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Mindfulness to Enhance Athletic Performance: Theoretical Considerations and Possible Impact Mechanisms



Top athletes face various challenges in their career on and off the sports field. Sport psychologists teach techniques to help athletes to cope with these challenges. Over the last 30 years, the techniques used stem mainly from psychological skills training (PST), which is influenced mainly from cognitive-behavioral theories. Recently, interest in mindfulness-based interventions has increased in sport psychology. This article identifies the limits of PST and presents theoretical considerations how mindfulness-based interventions can amend PST. Further, it addresses in what form and by what mechanisms athletes could benefit. In reviewing current mindfulness literature, we conclude that it is important to distinguish between mindfulness practice and dispositional mindfulness. Mindfulness practice means the methods through which mindfulness is fostered, whereas dispositional mindfulness describes the tendency to be mindful in everyday life. In our conceptualization, we differ between three interwoven facets of mindfulness practice (intention, attention, and attitude), which are associated with six components of dispositional mindfulness. We consider that athletes with a higher degree in mindfulness practice and dispositional mindfulness will enhance the level of several required psychological skills through various impact mechanisms. Based on theoretical considerations, we suggest bare attention, experiential acceptance, values clarifications, self-regulation/negative emotion regulation, clarity about one’s internal life, exposure, flexibility, non-attachment, and rumination as possible impact mechanisms. A greater knowledge of the conceptualization of mindfulness and its impact on psychological skills could develop and improve the effectiveness of mindfulness based interventions in sports.
Mindfulness to Enhance Athletic Performance: Theoretical
Considerations and Possible Impact Mechanisms
Daniel Birrer &Philipp Röthlin &Gareth Morgan
#Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012
Abstract Top athletes face various challenges in their ca-
reer on and off the sports field. Sport psychologists teach
techniques to help athletes to cope with these challenges.
Over the last 30 years, the techniques used stem mainly
from psychological skills training (PST), which is influ-
enced mainly from cognitive-behavioral theories. Recently,
interest in mindfulness-based interventions has increased in
sport psychology. This article identifies the limits of PST
and presents theoretical considerations how mindfulness-
based interventions can amend PST. Further, it addresses
in what form and by what mechanisms athletes could ben-
efit. In reviewing current mindfulness literature, we con-
clude that it is important to distinguish between
mindfulness practice and dispositional mindfulness. Mind-
fulness practice means the methods through which mindful-
ness is fostered, whereas dispositional mindfulness
describes the tendency to be mindful in everyday life. In
our conceptualization, we differ between three interwoven
facets of mindfulness practice (intention, attention, and atti-
tude), which are associated with six components of disposi-
tional mindfulness. We consider that athletes with a higher
degree in mindfulness practice and dispositional mindful-
ness will enhance the level of several required psychological
skills through various impact mechanisms. Based on theo-
retical considerations, we suggest bare attention, experien-
tial acceptance, values clarifications, self-regulation/
negative emotion regulation, clarity about ones internal life,
exposure, flexibility, non-attachment, and rumination as
possible impact mechanisms. A greater knowledge of the
conceptualization of mindfulness and its impact on psycho-
logical skills could develop and improve the effectiveness of
mindfulness based interventions in sports.
Keywords Mindfulness .Sport .Performance
enhancement .Psychological skills training
Roger Federer, one of the most successful tennis players
ever, lost the 2011 US Open Semi-Final in five sets, 67, 4
6, 63, 62, 75. When the score was 53, 4015 in the last
set, he gave away two match points on his serve. After the
match, he described this situation in the following way: At
first I thought, okay, now I have done it. Before the match
ball, I was very nervous because of joy that everything went
so well. Fifteen minutes later, you leave the court and did
not win the match. To lose in such a way is very disappoint-
ing because I had the feeling that he [Novak Djokovic] was
already beaten in the head and no longer believed in his
victory.This example shows that even at the highest per-
formance level in sports, dysfunctional thinking, which can
become ruminative, can occur. Although dysfunctional
thinking does not reach a clinical level and might not be
problematic in another context, in the unforgiving environ-
ment of elite sports, dysfunctional thinking can be perfor-
mance relevant.
By teaching psychological strategies, sport psychologists try
to assist athletes in coping with this and other challenges. The
use of psychological strategies enhance athleteschances of
performing at their highest level under very demanding, stress-
ful, and sometimes even hostile conditions. In this context,
mindfulness-based interventions have drawn attention from a
handful of sport psychologists. Kabat-Zinn and colleagues
D. Birrer (*):P. Röthlin :G. Morgan
Elite Sport Department, Federal Institute of Sports,
Alpenstrasse 16,
2532 Magglingen, Switzerland
DOI 10.1007/s12671-012-0109-2
were perhaps the first to report the application of this approach
in sport (Kabat-Zinn et al. 1985). He provided training in
mindfulness meditation to rowers. This article outlines theoret-
ical considerations for how mindfulness-based interventions
can fruitfully amend psychological skills training (PST) in
Psychology of High PerformanceNonpathologic
Inhibitors and Facilitating Processes
Mindfulness is increasingly being used in clinical psychol-
ogy, and the salutary effects have been impressively docu-
mented under a range of conditions (Hofmann et al. 2010;
Chiesa and Serretti 2010). The scientific evidence of the
efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions is so broad that
it has been proposed as a common factor across several
schools of psychotherapy (Martin 1997). However, athletes
are commonly psychologically and physiologically healthy;
thus, the possible benefits of mindfulness-based interven-
tions need justification. Therefore, as the first step in dem-
onstrating the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions
for athletes, understanding the psychology of high perfor-
mance is important.
High performance can be undermined by non-pathologic
psychological inhibitors, yet be promoted by an optimal
psycho-physiological state. Among others, performance
inhibitors include unrealistic expectations because of a per-
fectionistic personality (Hill et al. 2011) or an injury (Gardner
and Moore 2007), competition anxiety (Hardy et al. 1996),
anger and other negative emotions (Hanin 2000), fear of
failure (Elbe et al. 2003), perceived pressure (Beilock and
Gray 2007), and avoidance behavior (Jordet and Hartman
2008). These inhibitors predominately influence performance
in competition. However, other factors can influence perfor-
mance negatively. These include personal factors as an avoid-
ance coping style (Hanson et al. 1992) or internal failure
attribution (Biddle et al. 2001) as well as environmental
factors such as overtraining (Meeusen et al. 2006; Jones and
Tenenbaum 2009), interpersonal problems, or life-balance
difficulties (Hardy et al. 1996). In contrast, Hardy and
colleagues (1996) proposed an excellent performance is
facilitated by a psycho-physiological state characterized
by automatic goal-focused processes. During perfor-
mance, athletes ideally adapt the relevant aspects of
their behavior automatically to the specific situational
demands (Gardner and Moore 2007). This process is
called discrepancy adjustment and is comparable to air-
plane autopilot (Wells 2000). This mostly automatic
process (Carver and Scheier 1988; Sbrocco and Barlow
1996), consisting of self-monitoring, self-evaluating, and
adjusting behavior, is essential for regulating behavior
effectively (Gardner and Moore 2007). However, be-
cause sports are multifaceted, there is a huge difference
in the physical and psychological demands of different
sports. Therefore, identifying the specific demands of
each sport is essential in deciding which processes or
psychological skills facilitate performance-relevant auto-
matic goal-focused processes.
Promoting High PerformanceRequirements, Skills,
and Techniques
Recently, Birrer and Morgan (2010) introduced a model for
deducing the specific psychological demands of a specific
Objective Requirements for World Class Performance
Pattern &
Complexity &
of the Action
And Life
Self Recovery
cation &
Psychological Skills
Duration of the Impact
Intensity of the Impact
Continuity of the Impact
Injury &
Death risk
Psychological Techniques
Setting Self TalkImagery
Relaxation Other
Training Demands Training and Competition Demands Competition Demands
Training Scope
Training Intensity
Training Years
Fig. 1 Potential psychological
skills to cope with the
psychological requirements for
world-class performance
sport (Fig. 1). They provided reasoning for high performance
requiring not only specific skills for elite competitive perfor-
mance but also specific skills for the often strenuous and long-
term training process. The proposed model consists of three
conceptual layers: requirements, skills, and techniques.
