Sports Tennis Association (LTA), Oli t regularly consults with

Sports psychology is the study of people and
the way the behave in a sporting context (Gill and Williams, 2009). Weinberg
and Gould (2015) suggest two main objectives, to understand psychological
factors and their effect on physical performances and to recognise the effect
of physical exercise on psychological improvement. This assignment will
complete a case formulation using one of the case studies provided. It will
critically analyse and identify a psychological skill needed to be developed.
The theory of the identified skill will be explored and evaluated. Following
this, an intervention plan will be provided to support the development of the
psychological skill. To support the athlete, an appropriate plan will be put in
place outlining the steps required to improve the psychological skill. Lastly,
the assignment will discuss how the intervention can be monitored to track
changes in psychological functioning and then conclude by summarising the vital
points stated throughout.


This assignment will follow the model
proposed by Keegan (2016), shown in Appendix 1. This model outlines the steps a
sports psychologist should follow when working with athletes in sport settings.
The relationship between the psychologist and the athlete is vital to the
skills training development (Vealey, 2007). A study by Dunn and Holt (2003)
suggests that the interactive skills and honesty of psychologists are key
features for success, perhaps explaining why psychologists spend over 60% of
the time listening during meetings with athletes (Lloyd and Trudel, 1999).

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Case Formulation


Oli is a tennis player who has recently made
his debut on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) men’s circuit. As part
of the Lawn Tennis Association
(LTA), Oli t regularly consults with a sports psychologist to enhance his
overall performance and maintain his tour status. Oli listed a couple of psychological skills
in which he considers are needed to succeed in tennis. This enabled him to
establish a good level of understanding of the importance of psychological
aspects of sport as well as the physical side.


During the interview
with Oli, he suggested his serve had been ‘way off lately.’ Regaining
concentration and focus before serving would benefit Oli and help his
performance. A study by Magnus and Klaassen (1999) suggests that in men’s
singles matches the first service is in 58.7% of the time. Data suggests that
if the first serve goes in, the players has a 77.7% chance of winning the
point. The player
appears to ‘look around a lot’ and seems ‘very aware’ of the crowd and coach
before taking the serve. Due to Oli recently playing on the tour, the new
environment during a match would be key stressor for the athlete while playing (Giacobbi et al.,


The performance profile required Oli to
assess his own level of each skill identified out of 10, with 10 being perfect
and no improvement needed. This will aid his personal perception of his current
performances.  As shown in the
performance profile, concentration and focus scores were very low compared to
others. This emphasises two significant attributes Oli feels himself not
performing well and need improving to achieve his goal. This relates back to
the interview where Oli suggests there is ‘so much going on’ and the fact ‘more
people are watching’.


The Skill


There is a certain level of mental effort
that is needed in many situations to improve an individual’s performance,
through using the ability to focus on the most important factor in the given
environment. This is recognised as concentration (Moran, 2004). Focus is
described as ‘the ability to selectively direct and sustain a focus of
attention required for the successful execution of a specific activity’
(Vealey, 2007, p290). Oli will need to use selective attention when serving in
tennis to attend to the relevant environmental signals that happen during
matches (Burton and Raedeke, 2008). When taking a serve in tennis, external
irrelevant cues maybe the focus of Oli’s attention, for example where the
opposing player is standing on the baseline. Having the ability to ignore
unrelated cues, such as the crowd or his coach, allows him to concentrate on
the execution of skill, giving him a greater chance of success (Nicholls et
al., 2005).


Collecting results through the athlete’s
performance profile and the interview allowed the psychologist to evaluate
Oli’s game and establish parts that can be worked on in order to see an
improvement with his overall performance. The psychologist can then identify
the initial needs of the athlete to effectively carry out an intervention plan
to ultimately make informed decisions to enhance development (Gardner and
Moore, 2004). With Oli reflecting on his performance with a sports psychologist
regularly this should keep him concentrated on his skills allowing him to
perform to the best of his ability more often. With mental toughness being a
huge factor in sport, concentration is considered to be extremely important.
Improved focus when performing will go hand in hand with an increase in
resilience, allowing Oli to handle intense situations during games and cope
with the demands tennis throws at players, meaning he is likely to perform
better than his opponents (Jones, 2002).


