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The aim of this study was to investigate the optimal psychological state for peak performance in Australian elite athletes. World championship and Olympic athletes (n = 17) and coaches (n = 6) from rowing, swimming, and diving were interviewed about the psychological states that contribute to peak performance. Results indicated that peak performance is characterized by the automatic execution of performance. A proposed model for the optimal psychological state identifies self-regulation, control, and trust as processes that assist athletes to transition from experiencing a diversity of psychological factors during competition to the automatic psychological state of peak performance.
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Association for Applied Sport Psychology
ISSN: 1041-3200 print / 1533-1571 online
DOI: 10.1080/10413200.2014.885915
Investigating the Optimal Psychological State for Peak
Performance in Australian Elite Athletes
The University of Queensland
The aim of this study was to investigate the optimal psychological state for peak performance
in Australian elite athletes. World championship and Olympic athletes (n=17) and coaches
(n=6) from rowing, swimming, and diving were interviewed about the psychological states
that contribute to peak performance. Results indicated that peak performance is characterized
by the automatic execution of performance. A proposed model for the optimal psychological
state identifies self-regulation, control, and trust as processes that assist athletes to transition
from experiencing a diversity of psychological factors during competition to the automatic
psychological state of peak performance.
All elite athletes strive to attain peak performance, the state of superior functioning where
athletes perform at their optimal levels and gain outstanding results (Harmison, 2011; Privette,
1983). The search for what constitutes the ideal psychological state to gain peak performance
has been prominent in sport psychology research following Ravizza’s (1977) article on peak
experience in sport. The diversity of psychological factors that are experienced during peak
performances has been investigated and has provided a foundational understanding of the
optimal psychological state for peak performance (Krane & Williams, 2006). Questions still
remain unanswered concerning the elements of psychological functioning required of elite
athletes at the highest levels of international competition, and the key psychological mecha-
nisms that explain the abilities of athletes to consistently achieve the optimal psychological
state for enhanced performance outcomes (Gardner, 2009). Advancing this area of research
beyond the psychological experience of peak performance is critical for the sport psychology
field to guide the future direction of interventions to assist elite athletes to obtain, and then
consistently achieve, peak performance.
The question of whether there is an ideal state for the mind and body required to achieve
optimal levels of performance has been prevalent in literature (Harmison, 2011). Athletes
acknowledge that best performances are highly dependent on one single factor: their psycho-
logical state. In the moments of highest performance athletes report “sensations of relaxation,
calm, effortless, automatic, and non thinking of performance” (Ferrell, Beach, Szeverenyi,
Krch, & Fernhall, 2006, p. 422). The sensations that differentiate what is commonly referred
to as “the zone” or the peak performance state from a normal performance state are associated
with elements of psychological functioning (Ferrell et al., 2006). The term peak performance
describes the upper limits of performance, where athletes are able to perform at their optimum
Received 19 July 2013; accepted 17 January 2014.
Address correspondence to Ruth Anderson, Director, Mind HQ, PO Box 1222, Palm Beach, Queens-
land, Australia, 4221. E-mail:
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levels of functioning and produce outstanding performance outcomes (Harmison, 2011). De-
fined by Privette (1983), peak performance is an occurrence of superior functioning resulting
in optimal performance outcomes that exceed prior standards of performance. It is the “pro-
totype of superior use of human potential” (Privette, 1983, p. 1362) and occurs when athletes
have a strong sense of self and a clear focus and are absorbed in the tasks required to execute
sport performances. Peak performance and the concept of flow share common characteristics,
however, are differentiated by the flow state being characterized as an intrinsically rewarding
experience that may or may not result in a best performance outcome (Privette & Bundrick,
1991). In contrast, peak performance is focused on athlete function during the highest level of
performance (Harmison, 2011).
For the expert sport perfor mers, superior performance is associated theoretically with
automatic functioning at the optimal level, involving self-regulation of factors relevant to
successful performance. The peak performance state typically represents athletes’ abilities
to perform at their best, with the sense that the performance feels effortless, automatic,
and effective (Singer, 2002). Hanin (1980) argued that athletes achieve optimal performance
when experiencing a diverse range of cognitive, emotional, and physiological states. When
executing the necessary performance skills, athletes require the regulation of cognition, self-
expectancy, arousal level, and concentration (Singer, 2002). Gardner and Moore (2007) as-
serted that a combination of cognitive, affective, and physiological conditions enables skills
to be executed in an effortless and automatic manner. The challenge for athletes is to be
able to consistently discover the optimal psychological state relevant to their own perfor-
mance requirements to achieve superior performance outcomes (Harmison, 2011; Singer,
Research in peak performance has provided evidence for performances feeling effortless and
automatic, with athletes reporting a calm mind and little or no conscious thought present during
performances (Cohn, 1991; Ravizza, 1977). The focus of attention in the peak performance
state is absorbed in the moment allowing no awareness of external distractions, or fears that can
typically disrupt performance (Cohn, 1991). High self-confidence and a sense of control of self
and performance has been repeatedly identified in research across time as a contributing factor
to achieving peak performance (Cohn, 1991; Loehr, 1982). The research conducted on peak
performance is now dated and has not yet extended past the identification of psychological
experience associated with peak performance to explore the psychological processes that
facilitate the ability to achieve the optimal performance state.
Tw o k e y t h e m e s a r e c o m m o n t o t h e t h e o r e t i c a l a n d e m p i r i c a l l i t e r a t u r e i n p e a k p e r f o r -
mance. First, there has been a diversity of psychological factors identified that are present
when achieving a peak performance (Cohn, 1991; Harmison, 2011). The second theme is
the consistent description in the literature of the psychological experience during peak per-
formances as feeling effortless and automatic, with little or no conscious thought present
during the execution of performance (Cohn, 1991; Ferrell et al., 2006). A void is present in
the international research literature concerning the psychological processes that facilitate the
ability to get in “the zone” or achieve the automatic and effortless state described as present
during peak performance. Jackson and Roberts (1992) stated that the peak performance re-
search was descriptive only and did not explore the underlying dynamics of the state required
for peak performance. The gap in the research still remains, and Gardner (2009) argued that
there has been an absence of research on psychological mechanisms that underlie performance
enhancement. Further investigation into the psychological attributes that will assist athletes to
achieve and sustain the feeling of being in the zone or the ideal performance state is a crucial
step in further understanding the complexity of peak performance, and informing ways to
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assist athletes to consistently achieve the optimal psychological state in the highest level of
international competition (Ferrell et al., 2006).
