Behavioral Assessment in Sport Psychology Consulting: Applications to Swimming and Basketball.
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.
Sport-specific self-report behavioral checklists, such as the one shown in Table 1, are not like traditional psychological tests such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (Wechsler, 1981) or the 16-Personality Factor Inventory (Cattell, Eber, & Tatsuoka, 1970). They do not have norms and they are not designed to measure character or personality traits. Also, because such checklists are based on a behavioral analysis of sport psychology consulting (Martin, 1997), they are not typically evaluated in terms of the degree to which the loading of various theoretical constructs contribute to a total score. Rather, such behavioral assessment tools provide assessment information necessary to design effective interventions for remediating psychological skill deficits in specific situations with individual athletes. Therefore, in the evaluation of such a checklist for a sport, it is important to assess: (a) the extent to which individual items are important to athletes in that sport; (b) that at least some athletes in that sport have deficits in the items listed; (c) that such deficits will be reliably revealed on repeated assessments; and (d) that no potentially important items have been missed. The purpose of the current investigation was to evaluate these concerns with the behavioral checklist for swimmers (see Table 1), and a checklist for basketball players.
Study 1, Evaluation of a Behavioral Checklist for Swimmers
Participants. Fifteen members (11 males and 4 females) from a university swim team and fifteen members (8 males and 7 females) from an age-group competitive swim team participated in the study. The university swimmers ranged in age from 17 to 22 years, and the age-group swimmers ranged in age from 13 to 16 years.
Materials. A letter of introduction to the project was sent to the coaches of each team. All participants and/or their guardians completed "informed" consent forms. The 41 items from the Sport Psychology Questionnaire for Swimmers shown in Table 1 were arranged in a form with columns to allow swimmers to rate each item on four questions: (a) Is this item important for swimmers? (b) Is this something that most swimmers need to improve on? (c) Is this something you need to improve on? and (d) If you need to improve, and if a sport psychologist was available, would you like some help? Each item was rated on each question on a 9-point Likert scale with 1 indicating "definitely not," 5 indicating "sometimes or to some extent," and 9 indicating "definitely yes." As indicated in Table 1, the form also contained spaces for swimmers to write in additional areas of concern at practices and at competitions.
Procedure. Data collection occurred during the third month of the fall swim season. After the coaches agreed to support the study, the first author visited each of the swim teams at a practice two weeks before a major meet. Swimmers were presented with a brief, oral introduction to the study. They were also told that, following completion of the study, they would be provided with a summary profile of their mental strengths and areas in need of improvement, and that, with their permission, a copy of these results would be made available to the coach. Swimmers were then given a copy of the checklist and a consent form, and they were requested to return the completed forms at the next practice. Test-retest reliability was assessed by administering the questionnaire again three weeks later to 15 of the swimmers, 8 from the university team and 7 from the youth team.
Test-retest reliability. A major question before using a behavioral checklist is that deficits can be reliably detected on repeated assessments in the absence of interventions to alleviate them. Therefore, a Pearson r correlation coefficient was computed for the 15 swimmers who completed the questionnaire twice, to determine test-retest reliability to the question, "Is this something that you need to improve on?" For the total score across all items, the Pearson r was .80.
A face validity question: Are the items important for swimmers in general? Face validity was evaluated by assessing swimmers' responses on all items to the question, "Is this item important to swimmers?" For the purpose of analysis, ratings of 1 to 3 were classified as low, ratings of 4 to 6 were classified as medium, and ratings of 7 to 9 were classified as high. All items were rated by the majority of swimmers to be of medium or high importance for swimmers. Mean ratings of whether each item was important for swimmers ranged from 5.33 (SD = 2.28) to 8.73 (SD = .58), indicating high face validity. The item that was rated lowest overall was still rated to be of high importance by 4 of the 30 swimmers. Moreover, test-retest reliability for the total score across all items to the question, "Is this item important for swimmers?" yielded a Pearson r of .91.
A second face validity question: Are all items identified as needing improvement by at least some swimmers? Figure 1 shows mean ratings of swimmers to the question, "Is this something that you need to improve on?" Rating ranges for this question varied from 9 for 30 of the items to 8 for the remaining 11 items. Standard deviations for these ratings ranged from 2.10 to 2.76. The item that had the lowest mean rating was still rated high by 8 swimmers.