A model by Nideffer (1976) shows how
attentional focus can be viewed in two different ways, width of attention
(narrow/broad) and direction of attention (internal /external). These are ways
in which limit the athlete’s attention elsewhere and focus purely on the
specific and relevant cues during the task. When serving the ball Oli should
have an external and narrow attentional focus. ‘External’ means to focus on
things happening in the specific environment, as to focus on to the athletes
own thoughts and mind-sets. ‘Narrow’ suggests focussing completely to one or
two specific cues. For example, when serving, this may be the position in the
court Oli wants the ball to land and the positioning of the opponent. During
the interview Oli mentions the attention from his coach and the crowd. With Oli
adopting an external and narrow attentional focus this would allow him to put
his attentional focus only towards the key parts that are important in
executing the perfect serve.


With Oli stating his serves are ‘way off
lately’, this indicates a recent loss of accuracy. A study undertaken by Wulf
(2013) suggests that attentional focus can constantly enhance factors such as
accuracy, movement effectiveness and balance. This is with an internal focus
instead of looking from an external view. Although a study from Wulf et al.,
(2002) suggests that athletes who are externally focused are more likely to be
accurate in the skill, this may not be transferable to a match situation in
front of your coach and a large crowd. Research on darts shows us that accuracy
may increase when the external focus is the distal as oppose to proximal such
as focusing on the bullseye rather than the dart throwing technique (McKay
& Wulf, 2012). This shows that technique does not only effect the accuracy,
rather, looking at the target and focusing on where you want the serve to end
up will further enhance an athlete’s performance.


Overall, it seems that the athlete needs to
be able to adopt an external focus attentional in situations where the match
standard and intensity rises and individual elements become more difficult (Van Schoyck and Grasha, 1981). During the execution of a serve, having an
external focus increases the probability of performing the skill superiorly and
progresses levels of performance while learning (Wulf and Prinz, 1998). With
Oli looking to develop his tennis serve, further theories suggest that it
depends on what his focus of attention is directed towards (Wulf, McNevin and
Shea, 2001).




The use of an intervention plan is to support
the additional focus in the use of a performance routine. This is best defined
as ‘a sequence of task relevant thoughts and actions which an athlete engages
in systematically prior to his or her performance of a specific sports skill’
(Moran, 1996, p.177).  Following this, a
study from Mesagno and Mullane-Grant (2010) discuss that routines which include
both cognitive and behavioural factors are most successful. Williams and Reilly
(2000) also supports this, by suggesting it is more likely to be cognitive skills
which decide the success amongst players playing at the highest level, rather
than physiological factors and other sport specific domains. Relating this to
Oli would help improve his serve and support him in achieving his goals as
executing a serve in tennis involves many details, meaning all aspects of
performance need to be optimised, including his psychological mentality.


A model from Cotterill, (2001), shows that
psychologist can develop five-step approach towards an athlete’s performance
routine. This should be produced with both the athlete and psychologist
together in order for the routines to be successful and there is a good
understanding between them. Starting the intervention plan during pre-season
allows the athlete time to practice and learn through all the information
without the pressure of winning (Weinberg and Gould, 2015). This would be a
perfect fit for Oli as his main goal set for the season is to stay on the tour.
Being able to improve through pre-season to get thing right would enhance his
performance during the competitive season. As well as the intervention plan set
in place, it is important for the psychologist to remind the athlete to perform
the routine in training and not just matches as it is more likely the athlete
will learn from it (Cleary and Zimmerman, 2001).


The use of visualisation can also be very helpful when
trying to enhance concentration as it deliberately focuses the individuals mind
and on just the fundamental aspects needed for the activity (Shweta and Deepak,
2015). The
development of training imagery techniques allows an athlete to gain more
knowledge and information before improving the skill by identifying strengths
and weaknesses. For Oli, the use of imagery techniques allows him to focus
purely on the task and the factors that are required to enhance his serve. Each
time he pictured the type of goal he wished to score and focused solely on
achieving this. More specifically, Oli’s visualisation involved looking through
the key stages of taking the serve from start to finish and the technique that
is required to how he was going to produce the perfect serve.






This assignment has given a summary of
attentional focus, performance routines and visualisation which may support and
tennis player in improving his skills. Throughout this assignment a case
formulation was completed using one of the case studies provided. The
assignment discussed and identified a psychological skill which needed to be
developed by the athlete. Following this, an intervention plan was delivered
with ideas and support for the athlete to help enhance his tennis serve. The
case formulation underlined the process and the interaction between Oli and the
sports psychologist he regularly used. This allowed them both to understand and
identify a psychological skill that required improvement for the athlete such
as concentration. Following this, the assignment established the psychologist
could work with Oli to produce can intervention plan in which he could use
during training and matches to improve. Although psychology has a great impact
on athlete’s performances, it is important to understand that improvement
throughout performances are not only because of psychological intervention.
Performance can also be supported by physical and technical factors. 


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