American population and primarily at a collegiate level with limited professional or Olympic
athlete participation. Minimal research is available on the peak performance in an elite athlete
population with experience competing at world championship or Olympic Games level, and
no current research is available on the elite athlete population in Australia. Elite athletes and
collegiate athletes may have different motives for participation in competition, so it is important
to have the perspective of an elite athlete sample when investigating the psychological state
for peak performance. Ferrell et al. (2006) suggested that higher caliber athletes are more
likely to have experienced zone-like performances and will have a greater ability to recollect
the sensations of performance both when they have been in the zone and when they have
not achieved the ideal performance state. Given the complexity of the high-performance
international competition environment, competing under the highest level of competition
pressure may elicit different psychological responses from elite athletes than collegiate athletes
competing in domestic competitions.
The first aim of this study was to gain a comprehensive understanding of the experience
of the optimal psychological state for peak performance in elite athletes. The second aim was
to determine if a model can be proposed to identify the psychological processes that may
assist athletes to achieve the optimal psychological state for peak performance. Investigating
the psychological factors that contribute to achieving the psychological state required for
peak performance is of vital importance to informing future research and practice in sport
A total of 17 elite athletes and six coaches (15 female, eight male) participated in this study.
The age of athletes ranged from 19 to 35 years (M=26.5 years). The age of coaches ranged
from 31 to 55 years (M=41.2 years). Participants were elite athletes from three Olympic
sports: rowing (n=7), swimming (n =5), and diving (n=5). All athletes had participated in
elite international competition. One athlete had competed in Under 23 World Championships,
16 athletes had competed in world championships, and 14 athletes had competed in between
one and four Olympic Games. Podium results in the athlete participant group included 14
Olympic medals (one gold, seven silver, six bronze) and 29 World Championship medals (nine
gold, 12 silver, eight bronze). Two coaches from each of the three sports also participated.
All coaches had coached athletes who participated at an Olympic Games. Four coaches had
worked at the Olympic Games, including one coach who had coached athletes to four gold
medals. Many participants had prior exposure to the use of psychological services, with 12
athlete participants reporting previous engagement with psychological services. Five athlete
participants had not used psychology services for sport performance. All coaches reported
prior use of psychological services to assist athlete performance. Coaches were included
in the participant group to obtain a perspective on peak performance not gained in prior
research studies on peak performance. Coaches are commonly the first point of contact for
an athlete following a performance, and given that little or no recall of performance has been
frequently reported by athletes following peak performances, a coach perspective can add
valued information.
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Interview schedule athlete version
An interview schedule was designed for use with athletes. Questions focused on asking
athletes to comment on their experiences of peak performance and the psychological state
for peak performance. Examples of interview questions for athletes are “Describe what you
experience during a peak performance,” “What do you consider to be the critical factors that
contribute to achieving a peak performance?” and “Think of a competition where you have
achieved a peak performance. Describe the psychological state you experienced during the
Interview schedule coach version
An interview schedule was designed for use with coaches. Questions were consistent with
the athlete interview schedule and reworded to gain a coach perspective on the experiences of
athletes in competition. Examples of interview questions for coach participants are “Describe
what athletes experience during a peak performance,” “What do you consider to be the critical
factors that contribute to achieving a peak performance?” and “Think of a competition where
an athlete you were coaching achieved a peak performance. Describe the psychological state
the athlete reported experiencing during the performance.”
Semistructured interviews were conducted to collect information from elite athletes and
coaches. To obtain information about the experience in competition, interviews were used
because detailed and descriptive information cannot be obtained by any current question-
naires. University ethical approval was gained to conduct the study. Participants were recruited
through national sport institutes. Each participant was asked to engage in an interview about
peak performance, and the interview was held at the training location of the participant. At
the commencement of each interview, participants were given an information sheet and con-
sent form to sign. The interviews were conducted by the first author and were recorded with
participant consent. All participants were asked general information including age, level of
competition, results achieved in competition, and if they had engaged with sport psychol-
ogy services to assist sport performance. At the commencement of interview questions, the
term peak performance was defined as an episode of superior functioning resulting in opti-
mal performance outcomes that exceed prior standards of performance. Athletes were asked
semistructured, open-ended questions related to their experiences of peak performance and
the optimal psychological state for peak performance. Interview questions for coaches were
focused on the coaches’ perceptions of the experience of peak performance and the optimal
psychological state for peak performance. Participant recruitment ceased when no new ideas
emerged in the interviews (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). All interviews were transcribed verbatim.
This study was part of a larger project. The content of this study is focused on the first two
sections of interviews, exploring the areas of peak performance and the psychological state
present in peak performance. The mean interview time for the entire project was 45.01 min,
and the content of this study related to 12 of the total 24 questions. Additional content from
interviews will be reported in a separate paper.
Data Analysis
The method of qualitative analysis used for this study has been recommended for sport
psychology research (Cˆ
e, Salmela, Baria, & Russel, 1993). The interview transcripts were
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analyzed by the primary researcher. Each interview transcript was examined, and key meaning
units were identified from athlete and coach responses. Meaning units are defined as segments
of text that reflect an idea or piece of information. Themes emerged from the meaning units that
represented a concept (Cˆ
to enable the differences between the two groups to be compared. Coach and athlete data are
reported in separate categories in the results.
To ensure trustworthiness of the data several methods were followed. Member checking was
employed to provide a measure of accuracy of the transcripts (Patton, 2002). Each participant
was given a copy of the interview transcript and was provided with the opportunity to verify
the accuracy of the content. A 77% response rate was achieved. Transcripts were confirmed as
accurate by 100% of participants who responded. An intercoder consistency check was used
to ensure accuracy of data analysis and limit the potential of researcher bias (Patton, 2002).
An experienced sport psychologist in high-performance sport was asked to read sections of
interview transcripts and asked to place meaning units into themes. These themes were then
compared with those identified by the primary researcher. An 86% agreement rate on the
placement of items was initially achieved. Items of difference were discussed, and consensus
was reached after greater exploration of the context from which the quote came or relabeling
of the theme.
The results of the study provide comprehensive information on the experience of peak
performance in Australian elite sport and identify potential psychological processes that con-
tribute to achieving the optimal psychological state for performance. When reporting a quote
from an athlete, the first letter of the athlete’s sport will be used with the allocated participant
number. The letter C identifies quotes from coaches.
Peak Performance
Peak performance was defined for participants as an episode of superior functioning result-
ing in optimal performance outcomes that exceeded prior standards of performance (Privette,
1983). All athlete participants were able to identify experiencing a peak performance during
international competition, and all coaches identified coaching athletes who achieved a peak
performance in international competition. Table 1 details the elements of the peak performance
experience as described by athletes and coaches. A large number of elements were identified,
and with the exception of one factor (optimal physical state), all related to psychological
experience. Being confident, focused, and in control; maintaining present moment thinking;
and having a clear mind were identified as elements of the peak performance experience.
