Examining the Use of Psychological Skills throughout Soccer Performance

By Thelwell, Richard C.; Greenlees, Iain A. et al. | Journal of Sport Behavior, March 2010 | Go to article overview

Examining the Use of Psychological Skills throughout Soccer Performance


Thelwell, Richard C., Greenlees, Iain A., Weston, Neil J. V., Journal of Sport Behavior


Recent advances in the applied sport psychology literature have seen an increase in the number of empirical studies supporting the positive influence of psychological skills training on sports performance (e.g., Rogerson & Hrycaiko, 2002) and in particular, soccer-based performance (e.g., Johnson, Hrycaiko, Johnson, & Halas, 2004; Thelwell, Greenlees, & Weston, 2006). Despite the upsurge in interest, there remain three important areas requiring attention. First, it is only of late that researchers have provided a rationale for the selection of skills within interventions. Second, many studies (e.g., Patrick & Hrycaiko, 1998; Thelwell & Greenlees, 2003) have focused on measuring the influence of interventions on global performance outcomes, without acknowledging performance subcomponents. Third, little is known regarding the extent to which psychological skills influence performance throughout competition.

Responding to the first issue, recent studies in swimming (Hanton & Jones, 1999), ice-hockey (Rogerson & Hrycaiko, 2002), cricket (Thelwell & Maynard, 2003), and endurance events (Thelwell & Greenlees, 2003) have forwarded rationales for the selection of psychological skills within their interventions. For example, Thelwell and Greenlees used Taylor's (1995) conceptual framework to examine the effects of a psychological skills training package on competitive gymnasium triathlon performance. Specifically the framework suggests that practitioners should consider the psychological priorities for the sport and base their intervention approaches on the psychological requirements of the task. Therefore using Taylor's approach in conjunction with related previous literature, the researchers were able to determine what, why and how the skills should be selected and delivered.

Although recent studies have acknowledged the importance of providing a rationale for the selection of the psychological skills, many studies have failed to consider the second important issue, which is the lack of focus on the measurement of performance subcomponents. While the measurement of overall performance may be appropriate in some sporting situations, one could argue that measuring pertinent performance subcomponents in other sports may be more informative (e.g:, passing success in soccer), where individuals have positional responsibilities. With this in mind, it is interesting that few studies have examined the influence of psychological skills on sport, or even role-specific requirements that performers are required to execute in order to perform successfully. Of the research that has adopted this approach, positive results in varying basketball skills (Kendall, Hrycaiko, Martin, & Kendall, 1990; Swain & Jones, 1995), tennis volleying (Landin & Hebert, 1999), ice-hockey goal-tender save percentage (Rogerson & Hrycaiko, 2002) and shooting performance in soccer (Johnson et al., 2004) provide evidence for the potential benefits of monitoring performance subcomponents.

In addition to the above, Thelwell et al. (2006) conducted a study examining the effects of a psychological skills intervention, on performance subcomponents (first touch, passing, tackling) deemed as being specific to a midfield soccer player. Using a multiple-baseline across individuals design, five participants received an intervention comprising relaxation, imagery and self-talk that was delivered specific to their role as a midfielder, and had the three performance measurements assessed across nine competitive games. The authors reported positive findings having delivered the intervention with all performers experiencing at least small improvements on each of the performance measures. Taken with the findings from Johnson et al.

(2004), Thelwell et al. proposed the administration of a position-specific intervention to be appropriate within a soccer context. They also proposed that it may be appropriate to consider further specific role requirements. …

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