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The relative effect of a group and group/individualized program on state anxiety and state self-confidence.

One concern of coaches is that athletes will be over or under aroused for practices and games. The inverted-U hypothesis suggests that performance is best at an optimal level of arousal, and that performance progressively declines as arousal increases or decreases from each individual's optimal level. The psychological ability of an individual to control arousal is a key factor which separates good and poor performances. Better performers need to be able to control arousal when they perform in anxiety-provoking games or events. When anxiety increases above the moderate level, anxiety control skills are needed. Anxiety control in sport usually implies reducing arousal through anxiety management techniques such as relaxation, imagery, centering, and focusing (Gill, 1986).

The literature has included group-centered (Ryan & Simons 1982; Wrisberg & Ragsdale, 1979), or athlete-centered studies (Andre & Means, 1986; Kendall, Hyrcaiko, Martin, & Kendall, 1990) dealing with this approach, but no studies which included both techniques and/or the differences in their effectiveness. In addition, there is indication that broader enhancement practices are in use by sport psychology consultants, and broader programs have been suggested, but there is no research to support the use of combining relaxation, centering, positive self-talk, energizing, and focusing. Research has been conducted employing some of these techniques for performance on closed skill tasks (Andre & Means, 1986; Cohn, Rotella, & Lloyd, 1990; Wrisberg & Ragsdale, 1979), open skill tasks (Kendall et al., 1990), and closed and open skill tasks using the same experimentally controlled technique (Buckles, 1984). However, there are no studies to investigate the relative effectiveness of broad group centered and individualized programs on state anxiety and/or state self-confidence.

The Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2) was developed to measure two dimensions of state anxiety; cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety, and state self-confidence (Martens, Vealey, & Burton, 1990). Scoring for each factor on the CSAI-2 ranges from a possible 9 to 36. Several studies support the multidimensional theory of state anxiety (Buckles, 1984; Elko & Ostrow, 1991; Gould, Petlichkoff, Simons, & Vevera, 1987) because their findings confirmed that the CSAI-2 assessed state anxiety (cognitive and somatic) and state self-confidence.

Buckles (1984) administered the CSAI-2 to measure the state anxiety and state self-confidence of all female basketball athletes on the team 30 minutes prior to the game over a five month period. The VMBR technique was taught to the athletes in an attempt to investigate the effects of VMBR on state anxiety. Game statistics which included open and closed tasks were the performance measures. She found that the somatic component of state anxiety was significantly (p [less than] .05) improved with the use of VMBR.

Elko and Ostrow (1991) hypothesized that gymnasts who were counseled using an education program that uses Rational-Emotive Therapy would have: (a) lower levels of cognitive and somatic anxiety, (b) less negative self-statements, and (c) higher levels of performance, compared to their baseline levels. Baseline assessments using a single subject design were taken of the six gymnasts' state anxiety by using the CSAI-2 and performance scores were tabulated by the overall meet score for each gymnast. It was found that cognitive anxiety was significantly lower (p [less than] .05) in most gymnasts after the intervention, but there was no change (p [greater than] .05) in somatic anxiety.

There is some research which indicates that the anxiety factors (cognitive and somatic) can be improved when interventions are employed (Buckles, 1984; Elko & Ostrow, 1991). Elko and Ostrow (1991) found that cognitive anxiety can be lowered through the use of educational psychological skills programs. In contrast, Buckles (1984) indicated that the use of VMBR could lower somatic anxiety. However, the literature reviewed did not indicate that: (a) state self-confidence, as measured by the CSAI-2 (Martens et al., 1990), could be raised by a psychological skills training program, nor (b) that more than one state anxiety factor could be affected by one intervention program. The purpose of this present study was to determine if both or either the group and/or group/individualized psychological training programs employed in this study would facilitate: (a) a decrease in state anxiety factors (cognitive and/or somatic), and/or (b) an increase in state self-confidence as measured by the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2, CSAI-2, (Martens, Vealey, & Burton, 1990) after the psychological intervention training program was introduced. It was hypothesized that both the group and group/individualized intervention programs would facilitate a reduction in the two state anxiety factors and an increase in state self-confidence, but the group/individualized program would produce greater changes.