Confidence during peak performance was described by R6: “For me it’s never aggressive, it’s
never a one up, it’s never trying to smash the person you’re racing. Its more, ‘how good is this,
how good am I, how good can it be.”’ The inability to recall details of the experience during
performance: “I remember snapshots of the race.” Areas mentioned in this study by athletes
only included having heightened self-awareness, being competitive, and being nonjudgmental
during performance. Three different factors identified by coaches were the observations that
athletes are calm, are able to trust in their abilities, and report the performance as feeling
The most frequent response from participants (eight athletes and one coach) when describ-
ing the execution of a peak performance was the automatic execution of performance. Athletes
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Tabl e 1
Description of the Peak Performance Experience
Experience Athlete Coach
Automatic execution of performance 8 1
Present moment thinking 6
Focused 4 2
Ability to act 4 2
Limited to no recall 4 2
In control 4 1
Confident 4 1
Clear mind 3 1
Enjoyment of the experience 3
Optimal physical state 3
Positive thought 2
Effortless 2
Competitive 1
Heightened self-awareness 1
Nonjudgmental 1
Trust in ability 1
Calm 1
Note. Athlete and Coach columns represent the number of responses for each theme.
discussed the experience during peak performance as an automatic and unconscious process,
where the body executes automatically during performance with minimal or no conscious
thought during execution. The feeling “like autopilot” was reported by S4 and C2, which
allows for the body to automatically execute performance. This feeling of automaticity during
peak performance was described by R5, “My body kind of takes over, or knows what it’s meant
to do,” and by R6, “It’s almost feeling like your body does what it needs to do automatically.”
D4 reported it to be a natural process: “I didn’t have to think too much or try too hard. It just
kind of happened naturally.”
Fa c t o r s c o n t r i b u t i n g t o a c h i e v i n g p e a k p e r f o r m a n c e
The factors participants identified as contributing to achieving a peak performance are
detailed in Table 2. When exploring the areas that contribute to achieving peak performance,
two higher order themes were related to psychological areas (psychological skills, resiliency).
The contribution of psychology to achieving a peak performance was expressed by S5:
When you see people that work really hard and train really well, people that you would
expect to perform well and then don’t, that’s essentially something you could only attribute to
psychological factors, because in terms of physical ability it’s definitely there.
One of the two higher order themes related to psychological areas identified by athletes that
contributes to peak performance was resilience, comprising the factors adaptability, coping
with the environment, and dealing with expectations. The higher order theme of psychological
skills was discussed by 12 athletes and five coaches, with participants identifying a range of
psychological skills as important elements to the achievement of peak performance. Athletes
and coaches reported the key role of one’s mind-set in achieving best performance. S3 stated,
“You can train your body to do anything but I think if your mind is not pushing your body then I
don’t think you can do it.” D2 explored the area of mind-set: “Competition is all psychological.
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Tabl e 2
Factors That Contribute to Achieving Peak Performance
Higher order theme Raw data theme Athlete Coach
Preparation Physical preparation 9 2
Psychological preparation 9
Training Training base 8 1
Rehearsal of optimal state in training 3 2
Consistency in training 2
Experience Development over time 2 1
Competition experience 2 1
Psychological skills Self-confidence 9 3
Mindset 8 1
Focus 4 4
Thought control 3
Management of emotion 2 3
Self-awareness 1 1
Trust in ability 1 1
Resilience Adaptability 2
Dealing with expectation 1
Coping with the environment 1
Skill Physical skills 1 1
Technical skills 1 1
Competition planning Competition plans 4
Psychological recovery 1
Clear goals 1
Coach and athlete Communication with coach 1
relationship Trust in coach 1
Note. Athlete and Coach columns represent the number of responses for each theme.
awareness and trust in ability are two psychological skills identified by athletes and coaches.
The importance of self-awareness is demonstrated by the comment from R1:
Psychology is about having enough confidence and self-awareness of what I’m thinking, why
I am thinking it, what thoughts are helpful, what thoughts aren’t helpful, to at least be aware
of giving myself the best mental chance to get into that state.
The use of trust was discussed by C6: “A lot of talk about trust yourself, trust your performance,
don’t be afraid to make a mistake, just let it happen.”
Preparation, training, skill, and experience were higher order themes identified by athletes
and coaches, which is reflective of the requirement for athletes to develop over time. D5
described the importance of training for performance in competition:
Hard training just kind of every day, just repetition, no matter how you’re feeling. Just keep
going so you know what you are capable of going into competition, so in competition you can
switch off and trust you know what you’re doing.
Along with the other higher order themes of competition planning and athlete and coach
communication, it is evident that the interaction of many factors requires management during
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Tabl e 3
Psychological Strategies Used to Achieve Peak Performance
Strategy Athlete Coach
Competition routine 10 1
Focus on task 9 3
Thought control 9 2
Anxiety management 7 3
Maximize preparation 5 3
Stress management 4 3
Focus on self 4 2
Competition plan 4 2
Tak e control 2 1
Communication 2 2
Reinforce confidence 1
Trust 1
Self-regulation 1
Note. Athlete and Coach columns represent the number of responses for each theme.
Psychological strategies for achieving peak performance
The psychological strategies used to assist in achieving peak performance as reported by
participants are detailed in Table 3. The ability to control thoughts, manage anxiety, and focus
were key strategies identified by both athletes and coaches. The need to use psychological
strategies was discussed by S3: “It’s not bad to have different thoughts coming in and out
of your head, but it’s just controlling them and not letting them control you.” Strategies
targeting the management of the competition environment were identified and included the
use of routines, plans, communication, and stress management. Ten athletes identified the
use of competition routines, which was the most commonly reported athlete strategy used in
competition. D2 discussed the use of routines in competition: “Even if I’m in a good state I
never ditch my routines. I always keep doing the same things whether I’m feeling good to bad.
The Optimal Psychological State for Peak Performance
There was unanimous agreement from the 17 athletes and six coaches that an athlete’s
psychological state will play a significant role in achieving peak performance, and 16 ath-
letes and four coaches identified that it will directly contribute to enhanced performance
outcomes. R5 discussed the influence of psychological areas on performance: “The psycho-
logical state is what can either prohibit a peak performance or allow it. I feel like if I don’t ever
achieve a peak performance when I feel like I should, I feel like it’s because of psychological
Athletes and coaches were asked to describe the psychological state present in a peak
performance, and the results are displayed in Figure 1. The figure details the psychological
experience of the athlete, psychological processes used, and the performance state as described
by athletes and coaches. The optimal psychological state was characterized by the presence
of nerves, a focus on self and execution, with present moment thinking. Positive thoughts
are identified, alongside being confident, having a desire to compete, and a creating a clear
Three processes were proposed as factors that may have enabled athletes to act on the
psychological experience and positively influence the performance outcome. The processes
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Figure 1. Model of the optimal psychological state for peak performance.
were identified as self-regulation, taking control, and trust in ability. The need to self-regulate
the anxiety present prior to performance was discussed by S3: “Knowing that I’m nervous,
and then acknowledging that, and then knowing how to handle that.” R4 described the feeling
of being in control: “I can do this easily and I’m in control and at this particular moment I
know no one can come past me or I know that I’m not going to falter.” The concept of trust
was detailed by D4: “I felt trust, just go for it, trust what Ive practiced and not think too much
before I’m about to go.
