cognitive interference), but in tasks that are performed under stressful circumstances, the focus of attention has to be on the processes for completing the performance if the highest level of outcome is to be produced (Jones & Hardy, 1989). This is particularly true in sports. Concepts such as attentional focus, concentration, and flow are characterized by a singular task-orientation although that orientation varies according to the stage and type of activity. For sports, it is important that athletes learn to use task-specific information in their thought structures that will focus on the performance itself. "The focus on task-relevant information is intended to ensure that all resources available to an athlete in a competition are used fully and in the most efficient manner possible" (Rushall, 1995a, p. 8.13).

While task-relevant concentration might seem to be an obvious characteristic of performance control, it is surprising how few athletes develop it effectively through training experiences. What seems to be developed is a form of habitual/practice thinking that does not transfer effective benefits to evaluative or competitive settings. A common paradigm for assessing thought-content effectiveness is to perform an intrasubject alternating treatments design comparing "normal/habitual" thinking with sport-specific task-relevant thinking that has been individualized to the S. The experimental variable in this paradigm is confounded between individuality and task-specificity. Some studies have introduced other, unrelated thinking conditions (e.g., Chorkawy, 1982; Crossman, 1977; Ford, 1982; McKinnon, 1985; Selkirk, 1980) for further comparisons. Table 2 lists the results of contrasts between these conditions in a number of studies to assess the effect of task-relevant thinking on performance.

In the Crossman and Selkirk studies, group experimental designs were used. They provided no opportunity to develop the mental skill of using particular forms of thinking under the stress of maximal effort to exhaustion. It appears that the design did not allow effects to emerge. Once intrasubject designs were employed, which allowed learning to occur, effects became quite prevalent. It also appears that task-relevant thinking is more consistent in its influence the higher the standard of the athlete (e.g., Rushall, 1984a; Rushall et al., 1988; Kristiansen, 1992). A common feature of this group of studies was the opportunity for the athletes to individualize the content and nature of their thoughts after receiving instructions. That feature may be a very significant moderating variable in these impressive results.

The disturbing feature of obtaining such impressive performance changes through instructions to use a particular mental skill is that the normal/habitual thinking developed through training and coaching is far from optimal in its effect on performance. Even though coaches commonly claim to teach and stress "technique," it was only after instructions and practice to use self- and activity-specific detailed content that performances improved. One has to ponder what would be the eventual performance outcome if the nature of task-relevant thought content became a large part of habitual performance thinking.

Table 2. Results of Studies Which Compared Performances Under a Task-relevant Thinking Condition With Other Conditions.

Reference

Athletes

Ss and Response

Control Conditions

Performance Effect

Task

Crossman (1977)

Canadian wrestlers

4/12 M

Normal thinking; voluntary distraction; imagery manipulation

1/12 best
4/12 best
3/12 best

Maximum endurance treadmill run

Selkirk (1980)

Serious runners

8/24 MF

Normal thinking;
voluntary distraction;
imagery manipulation

2/24 best
7/24 best
4/24 best

Maximum endurance treadmill run

Chorkawy (1982)

Superior age-group swimmers

#1 F
#2 F
#3 F

Normal thinking; voluntary distraction

No difference
Improved
Improved

400 m F
400 m IM
400 m F

Ford (1982)

Superior age-group swimmers

#1 M
#2 M
#3 M

Normal thinking; voluntary distraction

Improved
Improved
No difference

400 m F
400 m F
400 m F

Rushall (1984a)

Canadian rowers

3/3 F
2/2 M

Normal thinking

3.68%
3.37%

30 min ergometer test

McKinnon (1985)

Novice rowers

#1 F
#2 F
#3 F
#4 F

Normal thinking;
voluntary distraction;
imagery manipulation

5.31%
2.12%
-4.12%
-0.57%

3 min ergometer test

Hollingen & Vikander (1987)

Wide-range Norwegian X-skiers

6/10 MF

Normal thinking

1.82%

4 x test track

Rushall et al. (1988)

Canadian National X-skiers

10/10 F
8/8 M

Normal thinking

1.97%
1.96%

4 x test track

Rushall & Shewchuk (1989)

Superior age-group swimmers

6/6 MF
5/6 MF

Normal thinking

3.09%
2.50%

2 x 400 m (4/100)
8 x 100 m

Kristiansen (1992)

Norwegian junior X-skiers

6/6 F
4/5 M
5/6 F
8/8 M

Normal thinking

2.81%
0.37%
2.51%
2.60%

4 x test track (diagonal)
4 x test track (skating)

Positive Self-statements (Thinking)