Figure 2 shows an example of an individual swimmer's ratings on each of the items in terms of whether the swimmer needed to improve. In this example, the swimmer indicated a high need to improve on some mental skills for use during competition, as well as concerning self-evaluation after a meet. High ratings on 13 of the last 17 items indicated that this swimmer especially needed to improve on strategies to improve practice performance.
A third face validity question: Do swimmers believe that most swimmers need to improve on the items? Mean ratings of swimmers to the question, "Is this something that most swimmers need to improve On?" ranged from 4.93 to 7.21 for the various items. Standard deviations ranged from 1.52 to 2.58.
Is the checklist missing potentially important items? None of the swimmers identified additional areas of concern at practices or competitions.
Between-groups comparisons. Four independent sample t-tests were conducted on the answers to the four questions, in order to compare all males to all females, and the younger youth team to the older university team. No significant differences were found for gender or age.
Study 2, Evaluation of a Behavioral Checklist for Basketball Players
Participants. Forty-seven basketball players participated in this study, including members of a male and a female high school team, and a male and a female university team. The high school participants ranged in age from 15 to 18 years, and the university participants ranged in age from 18 to 24 years.
Materials. Similar to Experiment 1, a letter of introduction was sent to the coaches by the fifth author. In addition, consent forms, a demographic questionnaire, and a sport psychology questionnaire for basketball players (Martin et al., 1997) were used. That questionnaire was very similar to the questionnaire for swimmers presented in Table 1, with parallel items and examples for basketball-players, and spaces for players to write in additional areas of concern at practices and at games. The basketball players were asked to rate each item on the same four questions indicated previously for the swimmers, using the same 9-point Likert scale.
Procedure. Data collection occurred during the third and fourth months of the basketball season. After the coaches and players agreed to participate, the coaches were given copies of the Sport Psychology Questionnaire for Basketball Players, consent forms, a demographic questionnaire, and a standardized script to help explain the study to the athletes. The coaches were requested to give the consent forms to the players before a practice. The players were instructed to bring the consent form to the next practice, where they would then complete the questionnaire. The coaches also explained to the players that, as a result of participating, each player would receive a summary of his or her mental strengths and areas in need of improvement from the second author, and that, with the player's permission, this information would be made available to the coach. Three weeks later, the coaches of the two female teams gave the basketball questionnaire to their players once again, in order to assess test-retest reliabili ty.
Test-retest reliability. For the 23 players who completed the questionnaire twice, test-retest reliability for the total score across all items to the question, "Is this something you need to improve on?" yielded a Pearson requal to .86.
A face validity question: Are the items important for basketball players in general? Face validity was calculated by assessing the answers of the players across all of the items to the question, "Is this item important for basketball players?" As described previously for the swimmers, ratings were categorized as low, medium, or high. Thirty-nine of the 41 items were rated by the majority of participants to be of high importance for basketball players (with mean ratings from 7.2 to 8.7). The remaining two items, "setting specific goals for every practice" and "keeping a written record of progress and meeting practice goals" each averaged 5.3. Test-retest reliability across all items to the importance question yielded a Pearson r of .94.
A second face validity question: Are all items identified as needing improvement by at least some basketball players? Mean ratings of basketball players as to whether they needed to improve on each of the items varied from 5.2 to 7.4. Rating ranges for this question varied from 6.0 to 8.0. Standard deviations for the ratings ranged from 1.7 to 3.0. The item that had the lowest mean rating was still rated high by 16 basketball players.
A third face validity question: Do basketball players believe that most basketball players need to improve on the items? Mean ratings to this question varied from 6.2 to 7.8 for the various items. Standard deviations ranged from 1.2 to 2.5.
Is the checklist missing potentially important items? None of the basketball players identified additional areas of concern at practices or competitions.
Between-groups comparisons. Four independent sample t-tests were conducted on the answers to the four questions, in order to compare all males to all females, and the younger high school players to the older university players. No significant differences were found for gender or age.