The optimal psychological state during performance was identified as being automatic
with successful skill execution, where athletes described being able to “act without thinking”
(D4; R1), and S4 compared it to being on “autopilot.” The execution of performance was
reported to be a nonconscious process: “Everything feels really easy, there’s not a lot of
thinking, everything just sort of happens, almost like an ‘out of body’ experience” (C4). A
coach (C2) described the optimal psychological state in a performance: “They are so in almost
automatic pilot, that they’re just doing, they’re not thinking.” The identification of the feeling
of performance being effortless and having no recall was identified. S2 stated, “The less I have
to think, the more automatic it is, the easier I find it.”
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Characteristics of the optimal psychological state
The characteristics of the optimal psychological state were explored with coaches and
athletes. Understanding the capacity to recognize the optimal state to perform, the factors that
contribute to the state breaking down, and the ability to regain the state provides insight into
athletes’ perceptions of control over their psychological states during performance.
Recognition of optimal psychological state. When athletes and coaches were asked about the
ability to recognize if awareness is present when in the optimal psychological state, a large vari-
ation existed in responses. Six athletes and two coaches stated that either they do not recognize
they are in the optimal state or it is only recognized after the performance: “If it was during the
race you wouldn’t be in the state” (S1). Other responses from athletes and coaches varied from
identifying it in taper prior to competition (one athlete), prior to performance in competition
(nine athletes, four coaches), and during performance (one athlete). The athletes and coaches
who reported recognizing the optimal state prior to performance in competition identified
specific aspects of psychological functioning as key indicators such as feelings of confidence,
body language, level of nerves, ability to cope, and a sense of calm. An observation reported
by athletes was the optimal psychological state is hard to identify, but with experience athletes
can compare performances and gain a greater understanding of the best psychological state for
The diversity in responses reflects the difference in viewpoints on the ability to be able to
produce the optimal performance state. R1 stated, “I’m toying with the idea of whether you sit
on the start line so sure that’s what you are going to get that you know you’re going to get it,
or whether it’s something you have to create.
Barriers to the optimal psychological state. The barriers to achieving the optimal psycholog-
ical state were explored (see Table 4). Athletes and coaches identified an extensive range of
barriers to peak performance. Factors leading into the competition such as poor preparation
and injury, along with areas from within the competition environment, were recognized as
negatively affecting the optimal psychological state for performance. Psychological factors
within competition accounted for more than half of the identified areas. S3 explored the area
of lack of control:
If you had spoken to me 5 or 6 years ago I would have said no control because I hated racing. I
made myself sick because I could not control my state of mind or anything because I was too
worried about the outcome of the race, how I was going to perform, and doing it for ever yone
else but myself.
When exploring worry and anxiety, S4 stated:
If you let your mind wander and get the best of you then you let your nerves get on top of you.
Then your performance is not as good because you are worried about too many things and
you’re not focused on what you need to do.
state: “If you’re down and out about yourself and you already think someone’s going to beat
you, there’s no chance youre going to beat them” (S2). Athletes and coaches identified factors
prior to performance, such as a poor warm-up or disruption to routine, and the two key factors
identified during performance were technical errors and trying too hard.
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Tabl e 4
Barriers to Achieving the Optimal Psychological State for Peak Performance
Time frame Theme Athlete Coach
Leading into competition Poor preparation 4
Injury 4
Competition period Distracted by competition environment 6 2
Inability to adapt to environment 5 2
Lack of sleep 1 2
Lack of recovery 1
Psychological factors High anxiety 8 2
in competition Overthinking 5 3
Focus on competitors 4 2
Unfocused 4
Doubt 4
Wo r r y 3
Lack of confidence 3
Focus on results 2 2
Fear 2
Lack of control 2
Lack of trust 1 2
Uncertainty 1
Coach anxiety 1
High expectation 1
Prior to performance Disruption to routine 2 3
Poor warm-up 1 1
Too much inf or mation fr om c oa ch 1 1
Change in behavior 1
During performance Technical error 4
Trying too hard 1
Note. Athlete and Coach columns represent the number of responses for each theme.
Regaining the optimal psychological state. Participants were divided over the ability to regain
the optimal psychological state if it breaks down during performance. S5 stated, “In order
for you to have a peak performance you need to be in that peak performance state the whole
time.” Four athletes and one coach stated recovery can not occur, and the remaining athletes and
coaches reported that although it is difficult process, athletes are able to regain the optimal state
during performance. It was acknowledged that strategies would be “effective if implemented
at the right time” (D2). Athletes and coaches highlighted the importance of working toward
being in the correct state prior to the performance as a proactive strategy to prevent the need
to recover during performance.
From 18 participants who believed athletes had the ability to recover during performance,
the strategies used to regain the optimal psychological state are detailed in Table 5. Thirteen
athletes and five coaches identified a range of strategies including letting go of what occurred,
focusing on self, reinforcing confidence, being competitive, and adapting to the situation.
Athletes discussed the importance of recognition of the need to regain control and keeping
the response simple. Coaches identified four strategies not noted by athletes: the need to take
responsibility, regain composure, trust in the plan, and manage emotion. Common responses
by both athletes and coaches were to take control of thinking, focus back on the present
moment and immediate execution, and follow established routines and plans.
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Tabl e 5
Strategies to Regain the Optimal Psychological State During Performance
Strategy Athlete Coach
Follow routine/ pla n 3 1
Focus on immediate execution 6 2
Refocus back to present moment 6 2
Tak e control o f th in ki ng 4 1
Focusing on self 4
Let go of what occurred 3
Recognition 2
Remain calm 2
Adapt 2
Trust in plan 2
Act 1 1
Be competitive 1
Reinforce confidence 1
Keep it simple 1
Manage emotion 1
Tak e respons ib il it y 1
Regain composure 1
Note. Athlete and Coach columns represent the number of responses for each theme.
The results of the study support the presence of psychological factors reported in prior
research and identify new areas as part of the experience of peak performance for elite athletes.
The study highlights that the optimal performance state is characterized by an automatic state
and raises the need to consider the psychological processes that assist in achieving the automatic
state reported to be present during best performances.
