Mental qualities of sprinters and stayers

PhD, Associate Professor N.I. Khokhlova1
PhD, Associate Professor T.A. Rodermel1
1Surgut State University, Surgut

Keywords: sprinter, stayer, mental qualities

Background. Modern sports have evolved into a sort of a test ground for the sport science for the last few decades due to their excessive physical and mental stressors [2-4] that are ranked among the key reasons for the growing demand for new psychological follow-up service methods in every tier of the sport system – from the amateur to elite sports. Mission of the modern sport psychological follow-up service is to facilitate progress and secure high performance standards with a special attention to the nervous/ mental mechanisms behind physical activity, emotions and behavioral models. Thus psychological follow-up may be interpreted as the harmonized efforts to secure the sport-specific progress with every mental/ behavioral control system being highly mobilized and improved for the training and competitive purposes [1, p.4]. The training/ competitive psychological follow-up service may be provisionally classified into the following components: (1) mental performance tests/ diagnostics; (2) psychological/ didactic/ mental control/ hygienic recommendations; (3) mental conditioning; and (4) practical mental/ behavioral controls.

It should be mentioned that the psychological follow-up service efficiency in the training and competitive process depends on how successfully the above components are applied and integrated. In addition to the above, in modern sport psychology high priority is given to the individual psychological profiling (the so called psychograms) and modeling/ portraying tools for success [3, p.24], and we believe that such research may be highly beneficial. It is not unusual that the modern athletes succeed in sports due to some unique personality qualities, and that is the reason why special attention should be given to the individual mental qualities and gifts, with the progress encouraged by the mental conditioning and excellence trainings rather than the traditional selections only. In our further studies we are going to concentrate on details of the athletic psychological follow-up service, whilst this study was designed to rate and analyze mental qualities of the short- and long-distance runners (sprinters and stayers). The available study reports are regretfully limited only by the purely physiological categorizations of sprinters and stayers, and it may be beneficial therefore to consider their differences in the mental and psychological follow-up domain.

Objective of the study was to rate mental qualities of sprinters and stayers.

Methods and structure of the study. Sampled for the study were the 20-25 year-old athletes (n=13) including 7 sprinters and 6 stayers tested free of physical injuries/ health disorders, with the sample grouped as advised by the coaches. The sample was limited by the sport center groups with the disabled sport groups left non-sampled due to their trainings being rather individual and customized to the specific health issues.

It is common for the modern elite sports to take every effort to facilitate competitive progress [4]. We applied the A. Mehrabian Achievement Motivation Scale to rate the success motivation and failure avoidance components of the personality progress agenda. The test method generally rates the resultant motivation i.e. domination of one of the above components, with the high test rates interpreted as indicative of the success motivation being in excess of the failure avoidance component. The test method has been productively applied to rate the professional success motivations. We took the liberty to modify the test method for the competitive success motivations rating purposes in modern sports based on the assumption that the professional sports are no less professional than the other modern service fields, with the modifications limited by 20% of the test questions. Since modern sports are increasingly competitive and stressful, we believed it could be beneficial to also have tested the personality aggression and anxiety by the Assinger Aggression Test and Spielberger-Khanin State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) Tests. Self control of the sample was rated by the V.I. Morosanova Behavioral Self Control Style Test with the relevant activity planning, modeling, programming, result assessment and flexibility rating components; plus the Kazantseva Overall Personality Self Assessment Rating Express Test. The sample was tested in the standard training process, 4-5 weeks prior to the nearest regional-level competitive event.

Results and discussion. Having analyzed the sprinter’s group test data we found the following: (1) 42.8% of the group was tested with the high success motivations – and the rest with the moderate ones; (2) 85.7% of the group was tested with the high (abnormal) aggression rates of 46-48 points; (3) 71.4% of the group was tested with the normal self-assessment standards; and (4) the group was tested with somewhat increased anxiety – up the lower segment of the high anxiety range. 

Having analyzed the stayer’s group test data we found the following: (1) 33.3% of the group was tested with the high success motivations and the rest with the moderate ones, save for an individual tested with the subnormal level; (2) 66.7% of the group was tested with the low personality aggression (30-34 points); one individual with the threshold (36 point) aggression, and one with the high (39 point) aggression; (3) normal self-assessment standards; and (4) all the group was tested with the normal anxiety.

Both of the groups were tested with the low individual conscientious self-control qualities, with the athletes found highly situation- and surrounding-dependent i.e. poorly fit for control/ mitigation of their unfavorable personality traits. Furthermore, the sample was tested with the poor planning capacity and relevant determination that may be due in part to the inadequate rating of the key internal and external resources and provisions, with the tests demonstrating the decision-making and acting being mostly impulsive in the sample. The sample was also found unconfident in the rapidly changing environments due to the poor adaptability to the life situations and circumstances. This may be explained by the certain age-specific immaturity and short visioning, with the trainees being mostly passive in the training goals-setting, decision making and activity prioritizing domains.

The group data were analyzed and compared using the Mann-Whitney U- test. The analysis found statistically insignificant intergroup differences in the success motivations and the self-assessment and self-control capacities (see Figure 1 hereunder); and statistically significant intergroup differences in the personality aggression (Uemp=6.5 with р≤0.05) and anxiety rates (Uemp=1 with р≤0.05).

Figure 1. Group test data:

Conclusion. A comparative analysis of the mental qualities test data showed high motivations and low mental control qualities and skills in the sample regardless of the distance; with the sprinters tested with relatively higher aggression and anxiety rates than the stayers.

Later on we are going to offer special psychological support service to sprinters and stayers with a special attention to the mental control and conditioning in the progress planning, modeling, versatility and self-reliance elements in the group-unspecific trainings. The group-specific sprinters’ trainings will give a high priority to the self-control and post-training conditioning skills; and the stayers’ trainings will prioritize the pre-training and pre-competitive mental controls and self-mobilizing abilities.

References

  1. Vyatkin B.A. Upravlenie psikhicheskim stressom v sportivnykh sorevnovaniyakh [Mental stress control in sports competitions]. Moscow: Fizkultura i sport publ., 1981. 112 p.
  2. Rodionov A.V. Psikhologiya fizicheskogo vospitaniya i sporta [Psychology of physical education and sports]. Textbook. Moscow: Akademicheskiy proekt; Fond «Mir» publ., 2004. 576 p.
  3. Shadrin V.M. Psikhologicheskie osnovy formirovaniya dvigatelnogo navyka [Psychological foundations of motor skill building]. Kazan: KU publ., 1978. P. 31.
  4. Zagaino R.M. Psychological skill of the coach and athlete. Moscow: Sovetskiy Sport publ., 2005. 106 p.

Corresponding author: Hohlova-ni@yandex.ru

Abstract

Objective of the study was to rate mental qualities of sprinters and stayers. Sampled for the study were 20-25 year-old athletes (n=13) including 7 sprinters and 6 stayers free of physical injuries/ health disorders, with the sample grouped as advised by the coaches. A comparative analysis of the mental qualities test data showed the high motivation and low mental control qualities and skills in the sample regardless of the distance; with the sprinters tested with the relatively higher aggression and anxiety rates than the stayers. The study data demonstrate the need for a special psychological support service to the athletes including the distance-specific mental conditioning tools. The authors offer a toolkit that may be helpful for the sport psychologists striving to analyze and improve the individual athletes’ mental control qualities and skills for a competitive success; and list the priority fields for the psychological support service.