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Research Review: The Effects of A Psychological Skills Training Program on Swimming Performance and Positive Psychological Development

The present study employed intra-individual performance measures that controled for differences in ability by comparing an athlete’s current performance to the average or previous performance. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a 7-week psychological skills training (PST) program on (a) competitive swimming performance and (b) the positive psychological development of national-level adolescent swimmers. A hypothesis was not clearly stated, however, based upon the introduction one can infer that the author was confident in the effects of a PST program on the personal and athletic development of young athletes and there was a reasonable expectation to observe similar results in this experiment.


The experimental approach included 36 swimmers (13 boys, 23 girls) ranging in age from 10-18 years (M=13.9 yrs, SD= 2.0). Initial consultation revealed that this intervention program was the first exposure to psychological skills training for all participants. All participants had a minimum of 3 years involvemnt in athletic competition. The intervention began with a pre-evaluation meeting where the first 17 swimers were allocated to receive the PST program for 7 week (45 minutes per week). They and the remaining 19 swimers received a series of questionaires before and after the intervention program in a counterbalance order.

Participants completed seven inventories measuring quality of performance, and six positive psychological attributes: mental toughness, hardiness, self esteem, self efficacy, dispositional optimism, and positive affectivity.  All participants were naïve to the research hypotheses and all gave their consent to participate. The dependent variables included age, gender, favored swimming stroke and distance in order of preferencem of swimming achievement.  Baseline data was provided by the swimmer’s respective swimming club. The intervention consisted of goal setting, visualization , relaxation, concentration, and thought stopping.


The results of the PST interventions on swimming performance included 64% (n=23/36) of the swimmers improved their as measured by their overall swimming performance with a  mean of 0.53% (SD 2.22). Ten swimmers reported a decrease, three did not compete. Swimmers averaged over three competitive personal bests (n=3.22, SD 3.04). A significant (p<.05) mean improvement (2.26s) in the 200-m freestyle post intervention. Swimmers improved in three events: 100 m breastroke, 200 m backstroke, and 200 m freestyle. Results of the PST interventions on positive psychological development showed 94% (n=34/36) improved their mean scores. Participants 6 and 18 were outliers and as such the data was factored without their data points resulting in a 15.88% (SD 11.45) mean post intervention improvement. (18.78% mean improvement with 6 and 18 data points). Finally, social validation points were reviewed where the participant’s perception of the value of the PST program was determined by post-intervention informal feedback. Results indicated that all 36 participants perceived themselves to have improved in their training performance and indicated satisfaction with the content and delivery of the intervention.


Adopting a cognitive-behavioral model for the investigation of psychological skills training reflect ares related to personal development and subjective in adition to performance enhancement.

Limitations of this study included participant availiablitiy due to injury, illness, familial,or schooling commitments. Not all participants competed in all strokes at all distances. In spite of these limitations The authors concluded that in addition to developing better coping skills adolescent atheltes benefited from exposure to PST. The positive psychological development observed in this study’s sample supported the suggestion to integrate PST into youth sport programs.  It is reccomended that future research may need to concentrate on the potential differential effects of PST on the various energy systems that underpin swimming over different distances.


Sheard, M., & Golby, J. (2006). Effect of a psychological skills training program on swimming performance and positive psychological development. International journal of sport and exercise psychology, 4(2), 149-169.