The subjects were 10 members of a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I nationally ranked women's basketball team. The subjects signed a written informed consent, and had the approval of the coach to participate in the study. Athletes ranged from 18-21 years, with the mean age being 19.3 years. All 10 subjects were in the group psychological program and were exposed to a general psychological training program.

Three of the 10 subjects were selected for the group/individualized psychological intervention program. The selection of the three subjects for the group/individualized group to receive both psychological training programs was decided by the head coach and the Sport Psychology Consultant (SPC) and was based on position played and years of experience on the team. The three athletes in the group/individualized program included one first, one second, and one fourth year player from the positions of guard, forward, and center.

The three athletes who were chosen were then asked if they wished to participate in the group/individualized psychological training program. They were told that the SPC would help them to design and monitor an individualized psychological training program if they participated in the group/individualized program. All three agreed to participate in the group/individualized program. Two of the athletes were starting athletes and the third athlete was the first substitute off the bench in her position. These athletes were in the playing unit of the team and participated in every game. The athletes who received only the group program included the remaining six athletes, two first year, one second year, and four third year athletes from the positions of guard, forward, and post. Three of the group program athletes were starters, two of them were bench athletes who were in the playing unit, and two were bench athletes who were the last two to come off the bench.


Group program

All sessions for the group program were conducted on the basketball court three times per week throughout the regular season. The interventions for the group program included centering, focusing, and imagery. Centering was chosen because it was a method of relaxing by controlling breathing through inhaling and exhaling. Once the subject completed this relaxation response, she was mentally ready to focus on the immediate task/situation. In this study, centering was always used in conjunction with focusing and imagery. The subject received instruction in centering, and then on focusing. All subjects practiced centering and focusing before imagery was introduced to the team.

The first five on-court sessions with the athletes in the group program included instructions in centering and focusing (concentrating). The athletes sat in a circle on the floor at center court and were instructed to inhale slowly, exhale slowly and focus on tension leaving specific muscles in their body as they exhaled. They were instructed to stretch a muscle by inhaling, exhaling, and feeling the tension leave that muscle. To check whether they were using the proper technique they were told that they should feel the muscle become longer each time they performed the inhaling, exhaling, centering, and focusing technique. For five practices the SPC instructed the athletes in their pre-practice stretching routine to assist them in understanding the mechanics of centering and focusing. Once the athletes practiced the centering and focusing routine five times, the cue words of "center" and "focus" were used by the SPC before they began their imagery practice session.

Imagery was employed by all 10 athletes in the group program because research indicated that imagery in conjunction with physical practice resulted in greater improvement in learning skills than physical practice alone (Feltz & Landers, 1983). The subjects were physically practicing their open and closed skills related to the game of basketball on a daily basis. Imagery was guided by the SPC to emphasize the team practice focus of the coach. It was added to the athletes' practice routine for a five-to-ten minute segment at the beginning of each of three practices per week during the study. The athletes were encouraged to use imagery on their own, but they did not keep a log of their imagery, nor were they asked for feedback about their imagery.

Immediately following this three week training period, the group program intervention was initiated and proceeded throughout the remainder of the regular season. This program encompassed the following procedure. For five minutes prior to practice the athletes were instructed to inhale, exhale, center, and focus on the situations presented to them. Sample situations which the athletes were told to image were: (a) Our team is playing 22 defense. You intercept the ball, lead a fast break and pass to a teammate who scores; (b) We are playing a match-up zone. They make three passes, followed by a skip pass to the opposite wing who shoots. Find someone in your area and box out then get the rebound; (c) We are playing player-to-player defense. The opponent runs their motion offense and shoots after five passes. Box out and grab the boards; or (d) An opposing player fouled you with five seconds remaining and you are up by one point. Shoot one and one and make them both. During the situations presented to the athletes the SPC inserted the names of the next opponent they were to play in order to have the athletes focus on some of the situations they would likely face against their next opponent. This helped the athletes to identify with the situations which they would face in the immediate future and give them a focus for their attention.