The definition of positive thinking is the covert utterance of positive self-statements. There are two main theoretical bases for this advocacy. The first is quite general. It relies heavily on Taylor's work (1979) which showed that under a positive mental orientation, the body's physiology performs more efficiently than when under an aversive or negative mind-set (Schuele & Wisenfeld, 1983; Vera, Vila, & Godoy, 1994). The direct effect of negative thoughts on swimming performance was reported by Dalton, Maier, and Posavac (1977). The second basis surrounds the convincing work involving positive self-talk. An extensive compilation of abstracts on the World Wide Web (Rushall, 1996) related this activity and its performance benefits. Positive self-talk is also related to factors associated with improved performance, such as coping (Girodo & Wood, 1979; Girodo & Roehl, 1980), self-concept (Smit, 1992), and self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977; Duncan & McAuley, 1987; Weiss, Wiese, & Klint, 1989).

The effect of self-talk on performance of 24 junior tennis players (mean age 15.4 yr) during tournament matches was examined (Van Raalte, Brewer, Rivera, & Petitpas, 1994). It was found that negative self-talk was associated with losing and that players who used and reported believing in the utility of positive self-talk won more points than players who did not. Positive self-talk has been an important part of a game strategy for improving basketball performance (Kendall, Hrycaiko, Martin, & Kendall, 1990), for learning compulsory figures in ice-skating (Ming, 1993), and increasing the number games won from deuce-point in a tennis player (Desiderato & Miller, 1979).

Table 3 lists the characteristics of intrasubject investigations on the effect of positive self-talk on performance in a variety of settings. The results are similar to those of task-relevant thinking. An emphasis on positive self-talk while performing a task enhances performance. This further supports the inadequacy of habitual sport thinking for provoking an optimal training or competitive response. Self-talk is an individual skill that needs to be practiced before it is evaluated for influence. The general level of effect is marginally less than that of task-relevant thinking but that is not surprising considering it usually does not entertain direct effects on skill economy. Rather, it sets the "atmosphere" for efficient physiological functioning which then has to be translated into efficient movement patterns.

Table 3. Results of Studies Which Compared Performances Under a Positive Thinking Condition With Other Conditions.

Reference

Athletes

Ss and Response

Control Conditions

Effect

Task

Rushall (1984a)

Canadian rowers

2/3 F
3/3 M

Normal thinking

1.21%
2.20%

3 min ergometer test
4 min ergometer test

Hollingen & Vikander (1987)

Wide-range Norwegian X-skiers

9/10 MF

Normal thinking

3.63%

4 x test track

Rushall et al. (1988)

Canadian National X-skiers

9/10 F
8/8 M

Normal thinking

0.98%
0.96%

4 x test track

Rushall & Shewchuk (1989)

Superior age-group swimmers

5/6 MF
5/6 MF

Normal thinking

1.39%
2.13%

2 x 400 m (4/100)
8 x 100 m

Kristiansen (1992)

Norwegian junior X-skiers

4/6 F
7/7 M
5/6 F
6/8 M

Normal thinking

1.51%
4.07%
2.84%
0.90%

4 x test track (diagonal)

4 x test track (skating)

The value of positive self-talk is further substantiated by its association with factors related to enhanced performance. It is a skill that needs to be taught as part of a coaching program and integrated with task-relevant thinking. The not-so-subtle effect of engaging in positive self-talk is that it is intrinsically reinforcing to the user. Thus, once it is initiated as an important part of a training program, athletes are very willing to continue with its practice.

There are certain characteristics of positive self-talk which are recommended for use in practical situations (Rushall, 1995a). Positive self-statements should not be trivial, cheerleader-type expressions (e.g., "go, go, go," "let's do it now"). Four appropriate uses in competitions are: (a) encouraging oneself, (b) handling effort, (c) evaluating segment goals, and (d) general positive self-talk to maintain atmosphere. It should be spread throughout a strategy. It has been suggested that it is most effective when second person phrasing is used (e.g., "you," "your"). The use of second person appears to produce a perception of control over oneself. However, some athletes prefer first person expression. The dynamics of positive self-talk in sport settings need to be delineated further.

There are theoretical, experimental, and practical reasons for employing positive self-talk in competitive performances.

Mood Words

A third form of covert vocabulary involves particular words that emote or energize the individual. Language has basic words which, when said or thought with appropriate feeling and emphasis, have some movement or emotional outcome. They cause a physical reaction in the body. Some languages/cultures use these words more frequently (e.g., Italian, Arabic) than others (e.g., English). Performing artists frequently use simple words emoted in a particular way to promote a behavior that expresses a mood. Mood words require no translation. The expressive thinking of words should produce a feeling appropriate for some performance capacity. If a feeling does not occur, then the content is inappropriate and will be ineffectual.