The first layer describes the possible categories of objective
(psychological) requirements an athlete has to meet in differ-
ent sports. Demands from competition itself incorporate the
duration,intensity,and continuity of the impact,thecomplex-
ity and variability of the action, and the movement pattern and
movement complexity. Demands stemming from the lengthy
training process and lifestyle to reach an elite performance
level incorporate training scope,training intensity,andyears
of training to become an expert in the corresponding disci-
pline and the psychosocial development that each sporting and
non-sporting individual needs to fulfill. Finally, demands
stemming from both competition and training processes are
incorporated in injury and death risk in the relevant sport and
the cooperation between the athlete and all members of the
party needed to fulfill the task. The requirements dictate the
psychological skills crucial for successfully coping with the
specific demands of the relevant sport.
Consequently, the second layer provides psychological
skills, which are hypothesized as helping to regulate an
athlete's behavior to meet the requirements of a specific
sport. In this context, a skill is the learned capacity or ability
to carry out a specific task. These skills are attention,moti-
vation,volition,arousal regulation,perceptual cognitive
functions,motor control, and the various selfconstructs
(e.g., self-awareness, self-efficacy, self-worth, self-
confidence) known as self skills, as well as personal devel-
opment and life skills,coping skills, communication and
leadership skills, and finally recovery skills. Birrer and
Morgan (2010) followed the differentiation, suggested by
Vealey (2007) and Seiler and Stock (1994), between psy-
chological skills as desired outcome (e.g., increased self-
confidence and enhanced attentional focus) and psycholog-
ical techniques (e.g., imagery and self-talk) as the means to
promote the desired outcomes through the systematic appli-
cation of these techniques. In this context, a technique is the
procedure used to enhance a skill needed to manage the
The third layer of the model comprises the techniques suit-
able for fostering the required psychological skills. Vealey
(2007) named imagery,goal-setting,self-talk, and physical
relaxation techniques as the four basic mental techniques
predominantly used in sports psychology interventions, sup-
plemented with multimodal psychological skills training,
which incorporates a combination of these basic techniques.
However, numerous additional techniques are used to en-
hance an athletes psychological skills, e.g., cognitive
restructuring. Birrer and Morgan (2010) adopted these basic
techniques in their model and added mindfulness-based
interventions as a further important technique promoting
psychological skills so that athletes can meet the require-
ments for a successful career. Mindfulness is a multifaceted
concept. Therefore, it is expected that mindfulness-based
interventions will influence the psychological functioning
of elite athletes via numerous impact mechanisms. More
comprehensive than Birrer and Morgan (2010), we believe
these interventions have to be seen more as a meta-
technique than a simplepsychological technique.
Traditional Psychological Skills Training in Sports
and Possible Limitations
During the last 30 years, the psychological techniques pre-
dominately used to enhance athletic performance have
stemmed mainly from psychological skills training (PST),
which is influenced mostly by cognitive-behavioral theories
(Meichenbaum 1977). This approach involves developing
self-control of internal states such as thoughts, emotions,
and physical experience to enhance performance. Scientific
evidence has shown the efficacy of PST. Many studies
demonstrate that PST decreases negative internal states,
such as performance anxiety, and increases positive internal
states (such as self-confidence, e.g., Daw and Burton 1994).
However, only a few studies have revealed a clear
performance-relevant impact of these internal state changes
(see Gardner and Moore 2006; Moore 2009, for a review).
Evaluating the efficacy of an intervention with a target
group of elite athletes is difficult. Samples of elite athletes
are small, and it is very difficult and ethically questionable
to persuade athletes and their coaches to be part of a control
group. Nevertheless, many athletes seem to experience dif-
ficulty in controlling their cognitive processes by employing
traditional PST methods. The usefulness of these methods
seems limited.
Two theories may explain why athletes cannot success-
fully control their cognitive processes despite investing in
the mental effort: the theory of ironic mental processes of
mental control (Wegner 1994; Janelle 1999) and the theory
of reinvestment (Masters 1992).
The theory of ironic mental processes explains the ten-
dency to feel, act, and think in ways that are opposite to the
intended direction of emotion, behavior, and cognition
(Janelle 1999, p. 202). Two processes are important in the
attempt to control ones own mental processes (Wegner
1994): (a) an intentional operating process, which facilitates
the desired outcome by the conscious and effortful search
for mental content, which is consistent with the desired
outcome, and (b) a monitoring process that checks if the
operating process is still needed by automatically and un-
consciously searching for signs of failures to produce the
desired outcome. It is hypothesized that the operating pro-
cess needs more cognitive capacity and has more influence
than the monitoring process. Additionally, the monitoring
process usually functions to activate the operating process.
In circumstances of reduced cognitive capacity, such as
stress, time urgency, mental overload, or distraction, the
monitoring process may supersede the operating process
because it is easier to access. Therefore, the sensitivity to
signs of mental states that are least desired or the opposite of
the desired outcome is enhanced. Ironically, these individual
attempts to gain mental control may cause the undesired
outcome the athlete was trying to avoid. Golfers often
experience this phenomenon when trying to avoid driving
the ball into a water hazard. Because the golfer tries so hard
to avoid the hazard, the ball often splashes into the water.
Ironic mental processes are predominately associated with
the deliberate self-control of psychological states or processes
(thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and behaviors), most-
ly to attain personal goals. The performance-decreasing effect
of this phenomenon is hypothesized as caused by the focus on
non-task-relevant cues (thoughts and feelings; external targets
to be avoided). Athletes who experience task irrelevant feel-
ings or thoughts might try to deliberately invest mental effort
in focusing on task-relevant information or the processes most
relevant for executing the task. Psychologists usually refer to
these attempts as concentration. Sport psychologists try to
enhance athletesconcentration by teaching them psycholog-
ical techniques such as specifying action goals, pre-
performance routines, self-talk (trigger words), and imagery
(Moran 2010). Consciously putting more effort in task execu-
tion might be performance relevant. However, scientific evi-
dence supports the performance-decreasing effects of such
attempts (e.g., Masters and Maxwell 2008). Further, some
findings suggest that ironic mental processes are associated
with performance-decreasing attention processes, more pre-
cisely athletesgaze behavior (Binsch et al. 2009,2010).
Ironic mental processes can be regarded as detrimental self-
regulatory behaviors associated with conscious control of
thoughts, emotions, or bodily sensations. Self-regulatory det-
rimental behaviors associated with conscious control of move-
ment have been united under the umbrella term reinvestment
(Masters 1992). Reinvestment processes are activated when-
ever an athletes self-evaluated performance does not match
his or her expected performance. This discrepancy can be in
either an unexpected poor performance or an unexpected good
performance. In this case, self-regulation is enhanced and
tends to initiate discrepancy reduction efforts (Carver and
Scheier 1988; Sbrocco and Barlow 1996). Reinvestment the-
ory states that automatic movement will be disrupted if the
athlete tries to control it consciously with declarative
knowledge (Masters and Maxwell 2008). Masters and
Maxwell (2008) specified numerous contingencies that
can result in reinvestment, for example, psychological
pressure, adaptation of process goals, or availability of
In summary, many contingencies can trigger the reinvest-
ment of task-relevant declarative knowledge. This has a
negative impact on performance. It is suggested that rein-
vestment is prevented through emotion control training
(Abrams 2010), an external focus of attention (Wulf et al.
2007), or the use of implicit motor learning (Masters 1992).
However, reinvestment would not appear if athletes were
not involved in self-evaluation processes because they are
attempting to attain personal goals. Mindfulness-based
interventions could help prevent the detrimental effects of
ironic mental processes or reinvestment. However, these
reflections imply a possible paradox of mindfulness-based
interventions in top sports, namely, the disaccord (or incon-
sistence) of the no goal and acceptance attitude of mindful-
ness and the extreme win and goal orientation of high
performance sport. We will address this paradox later, after
briefly clarifying our understanding of mindfulness.
Facets and Components of Mindfulness Practice
and Dispositional Mindfulness
Despitewidespread interest across different areas of psy-
chology in the application and effects of mindfulness, there
is no common understanding of the psychological construct
of mindfulness, or what facets and components the construct
involves (Coffey et al. 2010). Further, what impact mecha-
nisms are associated with it, and how these mechanisms
relate to different facets and components of mindfulness
and formal or informal mindfulness training, is not clear
(Dorjee 2010). However, for elite athletes to benefit from
using mindfulness, careful investigation of the facets and
components of mindfulness and their possible mechanisms
of effect is important. Therefore, a working model incorpo-
rating the basic facets and components of mindfulness will
be discussed, and possible mechanisms of effect of mind-
fulness in the attempt to enhance athletic performance will
be presented.
