Self regulation

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Self regulation

Within the sport psychological domain, cognitions, emotions and behaviours are three core characteristics which are consistently explored. The control of one's affect, behaviour and cognitions may be collectively labelled as a complex process, known as self-regulation. Karloy (1993) has extensively discussed the mechanisms of self-regulation and the systems udnerlierlying this multi-dimensional psychological process. According to Karoly (1993), "self regulation refers to those processes, internal and/or transactional, that enable an individual to guide his/her goal-directed activities over time and across changing circumstances (contexts)" (p. 25).

Self-Regulation thereby encompasses the capacity to govern ones cognitions, emotions and behaviours, which is most prominently required when habitual actions are disrupted or when faced by a challenge (Ksroly, 199). Self-regulation may therefore be seen as a multi-faceted process to direct our behaviour toattain personalised goals (Benechke) .

Karoly (1993) continues to define that regulation is achieved via the planned or non-concious use of selective processes and metaskills. Amongst other volitional factors, specifically goal-setting, self-monitoring, activation, self-evaluation, self-consequation, self-efficacy typify self-regulatory processes (Karoly, 1993).

Accordingly, athletes ability to regulate both physical and psychological responses, may be one critical caveat that underpins successful performance. Moreover, self-regulation, which encompasses physical and mental preparation, was perceived by athletes as the second most important source to augment sporting confidence (Vealey, Hayashi, Garner-Holman, & Giacobbi, 1998).

Goal-setting is part of the initial stage of the self-regulatory process. This involves targeting ones behaviour towards achieving a specific objective, thus goal-setting comprehensively distinguishes the path to success. Any self-regulatory techniques need to be tailored to this goal-directed behaviour and, once adopted and is habitual, the terminal goal needs to remain consistent (Bechenke).

Once specific aims have been established, self-monitoring becomes a pivotal process to faciltiae goal attainment. Self-monitoring promotes self-awareness and the focus of attention to incorporate all intrinsic and extrinsic stimuli. This facilitates individuals' control of their mental skills and encourages appropriate use of skills (Bechenke). Effective self-monitoring enhances athletes ability to retrieve and attend to the relevant internal and external cues, whilst disregarding distractive sources. Bechenke

Physical skill competence and expertise is directly proportional to effective self-monitoring capabilities. This is attributed to greater sporting experience, which mediates the education and development of mental skills. This lends support to findings which highlight experienced athletes superior self-monitoring ability over novices (Ferrari, Pinard, Reid, & Bouffard-Bouchard, 1991) as cited in Belenche. .

High self regulation use

This was replicated by further studies, which evidenced that the capability of athletes to self-monitor, both individually (Kim, 1999) and as a team (Kim & Cho, 1996) influences corresponding performance expectations and the belief of mastery (as cited in Behncke). Kim (1999) reported that those individuals, of recreational standard, who self-monitored had higher performance expectancies than their respective low self-monitor counterparts. Therefore, personal belief of effective self-control and implementing self-regulatory processes collaborate to enhance confidence relative to the self and to the task execution (Behncke).

To ascertain effective self-monitoring, Snyder (1979), has separated two distinct types involving high self-monitors (those individuals who use cues from others to regulate their behavior) and low self-monitors (those individuals who are controlled from within by their affective states and attitudes). Splitting self-monitoring criteria into these two simplified domains leaves out a considerable number of variables that influence the self-monitoring process. One of these variables is the definition of self-monitoring, normally taken as the level of self-awareness that an individual has over psychological content. However, high and low self-monitors, defined by Snyder (1979), appear to rest on external rather than internal cues. For example, someone who is defined as a high self-monitor takes external cues (other people's behavior towards them) as an indication of what behavior modification is required from a specific situation. This may be appropriate for social events where etiquette needs to be observed, but under sporting competitions this may be detrimental. Conversely, low self-monitors take internal cues (observation of one's own psychological state) as an indication of behavior modification. For most sporting situations low self-monitors would be at an advantage because they would not be as likely to fluctuate with the numerous external cues, but would be more likely to remain psychologically stable in a dynamic environment. The definitions designated by Snyder (1979) to different self-monitoring attributes may serve to confuse appropriate use of self-monitoring. More specifically, high self-monitors monitor the environment more so than themselves, unlike low self-monitors. Therefore, attributing the process of self-monitoring to high self-monitors defeats the intention of the definition. For practical purposes, low self-monitors monitor themselves whereas high self-monitors monitor the environment.