Mood words can reflect various performance capacities. Typically, a list of monosyllabic synonyms for strength, power (force), speed, agility, balance, and endurance are presented to an athlete. The athlete selects from the lists, or augments personal words that have a similar meaning, the capacities and words that are meaningful to him/her. Those words are then interjected into a performance strategy at the time and during the appropriate task-relevant thoughts when they will be most effective. For example, a rower taking the catch in a stroke might think "BOOM" as a way of elevating the power of that part of the stroke. Rowers have reported that this does increase performance over thinking normally or imaging what is intended. That talk is more effective than imagery during performance has been reported (Oei & Barber, 1989).

Mood words of this type increase the effectiveness of thinking. When one wants to be powerful, thinking words that make one feel powerful will increase the actions of power. Rushall (1984b) reported unpublished data on a grip-strength test with four Canadian rowers. Three thought content conditions were used: (a) normal thought content as a control; (b) the utterance of a phrase that had the correct meaning but was unrelated to the emotional state needed to be strong (e.g., the words "exert force"); and (c) the utterance of mood words, such as "crush," "grind," etc., of the athletes' choosing. All athletes recorded the strongest grip under the emotive mood word condition. Table 4 lists features of studies which have examined the effects of mood words on performance.

Mood words enhance performance marginally better than either task-relevant content or positive self-statements. The success rate for Ss was notably high and the magnitude of individual or averaged effects the largest overall. This indicates that mood words is a thought-content dynamic that should be visited more often in research and practical settings. It is somewhat alarming that I can only report work from two countries, Norway and Canada/USA, but that indicates the status of sport psychology in this field of work.

Table 4. Results of Studies Which Compared Performances Under a Mood Words Thinking Condition With Other Conditions.

Reference

Athletes

Ss and Response

Control Conditions

Performance Effect

Task

Rushall (1984a)

Canadian rowers

3/3 F
3/3 M

Normal thinking

6.47%
5.27%

3 min ergometer test
4 min ergometer test

Hollingen & Vikander (1987)

Wide-range Norwegian X-skiers

9/10 MF

Normal thinking

2.73%

4 x test track

Rushall et al. (1988)

Canadian National X-skiers

9/10 F
8/8 M

Normal thinking

1.97%
1.96%

4 x test track

Rushall & Shewchuk (1989)

Superior age-group swimmers

6/6 MF
6/6 MF

Normal thinking

2.61%
2.30%

2 x 400 m (4/100)
8 x 100 m

Kristiansen (1992)

Norwegian junior X-skiers

6/6 F
1/1 M
5/6 F
1/2 M

Normal thinking

3.16%
5.67%
2.98%
1.54%

4 x test track (diagonal)

4 x test track (skating)

I propose that the use of mood words be investigated and promoted as a vehicle for enhancing competitive performance. It is the third of the thought-content variables that can and should be implemented as a psychological part of coaching. Teaching the skill of using mood words has been described (Rushall, 1995a). The role of mood words is twofold: (a) they enhance the performance capacities that are used in a contest, and (b) they make the language of a strategy more meaningful.

Task-relevant content, positive self-statements, and mood words presently are perceived to be the structures that should be employed as thought content during a competitive performance. They should be integrated into a meaningful dialogue by each athlete, practiced, performed, and evaluated for effect and possible improvement. They should be treated in a similar manner to the physiological and biomechanical components of performance. Their inclusion in training programs is not difficult and practice could constitute "sporting homework" in a fashion that is not possible with other performance factors. The magnitudes of the performance enhancements which have been independently verified and duplicated in controlled research settings with high-level athletes makes the use of thought content skills an imperative for athletes wishing to maximize their performance and for coaches seeking to optimize their effectiveness.

Thought Intensification

Coaches are often heard to call to athletes during a performance "concentrate." It is as if they sense that the athlete is allowing the quality of performance, particularly skill components, to slip. A decline is recognized but the control mechanism to halt the degradation and recover does not exist in the performance. A principal aim of strategy use is to maintain control throughout a contest. As a performance progresses there is the potential that an athlete's focus and concentration on relevant stimuli will diminish. As an athlete tires, the symptoms of various forms of physiological or psychological fatigue emerge as strong distractions. Thought intensification is proposed as a process to cope with internal and external distraction factors and maintain "concentration" or "adaptive task application" in the face of mounting competitive distractions, particularly fatigue.

A major pain theory (Melzack & Wall, 1983; Wall, 1978) suggests that while the mind is kept busy and totally focused on some activity, the brain will not recognize pain/fatigue. This implies that if an athlete can keep the central nervous system task-focused, then performance control will be maintained. As the pain or distraction stimuli increase in a contest, the intensity of contest-relevant (strategy) thinking also has to increase in order to sustain controlled performance. Psychological intensification is used to guard against incurring the detrimental effects of fatigue. It stops complacency, loss of control, and loss of focus by requiring thought content and the intensity of thinking to gradually increase as fatigue develops. In the early stages of a competition where there is no fatigue, or the effort level is in steady-state, an athlete does not have to think too intently. With most athletes, there is a stage in a contest where it is realized that a definite increase in effort is needed to continue. Before or at that stage is where thought control needs to be intensified otherwise performance might deteriorate.