Consistent with previous sport psychology theoretical and empirical literature (Cohn,
1991; Krane & Williams, 2006), confidence, focus, control, present moment thinking, and
tralian elite athletes. The automatic execution of performance has been discussed in prior
research on colligate and professional athletes as an element of successful performances
(Cohn, 1991; Hayslip, Petrie, MacIntire, & Jones, 2010) and was reported by participants in
this study. The confirmation of the presence of automaticity during best performances for elite
athletes extends the research findings in peak performance and confirms automatic execution
is present at the highest levels of international competition. Given the consistency of reports
over time that the optimal psychological state for peak performance is reflective of an au-
tomatic state, further investigation is required in this area to understand both the experience
of automaticity for athletes during performance and the psychological factors that contribute
to being able to achieve an automatic state. Gaining this knowledge will enable athletes to
consistently achieve the optimal state to perform and guide practitioners to appropriate in-
tervention models to assist athletes to gain the critical psychological skills required for peak
Areas not previously featured in the body of research on peak performance were dis-
cussed as factors contributing to peak performance. Self-awareness and trust were identified
within the higher order theme of psychological skills, along with the theme of resiliency.
Self-awareness is a crucial skill that allows athletes to recognize the necessary elements of
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the psychological state required for peak performance and prompt them to regulate relevant
areas if they are not in the optimal state to perform at their best. Without self-awareness,
athletes won’t be able to effectively self-regulate cognitions, emotions, and behaviors when
required. The concept of trust has been discussed in theoretical literature as a psychological
skill that may influence skill execution during performance. Moore and Stevenson (1991)
suggested that trust is a skill that enables athletes to release conscious control over movements
during performances to allow for the automatic execution of skills that have been developed
through training. Resiliency was a new theme reported in this research as a factor influencing
the ability to achieve peak performance. The ability to cope with, and adapt to, the pressure
and stressors relevant to the competition environment has been discussed in theoretical liter-
ature as an important skill for athletes performing in international and Olympic competition.
Schinke, Tenenbaum, Lidor, and Battochio (2010) asserted that the ability to cope effectively,
self-regulate, and adapt during a significant performance are critical skills for performance
The diversity of areas identified as part of the peak performance experience and the range
of factors identified as contributing to peak performance highlight the need for athletes to
have a highly developed psychological ability to self-regulate the range of areas relevant to
achieving their optimal psychological state to perform. The results reported by athletes and
coaches when discussing the experience of peak performance reinforce the idea that achieving
peak performance involves a complex interaction of psychological, physiological, social, and
organizational factors (Hardy, Jones, & Gould, 2006).
peak performance, and a large variation existed among participants on both the ability to
regain the optimal psychological state during performance and the effective strategies to
assist. The range of strategies reported indicate it is still unclear as to the most effective
way for athletes to gain, and regain during performance, the ability to execute performance
automatically. Previous research on peak performance has detailed the experience prior to and
during performance but has not explored the process required to achieve the optimal state.
Although the psychological state during performance has been identified as an automatic
state, the need to consciously implement a range of psychological strategies would seemingly
contradict the transition into having a clear mind to allow for the automatic execution of
performance. The ability to automatically self-regulate cognition, emotion, and behaviors
relevant to a successful performance has been suggested as important for the transition to the
automatic state to perform (Singer, 2002).
The proposed model of the optimal psychological state for performance presents the optimal
state being characterized by automatic and successful skill execution, alongside the feeling of
performance being effortless with no recall. The model implies the importance of investigating
the psychological processes that allow transition from the psychological experience prior to
performance to the automatic and effortless state present for elite athletes during best perfor-
mances. Gardner (2009) argued that sport psychology literature has not identified underlying
mechanisms that contribute to achieving the automatic state for performance and the model
proposed presents new areas for considerations. The ability to self-regulate, take control, and
trust in ability are processes to consider that play a role in the facilitation of best performance
though an automatic process.
Implications for Applied Practice
The study provides a comprehensive overview of the optimal psychological state for peak
performance for athletes at world championship or Olympic competition reported by a sample
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of Australian elite athletes and coaches. The results of the study indicated that a comprehensive
range of psychological factors requires management to achieve the optimal state for peak
performance, defined as an automatic state. These findings are consistent with the literature
implying that the optimal performance state requires the self-regulation of a range of cognitive,
affective, and behavioral areas to achieve the right combination of conditions that will facilitate
automatic skill execution (Gardner & Moore, 2007; Singer, 2002). The results provide evidence
for the idea that the optimal state for peak performance is not dependent on achieving a specific
psychological state for all athletes but requires a highly developed ability to identify and then
self-regulate a range of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral factors relevant to the individual
athlete and the requirements of the competition environment.
For athletes to gain the psychological state required to automatically execute performance,
sport psychology practitioners need to go beyond a traditional psychological skills approach
and provide a comprehensive and holistic intervention targeting the ability to automatically
self-regulate the range of psychological areas relevant to successful performance. The impor-
tance of moving toward a holistic approach for the psychological development of athletes has
been identified in recent literature (Friesen & Orlick, 2010). The emerging body of research
on mindfulness and acceptance approaches for enhanced performance provides a credible
direction for interventions targeting performance enhancement (Gardner & Moore, 2012).
Increased understanding into how mindfulness and acceptance models, along with other psy-
chological therapeutic models, can influence athletes’ abilities to achieve peak performance is
Although this study provides evidence that psychological skills in competition are impor-
tant, given the complexity of factors identified, a deeper understanding of individual psycho-
logical functioning is required by athletes to achieve the optimal psychological state as they
compete to be the best in the world. The challenge for practitioners is to provide interventions
that enhance self-awareness of core psychological functioning relevant to the individual ath-
lete and equip athletes with the diversity of strategies required to gain the calm, clear mind
and automatic execution that is required for peak performance in the highest moments of
competition pressure.
Recommendations for Future Research
Further investigation is warranted into the area of peak performance in elite athletes and
the psychological processes that facilitate achieving the optimal psychological state for peak
performance. It is important to clarify the concept of automaticity and its relationship to peak
performance in elite athletes. Automaticity has been repeatedly identified as the key experience
during peak performance, yet limited research is available to explore the peak performance
state as an automatic state.
Another critical area requiring investigation is the psychological processes that allow for
athletes to transition from managing a range of psychological experiences to achieving the
automatic and effortless state that the peak performance state is reported to be. In this study
we identified processes that may contribute to achieving best performance and presented
a model for consideration. The model proposed in Figure 1 is only suggestive of aspects of
psychological functioning and requires further investigation to clarify the roles and processes of
self-regulation, control, and trust in achieving peak performance. Understanding the automatic
psychological state reported to be experienced during performance, and the processes that assist
athletes to achieve automaticity, will provide the information required for athletes to replicate
the optimal psychological state consistently in competition.
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The results of this study are limited by the nature of the self-report of retrospective ex-
periences in competition. Given a characteristic of the peak performance state was limited
recall, responses may be distorted due to potential memory loss, bias, or difficulties recalling
information (Gould & Maynard, 2009). A further limitation of the study is the inability to apply
these results broadly to athletes participating in interactive team sports, or to individual sports
where performance is of extensive duration during competition such as marathon running.