Clinically oriented conceptualizations of mindfulness
can confound the description of the phenomenon with the
methods (practice) through which it is fostered(Brown et
al. 2007, p. 215). The commonly used definition of mind-
fulness as intentional, non-judgmental awareness (Kabat-Zinn
1990) was introduced to describe mindfulness practice.Re-
search has shown that mindfulness practice is associated with
greater dispositional mindfulness (a temporary more-or-less
stable state or trait, the tendency to act mindful in everyday
life; Brown and Ryan 2003;Baeretal.2008). Consciously
carrying over mindfulness principles or elements into every-
day life can be seen as informal mindfulness practice. In this
context, we believe, similar to other researchers (e.g., Bishop
et al. 2004; Brown and Ryan 2003), that mindfulness may be
cultivated through everyday experience or processes other
than formal meditation.
To better understand the processes and principles that
underlie mindfulness, several researchers have sought to
clarify the concept by clearly establishing its facets. Bishop
et al. (2004) pointed to two dimensions of mindfulness: self-
regulation of attention and the attitude of openness to expe-
rience. Bohus and Huppertz (2006) differentiated What
and Howmodalities. Their conceptualization comprised
observing,describing, and acting (what modality)ina
non-judgmental,concentrated, and effective way (how mo-
dality). Shapiro and colleagues (2006) tried to break mind-
fulness down into a simple, comprehensible construct. This
construct reflected the core components of formal mindful-
ness practice: intention,attention,andattitude. These com-
ponents are not understood as separate processes or stages
they are interwoven aspects of a single cyclic process and
occur simultaneously. Mindfulness (practice) is this
moment-to-moment process(Shapiro et al. 2006, p. 375).
Based on the description of mindfulness in Mindfulness-
Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and in a Buddhist context,
Dorjee (2010) provided a working model with five mind-
fulness facets relevant to psychological and neuroscientific
research: (1) intention and context of mindfulness practice,
(2) bare attention, (3) attentional control, (4) wholesome
emotions,and (5) ethical discernment.
Baer and colleagues (2006,2008) investigated the factor
structure of mindfulness by combining all items from five
recently developed mindfulness questionnaires into a single
questionnaire. Since most mindfulness measures quantify
dispositional mindfulness, we believe that Baer and col-
leagues (2006,2008) conceptualized dispositional mindful-
ness. Exploratory factor analysis led them to five factors for
mindfulness with the following components: (1) observe
observing, noticing, and attending to thoughts, feelings,
perceptions, and sensations; (2) describedescribing or
labeling with words; (3) act awareacting with awareness;
(4) nonreactnot reacting to inner experience; and (5) non-
judgenot judging experience.
By exploring which of Baer and colleagues(2006,2008)
mindfulness components predict psychological well-being,
symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, Cash and
Whittingham (2010) showed that the mindfulness compo-
nents nonjudge and act aware were significant predictors of
depression. Additionally, nonjudge was a significant predic-
tor of anxiety and stress. Thus, different components of
dispositional mindfulness make different contributions to
psychological functioning. Coffey and colleagues (2010)
complained about the lack of a clear mindfulness definition,
especially about the lack of clear boundaries between dif-
ferent mindfulness conceptualizations and emotion regula-
tion, in mechanisms of impact by which mindfulness
components might influence mental benefits. To differenti-
ate between mindfulness components and emotion regula-
tion, Coffey et al. ran different exploratory, confirmatory
factor analysis and structural equation models to better
understand the factor structure of mindfulness and emotion
regulation measures and possible impact mechanisms on
psychological functioning. The researchers concluded mind-
fulness consists of two facets: (1) present-centered attention
and (2) acceptance of experience. They suggested that other
components captured in current trait measures of mindful-
ness are the consequence of mindfulness rather than com-
ponents. A reason for this might be that the boundaries
between mindfulness practice and dispositional mindfulness
are not very clear. Formal mindfulness practice with bare
attention, the intention to self-regulate, and a nonjudgmental
and accepting attitude will enhance the disposition to act
with more attention and a nonjudgmental attitude in every-
day life, which, we argue, is nothing more than the trait
components of dispositional mindfulness. Finally, recently
Bergomi and colleagues (in press) developed a new instru-
ment, the Comprehensive Inventory of Mindfulness Expe-
riences (CHIME). It consists of six components: (1) non-
reactivity/decentering, (2) observe/perceive, (3) relativiza-
tion, (4) openness/non-avoidance, (5) act aware,and (6)
These differing conceptualizations of mindfulness high-
light the problematic confusion of mindfulness practice (as a
method to become mindful) and dispositional or trait mind-
fulness (the phenomenon, Brown et al. 2007). For our own
mindfulness interventions and in contrast to other conceptu-
alizations, we differentiate mindfulness practice from dispo-
sitional mindfulness. For the concept of mindfulness
practice, we mostly follow the proposal by Shapiro and
colleagues (2006) because it seems to be a parsimonious
model. Almost all of the other modelsfacets can be inte-
grated into Shapiro and colleaguesconceptualization. Fur-
ther, bare attention and nonjudgmental attitude have shown
a reasonable impact on psychological functioning in empir-
ical studies (Coffey et al. 2010; Carmody et al. 2009). Thus,
our mindfulness practice concept consists of the following
interwoven facets: (1) an intention to practice, which could
include self-regulation, self-exploration, self-liberation, in-
sight, and wisdom (see also Dorjee 2010), (2) bare attention
to internal or external stimuli with the possibility of sus-
tained attention, shift, and inhibition, and (3) an attitude of
nonjudgmental, acceptance, openness, self-respect, and non-
reactivity. Although there are signs that intention to practice
is not a relevant impact factor (Coffey et al. 2010; Carmody
et al. 2009), we decided to keep it in our conceptualization
because intention to practice can constitute an important
motivational variable in the context of elite sports. Regard-
ing dispositional mindfulness, we suggest using Bergomi
and colleagues(in press) concept because it is based on
eight validated mindfulness questionnaires and shows good
reliability and validity. Further, the authors emphasized
while constructing the instrument that the measure is equally
applicable to experienced meditation practitioners and med-
itation novices. Therefore, it should be applicable to ath-
letes. To differentiate between mindfulness practice and
dispositional mindfulness, we refer to facets of mindfulness
when we talk about mindfulness practice and to components
of mindfulness when we talk about trait mindfulness.
Mechanisms of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is often described as a key aspect of the so-
called third wave of behavior therapy (Hayes 2004). These
interventions emphasize changing the function, not the form
of behavior, emotion, cognition, bodily sensations, and ex-
ternal stimuli. They aim to change the relationship to
thoughts and emotions, not the content of thoughts and
emotions. This differentiation is important to bear in mind
because it has an essential influence on possible impact
mechanisms. Additionally, for examining the effectiveness
of mindfulness-based interventions as well as their impact
mechanism, considering the techniques used to foster dis-
positional mindfulness is important. MBSR (Kabat-Zinn
1982) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT;
Segal et al. 2002), for example, emphasize regular mindful-
ness meditation practice whereas acceptance and commit-
ment therapy (ACT; Hayes et al. 1999) and dialectical
behavior therapy (DBT; Linehan 1993) do not.
There is evidence that formal mindfulness practice leads
to more dispositional mindfulness (Carmody et al. 2009).
The degree of dispositional mindfulness is also influenced
by informal practice (doing routine activities mindfully,
Kabat-Zinn 1990) and psychotherapy (Martin 1997) as well
as individual genetic (Way et al. 2006) and developmental
(Greenough and Black 1992) differences. In addition,
knowledge about mindfulness (through education in psy-
chology) could influence the degree of dispositional mind-
fulness. However, which of these factors and which
combination of these factors contribute to what extent to
changes in psychological functioning and with athletes to
changes in performance is unclear.