The intensification process relies heavily on the athlete developing various and different methods of thinking. If one concentrated too long on a single item, a rhythmical form of thinking could develop. A lack of continual thought vitality is counter-productive to good competing. Frequently changing content and thought modes is important in the intensification process. As with other forms of competition thought content, the individualization of the process and its content is paramount. Suggestions for intensification strategies commonly include: thinking faster, changing the nature of the strategy content (e.g., switching from pacing to lower body technique), thinking harder, increasing the thought "sound" volume and emotionality, picturing the written strategy, muttering, and combining any or all of these.

Table 5 reports the results of two studies that have developed strategies in athletes including the three thought emphases suggested above. Once performances have been enhanced by strategy use, the effects of added intensification were compared to those of a strategy-alone condition. In all but one subject, the intensification procedure produced even further enhancement.

Table 5. Results of Studies Which Compared Performances Under a Thought Intensification Condition With a Strategy Thought Condition.

Reference

Athletes

Ss

Control Condition

Performance Effect

Task

Martin (1989)


Varsity rowers


1M

Strategy thought content: no intensification


-3.07%

6 min rowing ergometer test

 

 

2M

 

3.82%

 

 

 

3M

 

2.60%

 

 

 

4M

 

11.20%

 

 

 

5M

 

2.38%

 

 

 

6M

 

7.72%

 

Johnson (1991)

Varsity swimmers


1M

Strategy thought content: no intensification


1.5%

500 yd crawl stroke swim test

 

 

2M

 

2.0%

 

 

 

3M

 

1.7%

 

 

 

4M

 

1.0%

 

 

 

5M

 

1.7%

 

 

 

6M

 

7.2%

 

Intensification of competition strategies has been shown to be yet another dynamic of mental skill and control that will enhance performance. It is worthy of implementation in any well-planned coaching system although it must be warned that it may not work unless the underlying structures that are intensified are appropriate. A variety of investigations are warranted. What happens when normal (ineffective) thinking is intensified? Do athletes perform worse, not change, or do they get better? How does it function in team games, in combative sports, and sports that rely mainly on skill? Currently, the questions are more numerous than answers.

The exciting feature of the two studies cited in Table 5 is the intensification effects were added to the already enhanced effects of strategy use. This adds further power to the argument that psychological determinants of performance are potentially strong.

Closure

What I have attempted to do is to show that there is empirical research and anecdotal evidence that supports the use of particular mental skills and thought content in competitive strategies to produce enhanced performances. It is a rich area for continued performance enhancement once an athlete's growth has stopped. Practitioners need to be made aware of this improvement potential. Sport psychologists can do much to promote this concern.

The psychological determinants of performance produced enhancements and alterations in a large number of the studies and Ss considered. Performance improvements occurred without any notable extra perceived exertion (Chorkawy, 1982, Ford, 1982; McKinnon, 1985), increase in direct measurements of physiological parameters (Kristiansen, 1992; Martin, 1991; Morgan, Horstman, Cymerman, & Stokes, 1983, Rushall et al., 1988, Wilmore, 1970), or other increased thought dynamics, such as the degree of concentration or "trying harder" (Chorkawy, 1982, Ford, 1982; McKinnon, 1985). These mental activities are a "painless" avenue for assisting athletes to improve. When athletes are exposed to these skills and evaluate their effects they are particularly enthusiastic about their value and use.

Coaches have largely remained resistant to using mental skills training. They too readily fall back on physical conditioning, skill performance, and/or game strategies as the important emphases for training. It is not the trained state or level of skill that is displayed during practice that is the major issue for coaching, but rather, the teaching of the mental skills so that those factors can be displayed under the stress of competition. To ignore mental skills training of the type discussed is a dereliction of a duty of coaching.

Psychology offers many performance determinants, only a few being addressed here. It needs to be recognized that psychology becomes more important, the higher the standard of competitor. It has been reported that psychological factors are better discriminators of high-level performance capacity than physiological measures (McDonald, 1984). For example, Silva, Shultz, Haslam, Martin, and Murray (1985) found that psychological variables discriminated Olympic wrestling team qualifiers from non-qualifiers better than physiological variables.

Psychology has a major role to play in determining the levels of performance achieved in competitive settings. Athletes should be appraised of the techniques and provided practice opportunities for their implementation as part of the evolving professions of coaching and sport psychology.

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