The aforementioned intervention program was comprised of relaxation, imagery and self-talk on position specific performance measures. Using a multiple-baseline across individuals design, five participants had three performance subcomponents assessed across nine competitive matches. The results of the study indicated the position specific intervention to enable at least small improvements on the three dependent variables for each participant. Social validation data indicated all participants to perceive the intervention as being successful and appropriate to their needs. Following a discursive analysis of the data, the research findings are presented. The findings provide further evidence to suggest the efficacy of sport, and position-specific interventions.
Despite interest in applied psychology, evidenced in the increase in the studies examining the efficacy of psychological skills on sporting performance (e.g., Patrick & Hrycaiko, 1998; Rogerson & Hrycaiko, 2002; Thelwell & Greenlees, 2003), knowledge remains limited. Limitation has been determined by the scarcity of studies on the efficacy of psychological skills within an open skilled, team sport setting (Kendall, Hrycaiko, Martin, & Kendall, 1990; McPherson, 2000). Consequently, the present study sought to address the aforementioned shortcoming through the articulation of a role specific intervention for soccer midfielders, while examining the intervention's efficacy on role specific subcomponents, such as the execution of successful tackles, the completion of successful passes, and ability to control the ball (Luongo, 1996).
Of the few studies which have examined the pertinence of psychological skills to sporting performance, only a minority has examined performance sub-components. Using a multiple-baseline design across subjects, Swain and Jones (1995) applied a goal setting intervention targeting specific basketball subcomponents. Each participant's performance subcomponents were assessed through the first half of the competitive season. Mid-season, participants were requested to select one performance subcomponent which they perceived beneficial to improvement. Using goal setting approaches to the targeted behavior, 3 of the 4 participants experienced improvement in their targeted area. No changes were evident in non-targeted behaviors. The practical implication was that while psychological skills benefit performance, performers cannot transfer acquired skills to alternative situations without understanding the how and why of their targeted utilization.
Identification of the varying requirements of soccer midfielders is prerequisite to the utilization of psychological skills intervention. A primary requirement is the ability to cover great distances within 90-minutes, as supported by numerous scientific studies (e.g., Reilly, 1996; Rienzi, Drust, Reilly, Carter & Martin, 2000). Studies on elite English Premier League midfield soccer players confirm the necessity of the capacity to run approximately 12,000m per match (Strudwick & Reilly, 2001)., consequent to midfielders being required to both link the defensive and forward and act as both offensive and defensive when, and as, required. A soccer midfielder is further required to carry out complex motor skills, to possess finely tuned perceptual skills and to have advanced decision-making skills. As activity is prolonged, fatigue sets in and skill command becomes difficult (Taylor, 1995).
The exigencies of exploring relaxation