There is evidence that increased dispositional mindful-
ness mediates improvement in psychological functioning
(see Baer 2009 for a review) and that different facets of
dispositional mindfulness make different contributions to
psychological functioning (Cash and Whittingham 2010;
Baer et al. 2008; Baer et al. 2006). It is hypothesized that
improved attention facilitates the recognition of internal
associative processes (Carmody 2009). This recognition
leads to the development of reperceiving (Shapiro et al.
2006). Reperceiving is closely related to the concepts of
decentering (Safran and Segal 1990), deautomatization
(Deikman 1982), detachment (Bohart 1983), and metacog-
nitive awareness (Teasdale et al. 2002).
These terms describe a change in perception. It is no
longer the content (of, e.g., a thought) that is perceived,
but the content (of this thought) as an event in/of the mind
(Shapiro et al. 2006). This perception is accompanied by the
insight that experience consists of components of thoughts,
emotions, and bodily sensations associated with each other.
This change in perception and the resulting insight lead in
turn to various psychological outcomes. According to Sha-
piro and colleagues (2006), reperceiving is a meta-
mechanism for the mechanisms of action flexibility, values
clarification, self-regulation, and exposure. Carmody et al.
(2009) showed that change in flexibility and change in
values were significant predictors (mediators) of changes
in perceived stress and psychological symptoms. However,
the significant influence of reperceiving as a meta-
mechanism has been only partially confirmed.
Coffey et al. (2010) tested the mediating roles of clarity
about ones internal life, the ability to manage negative
emotions, non-attachment, and rumination in the relation-
ship between mindfulness and psychological distress and
flourishing mental health. Ruminating is a form of self-
focus in which thoughts cycle around a common topic.
Results confirmed the importance of these mediators in the
relationship between the mindfulness facets of present-
centered attention and the acceptance of experience and
mental health. Interestingly, the attitudinal, acceptance-
based facet of mindfulness (practice) mattered more for the
measured psychological functioning than the attention facet.
Acceptance is another considered mechanism of action for
mindfulness (Hayes et al. 1999). Acceptance stands in con-
trast to avoidance and control and can lead to a calmness
independent of external circumstances.
These findings suggest that mechanisms by which mind-
fulness might beneficially impact psychological adjustment
are (1) bare attention, (2) experiential acceptance, (3) val-
ues clarification, (4) self-regulation/negative emotion regu-
lation, (5) clarity about ones internal life, (6) exposure, (7)
flexibility, (8) non-attachment, and (9) less rumination. Con-
sidering these possible mechanisms of action for mindful-
ness practice and taking into account Birrer and Morgans
(2010) model, we assumed the following mechanisms of
action of mindfulness practice for athletes (Fig. 2):
Bare attention facet of mindfulness practice: Mindful-
ness practice (the bare attention facet) improves attention-
al and perceptual-cognitive skills directly (Chambers et
al. 2008; Chiesa et al. 2011;Ortneretal.2007). There-
fore, athletes are possibly less distracted, better able to
control their attention and place it on goal-relevant
aspects, and improve their action orientation. When at-
tention is no longer employed with irrelevant content, it is
free for other aspects of the situation, which might lead to
a solution of a problem and a better outcome (Carmody
Attitude facet of mindfulness practice (acceptance, non-
judgmental, openness, self-respect, and non-reactivity):
Mindfulness practice increases experiential acceptance
(Hayes et al. 1999). As a result, athletes accept a per-
formance discrepancy (unexpected poor performance
and unexpected good performance), and reinvestment
processes are not be triggered. The tendency to control
automatized movements with declarative knowledge is
reduced, and athletes could therefore enhance their per-
formance of well-learned motor skills because automat-
ic processes are not interrupted. Additionally, the
occurrence of ironic mental processes would decrease,
which again should favor athletic performance.
Values clarification: Mindfulness practice leads to a
clarification of values (Shapiro et al. 2006). Athletes
could identify conflicts between their personal values
and goals and thus increase their self-concordance
(Koestner et al. 2002)andthedegreeoftheirself-
determined behavior, which would have a positive ef-
fect on their need-satisfaction (Deci and Ryan 1985).
Consequently, motivational skills,personal, and devel-
opmental as well as self skills would profit from a
clarification of values.
Self-regulation/negative emotion regulation: Disposi-
tional mindfulness as a result of formal and informal
mindfulness practice enhances self-regulation (Carmody
et al. 2009; Coffey et al. 2010; Shapiro et al. 2006).
Therefore, athletes would be better able to deal with
anger, fear, and other negative emotions. Arousal regula-
self skills, should profit from an enhanced self-regulation.
Clarity about ones internal life: Mindfulness leads to
better clarity about ones internal feelings and ones
ability to control behavior in the presence of negative
affect (Coffey et al. 2010). Better clarity would have a
positive effect on personal development and life,self,
recovery,andcoping as well as communication and
leadership skills. Thus, there would be fewer over-
trained athletes and drop-outs.
Exposure: Mindfulness practice leads to more exposure
(Shapiro et al. 2006), in particular the willingness to
remain in contact with an unpleasant experience. There-
fore, athletes could be more willing to endure negative
Self Skills
1. Attention
2. Attitude
3. Values clarification
5. Clarity
6. Exposure
7. Flexibility
8. Non-attachment
9. Less rumination
Facets &
Impact mechanisms
Fig. 2 Potential impact mechanisms of mindfulness facets and components on psychological skills. Arrows imply the influence of mechanisms on
skills. Only one possible relationship between a mechanism and a skill is shown because of clarity reasons
emotions and aversive states instead of avoiding them.
Thus, the athletes could confront more difficult situa-
tions in competition, tend to extend their threshold of
pain, and be willing to face aversive training situations.
Enhanced volitional,pain management,andcoping
skills are the likely consequence.
Cognitive, emotional, and behavioral flexibility: Adap-
tation and flexibility in responding to the environment
as a result of dispositional mindfulness (Carmody et al.
2009) promote the consolidation of personal develop-
ment and self as well as communication and leadership
Non-attachment: The belief that ones own happiness is
independent of obtaining positive outcomes (non-at-
tachment) is a consequence of mindfulness (practice)
(Coffey et al. 2010). Presumably, non-attachment
reduces ironic mental processes and reinvestment. Thus,
non-attachment has a positive effect on personal devel-
opment,self,recovery,coping,andmotor control as
well as communication and leadership skills.
Less rumination: Mindfulness reduces rumination
(Coffey et al. 2010) or at least the uncontrollability of
rumination (Raes and Williams 2010). Less ruminating
thinking influences several psychological skills, most
likely personal development and life,self,recovery,
coping,arousal regulation,attentional, and motor con-
trol skills.
The Goal Paradox: Can Mindfulness Be Applied
in an Elite Sports Environment?
At this point, it seems appropriate to address the issue of the
apparent inconsistency of the fundamental no goal and
acceptance attitude of traditional mindfulness practice and
the radical goal orientation of elite sports. This issue stems
from the difficulty of Western society adopting a concept
developed over centuries within an Eastern cultural back-
ground. Elite sports signify the pinnacle of meritocracy of
modern Western society. In an environment where coming
fourth is often regarded as a failure, athletes are extremely
outcome oriented. This radical goal orientation stands in
contrast to the acceptance and no goal attitude of mindful-
ness. Stemming from Buddhist tradition, the practice of
mindfulness is based on an Eastern philosophical belief that
the source of suffering is an uncontrolled mind guided by
anger, attachment, and ignorance (Dorjee 2010). The goal of
mindfulness meditation is therefore often the liberation of
onesdesire and will. This (ostensibly) contradicts an ath-
letesgoal to win a competition. Obviously, there is a
paradox we cannot easily solve. Otherwise, inherent aspects
of sports are consistent with mindfulness (philosophy).
For instance, successful athletes have realized that the temp-
tation of focusing on winning can inhibit their current per-
formance. Four-time Olympic, six-time World, and 21-time
European Champion Alexander Popow (freestyle swim-
ming) is a very good example of keeping ones attention
on the moment at hand. Before winning his sixth World title
in 2003, he stated seemingly succinct: Who thinks of
winning loses.He realized that thoughts on winning would
distract him from the task at hand and inhibit the delivery of
automated processes. Hence, successful athletes already
seem to use attitudes conjoint with mindfulness philosophy,
namely, focusing on the present moment, accepting an un-
pleasant experience such as physical pain, and practicing
consistently. However, integrating mindfulness-based inter-
ventions in an elite sports setting remains challenging.