Group/individualized program

Each athlete who agreed to participate in the group/individualized psychological training program kept a log of the time they spent per day and the focus of their psychological training program for each day. These three athletes received all of the previous intervention for the group program during this time period. In addition they also had an individualized program where this group of three had staggered starts in order to see if the intervention, rather than a specific game or any other event, was responsible for any change in state anxiety and/or state self-confidence (Kazdin, 1989).

Positive self-talk was one technique available to the athletes in the group/individualized program. Positive self-talk has been suggested to reinforce the athlete's self-confidence (Rushall, 1989). The three athletes in the group/individualized program were informed about the benefits of positive self-talk, which was explained to them as knowing their realistic ability as a basketball player and telling themselves they could do it. Two of the athletes in the group/individualized program chose to use positive self-talk when they were doubting their abilities and losing their self-confidence. Specifically the athletes assessed their role on the team in conjunction with the coach's feedback regarding her expected role on the team for this player and selected appropriate points for her focus. Once they had assessed this they chose the open and closed skills which could be employed in the game. They would then tell themselves that they could achieve the specific tasks which they would be using during the game.

They were told that positive self-talk can be achieved through listening to audiotapes which stress relaxing to music and opening their minds to the positive self-statements which are on the tape (Kellner,1987). The three athletes were: (a) given a copy of the audiotape Living the Miracle (Kellner, 1987), (b) instructed to listen to side one daily before going to sleep, and (c) told to listen to side two daily before attending a practice or a game. This audiotape included music, relaxation techniques, positive self-talk, and imagery of basketball skills. The three athletes listened to the audiotape once as instructed, but only two of the athletes decided to incorporate the use of the tape into their individualized program. Each player also made self-affirmations such as: (a) I can score from 15 feet; (b) I am a threat on offense when I have the ball; (c) I can finish this game with energy; (d) I can score from the three point range; and/or (e) I will make both of my bonus foul shots.

In addition, cues were also given to the athlete to help them focus on the immediate task with confidence. A cue word, such as penetrate, gave the athlete the message that to penetrate and score is their strength. Another cue suggested was the feel of the ball, which could act as a trigger for the athlete to focus on scoring. Each cue word depended on the concerns of each athlete and the problem areas each had identified during the conferences with the SPC. If the SPC and the athlete thought the athlete could benefit from positive self-talk the SPC assisted the athlete in designing a psychological training program to reflect this need. Two of the three athletes chose to include positive self-talk in their individualized psychological training program.

Energizing (psyching up) was a second technique available to the athletes in group/individualized program. This technique was available to the athletes for use when they were under-aroused for practices and/or games. Athletes in the group/individualized program were given written materials on energizing (Botterill, 1986), informed about the benefits, and given the opportunity to use it in their mental training program. Energizing was explained to the three athletes as a method of: (a) psyching-up for games which are considered unimportant or not challenging to the player, and (b) preparing to go to a routine practice which they consider boring. The SPC and each athlete discussed their having and recognizing low and high arousal levels within themself. Then they were encouraged to select relaxation centering techniques to diminish high arousal/anxiety within themself, and told they could learn to use energizing to raise low arousal levels.