Psychological skills and performance

Investigations on mental skills relative to fostering performance and successful athletes is vast (Gould, Eklund, & Jackson, 1992; Orlick & Partington, 1988; Thomas & Over, 1994; Ungerleider & Golding, 1991). There ahs been extensive investigation upon the most frequently utilised mental skills, strategies advantageous to specific sports and the correlations between psychological skill use and enhanced performance. Gould, Weiss, and Weinberg (1981) as cited in Frey et al. (2003) report that attentional focusing was a key attribute in distinguishing between successful wrestlers from their less successful counterparts. Ungerleider and Golding (1991) study emphasizsed the use of visualisation being central to those of superior performance, as cited in Frey et al. (2003). Thomas and Over (1994) evidenced golfers of lower handicap's had less negative affects and cognitions and greater levels of automaticity, when compared to those of higher handicaps.

A vast array of methods has been used to examine the psychological skills and strategies used by successful athletes, and which skills predominate in those who are most successful. (Gould and Diffenbach, Moffett 2002). Some of the earliest studies report that personality characteristics of most proficient athletes reflect augmented positive mental health (Morgan 1980). Other reports, based on sport-specific mental skills evidence a positive relationship between skill use and sporting ability. (Smith, Schultz, Smoll, and Ptacek 1995).

A review of the literature by Williams and Krane (2001) highlighted specific psychological skills which correlated with optimal performance. These included a) having an established competitive routine, b) possessing motivation and commitment, c) exhibiting comprehensive coping strategies to combat distractions or unforeseen events,, d) sharp concentration, e) prominent self-confidence, f) self-controlled arousal, g) goal setting competency and h) effective imagery ability. This lends support to assumptions that athletes of elite performance standards would demonstrate these diverse psychological attributes. In addition, Williams and Krane (2006) confirm mental skill use invariably discriminates athletes who are more and less competent.


Attention has been directed towards psychological inventories which assess sport-related behaviours. Specifically, inventories which assess mental skills utilisation in sport appear to discriminate athletes according to performance standards, and accentuate the value of mental skills training programmes. (Hardy, Roberts, Thomas, & Murphy, 2010). Thomas, Murphy, and Hardy (1999) established the original Test of Performance Strategies (TOPS) to assess salient psychological skill utilisation, both in practice and competition domains.

Thomas et al. (1999) evidenced that athletes of elite classes, representing their sport at national or international levels, reported the greatest use of mental skills and strategies and lower levels of negative thinking than their recreational and club standard counterparts. The TOPS has been subjected to validity and reliability checks, which highlighted problems of select subscales, in particular automaticity. This has yielded improvements and modifications of two versions, which has ultimately generated the TOPS-3 as the most current version.

Reserach conducted by Gould et al 2002 measured the physhcolical strategies and skills used by Olympic champions. This study illustrated that the mental performance of these elite athletes was enhanced in sective skills, including goal setting, activation, relaxation and emotional control in competition contexts. In practice the Olympians demonstrated proficient use of goal setting and strategies and skills relevant to attentional control. the validity and internal consistency of this instrument has been repeatedly validated with subsequent research (Gould et al., 2002).

Prior research has revealed that athletes of international stands utilise a broader variety of mental skills than their respective lower-standard performers (Mahoney, Gabriel & Perkins, 1987; Thomas et al., 1999; Thomas & Over, 1994). Thomas and Fogarty employed imagery and self-talk training interventions with golfers to reduce negative affects and cognitions, and presented subsequent enhancements to performance.

Mental skills incorporation

The advantages associated with incorporating psychological skills training into sport programs has been indefinitely encouraged (Hanton & Jones, 1999; Gould, Dieffenbach, & Mofferr, 2002), and offer the ability to generalise these skills outside of sporting contexts to other personal life encounters (Tremayne & Trenaynem 2004), particularly in the youth.

Practice, competition and mental skill use

It appears that coaches emphasise psychological skills use more inherently during competition over practice settings (McCann, 1995; Vernacchia, McGuire, & Cooke, 1992), Thomas et al. (1999), reports greater mental skill use in competition, which was endorsed by Frey, Laguna, and Ravizza (2003) and who confirm mental skills use by athletes is augmented in competition. This may be attributed to multiple beliefs, including that psychological skills serve a role in competition only, and competition holds a greater prestige over practice; thus these skills and the effort associated with the development of these skills is reserved for competing exclusively (Frey et al. (2003) However, the benefits of incorporating mental skills into practice have been widely recognised, and suggests that the mental performance of athletes who display poor ability of mental skills use in practice is subsequently echoed in competition (Weinberg & Williams, 1998). Mental and physical skills share similar development pathways (Cumming and Hall 2002), thus systematically practicing psychological skills should enhance the development and refinement of mental performance.