To tackle the general problem of integrating mindfulness
in therapeutic concepts of Western society, Berking and
Znoj (2006) suggested distinguishing different facets of
mindfulness and training them separately. We addressed this
aspect earlier by making a thorough distinction between the
facets of mindfulness practice and the components of dis-
positional mindfulness and their possible impact mecha-
nisms on the specific demands of psychological
functioning of elite athletes. Regarding the intention to train
facet of mindfulness, most athletes certainly aim to enhance
their self-regulation. The key challenge is to unite the
attitude facet with the attitudes shaped by Western
sociocultural-related forces and the forces stemming from
every different sports culture (for example, the sports culture
of professional soccer differs in many aspects from the
culture of rhythmic gymnastics). With this in mind, mind-
fulness is far from being seen as a psychological skill or a
quick fix. On the contrary, the training and practice aspect
inherent in mindfulness meditation is very similar to the
understanding of training in sports. Performance is mostly
seen as an outcome of a years-long training process. Simi-
larly, enhancing self-regulation can be easily seen as the
cause of a process demanding hundreds of hours of contin-
ual practice with the right attitude (non-judgmental, accep-
tance, openness, self-respect, and non-reactivity). These
similarities can be used in applying mindfulness-based inter-
ventions to a sports setting.
This leads to another point Berking and Znoj (2006)
suggested: how to beneficially integrate mindfulness in the
Western context. The introduction together with the reason-
ing for mindfulness interventions must be separated from
the traditional Buddhist culture and adapted to the predom-
inant values and belief system of Western culture, and even
more specifically to the different sports cultures. The accep-
tance attitude of mindfulness practice, for example, might be
easily misinterpreted in a sports setting and can lead to
unintended outcomes. For instance, a player might be temp-
ted to accept the result at the half-time of a game as an
unmistakable fact and therefore accept the thought that his
or her opponent is stronger than his or her own team, and
thus give up before the end of the game. Hence, an intro-
duction to the mindfulness attitude might require a thorough
understanding of mindfulness aspects as well as the sports
culture. The athlete has to understand that acceptance does
not mean the approval of the present moment condition but
the non-judging awareness of the present circumstances or
the reaction to it in the form of thoughts and emotions.
Consistent with the third wave of behavior therapy (Hayes
2004), thoughts are seen as what they are, namely, thoughts
and not facts. Similarly, emotions are emotions and nothing
else. Modification of dysfunctional thoughts is not targeted,
but the insight that thoughts are just processes of our brain
and the refocus on other psychological functions, for in-
stance, the perception of task relevant aspects are normal.
Similarly, emotions, bodily sensations, and external stimuli
are not the aim of change, but the relationship to them.
Therefore, using mindfulness techniques will help athletes
regain a state of mind where goal-oriented behavior and
automatic goal-focused processes are facilitated.
Thus, the sole use of either mindfulness training or psy-
chological skills training will likely be ineffective in tack-
ling athletesissues as long as the training is not integrated
into one compatible concept. Therefore, we agree with
Berking and Znoj (2006) that mindfulness-based techniques
might have to be taught with other techniques, which ena-
bles a person to proactively solve a problem.
Current State of Knowledge about the Effectiveness
of Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Sports
Kabat-Zinn et al. (1985) provided training in mindfulness
meditation to collegiate and Olympic rowers with specific
applications of mindfulness to rowing. The researchers
reported that collegiate rowers exceeded the coachs expect-
ations based on the athleteslevel of experience and phys-
ical abilities. Furthermore, several rowers who medaled at
the Olympics reported that mindfulness training helped
them perform at their full potential. After this promising
start, mindfulness-based interventions in sports more or less
disappeared from the sport psychology landscape for almost
two decades. Recently, two sport-specific mindfulness-
based intervention programs have been developed: Mind-
fulnessAcceptanceCommitment Approach (MAC; Gardner
and Moore 2007) and Mindful Sports Performance Enhance-
ment (MSPE; Kaufman et al. 2009). To our knowledge, eight
empirical studies have been conducted in English that inves-
tigate mindfulness in sports or mindfulness-based interven-
tions with athletes. There are two correlational studies
(Gooding and Gardner 2009; Kee and Wang 2008)anda
single case study (Schwanhausser 2009). The remaining five
are intervention studies. Three examine the MSPE program
(De Petrillo et al. 2009; Kaufman et al. 2009; Thompson et al.
2011). The other two explore other mindfulness-based
interventions (Aherne et al. 2011; Bernier et al. 2009).
The number of subjects in the intervention studies is at
most 32. If there is a control group, it is a passive waiting list
control group. In sum, there is empirical evidence that dispo-
sitional mindfulness is a performance-relevant trait in sports
and that mindfulness-based interventions may be helpful for
athletes. The results so far suggest that dispositional
mindfulness is related to more flow, less fear, and fewer
task-irrelevant thoughts. Mindfulness-based interventions
seem to increase dispositional mindfulness. For a thor-
ough assessment, however, more high-quality studies are
needed. They should use randomized control group designs
with active control groups or multiple baseline designs and
measure performance as the dependent variable. A systematic
study of the mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based inter-
ventions in sports has yet to be conducted. The effects found
so far are relatively small and/or not significant. In competi-
tive sports, however, even small effects can be important.
Detecting small effects takes a lot of statistical power and
therefore a large number of subjects. This is likely to prove
to be difficult in the context of competitive sports. Ways to
deal with this problem are meta-analyses or correlational
studies with large numbers of subjects.
The aim of the present paper was to present theoretical con-
siderations on how mindfulness-based interventions can be
used to help elite athletes successfully meet the demands of
their sport. The focus was on the distinction between mind-
fulness practice and dispositional mindfulness as well as pos-
sible mechanisms of impact. Overall, the use of mindfulness-
based interventions in sports seems to be a promising ap-
proach. By explaining what and how performance-related
skills can be improved with mindfulness practice, the theoret-
ical considerations show that it makes sense to scientifically
study this approach let alone its value as a practical interven-
tion concept. Mindfulness seems to be a holistic intervention
fostering the development of several personal, sport, and
performance-relevant psychological skills.
However, to effectively apply mindfulness-based inter-
ventions in sports, we suggest thoroughly differentiating the
mindfulness practice facets from the mindfulness compo-
nents of dispositional mindfulness and training and measur-
ing them separately (although we see them as more or less
interwoven but distinguishable constructs). As a first step,
examining the relationship of dispositional mindfulness and
performance-relevant variables and preliminarily studying
the hypothesized impact mechanism in cross-sectional studies
with many elite athletes seems worthwhile. As a second step,
the influence of mindfulness practice on dispositional mind-
fulness and performance-relevant variables might be investi-
gated in intervention studies.
Because of the limited empirical data and despite the
statistical challenges, many questions need to be addressed
in both steps: (1) Do mindfulness-based interventions have a
performance-relevant effect on athletes? This question
should be investigated with randomized control group stud-
ies, active control groups, or multiple baseline designs and
standardized intervention manuals. The intervention is ef-
fective if mindfulness practice is associated with an im-
provement in performance-related skills and a reduction of
inhibitors of high performance or at its best improving
performance. These relationships should be mediated by
changes in dispositional mindfulness. In additional steps,
the following questions should be examined: (2) Can the
postulated mechanisms of action of mindfulness-based
interventions for athletes be confirmed? (3) How much
(dose) and what kind of mindfulness practice (formal, infor-
mal, psycho-education) is necessary to achieve the expected
changes in performance-related skills (response)? (4) Do
different components of dispositional mindfulness have
different influences on performance-related skills? (5) What
kind of mindfulness practice influences which components
of dispositional mindfulness? (6) What facets of mindful-
ness practice have what influence on performance-related
skills and dispositional mindfulness? (7) How can
mindfulness-based interventions and traditional PST be
combined? Further, whether mindfulness-based interven-
tions in some cases could result in performance decline,
because athletes might remain self-focused too long, is
not clear.
Finally, a briefly outline of how mindfulness techniques
might be translated into the sports setting seems appropriate.