Two of the three athletes decided they needed to learn and use energizing techniques to "psych-up" for practices. These athletes were instructed in techniques of energizing by the SPC. For example the athletes were given energizing activities to image, e.g.: (a) Vividly image shooting and scoring a game winning basket; (b) Image yourself crashing the boards and tearing down the rebound; or (c) Image a highlight of your career where your team won a big game and recall the feeling you had at that moment. Energizing activities that can be physically practiced are: (a) Take a shower; (b) Slap your own hands or your teammates hands; (c) Talk during drills in practices and in games making positive statements or giving specific feedback to your teammates; (d) Communicate nonverbally to your teammates with eye contact, pointing to acknowledge a pass, or clap for their effort; or (e) Listen to energizing music to prepare you for practice or games (Botterill, 1986).

Research design and schedule. An experimental design was employed to evaluate the relative effects of a group program and a group/individualized program on state anxiety factors and state self-confidence across the last nine games of the regular season. The study included three blocks of three games. The coach wanted the team to be taught the psychological training program as soon as possible in order to gain a mental edge, but it was not until the last nine games of regular season that the coach and SPC decided to examine the pre-game state anxiety and state self-confidence of the athletes in an attempt to see if an individualized program could produce greater changes than the group program that was currently in use.

For all subjects in the group program the first psychological training program began on the official NCAA starting date and ended at the last game of post season play. All sessions for the group program were conducted on the basketball court three times per week throughout the regular season.

In contrast, communication between the SPC and each athlete in the group/individualized program occurred for one-half hour on a weekly basis, outside of the on court group practice time. The SPC was available to the athletes for additional individual interaction upon request. The initial evaluation meeting with the SPC for the group/individualized psychological training program occurred for the first subject with six games remaining in regular season play; the next subject began her intervention with five games remaining; and the third subject began with four games remaining. The staggered start was employed in order to see whether the treatment was affecting the player's pre-game state anxiety and not other situational variables. The variation in initial application of the program by the three athletes occurred during Block 2. During Block 3 all athletes in the group/individualized program were using energizing and/or positive self-talk, along with the centering, focusing, and imagery techniques from their group program.

State anxiety and self-confidence measures. With nine games remaining in the regular season, pre-game state anxiety and state self-confidence were assessed for all of the athletes using the CSAI-2 (Martens et al., 1990). All athletes were asked to complete the CSAI-2 in a personally selected time frame one to two hours before the competition. This continued until the end of regular season play (Blocks 1-3). Block 1 served as baseline data for both groups, as they were receiving the same group program. Blocks 2 and 3 are the comparison groups for the two programs as all athletes in the group/individualized program were into their individualized program within Block 2 and maintained the consistency of treatment throughout Block 3.

Following each of these nine games, all athletes were asked to complete a game evaluation form (Orlick, 1986) to assess their psychological performance during the competition. They were informed that they could use this information to alter their anxiety through imagery. The SPC checked the game evaluation forms and CSAI-2 scores for all athletes for each game and found them to be qualitatively consistent. All athletes were encouraged to center, focus, and image before games to assist them in reaching their optimal level of arousal/state anxiety. Only the three athletes in the group/individualized program kept daily logs and received feedback on their logs, CSAI-2 scores, and game evaluation forms from the SPC, once their individual intervention programs began.


Results of the intervention on the state self-confidence, and state cognitive and somatic anxiety were evaluated using planned contrasts based on a 2 x 3, Group x Block, analysis of variance with subjects nested in group. The athletes in the group/individualized program had lower state cognitive anxiety scores in Block 2 after intervention, than at Block 1 before intervention [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. This was a reduction from 13.22 to 10.44 (-2.78) which was statistically significant (p = .049). From Block 1 to 3, athletes in the group program had a decrease in state cognitive anxiety scores from 13.78 to 11.22 (-2.56) which was statistically significant (p = .011). Although the groups were not significantly different from each other at any of the three blocks (p [greater than] .05), both groups improved significantly with their respective treatments. Thus, the hypothesis was partially supported for state cognitive anxiety [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED].

