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Mental Toughness: An Investigation of Verbal Processes On Athletic Performance
AuthorLeeming, Emily M.
AdvisorHayes, Steven C.
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Athletes are given many forms of advice about how to think in ways that promote persistence in the face of aversive and fatigue-producing events. This study evaluated the impact of different kinds of verbal statements on task persistence by athletes. Competitive CrossFit athletes from the Western United States were recruited to participate in one of two experiments. Experiment 1 employed a within subject, alternating treatments design (ATD); Experiment 2-used a pre-and-post group comparison. The ATD investigated the efficacy of three kinds of specific statements designed to increase performance during a demanding and stress-producing task: two were suggested by traditional sports psychology (a statement to focus on the task and a statement to distract from the task), and one suggested by Relational Frame Theory (RFT) and the concept of psychological flexibility (a statement to focus on willingness to persist in the face of aversive emotions). The pre/post group design aimed to replicate and statistically improve the power of the effects indicated in Experiment 1. Results from this program of research suggest that the statement focused on openness to experience improved task persistence significantly over baseline, and more so than a statement instructing athletes to distract themselves from the task. The willingness statement was also marginally more effective than the statement prompting the athletes to focus directly on the task.