Exploring the nature of peak performance and the optimal performance state as an automatic
state in sports that requires ongoing team communication during performance, and for sports
with performance of long duration, are future research opportunities.
The study supports the concept that the psychological state required for peak performance
at the elite level reflects an automaticity of psychological factors both prior to, and during,
performance. The outcomes of the research contribute to the current literature by highlighting
the experience of an elite and mature participant group who deal with potentially different
competition pressures and contexts to participant groups in previous studies on peak perfor-
mance. The experience of peak performance was reported by Australian elite athletes to be
characterized by the ability to be able to execute performance automatically. A diverse range
of psychological factors were found to contribute to achieve an optimal performance state,
and the areas of self-regulation, control, and trust were identified as processes that may assist
in gaining the automatic state reported as the peak performance experience. The complexity
of the psychological factors experienced both prior to, and during, performance indicates
that a comprehensive and holistic approach is required for practitioners to assist athletes to
consistently achieve the optimal state for performance success.
This research was supported by a research grant provided by Swimming Australia Pty Ltd
and the Australian Institute of Sport.
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... Additional inquiries persist regarding the definition of an ideal performance state that consistently facilitates superior athletic performance during competitions [8,9]. As Anderson, Hanrahan, and Mallett [10] indicated, understanding the psychological behaviors contributing to superior performance is essential in guiding professional athletes' recruitment, training, and interventions. ...
... It describes the lower boundary of optimal performance. Thus, in this study, we attempted to assess this zero-gravity zone phenomenon from the perspective Ferrell et al. [33] and Anderson et al. [10] suggested. Specifically, this study aimed to design a short assessment tool that can be used to quickly screen levels of psychological zero for optimal performance among professional athletes. ...
... Our conceptualization of the psychological zone for optimal performance is based on the ideas discussed by Ferrell et al. [33] and the conceptual model suggested by Anderson et al. [10]. Our literature review regarding the assessment of optimal performance showed that many studies approach the assessment based on emotional and nonemotional experiences. ...
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Sport psychology researchers have been investigating athletes’ ideal performance levels for a long time. Key areas of investigation in this field involve determining if there is an optimal performance zone and how to evaluate it. To advance this line of research, the current research aimed to create a short but reliable tool for assessing the psychological state of professional athletes during their peak performance, known as the “optimal performance zone”. After developing an initial item pool, the final 10-item scale was retained and validated using factor analytical models and item response theory analysis based on 357 Chinese professional athletes in 12 different sports types. The average age of the participants was 19.4 years (SD = 3.67), and 54% were male. Experience in the sport ranged from 2 to 15 years, with a mean of 5.82 years (SD = 3.65). The brief scale was found to form a one-factor solution, with factor loading ranging from 0.55 to 0.77. The IRT-based marginal reliability of this scale is 0.90, and the scale showed predictive validity in predicting an athlete’s professional ranking (χ2(3) = 8.34, p = 0.039). The brief scale can quickly screen for a psychological zone of optimal performance among professional athletes, and implications are discussed.
... A total of 34 coaches were included in studies (28 were male and six were female). In one article using both an athlete and coach sample, 15 were female and eight were male [37]. The gender of the individual athlete and coach groups was not reported. ...
... Two qualitative [18,37] and mixed-method studies [64,68] have findings suggesting taper helps prepare athletes psychologically for competition. For example, one qualitative study reported that an elite athlete recognised they were in the optimal psychological state (defined as automatic and successful skill execution and performance feeling effortless) during taper [37]. ...
... Two qualitative [18,37] and mixed-method studies [64,68] have findings suggesting taper helps prepare athletes psychologically for competition. For example, one qualitative study reported that an elite athlete recognised they were in the optimal psychological state (defined as automatic and successful skill execution and performance feeling effortless) during taper [37]. However, what this optimal psychological state looks like during taper for different individuals and across contexts (e.g. ...
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Taper is a common training strategy used to reduce fatigue and enhance athletic performance. However, currently, no review has summarised what psychological research has been conducted examining taper, what this research shows and what future research needs to be undertaken to extend the field. Consequently, a scoping review was conducted with three aims: (a) to determine the characteristics of psychological research examining taper, (b) to summarise psychological research collected during taper with adult athletes and coaches, and (c) to identify gaps in psychological research examining taper. Forty-eight articles were identified following an exhaustive search strategy and charted following scoping review guidelines. Results showed most research was quantitative, used a longitudinal design, was conducted in swimming, triathlon, cycling or across multiple sports, and used a university-, regional- or national-level male athlete sample. Eight themes were developed to summarise the research: Mood, Perception of Effort, Perceived Fatigue and Wellness, Recovery-Stress, Taper as a Stressor, Stress Tolerance, Psychological Preparation and Cognitive Functioning. Additionally, four research recommendations were identified: (a) conducting exploratory research that examines the impact taper has on athletes’ and coaches’ competition preparation and stress experience, (b) asking more advanced psychological questions and conducting multi-disciplinary research, (c) including a more diverse participant sample in studies and (d) examining the impact of psychological interventions during taper. Overall, this scoping review has highlighted the limited research examining the psychology of taper and the need for focused research that asks more complex questions across diverse populations. Supplementary Information The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s40279-022-01798-6.
... Psychological factors are important elements of peak performance and success at elite level in sports. Numerous psychological characteristics have been identified and analysed as elements of peak performance at elite level with the exception of optimal physical state ( Anderson et al., 2014 ;Weinberg & Gould, 2011 ). Resilience, selfconfidence and emotion regulation are considered unique psychological characteristics required by elite athletes to be able to cope with great demand and pressure of competitive sport and attain success ( Burns et al., 2022 ;Liu et al., 2021 ;Hill et al., 2016 ;Chen et al., 2019 ;Beaumont et al., 2015 ;Costa-Lobo et al, 2017 ;Anderson et al., 2014 ). ...
... Numerous psychological characteristics have been identified and analysed as elements of peak performance at elite level with the exception of optimal physical state ( Anderson et al., 2014 ;Weinberg & Gould, 2011 ). Resilience, selfconfidence and emotion regulation are considered unique psychological characteristics required by elite athletes to be able to cope with great demand and pressure of competitive sport and attain success ( Burns et al., 2022 ;Liu et al., 2021 ;Hill et al., 2016 ;Chen et al., 2019 ;Beaumont et al., 2015 ;Costa-Lobo et al, 2017 ;Anderson et al., 2014 ). These unique psychological characteristics distinguish elite, champion and successful athletes from non-elite, thwart and less successful counterparts. ...
... Mindfulness impacts not only sport performance, but also psychological processes involved in sport. The various approaches to optimal psychological state from various studies have identified various psychological characteristics as contributing factors ( Csikszentmihalyi, 2002 ;Swann et al., 2012 ;Anderson et al., 2014 ;Swann, Crust, & Vella, 2017 ), with little concerns to employ recent developed MAC approach to improve identified unique psychological characteristics of elite athletes. Meta-analytical review by Bühlmayer et al. (2017) have found that mindfulness practice enhanced physiological and psychological surrogates as well as shooting and dart throwing performance outcome. ...