Mindfulness practice can be taught in many ways. Formal
mindfulness breathing exercises might be introduced in a
non-sports setting. To explain the mindfulness philosophy,
using the athletes own examples and demonstrating a non-
judging and accepting attitude in his or her specific situa-
tions is important. Additionally, mindfulness exercises can
be easily transferred into a training program or training
session as Kabat-Zinn and colleagues (1985) demonstrated
when they delivered sport-specific mindfulness techniques
to rowers. Rowers can train mindfulness exercises directly
in their boat when they focus on the breath or letting go of
thoughts of pain and discomfort. As another example, a
body scan exercise can easily be administered during the
cool-down phase at the end of a training session. At first
glance, mindfulness seems incompatible with an elite sports
setting. However, with the appropriate openness as well as
sport-specific expertise, mindfulness techniques can be in-
tegrated in a sports setting in many ways.
Acknowledgment We would like to thank Peter Haberl for the
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... Mindfulness is believed to reflect both focus on and awareness of one's moment-to-moment experiences through a non-judgmental attitude Creswell, 2017). Mindfulness also is described as a trait or disposition that involves the amount of tendency of the individual to be mindful in daily life (Birrer et al., 2012). Relatedly, mindfulness levels have been considered a key factor in ensuring the optimal psychological status necessary to achieve peak performance in fine motor sports (Gooding and Gardner, 2009;Zhang et al., 2016). ...
... Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) involving mental concepts, specific exercises, and class discussions that are intended to induce positive effects in terms of individual focus, mindfulness-related body sensations, cognitive factors, and emotional regulation Creswell et al., 2019), have been observed to efficiently cultivate mindfulness through regular practice in athletes (Birrer et al., 2012;Josefsson et al., 2019;Nien et al., 2020). Additionally, MBIs have been found to directly affect fine motor sport performances in sports involving precision, accuracy, and dexterity (Bühlmayer et al., 2017;Noetel et al., 2019), such as shooting and dart throwing (Zhang et al., 2016), in addition to being linked to enhanced psychological parameters (Birrer et al., 2012;Bühlmayer et al., 2017), such as improved flow experiences, selfconfidence, and competitive anxiety, in archers Thompson et al., 2011). ...
... Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) involving mental concepts, specific exercises, and class discussions that are intended to induce positive effects in terms of individual focus, mindfulness-related body sensations, cognitive factors, and emotional regulation Creswell et al., 2019), have been observed to efficiently cultivate mindfulness through regular practice in athletes (Birrer et al., 2012;Josefsson et al., 2019;Nien et al., 2020). Additionally, MBIs have been found to directly affect fine motor sport performances in sports involving precision, accuracy, and dexterity (Bühlmayer et al., 2017;Noetel et al., 2019), such as shooting and dart throwing (Zhang et al., 2016), in addition to being linked to enhanced psychological parameters (Birrer et al., 2012;Bühlmayer et al., 2017), such as improved flow experiences, selfconfidence, and competitive anxiety, in archers Thompson et al., 2011). ...
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Although sport as an activity has been practiced for much of modern history, sports sciences were not considered a discipline of academic tradition until the 20th century (Fernández and García, 2018). The purpose and function of sport sciences are to investigate questions about motor behavior and performance, which must be solved on a scientific basis. According to data from PubMed, scientific research on sport sciences has increased in the last 10 years. Specifically, it is possible to affirm that more scientific studies were published in the 2010–2020 decade than in the entire previous period (1945–2009) (Maneiro, 2021). This brings us closer to the idea that this area of knowledge is in full expansion and apogee, in which sports scientists have a fundamental role. Analyzing more specifically the different fields of study, it is possible to affirm that some fields have more robust growth, while in others their growth is more moderate. Specifically, areas such as rehabilitation, exercise, or biomechanics show very notable growth, while others such as sports injuries, motor behavior analysis, performance analysis, or strength training show less notable growth (González et al., 2018). This special Research Topic entitled “Advances in Sport Science: Latest Findings and New Scientific Proposals” began with a double objective: on the one hand, to offer a space where scientists can continue to delve into the most consolidated scientific disciplines; and on the other hand, to open a path where those areas that still need more research could have a place. As a result, the great impact it has had on the community is noteworthy, to the extent that 27 articles have been published by 130 authors, and with a total global impact of almost 61,000 visits from multiple different countries, which has increased and improved knowledge on the following topics: performance analysis in individual and team sports (15 articles), the impact of COVID-19 on performance (3 articles), executive functions and physical fitness at an early age (3 articles), physical activity in older people (1 article), and psychological profiles in performance athletes (6 articles).
... In addition, studies conducted by sports psychologists have concluded that psychological skills positively affect athlete performance by 85%, and the importance of sports psychology and therefore psychological skills is emphasized (15). While the high-performance level desired by the athletes can be weakened by some psychological barriers apart from physical injuries, it can also be strongly supported by psycho-physiological aids (11). Sports success and sports performance depend on the capacity of individuals to be physically and psychologically ready, and therefore individuals should have good discipline and be able to cope with potential problems (10). ...
... This idea is supported by Schwanhausser's (62) statement that there are studies that increase sportive performance because mindfulness provides people with mindfulness protocols such as determination and acceptance (75). Mindfulness, which is the actor of this dual relationship, creates a new research area for sports psychology because it focuses on increasing athlete performance (11). ...
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The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of athlete mindfulness, which is expressed as the ability of athletes to establish a cause-effect relationship without losing the perception of reality in the moments and situations related to sports, on the development of their psychological skills, which is emphasized by sports psychologists to positively affect athlete performance by 85%. This study was designed according to the relational screening and causal comparison methods in order to examine the interaction between the variables. The study group comprised of 362 athletes who can be reached by non-random sampling methods and determined according to the criterion sampling method. As a data collection tool "Athlete Psychological Skills Assessment Scale" developed by Smith et al., (1995) and adapted to Turkish culture by Erhan et al. (2015) was used. Also, “Athlete Mindfulness Scale” developed by Thienot et al. (2014) and adapted to Turkish culture by Tingaz (2020) was used. In the analysis of the data obtained, the demographic variables of the participants were analyzed by correlation and t-test in independent samples, and structural equation model was used in determining the effect of mindfulness levels of athletes on the development of their psychological skills. As a result, it has been concluded that the mindfulness of the athletes is a significant predictor of the development of the psychological skills of the athletes and explains it at the level of .30.
... Botta et al. (2015) showed that adults acquired relevant knowledge during an MBP, but they did not examine whether that influenced the intervention's effectiveness. This hypothesis is aligned with Birrer et al. (2012), who proposed that greater knowledge about mindfulness could increase the impact of mindfulness training. ...
... Second, regardless of the program, those who acquired more knowledge achieved better mathematic grades. Though not confirming the proposal of Birrer et al. (2012), these results suggest that the acquisition of intervention-related knowledge may magnify the impact of any intervention on school grades. Alternatively, this finding may also be attributed to a common underlying cause not here measured, such as higher learning abilities, reasoning skills, or school commitment. ...
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Objectives There is a growing interest in mindfulness-based programs. Yet, research in the area is limited, and little is known about the factors that moderate the effects of these programs. The two-fold aim of this study was (1) to examine the effects of a mindfulness-based program on dispositional mindfulness, inattention and emotional lability, handwriting fluency, spelling accuracy, and composing quality, as well as school achievement; and (2) to evaluate the moderating role of lesson absences, intervention-related knowledge, and social validity. Method Using a quasi-experimental design, 257 fourth graders were assigned to an experimental group receiving a mindfulness-based program (n = 130) or an active control group receiving a health-based program (n = 127). Both programs were implemented in the classroom for 8 weekly units, which included two 30-min sessions delivered by psychologists, followed by three 5-min sessions delivered by teachers. All children were evaluated before and after the programs. Results Compared to the control condition, the mindfulness-based program resulted in higher levels of internal and external awareness, and decentering and nonreactivity, as well as better composing quality and mathematics grades. Lesson absences, intervention-related knowledge, and social validity did not moderate the effects of the mindfulness-based program. Conclusions These findings support the integration of mindfulness practices in primary school as a means to improve children’s academic-related skills and ability to be mindful.
... Consequently, when tailoring an MT intervention, it seems important to pay attention to motivational aspects that encourage compliance and adherence, particularly among high-performing populations working to a tight schedule (Meland et al., 2015a). The results of interventions with elite athletes highlight the need to make mindfulness practice meaningful, by demonstrating how it can meet performance-specific requirements (Bernier et al., 2014;Birrer et al., 2012;Doron et al., 2020). These considerations reinforce the need to adapt the intervention to the context, and the population. ...