The sport psychology questionnaires for swimmers and basketball players each contain 41 items that assess a swimmer's or basketball player's mental skill strengths and deficits concerning practices, competitions, and post-competition evaluations. The results indicated that each questionnaire has high test-retest reliability and high face validity. None of the athletes in either study identified missing areas of concern. Moreover, there were no differences between sexes or between the two different age groups in either study. Overall, the checklists appeared to be useful tools for identifying mental skill areas in need of improvement for swimmers and basketball players, respectively.
Sport-specific behavioral checklists have a number of benefits. The use of examples in a checklist for a particular sport gives it face validity with athletes in that sport. They can be completed by the athlete as a homework assignment, saving both time and money in the sport psychology consultation process. Some athletes who may initially be reluctant to discuss their needs might find the completion of a sport-specific questionnaire somewhat less threatening. Moreover, with the athlete's permission, a questionnaire concerning the athlete's needs can be completed by the athlete, the coach, and perhaps a parent, in order to provide multiple perspectives on potential mental preparation areas in need of improvement (e.g., see Martin & Toogood, 1997). Also, such checklists might be administered at various stages of an intervention as a way of monitoring progress.
Martin et al. (1997) identified several general considerations for use of sport-specific behavioral checklists. First, they are designed to facilitate the sport consulting process with individual athletes. They are not designed to be used for team selection and retention. Second, they can be used to help the athlete select several areas for which specific target behaviors and goals for improvement can subsequently be identified. They are not meant to be used to compare that athlete to standardized norms nor to assess the degree to which they tap into underlying theoretical constructs. Third, the checklists are not meant as a substitute for lack of sport-specific knowledge by the consultant. Ravizza (1988) identified lack of sport-specific knowledge on the part of a consultant as a common barrier which makes it difficult for a sport psychologist to gain entry to the athletic world. Fourth, it is assumed that practitioners who use the checklists are familiar with assessment and ethical guidelines for sport psy chologists (e.g., see Heil & Henschen, 1996; Martin, 1997). Finally, it is assumed that a sport psychology consultant who might use information obtained from such checklists has experience in translating such information into the identification of specific target behaviors and the development of effective interventions.
Future research might proceed in several directions. First, although the 21 sport-specific questionnaires described by Martin et al. (1997) were developed by individuals with expertise in sport psychology consulting in conjunction with individuals with expertise in the different sports, only the questionnaires for swimmers and basketball players have been formally examined for their test-retest reliability and face validity. Each of the remaining questionnaires needs to be similarly examined. Second, only one study has examined the concurrent validity of such a questionnaire from the point of view of athletes compared to the views of coaches and parents (Martin & Toogood, 1997). Future research is needed in this area. Third, although there is some evidence that information from a sport-specific questionnaire for figure skaters is useful in developing effective sport psychology interventions with skaters (Martin & Toogood, 1997), more research is needed to examine this process in other sports.
Traditional psychological tests are considered by some practitioners (e.g., Martin, 1998; Orlick, 1989; Rushall, 1979) to be of little practical value in working with high performance athletes because they fail to aid in the identification of specific target behaviors that occur in specific situations with individual athletes. For this same reason, many behavior therapists consider traditional psychological tests to be of little help in identifying target behaviors in the process of behavior therapy (Martin & Pear, 1999). An alternative to assessment adopted by many behavior therapists has been the development of self-report behavioral checklists. The current study assessed two such checklists for athletes.
Address Correspondence To: Garry L. Martin, University of Manitoba, 129 St. Paul's College, 70 Dysart Road, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2M6, Canada.
Grateful appreciation is expressed to the members and coaches of the men's and women's basketball teams and the swimming team at the University of Manitoba, the men's basketball team at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, and the women's basketball team at St. Mary's high school, for their cooperation and support during this study. An expanded version of Experiment 2 was submitted by the second author in partial fulfillment of the B.A. Honours degree at the University of Manitoba.
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A Sport Psychology Questionnaire for Swimmers
Would you say that, just before or during a meet, you need to improve at:
1. Thinking positive thoughts? (e.g., "I know I can hit the splits I'm going for", "I'm going for a best time", etc.)
2. Tuning out negative thoughts? (e.g., "I hope I don't come in last", "These swimmers are really fast", etc.)
3. Staying loose and not getting too nervous:
a) just before a race?
b) in pressure situations?
