Psychological follow-up service to junior athletes

Psychological follow-up service to junior athletes

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PhD, Associate Professor V.V. Nakhodkin
Dr.Hab., Professor I.I. Portnyagin
M.K. Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk

Keywords: junior athlete, psychologist, international team sports, workbook, psychological follow-up service, mental conditioning.

Background. It is pursuant to the target Physical Culture and Sports Development Program of the Russian Federation for the period of 2016-20 that the initiatives to support the national children’s sports are being advanced with a special emphasis on the measures to encourage activities of the children’s sport organizations, sport schools and athletic training state-owned establishments to train gifted children and adolescent athletes and create facilitating conditions for the sport reserve training system [1]. However, success of the initiatives within the sector is still limited due to a number of problems needed to be solved in some areas including, for instance, modern theoretically grounded athletic training methods development and implementation initiatives. In this context, the modern education and training process needs to be supported by due research findings implemented on an active and timely basis to improve the training process efficiency.

Objective of the study was to test a psychological-and-educational follow-up system in application to the junior athletes and teams trained for the Children of Asia IV International Sport Games (ISG), with the junior republican team of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) being a core subject for the study; and to standardize the most efficient psychological follow-up procedures [4].

Methods and structure of the study. The study was started in November 2007 by a comprehensive psychological survey of the prospects for participation in the Children of Asia IV International Sport Games, with a special focus on mental qualities and fitness rates, including the physical development rates and functionality profiles of the junior athletes. It was based on the background study data that the preliminary selection of the competitors for the event was made.

To obtain the key data indicative of the junior athletes’ athletic fitness, we developed an Athlete’s Form to input not only mental fitness rating data, but also general health data including physical and functional rates, overall physical work capacity rates, adaptive qualities and other athletic training profiles of the athletes. It was the Republican Centre for Psychological, Social and Medical Support under the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) that supervised and coordinated activities under the study. 30 staff psychologists from the relevant educational establishments, including Olympic reserve colleges and University plus 30 volunteer students from Psychological and Teachers Training Institutes of Yakut State University were engaged in the study. A core objective of the psychological follow-up service was to remove excessive physical and mental stresses at pre-season and regular season stages (including breaks in the competitions), and to assist in recreation service to the junior athletes. The training sessions were geared to apply special mental conditioning tools to cultivate self-control skills focused on the positive motivations for success and volitional efforts.

The psychological follow-up service to the junior athletes was designed on the key concepts of volitional self-control to help the trainees control themselves; do what needs to be done; excel always and everywhere; do what you do in the best possible way; forecast the outcomes and consequences of own actions; always strive to find the reasons for the process imperfections (including errors, failures, faults etc.) in own personality rather than outside effects; and serve as an unbiased arbiter to oneself. It was the mental training component with the relevant training logbook that was considered an integral part of the training process that has proved to be a highly efficient tool to improve the self-control and self-management qualities in junior athletes. At the pre-season stage, psychologists made a special emphasis on the self-reliant actions of the athletes with the action result control, including self-convincing, self-motivating, self-forcing components backed by the relevant volitional skills self-improvement programs with the due methods, toolkits and techniques being found for implementation of these programs. The study produced recommendations for the coaches based on the objective psychological test data obtained.

Study results and discussion. We designed and applied a Psychologist’s Workbook as a key methodology-implementation document for the psychological follow-up service in the athletic training and mental conditioning of the junior athletes for the Children of Asia International Sport Games, the Workbook including the following sections:

  • Key terms and definitions applied by modern sport psychology;
  • List of the Republican team members, including date of birth, coach name, origin, schedule of competitions, room number and notes);
  • List of the psychological test methods applied;
  • Coach’s expectations;
  • Individual Athlete’s Form with the full name, date of birth, sport class, coach’s name and personal traits of the athlete;
  • Test data, including anxiety test rates, motivations for success, overall mental/ emotional condition rates, volitional qualities, and mental balancing rates;
  • Individual work with athletes and team to correct disorders in mental/ emotional conditions (by the actions to remove stressors; control prestart conditions by relevant mental control tools; and create optimal fighting mindset); help the trainees master the relevant ideomotor training techniques; and check their progress in attaining the goals set by psychologist;
  • Psychologist’s recommendations;
  • Group sessions, with indication of date, group, topic, hours, group headcount and notes;
  • Summarized test data obtained by the relevant standardized personality testing methods including Willpower, Endurance, Determination and Insistence Test by N.N. Obozov; Motivational Condition Scale by V.F. Sopov [3]; Mental Reliability Test by V.A. Mil’man etc. [2, 3].

The psychological follow-up service was implemented as a part of an integrated system of actions to help athletes and teams. The psychological follow-up service in the context of the mental fitness improvement process was designed to implement the individual correction program; control the athlete’s mental condition in the competitive process; and remove negative mental/ emotional conditions of detriment for the competitive success.