... As the ARO program includes additional content (e.g., talks, experiential situations in strength and conditioning sessions, discussions about application in professional situations; see Supplementay Material, Table 1), it is not possible to determine exactly which part of the program resulted in which effect. However, the supplementary content was justified by previous studies that show that it supports participants' understanding of mindfulness principles, helps to adapt the intervention to the context and any specific constraints (e.g., time pressures) and reinforces personal commitment and adherence (Bernier et al., 2014;Birrer et al., 2012;Doron et al., 2020;Meland et al., 2015a). ...
The current study investigated the effects of a mindfulness-based training program (Attentional Regulation Optimization) on decision-making in an elite population operating in a highly-demanding context, namely the actions of fighter pilots in critical flight situations that lead to ejection. Our hypothesis was that both mindfulness skills and decision-making performance would improve in pilots who participated in the ARO program (n = 7), compared to a control group (n = 8). Mindfulness skills were measured with the FFMQ-15. Decision-making performance was evaluated in two tests that were implemented in scenarios in a full flight simulator. Five dependent variables were assessed, corresponding to the phases of the decision-making process when faced with an in-flight failure: reaction time after the first failure input, correctness of the first action, emergency procedure score, ejection procedure score, and quality of ejection. Adherence to the ARO program was assessed with the number of out-of-class individual mindfulness sessions and the number of out-of-class body-mind scans. No statistically significant improvement in mindfulness skills for the ARO group compared to the control group were found. Reaction time was significantly shortened for the ARO group compared to the control group—but only for complex failures. A positive effect on the correctness of the first action was also found. On the other hand, ARO training had no significant effect on the downstream phases of decision-making (emergency pro- cedure score, ejection procedure score and quality of ejection). Given the small sample size, these results must be considered with caution. However, they open up interesting avenues for future work, notably with regard to the benefits of mindfulness training on perceptual and atten- tional skills (to detect flight failure cues) and cognitive control skills (to diagnose and select appropriate pro- cedures). From an operational perspective, the program appears to have beneficial effects on safety and performance in elite populations who must face critical situations.
... This skill is related to cognitive exibility, as it determines how exible an athlete is able to switch to the task that is most relevant. Of note, the mindfulness group improved their performance in these neurocognitive domains despite not reducing anxiety or changing thought-patterns, which is consistent with how mindfulness has been conceptualized to improve performance (e.g., by reducing disruptive effects of internal and external stimuli via acceptance rather than content-control; e.g., (52) and consistent with past mindfulness and unpleasant emotional interference task performance ndings (e.g (57). In conclusion, we could not fully support our second hypothesis but the acquisition of mindfulness skills can contribute to the acceleration of information processing and the development of cognitive exibility. ...
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Background In the present study, we compared group-based rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) and mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) with a control group. The aim of the study was to explore the effectiveness of the two interventions on specific psychological (competitive anxiety, perfectionism, irrational beliefs), physiological (salivary cortisol levels), and neurocognitive (executive functions: working memory, inhibition, cognitive flexibility) functions in Hungarian junior ice hockey players. Methods We used questionnaires to assess competitive anxiety, perfectionism, and irrational beliefs. The components of executive functions were measured using a computerized testing system, while cortisol levels were examined through salivary samples. Prior to and after the interventions, each participant underwent all measurements, after which we conducted repeated measures ANOVA on our data. Results We found REBT to be an effective intervention for the regulation of competitive anxiety, perfectionism, and irrational beliefs as well as for improving some components of executive functions (inhibition and cognitive flexibility). Mindfulness was found to improve athletes' processing speed and set-shifting abilities, which are related to cognitive flexibility and metacognitive processes. Conclusion In conclusion, we explore implications of these findings regarding how each approach is posited to enhance sports performance, using neurocognitive functions as a proxy. These findings are useful for the further research and practical implication as well.
... Considerable interest has been shown in mindfulness by western society since the year 2000 with emphasis on cognitive processes involved. This interest is shown for example in the dedication of special issues of journals to mindfulness (cf., the Journal of Social Issues, 2000; Emotions February, 2010; and the Journal Mindfulness itself, newly operating from 2010) and in the now many different applications including, beyond the early origins in meditation, to areas such as clinical and health psychology [11,12,13]; sporting achievement [14] and business and the workplace (e.g., in distress, resilience, and well-being at work: [15]); and in accidents and work safety [2,16,17]. ...
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Cognitive failures at work (or errors in the workplace including blunders and memory lapses), can lead to considerable personal and organisational damage, even damage well beyond national borders in some organisations. Workplace errors may have a personality base; and mindfulness (or mindlessness) also appears to be related to workplace errors generally. Given the importance and cost of errors in the workplace it is of concern that no previous research appears to have addressed the relationships between cognitive failures at work, personality and mindfulness together. We aimed to address this gap. We administered the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire, the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) and the Big Five International Personality Item Pool 50-item questionnaire (IPIP) to a sample of 92 Australian-based employees from a variety of organisations. Our results showed workplace errors (including lapses in general memory, blunders, distractions and recall of names) were related to lower levels of mindfulness and to lower levels of emotional stability (that is, the other end of the neuroticism- emotional stability continuum). Extraversion was associated with not making blunders, but the other three factors of the Big Five (Openness, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness) were not found to be related to workplace errors. These results demonstrate important relationships between mindfulness and workplace errors; and personality (mainly Neuroticism- Emotional Stability) and workplace errors. Giving special attention to mindfulness training and to effective mental health training in organisations is recommended, especially where lapses in attention or workplace actions can lead to costly personal and organisational mistakes.
... Meditation may contribute to optimal performance in sport due to its effects on the psychological dimensions relevant to the acquisition and expression of skills [7,8]. For instance, meditation may enhance attention [9,10], improve emotion management [11][12][13], stress reduction [14][15][16] and can help in coping with fatigue and pain [17]. ...
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Sport and competitions stress athletes both physically and mentally. Physical training strengthens muscular and metabolic capabilities, while mental training reduces psychological load and negative emotions. Meditation practice helps athletes to reach better results in many sports, but evaluating only sport results makes it difficult to disentangle the specific effects of meditation contributing to performance. Our aim was to evaluate if meditation practice may benefit body balance, a basic skill relevant for action execution and performance. 81 high school students were trained in body balance for six weeks through balance and stabilization exercises and to stand on a fit-ball. 42 of them were trained in meditation, which practiced during the same six weeks (meditation group), the remaining 39 did not (control group). Core stability, tested before and after the training period, improved in both groups to a similar extent. On the other hand, the meditation group developed a much greater skill on fit-ball than the control group: the hazard rate of falling was reduced by 67 %. Our results suggest that for a more difficult task, meditation can increase learning and execution, and that introducing meditation in athletes' training routine may be of value for balance control and performance.
... Mindfulness is an approach that seeks to reveal the experiences offered by each moment without ignoring the set goals [10]. Mindfulness is an innate capacity that can be developed through mindfulness-based practices [11]. It also helps athletes learn to live with stressors and challenges that may arise during training and competition or during preparation, such as competition, intense training and injury. ...
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Athlete burnout is a common issue that negatively affects the performance and well being of athletes. This study was conducted to examine the relationship between burnout levels and mindfulness of students who are active athletes. Descriptive analysis and correlational research model were utilized in the study. As data collection tools in the study, “Personal Information Form” including demographic information of the students was requested at first. Two scales were used: The “Athlete Burnout Scale,” developed by Raedeke and Smith and adapted into Turkish by Kelecek et al.; The “Athlete Mindfulness Scale,” developed by Thienot et al. and adapted into Turkish by Tingaz. The research group consisted of a total of 378 people, 96 women and 282 men, who were selected by random sampling method, actively practicing sports. In the study, t-test was used for pairwise comparisons and ANOVA test was used for multiple comparisons. Pearson Correlation analysis was used to determine the relationship between mindfulness and burnout levels. In the study, it was found that there were significant differences in burnout levels depending on the gender variable and in some mindfulness sub-dimensions depending on the branch variable. In addition, it was determined that there was a significant negative relationship between burnout levels and mindfulness levels. The study found that active sports students with high mindfulness levels had lower levels of burnout, indicating that mindfulness may play a role in reducing burnout. While there were differences in mindfulness sub-dimensions based on age and sport type, overall mindfulness levels did not differ significantly.
