Dispositional Optimism, Sport Confidence, and Golf Performance

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Thomas, Patrick

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Fogarty, Gerard

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Optimism and self-confidence are two psychological constructs with an increasing presence in the peak performance literature. The current research consists of three interrelated studies investigating dispositional optimism, sport confidence, and golf performance with an applied sport psychology focus. Each of the studies builds upon the existing research in applied sport psychology and positive psychology. In addition, the results of the first two studies provide guidance for the subsequent studies in the current research.
Study 1 was a validation study addressing the overlap between psychological measures of the constructs of dispositional optimism and sport confidence. Construct validation analyses were performed using a multitrait-multimethod (MTMM) approach on the data from 160 athletes participating in a variety of sports and at a range of competition levels. Results indicated that there was significant overlap between scales on the psychological measures of Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R; Scheier & Carver, 1985), Sport Confidence Inventory (SCI; Vealey & Knight, 2003), and Carolina Sport Confidence Inventory (CSCI: Manzo, Silva, & Mink, 2001). Exploratory factor analyses of the items on the three psychological measures were conducted and there was evidence of an overarching broad factor highlighting the difficulty to empirically separate the constructs of dispositional optimism and sport confidence. Given the sample size of this study relative to those of the test authors, further investigation into the inventories is required with a larger sporting sample to clarify their use within sport. Study 2 was an investigative study addressing the paucity of research into the psychological characteristics of touring golf professionals to enhance the understanding of expertise in golf. Data were collected on a sample of 100 male touring golf professionals to obtain their levels of dispositional optimism and sport confidence and to explore the relationship between these two constructs and golf performance. Cognitive styles were investigated to see if there were trends in preferences of style in the touring golf professionals to guide the development of PST programs that address individual differences. No preference for a specific cognitive style was found for the touring golf professionals, but the participants recorded above average scores on dispositional optimism. Further, tour membership differentiated between players’ sport confidence levels on international tours and Australian tours; players on international tours scored higher on sport confidence than those on Australian tours. Each of these results implicated sport confidence and dispositional optimism as characteristics to include in PST programs (addressing each cognitive style) for elite golfers who have ambitions of becoming touring golf professionals. Optimism and confidence training was seen to be beneficial to improve the success rates of players embarking on a career as a touring golf professional. In addition, training of these characteristics was seen to be an avenue to ensure a successful future for Australian golfers on the international professional tours. Study 3 was an intervention study addressing the need to test the effectiveness of a multimodal Psychological Skills Training (PST) program for elite golfers. A single-subject multiple-baseline across participants design was used to examine the effects of a Golf Optimism Training Program intervention on the dispositional optimism, sport confidence, and golf performance of 12 elite golfers; nine amateurs (handicaps < 6) and three trainee golf professionals. Dispositional optimism and sport confidence measures were completed by each participant for a minimum of 4 time points: preintervention (baseline), midterm, postintervention (final), and 2-month review. Golf performance data were collected throughout the study whenever the participants played a competitive round of golf. The intervention consisted of 10 weekly sessions on an individual basis. Visual inspection and Binomial significance testing of the individual data revealed two golfers had significantly better dispositional optimism scores after the final intervention session compared to those predicted from their baseline scores, and five golfers had significantly better average weekly round scores after the 2-month review compared to those predicted from their baseline scores. The group data revealed that there were improvements in levels of sport confidence, dispositional optimism, and sport competence. The results are discussed in terms of advancing multimodal PST programs and highlighting the usefulness of single-subject designs for maximising the effectiveness of individual PST programs.
Each of the studies builds on existing applied sport psychology research and advances knowledge for applied sport psychology research and practice. The three interrelated studies provided impetus for further research into four main areas. First, the clarification of whether psychological measures are actually measuring what they purport to measure is a fundamental issue in ensuring effective information is being disseminated to athletes. Second, the increase in the quantity of studies investigating moderate to large elite athletic samples is the key to greater knowledge and understanding of expertise and the unique requirements of specific sports. Third, the promotion of researchers and practitioners gaining sport-specific knowledge in addition to single-subject analysis allows richer information, which enhances working relationships with athletes in applied research and practice settings. Fourth, the enhancement of PST program protocols with efficacy testing is imperative to ensure optimal service delivery for elite athletes in the pursuit of peak performance. In conclusion, continued emphasis on applied research that is relevant to applied practice is required for positive growth of the applied sport psychology field, which ultimately is for the benefit of developing successful internationally competitive sportsmen and sportswomen.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education and Professional Studies

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Sport psychology

Dispositional optimism

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