Psychological Skills Assessment and Athletic Performance in Collegiate Rodeo Athletes

Article excerpt

The opportunity to achieve maximal athletic performance through the use of sound physical training programs and testing procedures has continued to gain acceptance from coaches and players at various levels of competition. Assessment of maximal aerobic power, speed, anaerobic capacity, and body composition have been essential components found among many successful athletic programs. Although the development of sport psychology has been documented for over 90 years beginning with efforts of Triplett (1897), only within the last decade has the emphasis on psychological components of athletics moved from the research laboratory and gained on-the-field support as a major influence on sport performance (Murphy, 1988; Orlick & Partington, 1988).

Early research evidence has supported an association between psychological characteristics and sport performance (May, Veach, Reed, & Griffey, 1985; Morgan & Pollock, 1977; Ogilvie, 1968). Results have often been controversial since the level of competitive stress, and the ability of an individual to cope, were found to be directly related to the type of sport, the position played, as well as the physical/mental ability of the athlete (Highlen & Bennett, 1983; Nation & LeUnes, 1983; Riddick, 1984). Further research has quantified differences in psychological response between elite versus nonelite athletes (Morgan, 1985). However, the difficulty of matching psychological variables with physiological response and the subsequent problems in interpreting these findings are well recognized (Cox, 1985; Smith, Burwitz, & Jakeman, 1988).

A new direction has recently evolved with an emphasis in identifying psychological skills relevant to sport. From studies involving elite, pre-elite, and non-elite athletes, potential constructs assessing anxiety management, concentration, self-confidence, mental preparation, and motivation have been identified (Mahoney, Gabriel, & Perkins, 1987). Later work in this area indicated motivational differences among elite and non-elite Olympic weightlifters (Mahoney, 1989), greater anxiety management skills and self-confidence in elite versus sub-elite female equestrian athletes (Meyers, Bourgeois, Murray, & LeUnes, 1993), and the influence of gender on anxiety management and self-confidence (Lesser & Murphy, 1988). Recent research, however, found no association between psychological skills and increased training volume in elite judo athletes (Murphy, Fleck, Dudley, & Callister, 1990), and no differences in psychological skills between top, middle, and bottom-ranked professional, female tennis players (Meyers, Sterling, Bourgeois, Treadwell, & LeUnes, 1994). Obviously, results attempting to identify psychological skills across athletic populations and levels of competition remain equivocal.

Investigation addressing the psychological constructs conducive to performance in the nontraditional sport of rodeo has been varied but limited, both at the professional and collegiate levels of competition. These efforts were primarily descriptive in nature in an attempt to quantify personality characteristics (McGill, Hall, Ratliff & Moss, 1986), sensation seeking and competitive anxiety (Rainey, Amunategui, Agocs, & Larick, 1992), baseline and competitive levels of mood state (Meyers, LeUnes, Elledge, Tolson, & Sterling, 1990b; Meyers, Sterling, & LeUnes, 1988), and the relationship between incidence of athletic injury and mood state (Meyers, LeUnes, Elledge, Sterling, & Tolson, 1992). At this time, no studies exist which address the psychological skills and their relationship to skill performance in the rodeo athlete as has been documented in other sports.

In rodeo, one might expect distinctive differences in contact (roughstock riding, steer wrestling) versus non-contact (calf roping, barrel racing) events, due to excessive physical trauma specific to riding/wrestling livestock (Meyers, Elledge, Sterling, & Tolson, 1990a). …