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This study investigated effects of mindfulness training on resilience, self-confidence and emotion regulation of elite football players as well as mediating role of locus of control. The study recruited 34 participants which were assigned into experimental (n=17) and control (n=17) groups. Age ranged between 16 and 32years (M age = 22.6years, SD = 1.47). The experimental group received 8 weeks mindfulness acceptance commitment (MAC) intervention program, while control group received no intervention. Participants completed Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), The Connor-Davidson Resilience scale (CD-RISC), Trait Sport Confidence Inventory (TSCI), Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ) and Adapted Levenson Multidimensional Locus of control scales (ALMLC). Both groups completed the questionnaire at pre-test and post-test evaluation. Descriptive data employed mean and standard deviation, while Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) of Sӧrbom's method (alternative to analysis of covariance) was used for analysis of hypothesis. Finding of the study showed that there is significant direct and indirect effect of mindfulness acceptance commitment on resilience, self-confidence and emotion regulation on elite football players. The findings further showed that there is significant difference between the pre-test scores and post-test scores of intervention group and control group. The intervention group mean scores on resilience, self-confidence and emotion regulation are higher than the control group counterparts. This shows that MAC program is effective in increasing resilience, self-confidence and emotion regulation of elite football players concurrently which in turn could improve performance and attain success.
... El rendimiento deportivo se sustenta en la calidad y cantidad de entrenamiento (Baker, Horton, Robertson-Wilson & Wall, 2003). Por tanto, lo que suceda en cada tarea, en cada sesión está condicionando tanto el aprendizaje de los deportistas, especialmente en etapas de formación (Reina, et al., 2020), como la eficiencia mostrada en las competiciones (Anderson, et al., 2014). Todos los deportistas desean mejorar su rendimiento, por lo que es necesario el estudio de cualquier variable que incida positivamente en el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje en el entrenamiento deportivo, así como la relación entre ellas. ...
... Existe evidencia contundente que indica que las variables psicológicas tienen una relación directa sobre el rendimiento deportivo (Abdullah, et al., 2016;Olmedilla, et al., 2010). De hecho, las características psicológicas de los jugadores pueden tener una relación indirecta con competencias como la técnica, la táctica o la condición física (Anderson, et al., 2014;Trecroci, et al., 2020). En este sentido, la implicación emocional de los deportistas puede ser un factor determinante en el compromiso de los jugadores en los entrenamientos (Conde & Almagro, 2013;Duque et al., 2020). ...
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La implicación de los jugadores en los entrenamientos depende de numerosos factores. Ante la necesidad de mejorar el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje, el objetivo del estudio fue conocer la relación entre la intensidad de los jugadores en los entrenamientos de deportes colectivos con el rendimiento deportivo, la condición física y variables psicológicas como la inteligencia emocional o la satisfacción con la vida. Para ello, se pasó un cuestionario en el que se valoraban las citadas variables a 61 jóvenes deportistas de Costa Rica de cuatro deportes colectivos. Asimismo, se les colocaba un acelerómetro para medir la intensidad en el entrenamiento. Los resultados mostraron relaciones interesantes de las variables estudiadas con la intensidad mostrada por los jugadores en los entrenamientos y la percepción de su rendimiento deportivo. Se concluye que la inteligencia emocional y la condición física influyen en la intensidad de los entrenamientos. Son necesarios estudios similares que aporten más datos. Palabras clave. Entrenamiento deportivo, inteligencia emocional, satisfacción con la vida, acelerómetro, deportes colectivos. Abstract. Player involvement in sports training depends on numerous factors. Given the need to improve the teaching-learning process, the study's objective was to determine the relationship between the intensity of players in team sports training with sports performance, physical condition, and psychological variables such as emotional intelligence or life satisfaction. A questionnaire was administered in which the variables mentioned above were assessed on 61 young athletes from Costa Rica from four team sports. Likewise, athletes wore an accelerometer to measure training intensity. The results showed interesting associations between the variables studied with the player's training intensity and the perception of their sports performance. In conclusion, emotional intelligence and physical condition influence the intensity of training. Similar studies are needed to provide more data. Key words. Sports training, emotional intelligence, life satisfaction, accelerometer, team sports.
... So, they feel afraid of losing the match. Then, the lack of an athlete's ability to control emotions during a competition will cause various problems e.g difficulty in controlling negative feelings, loss of focus and concentration, decrease motivation, and difficulty to work in a team [12]. Some previous studies have described emotional intelligence of athletes, but not much has discussed the emotional intelligence of student-athletes in the physical education study program at Bengkulu University. ...
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... Brewer et al. (1991) identified the ideal performance construct as a synonym of peak performance. Anderson et al. (2014) referred to ideal performance interchangeably with 'being in the zone'. On the other hand, Harmison (2006) suggested that ideal performance could correspond to a variety of optimal psychological states, including peak experience, flow, and peak performance. ...
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Adventure recreation participants, such as rock-climbers, skydivers, and free-style skiers have reported that one of the most important reasons for continued participation in adventure recreation is a state of mind focused on the present moment. Most psychologists have referred to this state as flow. More recently, sport and exercise psychology researchers have proposed another optimal state called clutch. However, the majority of optimal psychological states research in adventure recreation contexts has generally made use of flow models that treat optimal psychological states as a singular state. Thus, there is a need to better understand if and how distinct optimal psychological states, such as flow and clutch, function in adventure recreation contexts. This project is an investigation of flow and clutch states with a focus on the adventure recreation context. To understand the antecedents, characteristics, and consequences of flow and clutch states, the following three studies were completed: a systematic review of flow states in adventure recreation (Study One), a mixed method study with advanced rock-climbers in outdoor and indoor settings (Study Two), and a qualitative study with a diverse group of adventure recreation participants (Study Three).
... Flow is of high interest to sports enthusiasts due to its link with optimal experience and high-level performance (Anderson et al., 2014;Cathcart et al., 2014;Scott-Hamilton et al., 2016). In the physical activity context, even though peak performance is not a determining factor, flow results in increased engagement and exercise adherence . ...