4. Maintaining/regaining your confidence in difficult situations? (e.g., you have a bad start/split, you're behind, you feel really nervous, etc.)
5. Maintaining your concentration during a race? (e.g., focusing on technique, concentrating on turns, etc.)
6.Blocking out distractors over which you have no control? (e.g., the time of day of your race, who you're competing against, etc.)
7. Blocking out what people might say if you don't perform well? (e.g., comments from your parents, coach, friends, or spectators) Other? ___
8. Blocking out distractors that don't involve swimming? (e.g., school, family, or relationship problems) Other? ___
9. Refocusing after you get distracted for any reason? (e.g., while waiting behind the blocks during the heat before yours, a competitor invades your space, etc.)
10. Staying energized in difficult situations? (e.g., when you feel fatigued or ill, your opponents have much faster entry times, etc.)
11. Making adjustments as the race progresses? (e.g., to deal with an opponent's tactics, etc.)
12. Staying positive throughout a race? (e.g., you're feeling pain, you're falling behind, etc.)
13. Managing troublesome emotions? (e.g., excitement, anger, disappointment, etc.)
14. Giving 100% effort when there are excuses not to? (e.g., you are swimming against people you have swum against several times, you are placing poorly in a race, you begin to feel fatigued, etc.)
15. Setting challenging yet attainable goals for each meet?
16. Having a better health management plan before and during a meet? (e.g., getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating properly, etc.)
17. Preparing and following a detailed precompetition and competition plan?
18. Communicating your precompetition needs to others? (e.g., parent(s), coach, teammates, and friends, etc.)
19. Staying supportive of and praising teammates' performance?
IMMEDIATELY AFTER A MEET
Would you say that you need to improve at:
1. Evaluating your mental preparation and swimming performance for that meet?
2. Putting aside a poor performance and focusing on the next race/meet?
3. Remembering the good things that happened, and incorporating them into mental preparation for the next race/meet?
4. Communicating with your coach? (e.g., "How was my technique?", "My turns?", etc.)
5. Learning from your mistakes so that you can improve? (e.g., "Explode more off the turn", etc.)
Additional Concerns about Competitions
Would you say that, at practices, you need to improve at:
1. Setting specific physical, technical, tactical, and mental goals for every practice?
2. Keeping a written record of progress in meeting your goals?
3. Arriving at practice totally committed to do your best? (e.g., consistently be stretched before the practice is scheduled to start, etc.)
4. Maintaining your concentration, especially when practice gets long, repetitive, or uninteresting?
5. Maintaining your effort and focus, especially when you are tired or don't feel like being there?
6. Making better use of full practice time? (e.g., swimming all sets under the set time, practicing good turns at both ends, etc.)
7. Staying positive when you're having a bad practice?
8. Remaining positive when an injury forces you to stop training?
9. Constantly working on improving your technique? (i.e., don't just go through the motions)
10. Trying new and challenging skills? (e.g., trying to perfect a new stroke or turn, etc.)
11. Practicing mental skills, as well as physical skills?
12. Not worrying about what other swimmers are doing? (i.e., concentrating on what you have to do to improve)
13. Using key words and self-talk to improve your skills? (e.g., on backstroke: "Head still", "Hips high", etc.)
14. Making better use of visualization/mental rehearsal before practices to improve your skills?
15. Focusing on having quality practices?
16. Doing serious race simulations during some practices? (e.g., using a start gun, timing your splits, swimming against other club members, wearing competitive suits, etc.)
17. Using self-talk, key words, and imagery before and during race simulations? Additional Concerns about Practices
Note. The original questionnaire (Martin et al., 1997) listed the above items, and also provided a scoring section to enable a swimmer to rate each item on a 1-5 scale (Definitely don't need to improve to Definitely need to improve), and to check the items for which they would like help to improve.
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|Author:||Lines, Jolyon B.; Schwartzman, Lisa; Tkachuk, Gregg A.; Leslie-Toogood, S. Adrienne; Martin, Garry L|
|Publication:||Journal of Sport Behavior|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1999|
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