Integration of mental skills into practice sessions invariably facilitates the transference of mental skills into competition, and is actively encouraged (Hall 2001) which has been highlighted as a trait of highly successful athletes (Weinberg & Williams, 1998). Frey et al report that those athletes who made greater use of psychological skills during training had more positive perceptions of their performance success, in both practice and competition contexts. A wealth of evidence culminates to strongly argue an indefinite positive relationship between psychological skill use during training and corresponding success in competition.

In review, the aforementioned studies which contrasted successful athletes with their unsuccessful counterparts consistently shows the successful individuals utilise psychological skill more frequently and habitually, thus accentuating the benefits associated with mental skill use in practice contexts.

Greater mental skill use and associated findings

Frey et al. (2003) report perceptions of success were higher in those athletes who reported more use of mental skills, in both comeption and practice.

Limitations of other studies

The vast majority of previous investigations have adopted a narrow approach in their use of assessment, and methodologies are limited to one specific psychometric instrument. This has thereby, limited the ability to formulate a holistic overview of mental traits and characteristics of elite athletes psychological make-up. This present study serves to provide a broader picture of what makes an elite athlete reach exceptional standards by taking into account dominant core process, including self-regulation, psychological sue and trait anxiety, to offer further insight into.....


Fletcher and Hanton (2001) have illustrated evident links between mental skill use and competitive anxiety. Fleter and Hanton (2001) have endorsed correlations between selective subscales, as measured by TOPS, and athletes' competitive anxiety. They reported athletes using relaxation skills consistently reported and lower levels of cognitive and somatic anxiety, which was interpreted as facilitative as occposed to debilitative. This study also evidence that self-confidence was dependedent on the frequency and use of a select few mental skills. Those who utilised skills including self-talk, imagery and relaxation strategies reported more self-condinece than those with limited use of these skills. This has been substantiated by Lowther, Lane, and Lane, (2002) who reported a positive correlation between the use of relaxation strategies in competition and self-efficacy reported. showed a positive In contrast, using goal-setting in practice or competition had no effect on competitive anxiety responses .

Competiteive anxiety ahs shown to influence performance.

The Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2; Martens, Burton, Vealey, Bump & Smith, 1990) was designed to assess the intensity of anxiety and perceived symptoms individuals were under. However, the notion that anxiety is consistently debilitative to performance has been disrupted by novel findings within multidimensional competitive anxiety research. Prior studies evidently present that anxiety can be beneficial to performance (Jones and Hanton), 1996 Parfitt & Hardy, 1993, as cited in Jones & Hanton, 1996) which has stimulated further attention towards the athletes interpretations of these intensity ratings.

( Jones, 1991 as cited in Fleter and Hanton) and Jones 1995 acknowledged the importance of considering individuals perception of the symptoms attached to cognitive, and somatic anxiety and self-confidence. In response, a directional scale was collaborated which broadened the approach adopted by the CSAI-2 to measure intensity and perception. This has extended research by shedding light on athletes' intensity and interpretation of anxiety, as to whether it is detrimental or facilitative to their performance.

One of the earliest studies which assessed perceptions of anxiety relative to performance abilities was conducted by Jones et al., 1993, as cited in Jones and Hanton, 1996. Results evidenced that intensity sores for both cognitive and somatic anxiety did not vary between athletes of different abilities,. However, more competent athletes reported cognitive anxiety intensity as more facilitative and less detrimental to performance, when compared to their lower ability counterparts. Consistent findings have endorsed this aforementioned research, whereby cognitive and somatic intensity states are independent of ability levels; yet perception of symptoms is dependent on ability, favouring those of greater competency to report more facilitative interpretations of anxiety symptoms (Jones et al., 1993 as cited in Jones and Hanton, 1996; Jones et al., 1994; Jones & Swain, 1995;). In addition, self-confidence was reported to be higher in the elite athletes. Moreover, Swain and Jones (1996) evidence that direction scores, for both cognitive and somatic anxiety were superior predictors of performance relative to the corresponding intensity ratings.

Studies have extended these findings to investigate the relative effects of mental skills and competitive anxiety response. It appears that the use of psychological skills moderates the intensity and perception of symptoms associated with pre-competitive anxiety. For example, Maynard, Smith and Warwick-Evans (1995) reported the use of relaxation skills, which reduced anxiety intensity levels, mediated soccer players' perceptions of this anxiety as more facilitative to performance. Accordingly, the use of the relaxation techniques enhanced the player self-confidence.