In the pre-season training cycle, the service system was designed to explore the potential abilities of a young athlete, his/ her dominating mental conditions and preferences in the competitive process and the individual behavioural model on the whole. Subject to the tests and analyses were individual traits of the nervous system performance, i.e. the psychomotor domain of personality, mental self-control abilities and skills, individual temper including motivations and volitional qualities etc. The test data were used to rate the rehabilitation process efficiency after the last process cycle and the individual style of training/ competitive performance; and to find an optimal model of and avenues for further mental conditioning process. The key mission of this work was to identify and analyze the individual mental qualities of the junior athletes and rate the strong and weak sides of his/ her fitness.

At the individual correction program implementation stage, the psychologists applied specific tasks and practices to develop the relevant mental qualities. These tasks were handed over to the coach for application in the general training plan. An objective of this process stage was to set short- and long-term goals for the competitive cycle and put together an individual mental conditioning plan.

The next step in the psychological follow-up service was to work out individual correction plans including the mental stability and reliability training programs in cooperation with a coach. The study team had regular meetings with the coaches and athletes to address the arising problems and discuss the individual plan performance progress with an emphasis on the athletes being efficiently involved in the psychological follow-up work process. In the mental reliability cultivation domain, it was the metal stability formation program that was found the most efficient tool to put the psychological follow-up service on a due process quantification basis, with comfortable conditions being created for the athletes in the test equipment application process to facilitate the purely psychological tasks being solved.

Conclusion. The systemic psychological follow-up service in every study period was found to result in a good progress of the junior athletes in terms of the competitive accomplishments. The psychologists established good cooperative contacts with the coaches to facilitate a high-trust environment being formed for better cooperation with the junior athletes. The Psychologist’s Workbook used in the pre-season training process was found beneficial for the individual training potential being fully employed to step up the competitive performance stability and reliability rates (with the “unexpected loss” rates found to notably fall down); expand the sets of prestart conditioning tools; facilitate the harmonized personality development process; improve the mental control culture and the self-control methods and skills. The psychological follow-up toolkit developed under the study gave the means to monitor variations of the athletic performance rates at every stage of the pre-competitive and competitive process; improve the self-control and personality development rates; correct the individual behavioural disorders; and encourage the junior athlete’s socialization process.  

References

  1. Lubysheva L.I. Sportivnaya kul'tura v shkole (School sport culture). – Moscow: Teoriya i praktika fizicheskoy kul'tury i sporta / L.I. Lubysheva, 2006. – 174 p.
  2. Nakhodkin V.V. Psikhologicheskaya podgotovka yunykh sportsmenov: Praktikum dlya psikhologov (Mental conditioning of young athletes: psychologist's guide) / V.V. Nakhodkin. – Yakutsk: SVFU (NEFU) pub. h-se, 2012. – 138 p.
  3. Nakhodkin V.V. Psikhologicheskoe soprovozhdenie yunykh sportsmenov i komand: rabochaya tetrad' psikhologa (Psychological follow-up of young athletes and teams: psychologist's guide) / V.V. Nakhodkin. A.K. Kornilova, T.V. Sabaraykina. – Yakutsk: SVFU  (NEFU) pub. h-se, 2012. – 70 p.
  4. Programma tselevoy podgotovki yunykh sportsmenov RS (Ya) k IV Mezhdunarodnym sportivnym igram (MSI) «Deti Azii» (Targeted training program for young athletes of RS (Yakutsk) to the IV International Sport Games (ISG) "Children of Asia") / Postanovlenie Pravitelstva RS(Ya) ot 12.05.2005, №268 «O podgotovke yunykh sportsmenov RS(Ya) k IV Mezhdunarodnym sportivnym igram «Deti Azii» 2008 goda» (RS (Ya) Government decree 12.05.2005, №268 «Concerning training of young athletes of RS (Ya) for the IV International Sport Games "Children of Asia" 2008») // http://www.dfoportal.info/area05x/partieax/article-ny9qde5.htm

Corresponding author: nakhodvasily@mail.ru

Abstract. The article considers essential content of the psychological and educational follow-up service to junior athletes in pre-season. Experience of a psychologist’s workbook being applied as a diagnostic and practical tool of an athletic training process in the critical phases of the individual sport career – from qualifications to competitions – is analyzed. Special attention is given to the specific experience of express-test methodologies being standardized to detect some prestart mental conditions, including: anxiety tests, motivations for success, general mental/ emotional mindset tests, volitional control tests, mental balance rating, tests, negative mental/ emotional condition correction tools;  psychological control of pre-start mental conditions; optimal pre-season conditioning tools; ideomotor-specific training; and special psycho-diagnostic tools to work out practical recommendations for coaches to qualify athletes for the highest-ranking teams. The study resulted in an integrated junior athlete’s pre-season fitness monitoring and rating system and the data significance rating method being designed and offered.