... In a similar way, mindfulness training might also be useful in reducing state anxiety and promoting flow experiences in athletes (Noetel et al., 2019;Ong & Chua, 2021;Scott-Hamilton et al., 2016). Rather than attempting to alter the internal experience of pressure-induced emotions, mindfulness can help athletes to accept these internal states with presentmoment awareness, which in turn may lead to more automaticity in skill executions and less attention to threat-related cues (Birrer et al., 2012;Gardner & Moore, 2012;Noetel et al., 2019). Lastly, interventions which aim to improve attentional control and thereby reduce the detrimental effects that anxiety has on sporting performance have also been shown to be beneficial for competitive athletes (Ducrocq et al., 2017;Vine et al., 2014). ...
Competitive sport often creates a high-stake and thus a high-pressure environment for its athletes. In the past, research has pointed to the negative effect that competitive pressure might have on skills and movement executions that have been perfected through prior practice. The Attentional Control Theory: Sport (ACTS) suggests that specifically high situational pressure and prior performance failures may negatively affect an athlete's subsequent performance. This study aimed to investigate the influence of situational pressure and previous performance errors on performance (i.e., wave score) in elite surfing while considering various contextual factors. A total of 6497 actions, performed by 80 elite surfers (female n = 28; male n = 52), were annotated based on video recordings of the 2019 World Championship Tour (WCT). A multi-level model was used to analyse the effect of pressure, previous errors and other contextual factors on the wave scores of individual surfers (i.e., events were nested within athletes). Partially confirming previous research, prior errors caused a significant decrease in surfing performance on the following ride. However, neither a significant effect of situational pressure on performance nor inter-individual differences in how prior-errors and situational pressure affected performance were found.
Introduction: Core Surgical Training (CST) programs are associated with high burnout. This study aimed to assess the influence of Enhanced Stress Resilience Training (ESRT) over a 2-year period in a single UK Statutory Education Body. Method: CSTs participated in 5-weeks of formal ESRT to address work stressors. The primary outcome measure was career progression related to curriculum metrics and National Training Number (NTN) appointment. Secondary measures related to burnout using validated psychological inventories. Results: Of 42 CSTs, 13 engaged fully with ESRT (31.0%; male 8, female 5, median age 28 year.), 11 engaged partially, and 18 did not. ESRT engagement was associated with better NTN appointment (ESRT 8/13 (61.5%) vs. not 1/18 (5.6%), p = 0.025), less burnout [aMBI; mean 5.14 (SD ± 2.35) vs. 3.14 (±2.25), F 6.637, p = 0.002, ηp2=0.167], less stress [PSS-10; 19.22 (±5.91) vs. 15.79 (±5.47), F 8.740, p < 0.001, ηp2=0.200], but more mindfulness [CAMS-R; 19.22 (±5.91) vs. 20.57 (±2.93), F 3.201, p = 0.047, ηp2=0.084]. On multivariable analysis, Improving Surgical Training (run-through CST) program (OR 5.2 (95% CI 1.42-28.41, p = 0.022), MRCS pass (OR 17.128 (95% CI 1.48-197.11, p = 0.023) and ESRT engagement (OR 13.249, 95% CI 2.08-84.58, p = 0.006) were independently associated with NTN success. Discussion: ESRT was associated with less stress and burnout, better mindfulness, and most importantly 13-fold better career progression.
Clinical Sport Psychology will provide readers with an assortment of tools to use in evaluating and working with athletes. The text addresses a range of athletes’ issues in an informed and integrated approach to sport psychology. Rather than focusing on one problem area, one modality of intervention, or one aspect of professional practice, Clinical Sport Psychology blends grounded theory and sound research with effective assessment and intervention practices, presenting empirically informed intervention guidelines specific to various needs of athletes. This text provides the foundation needed for working with athletes experiencing a range of nonclinical, subclinical, and clinical issues. Readers will learn to thoroughly assess athletes, identify and understand their needs, and appropriately intervene with each athlete—unless a referral is necessary to better meet an athlete's individual needs. Clinical Sport Psychology contains the following features: - A thorough explanation of the Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment (MAC) approach to enhancement of sport performance - A detailed examination of the empirical support for traditional procedures in sport psychology - A detailed and practical understanding of the Integrative Model of Athletic Performance (IMAP), which integrates clinical and sport science - A firm understanding of the Multilevel Classification System for Sport Psychology (MCS-SP), a model to classify the wide range of athletes’ issues - A clear organizational structure from theory through intervention, including special considerations. Clinical Sport Psychology presents a new way of thinking about the psychological processes that are involved in attaining and maintaining sport expertise. The text, based on clinical and sport research, bridges the gap between clinical and sport psychologists by presenting a model that connects athletic performance, basic psychological processes, and relevant empirical findings.
Anger management is becoming an increasingly significant area of study in sport. This issue affects all people involved in the sporting environment, yet few sport professionals, coaches, or administrators fully understand anger in sport and how to work with athletes to overcome the problem. Anger Management in Sport: Understanding and Controlling Violence in Athletes addresses this important topic and provides strategies and interventions for overcoming excessive anger and aggression in athletes. The provocative book challenges long-held assumptions and points the way to further research and discussion. With its accessible format and proactive approach, Anger Management in Sport is an ideal resource for practitioners at all levels of sport who work with athletes and anger, both on and off the field. The author draws on his unique background and clinical experiences creating and implementing anger management skills for a variety of populations—from high school athletes to prison inmates. His unique insight will stimulate discussion on a range of issues associated with anger in sport, including mental illness, drugs, and differences and similarities in amateur and professional athletes. Readers will understand not only how to approach an anger problem but also how to help an athlete work to manage emotions. Rather than eliminate old explanations, the book paves the way to a new understanding of issues vital to the health of sport. Real-world situations presented in the text will engage readers and help them picture how to use anger management skills in their own lives and careers. By considering the various stakeholders involved and the preventive measures that can be taken, researchers and professionals will step closer to discovering best practices and strategies for anger management in today's sport society. Although helping athletes deal with anger is an important part of sport, there is little research to address the key issues regarding this difficult subject. Anger Management in Sport will help readers understand the causes for anger in sport and how to help athletes who demonstrate aggressive behavior. It will shed light on an uncharted issue and provide direction for future research in the area.
The present article includes separate meta-analyses showing that self-concordance and implementation intentions are significantly positively associated with goal progress. Study 1 confirmed the positive relations of both self-concordance and implementation intentions to weekend goal progress. Study 2 confirmed the positive relation of self-concordance with monthly progress on New Year's resolutions but failed to find a direct benefit for implementation intentions. Both studies, however, obtained a significant interaction effect indicating that goal self-concordance and implementation intentions combined synergistically to facilitate goal progress. The article also reports a meta-analysis and results from the 2 studies that demonstrated that goal progress was associated with improved affect over time.
I: Background.- 1. An Introduction.- 2. Conceptualizations of Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination.- II: Self-Determination Theory.- 3. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Perceived Causality and Perceived Competence.- 4. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Regulation.- 5. Toward an Organismic Integration Theory: Motivation and Development.- 6. Causality Orientations Theory: Personality Influences on Motivation.- III: Alternative Approaches.- 7. Operant and Attributional Theories.- 8. Information-Processing Theories.- IV: Applications and Implications.- 9. Education.- 10. Psychotherapy.- 11. Work.- 12. Sports.- References.- Author Index.
The present study sought to determine the effects of Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement (MSPE) on runners. Participants were 25 recreational long-distance runners openly assigned to either the 4-week intervention or to a waiting-list control group, which later received the same program. Results indicate that the MSPE group showed significantly more improvement in organizational demands (an aspect of perfectionism) compared with controls. Analyses of pre- to postworkshop change found a significant increase in state mindfulness and trait awareness and decreases in sport-related worries, personal standards perfectionism, and parental criticism. No improvements in actual running performance were found. Regression analyses revealed that higher ratings of expectations and credibility of the workshop were associated with lower postworkshop perfectionism, more years running predicted higher ratings of perfectionism, and more life stressors predicted lower levels of worry. Findings suggest that MSPE may be a useful mental training intervention for improving mindfulness, sport-anxiety related worry, and aspects of perfectionism in long-distance runners.