Behavioral Assessment in Sport Psychology Consulting: Applications to Swimming and Basketball

Article excerpt

A sport-specific behavioral checklist lists, for a particular sport, psychological skills to be used at practices and competitions that an athlete can easily check off in order to provide a quick, convenient, and yet reasonably thorough assessment of those areas in which the athlete would like some help. The goal of such an assessment is to help an athlete select a few areas for which specific target behaviors and goals for improvement can subsequently be identified. This paper describes an evaluation of two such behavioral checklists, one for swimmers and one for basketball players. Both checklists showed high test-retest reliability and high face validity. Guidelines for using such checklists, and future research in their development, are discussed.

The development of options for conducting behavioral assessments has been integral to the success of behavior therapy with mental health problems, and similar options may be of value for sport psychology consulting. When an individual seeks help from a behavior therapist, one of the first concerns is to clarify the nature of the problem and to identify some target behaviors. In some cases, the behavior therapist might directly observe the client in natural settings. Often, however, neither the therapist nor the client have the time or resources for the therapist to observe the client in everyday situations in which the problem behaviors occur. An effective alternative in many areas of mental health has been the use of self-report behavioral checklists to help clients identify problems of concern (Martin & Pear, 1999). This approach to behavioral assessment has been recommended for sport psychology consulting (Martin, 1997; Martin, Toogood, & Tkachuk, 1997). This paper describes an evaluation of two self-repo rt behavioral checklists, one for swimmers and one for basketball players.

Noted sport psychology practitioners (e.g., Orlick, 1989; Smith, 1989) have recommended increased use of ideographic assessment methods for work with athletes. Within the spirit of such recommendations, Martin et al. (1997) described self-report behavioral checklists for 21 different sports. A sport-specific behavioral checklist lists, for a particular sport, psychological skills to be used at practices and competitions that an athlete can easily check off in order to provide a quick, convenient, and yet reasonably thorough assessment of those areas in which the athlete would like some help. Unlike checklists designed to be used for athletes in all sports, such as the Precompetition and Competition Inventory (Rushall, 1979), or the Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style (Nideffer, 1976), a sport-specific behavioral checklist contains items and examples for one specific sport. The jargon in such a checklist reflects the language of the sport, and is meant to be user friendly for athletes in that sport. T he goal of such an assessment is to help an athlete select a few psychological skill deficits for which specific target behaviors and goals for improvement can subsequently be identified.

In the preparation of the sport-specific behavioral checklists described by Martin et al. (1997), items were developed from several sources. First, based on assessments of psychological skills of exceptional athletes (e.g., Greenspan & Feltz, 1989; Mahoney, Gabriel, & Perkins, 1987; Orlick & Partington, 1988), items were prepared to assess deficits and strengths at practices in the areas of motivation, goal setting, self-monitoring, quality training, and simulation training, and at competitions in the areas of pre-competition and competition planning, confidence, concentration, arousal control, team support, and post-competition evaluations (e.g., see Table 1 in the appendix). Second, items and examples were reviewed and revised by an individual with expertise in that sport. Third, items were refined on the basis of the authors' collective experience in sport psychology consulting. …