Competitive Performance Effects of Psychological Skill Training for Youth Swimmers

Jennifer Meggs, Mark Chen

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This study assessed the effect of two different psychological methods of skills training—self-talk and goal setting—on the swimming performance of youth swimmers. We allocated a convenience sample of club and county level youth swimmers (N = 49; M age = 10.8, SD = 1.25) to one of the three groups: self-talk, goal setting, or a control group engaged in no systematic psychological method of skills training. The groups were balanced in terms of competitive performance ability, age, and gender. Participants in the experimental conditions (self-talk and goal setting) completed a 5-week psychological skills intervention program and were measured on pre- and post-200-m swimming time in competition. After controlling for level of engagement in the program, analysis of covariance revealed a significant omnibus effect (p =.006, η 2 p =.20) with post hoc pairwise comparisons using magnitude-based statistics demonstrating that goal setting had a small positive effect compared with self-talk (η 2=.40; ± 0.45). Both self-talk (η 2=.50; ±0.48) and goal setting (η 2=.71; ±0.4) showed a small and moderate positive effect, respectively, relative to the control group. A social validation check confirmed that the swimmers found the intervention to be relevant, beneficial, and meaningful for improving performance. Psychological skills training may be effective in improving youth swimming performance; specific mechanisms underlying these benefits need further exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)886-903
Number of pages18
JournalPerceptual and Motor Skills
Issue number5
Early online date11 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


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