On the state somatic anxiety scale, the athletes in the group/individualized program had a decrease in their scores between Blocks 1 and 3 from 14.56 to 10.44 (-4.11) which was significant, p = .004 [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED]. The somatic anxiety scores of the athletes with the group program decreased from 13.28 to 11.0 (-2.28), which was also significant, p = .024 [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED]. Both groups also had a significant reduction from Block 1 to Block 2 (p [less than] .03), but not from Block 2 to Block 3 (p [greater than] .05). However, the two groups were not significantly different from each other at any block during the evaluated period. Because both groups did have significant reductions, but were not different from each other at any point, the hypothesis for state somatic anxiety was partially supported [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED].

The state self-confidence score of the athletes in the group/individualized program increased from 30.22 to 34.22 (+4.00) from Blocks 1 to 3; which was statistically significant, p = .045 [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 3 OMITTED]. The athletes in the group program also had an increase in their self-confidence score from 30.78 to 31.44 (+0.67), but the increase was not statistically significant (p = .63). The athletes who had the group program did not improve as much as the athletes who had the group/individualized program [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 3 OMITTED]. Thus, the hypothesis for this study was only partially supported for self-confidence; i.e., the group/individualized program produced significant positive results, but the group program did not.


The athletes in both the group program and group/individualized program showed a reduction from Block 1 to 3 in cognitive and somatic anxiety [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURES 1 & 2 OMITTED]. Previous research had indicated that some CSAI-2 factors could be improved when intervention programs were utilized (Buckles, 1984; Elko & Ostrow, 1991). In contrast, the intervention programs in the present study produced reduction of both state cognitive anxiety and state somatic anxiety. The present study supports the findings of Buckles (1984) that state somatic anxiety was lowered through the use of visuo-motor behavior rehearsal (VMBR). This study also supports the findings of Elko and Ostrow (1991) that state cognitive anxiety could be lowered when a psychological intervention program was employed. Since both groups had significant reduction [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURES 1 & 2 OMITTED], the group intervention of centering, focusing, and imaging may have been the key contributing factor to the reduction in state cognitive and somatic anxiety in the group program and group/individualized program. The athletes in the group/individualized program had a greater and more significant reduction in state somatic anxiety which suggests that the individualization probably made the difference.

In contrast, only the athletes in the group/individualized program showed a positive significant change in self-confidence, and there were no other studies found which produced any effects on self-confidence. Thus, the results suggest that, although a group centered program can produce reductions in state anxiety components, the best approach is a group/individualized program in order to raise state self-confidence, along with reducing state cognitive and somatic anxiety. The group/individualized program included positive self-talk, energizing, and individual attention from the SPC, so it is possible that one or more of these factors raised state self-confidence.

In summary, it appears that centering, focusing, and imagery can provide success when managed by a group program. However, the results of the data analyses and the qualitative evaluation of the three athletes in the group/individualized program suggest that specific focus on individual problems during centering, focusing, and imagery practice is even more helpful to reduce state anxiety factors than the group approach. Positive self-talk as well as the individual feedback and interaction with the SPC appear to be the primary effectors of changes in state self-confidence, based on the qualitative evaluation of athlete logs, game evaluation forms, and/or individual interactions with the SPC. The use of logs and game evaluation forms appear to be good affecters on state anxiety factors and state self-confidence, if there is consistent specific instruction, feedback, and interaction with the SPC on: (a) the purpose of using these techniques, and (b) the quality of athlete effort in these techniques.

Since the sample size (3) in the group/individualized program may be a limitation to this finding, it is suggested that a similar study with a larger n should be conducted to determine the consistency of the effect of an individualized program on state anxiety factors and state self-confidence. Further study in the area of state anxiety might include the effect of group/individualized mental training programs on an athlete's pre-event state anxiety over a longer period of time. In an attempt to positively affect state anxiety, Sport Psychology Consultants, coaches, and athletes would find it useful to have information which would affect pre-event cognitive and somatic anxiety and enhance self-confidence.


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Author:Savoy, Carolyn; Beitel, Patricia
Publication:Journal of Sport Behavior
Date:Aug 1, 1997
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