Case Study: Developing a Mental Skills Training Programme for elite level athletes

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Candidate Number: Z0 948612

Applied Sport Psychology

Case Study: Developing a mental skills training programme for an elite level athlete

Word Count: 3297+Appendicies

Anonymous code: Z0 948612

Degree Course: Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity

Date of Submission: 22nd January 2016

Content page:


* Defining needs assessment

* Defining mental skills training/ mental skills training programme

* Defining framework and identifying its use within sport psychology

Using framework to inform practice (Weinberg & Williams, 2001)

* Phase 1

* Phase 2

* Phase 3

Assessment of an elite athlete

* Phase 4

Performance Profile

Short Interview

Test of performance strategies

The development of a mental skills training package

* Phase 5

Consultation with athlete to identify appropriate areas to target

Skill selection and package development

* Phase 6

Consideration of package implementation and adherence

Personal reflection

* Reflection on programme development

* Personal reflection on the process


* A, performance profiling


* C, Short interview

* D, Techniques which could be useful to the administration of MST

* E, informed consent from your athlete


The primary objective of this study is to undertake a needs assessment for an elite level athlete, providing focus on psychological factors which could be inhibiting optimal performance. Using results identified in a needs assessment, the study continues to develop a mental skills training programme (MST) based on framework used by Weinberg and Williams’ (2001). Following the completion of the MST programme, a personal reflection is undertaken which considers the process of programme development and offers wider view-points on the practice in general.

Sullivan and Nashman (1998) suggest that despite prevailing ideologies, athletes are the same as other people, they face a range of problems which can result sub-optimal performance. Psychological factors are widely considered when attempting to understand why athletes often do not always perform to the best of their abilities (Singer and Ashnel, 2006). Administering a needs assessment can provide a great deal of information about an athlete’s strengths and weaknesses, providing a basis for future development.

MST can broadly be defined as a variety of techniques which are used to develop the psychological determinants which contribute to an athlete performing well (Thelwell, Greenlees, and Weston, 2006).A MST programme can be described as a combination of techniques, which are strategically selected to target the weaknesses of a performer. Gordin and Reardon (1995) suggest programmes are a structured to achieve progress quickly, as contemporary athletes are under high levels of pressure to perform, the ability to detect and remove any potential weaknesses is considerably important.

Applied framework can be further understood as the skeleton or shell which a developmental programme can be created around (Murrell, 1977). As the problems people in consultancy roles face are vast, developing individualised yet effective treatment is difficult. Framework can be considered an invaluable tool to a consultant, usually built on theoretical assumption conceptual framework can work as a guide, aiding in the diagnosis of a client’s problems (Hill, 2001).

Building on the above definitions, the following paragraphs further explore the process of developing a MST to aid professional development.

Using framework to inform practice (Weinberg and Williams’, 2001)

Framework is adopted in the context of sport psychology for a range of reasons. Primarily, Framework can be considered advantageous as it helps provide organisation and structure within a programme, demonstrating clear phases of progress for the client/ practitioner to follow (Rodman, 1980). Usually built on theoretical assumption conceptual framework can work as a guide to a practitioner, aiding in the diagnosis of a client’s problems (Hill, 2001). Morgan (2006) argues, whilst offering structural integrity, framework also provides the necessary room for a practitioner to develop something which is highly individualistic.

Weinberg and Williams’ (2001) identify 7 phases in their framework, these phases were used as guide to aid in the development of the immediate programme.

Phase 1: Select a client

Phase 2: Engage with the client through an initial meeting

Phase 3: Sport analysis and education

Phase 4: Needs assessment

Phase 5: Skill selection and package development

Phase 6: Implementation of programme, education and practice performance routines

Phase 7: Evaluation

When considering the effectiveness of the suggested framework, Weinberg and Williams` (2001) found that 85% of 45 studies which used it, noted positive effects after its use. Thelwell and Greenlees (2001) suggest that the frameworks effectiveness could stem from the extensive assessments which are undertaken with the athlete, these assessments provide an abundance of useful information for the consultant to use. Specific information allows the consultant to target areas which are going to have the largest overall effect on the athlete’s performance, in doing so the program is given the greatest chance of success. Other programmes such as Singer`s (2006) self-paced five step MST programme, offer less specificity with respect to the needs of the athlete, reducing the likelihood of the programme using appropriate techniques.

As suggested in Weinberg and Williams’ (2001) framework, phase 1 requires the selection of the client. The client which has been selected is a 20 year old, male rugby player, who currently plays for County Durham. Prior to injury (ACL tear) the athlete played nationally and had a short-term contract with the Newcastle Falcons. After playing at a high standard for a number of years the performer can be considered relatively experienced.

After the client has been identified, the framework suggests an initial meeting with the client should take place. Meeting with the athlete provides them with greater detail of their requirements throughout the process as well as providing the practitioner with greater detail on the performer. As a sport science student and high performing athlete, the client had previously been exposed to the concept of MST and states it is something that they would be willing to try. Despite brief exposure, the client reveals that they have never used MST for extended periods or been involved in the production of a MST programme, consequently it was something they were interested in.

After meeting with the client the framework suggests that they should be educated on the specific processes of MST. During this phase the practitioner is also required to undertake an assessment of clients sport. As the client is a second year sport science student they had prior knowledge of MST, because of this, this phase took the format of a discussion rather than the educational process recommended in the framework.

The discussion with the client started by broadly covering the general effectiveness of MST, at which point the work of Vealey (1994) was discussed, Vealey (1994) found in a review of 12 studies, 9 identified MST as effective. The purpose of showing client this paper was to solidify their enthusiasm in MST, by showing them it had worked on a number of occasions prior to the production of this programme.

Perhaps going beyond what the framework intended, the discussion with the client continued and considered why MST appeared to be effective. It is widely reported that anxiety and other negative stressors can have detrimental effects on sports performance (Woodman and Hardy, 2003). Therefore, an individual’s ability to control these stressors is likely to affect their ability to perform well in a task (Boyd and Zenong, 1999). An individual who feels a high degree of self-mastery over task interference, is more likely to be able to control the stressors which are effecting their performance (Wuff and Toole, 1999). Without the ability to control task interference, their ability to maintain a psychological state which allows good task performance is reduced (Rotella and Heyman, 1986). By incorporating MST an individual’s likelihood of maintaining a good psychological state is increased, thus improving their chances of a good performance. As the client had a good level of knowledge in psychology and skill acquisition, discussing concepts of self-mastery to rationalise the effectiveness of MST, appeared to further their interest in the programme.
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Phase 3 also suggests an evaluation of the clients sport be undertaken. During earlier discussion the client referred to the term “mental toughness” on numerous occasions, almost suggesting it was a prerequisite for success in rugby. Jones (2002) provides an exploration into the term and proposes that it is one of the most important psychological attributes contributing to an athlete’s success (Eklund, Gould, and Jackson, 1993). While an absolute definition is hard to form, some prevailing ideals are expressed throughout the literature, including, an ability to deal with high pressure, stress and adversity (Goldberg, 1998); the ability to ...

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