Research conducted by Jones and Hanton (1196 demonstrate that anxiety symptoms were perceived to be more facilitative to performance in swimmers who had positive goal expectancies, as opposed to swimmers who had little belief in achieving their goals. Finally, a comprehensive study by Hanton and Jones (1999a) demonstrated that the transition stages from novice to expert standards of swimmers reflected their greater and repeated use of pre-competition plans. These routines encompassed visualisation, goal-setting, cognitive and emotional control to encourage positive interpretations of anxiety symptoms.

Hanton and Jones (1999b) went on to confirm the effects of psychological skills on anxiety perceptions. This study recruited swimmers who were negatively influenced by the symptoms associated with cognitive and somatic anxiety. An intervention programme was devised to include goal-setting, imagery and self talk techniques, and was successful in moderating the simmers perception of anxiety symptoms to be more facitlaitieve to performances. Furthermore, the research of Jones and Hanton (1996) and Hanton and Jones (1999b) illustrate that the enhanced use of mental skills appeared to influence anxiety direction solely, and found no change in reported anxiety intensity levels; which contrasts to the findings of Maynard et al. (1995).

In review of the presented studies, it appears that anxiety responses are predominantly moderated in particular by the use of relaxation, goal-setting, imagery and self-talk skills. However, equivocal findings reveal variations of the effects that these psychological skills exert on intensity and direction of these symptoms. Furthermore, limited evidence fails to substantiate the contributions of specific mental skills to the underlying anxiety responses. Fletcher and Hanton (2001) went some way in determining the relative relationship between psychological skill sue and perception of anxiety and self-confidence.

Fletecher and Hanton (2001) research, which reviewed the use of a select number of mental skills, namely relaxation, self-talk, imagery and goal setting. Evidence shows a modulation effect of self-talk, relaxation and imagery use on anxiety response, whist goal-setting usage had no effect on anxiety responses. Results hone in on relaxation efficacy, as it appears relaxation use depicted a distinct positive relationship with facilitative interpretations of both cognitive and somatic anxiety related symptoms. Swimmers with high relaxation use during competition reported higher levels of self-confidence, lower intensity levels of anxiety, and interpreted symptoms relative to cognitive and somatic anxiety as more beneficial, than their comparative low relaxation use counterparts. Fletcher and Hanton (2001) continue to substantiate, congruent with Maynard et al. (1995) findings, that successful athletes posses the ability to use relaxation skills to reduce anxiety symptoms to optimum levels, which allow symptoms to be interpremnted as facilitative to performance, augmenting self-confidence.

In contrast to Hanton and Jones, (1999a), Fletcher and Hanton (2001) study proposes that self-talk and imagery usage were minimal and did not contribute to the perception of anxiety symptoms. However, those who made the greatest use of self-talk and imagery benefited from higher self-confidence. Finally, goal setting played no role in influencing the perception of anxiety symptoms.

Fletcher and Hanton 2001, remains to be one of the first initiating studies focusing on specific mental skill utilisation relative to anxiety symptom interpretation. In review of this pivotal study, it appears the use of relaxation strategies is one mental skill which proximally serves to elicit facilitative interpretations for performance. However, caution must be heeded since the sample consisted of non-elite participants, thus as supported by aforementioned studies, non-elite interpret anxiety as less facilitative to performance than their respective elite counterparts (Jones et al., 1994). It may therefore be inferred that non-elite individuals reduce the intensity of their anxiety symptoms to a more manageable, comfortable level via relaxation strategies. This ultimately allows the reduced anxiety levels to then be interpreted as facilitative to performance (cf. Jones & Swain). This is negotiable, since reducing anxiety does not consistently enhance performance.

In view of these findings, Fletcher and Hanton (2001) recommended swimmers to adopt a holistic approach and utilise a diverse range of psychological skills and strategies, to include goal-setting, imagery, self-talk, to facilitate in the transfer of debilitative to facilitative interpretations of anxiety symptoms. This is a consistent recommendation, endorsed by multiple studies (Hanton & Jones, 1999a; Jones & Hanton, 1996). Relaxation strategies are favourly encouraged, in particular for non-elite athletes, to reduce anxiety symptoms, which should then be followed up with cognitive re-structuring to achieve positive interpretations of anxiety symptoms (Maynard et al., 1995). In contrast, the anxiety intensity of elite athletes appears to remain stable (Hanton & Jones, 1999a) and athletes of a superior standard preferentially have been found to utilise goal- setting, imagery and self-talk more prominently to improve performance and elicit facilitative interpretations of anxiety responses.


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