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The flow experience in sports is a construct of great interest to recreational and competitive athletes, coaches, and psychologists in pursuit of optimal performance. As there are no validated instruments for evaluating flow in the Brazilian Portuguese language, we evaluated the psychometric properties of a Brazilian version of the Flow State Scale (FSS-2) through three steps. Initially, four translators and five sports psychology specialists adapted the FSS-2 content for the Brazilian Portuguese language. Second, 371 athletes of both sexes who were engaged in group and individual sport modalities and who participated in national university sports competitions from 24 states responded to the adapted version of the FSS-2. Third, an independent sample of 34 athletes from Paraná responded to both the adapted FSS-2 and the dispositional flow scale (DFS-2) to permit analysis of the external validity and temporal stability of the adapted FSS-2. We found that the Brazilian version of the FSS-2 contains clear and pertinent items with a good content validity coefficient (CVC = 0.94) and satisfactory internal consistency (α > 0.88/CC > 0.80). Confirmatory factor analysis revealed that the adapted 36-item model presented adequate fit [X ² (558) = 1258.85; X ² /df = 2.256; comparative fit index (CFI) = 0.92; non-normed fit index (NNFI) = 0.90; Tucker–Lewis Index (TLI) = 0.91; root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = 0.06 (0.05–0.06); (RMSEA <0.05) =.001] with all first order factors (challenge-skills balance, action-attention fusion, clear goals, feedback, intense concentration, control, loss of self-awareness, time transformation, and autotelic experience). External validity (r > 0.344) and temporal stability (0.53 < intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) < 0.86) were satisfactory. We conclude that the Brazilian version of FSS-2 is adequate to evaluate flow states experienced by Brazilian athletes following a sports competition.
Athletic mental energy influences athletes’ cognition, emotion, and performance. It is essential to have a valid and reliable psychological measure to start the research. Thus, this study aimed to validate Athletic Mental Energy Scale (AMES) into Thai and examine its psychometric properties. We examined content validity by inviting 15 participants (sport/language experts = 5; athletes = 10) to examine the appropriateness of the content of a translated AMES-Thai. Moreover, we examined the factorial structure and reliability of the AMES-Thai by item analysis (IA), confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), composite reliability (CR) analysis, and average variance extracted (AVE). We suggest Thai scholars and sports professionals may use AMES-Thai for further research and practice in future.KeywordsOptimal state of mindPsychology of sport excellenceCross-cultural validationPeak performance
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Incorporating the holistic development of the athlete into an applied sport psychology intervention has been addressed in the literature (e.g., Bond, 2002; Ravizza, 2002). How sport psychology consultants actually practice holistic sport psychology remains unclear. The purpose of this research was to provide a clarification as to what holistic sport psychology is and examine the beliefs, values, theoretical paradigms, and models of practice of holistic sport psychology consultants' professional philosophies (Poczwardowski, Sherman, & Ravizza, 2004). Qualitative interviews with five purposefully selected holistic sport psychology consultants were conducted. In general, holistic consulting can be interpreted to mean: (a) managing the psychological effects to the athlete's performance from nonsport domains; (b) developing the core individual beyond their athletic persona; and (c) recognizing the dynamic relationship between an athlete's thoughts, feelings, physiology, and behavior. The corresponding beliefs, values, theoretical paradigms, and models of practice of holistic consultants were also presented.
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4 Changing Habits Institute Performance at oneʼs highest personal level is often accompanied by a palpable, yet enigmatic sensation that many athletes refer to as the zone. Competitive athletes regularly acknowledge that their top performances are dependent on achieving a zone state of performance. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technologies were used in observing differing patterns of neural activation that occur among athletes during a hypnotically recalled zone-state performance of eight accomplished, competitive right-handed archers. These data were compared to each participantʼs respective fMRI data of a hypnotically assisted recall of a normal performance. Analysis of composite group data revealed signifi cant (p = 0.05) neural activation of zone performance (ZP) over normal performance (NP), suggesting that performance in a zone state involves identifi able characteristics of neural processing. Perhaps this investigation might stimulate additional, more creative research in identifying a psychophysiological indicator of the zone phe-nomenon that would provide adequate justifi cation for a training regimen providing a more reliable and sustained zone performance.
The development and acceptance of any scientific discipline requires an ever-expanding and maturing empirical base. Yet despite vast scientific progress in allied domains of professional psychology, the field of sport psychology has remained fairly stagnant in its research progress and has overlooked major advances that could aid in the advancement of the discipline. This article discusses important issues related to the lack of efficacy of the traditional and long assumed “gold-standard” interventions for the enhancement of athletic performance, and compares the field’s empirical base to sister disciplines in psychology. Further, the lack of empirical studies examining rate of change, moderators of change, and mediators (mechanisms) of change is discussed, and suggestions are provided for a new research agenda in sport psychology that could expand its professional credibility and enhance its overall scientific development.
This study investigated relationships among peak performance, flow, goal orientation, and perceived ability in an attempt to ascertain possible conceptual bases to peak performance. Collegiate athletes (N=200) answered a questionnaire that assessed mastery and competitive goal orientations, perceived ability, flow, and experience in best and worst competitive performances. It was hypothesized that the psychological process of flow underlies peak performance and is associated with a mastery oriented focus and high perceived ability. These predicted relationships were supported by both quantitative and qualitative analyses. Analysis of athletes’ best performances indicated a total focus on performance, and other characteristics of flow were key to the perception of a superior state of functioning. In contrast, overconcern with the outcome, reflecting a competitive orientation, was often associated with athletes’ worst performances. These associations suggest that investigating positive performance states fr...
The concept of trust in performing complex automatic motor skills involves letting go of conscious controlling tendencies often learned during skill acquisition. Theories of motor control provide a framework for automatic selection and execution of movement sequences during skilled performance. Trust is viewed as a psychological skill in which the athlete releases conscious control over movements, thus allowing the automatic execution of the schema that have been developed through training. This paper defines and characterizes trust and its role in the performance of automatic sport skills, with the goal of suggesting a path for applied research concerning trust and sport skills performance.
Can psychologists help performers in sport, business, and the performing arts achieve peak performances more often and with greater consistency? Sport psychologists have taken the lead in researching peak performance in an attempt to answer this question. This article focuses on optimal experiences in sport and ways in which the author works with athletes to help them achieve peak performances. Peak performance in sport is overviewed, the application of two models related to the preparation for peak performance in sport are discussed, and applied sport psychology experiential knowledge is shared. Implications for practice for psychologists considering work in this area are also considered.
It has been over a decade since the mindfulness and acceptance-based practice models that were originally developed within the mainstream clinical psychology domain were first applied in the sport context in order to enhance the athletic performance and overall psychological and general well-being of competitive athletes. Since that time, as mindfulness and acceptance-based interventions gained empirical support for the treatment of a broad range of clinical syndromes and difficulties, numerous important theoretical and empirical developments have also added to the scientific base for these procedures with athletic clientele and have provided some empirical support for the use of these theoretical models and associated intervention procedures. Thus, the present article retraces the past 11 years to provide a comprehensive update on the state-of-the-science with respect to the use of mindfulness and acceptance-based interventions for the purpose of enhanced athletic performance. The article sequentially discusses the theoretical development of these procedures for use with athletic clientele, provides an overview of the empirical research in both basic and applied science with respect to mechanisms of action and intervention efficacy, and suggests future research directions that may aid in the evolution of this approach. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)