Hanton, S., & Jones, G. (1999). The acquisition and development of cognitive skills and strategies: I. Making the butterflies fly in formation. The Sport Psychologist, 12, 1-21.

In-depth interviews were used to assess the cognitive skills and strategies underlying elite male swimmers' (N = 10) interpretations of prerace thoughts and feelings. Ss consistently maintained facilitative (helpful as opposed to debilitative) interpretations. Four general dimensions traced the acquisition and development of cognitive skills and strategies underlying facilitation from early competitive experiences to the present time.

It was concluded that participants' skills and strategies were acquired via natural learning experiences and educational methods.

This was a qualitative study and did not compare Ss with non-elite individuals. The assumption was made that the revealed factors had good face validity and are worth implementing to see if they are associated with improved performances in lesser level athletes.

Implication. The conditions that precede races should be viewed as being helpful and positive. Rather than leaving the development of these attributes to chance, they can be instilled by using an appropriate mental skills training program.

[There are two books written specifically on this subject for the sport of swimming.

A more general mental skills training manual that develops facilitative pre-competition thinking is:

These items are available from Sports Science Associates (]

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