Currently, life in general undergoes dramatic changes, with modifications in the social, technological, political, economic aspects and value systems forcing individuals to face an increasing number of novel challenges and to adapt to their corresponding demands (Amundson 2006; Feinstein, Vorhaus, & Sabates, 2010). These changes may also exert a significant impact on sport performance, as the demands athletes have to adapt to are rapidly changing.
For a considerable amount of time, a major aim in sport psychology has revolved around identifying psychological factors that sustain sport performance, and around understanding the underlying mechanisms influencing it during both preparation and competition (Tenenbaum & Eklund, 2007). Scientific literature now abounds in theoretical and empirical research addressing these aspects, aiming to offer valid tools for coaches and athletes to enhance the results of their work. The major aim of this special issue was to specifically focus on different mental aspects involved in sport performance, evidenced through recent empirical research, intending to offer practical tools for coaches and athletes. Consequently, this issue gravitates around three major themes, and the studies are grouped according to the investigated subjects.
The first part focuses on investigating the psychological correlates of sport performance, such as personality characteristics or attentional control. In this respect, the first article authored by Tamás Berki and Bettina F. Piko, entitled “Hungarian adaptation and psychological correlates of Source of Enjoyment in Youth Sport Questionnaire among high school students” aimed to offer information regarding the validation of the Source of Enjoyment in Youth Sport Questionnaire and to explore the relationship between sport enjoyment and different psychological correlates, such as future orientation, satisfaction with life and future life aspirations. Findings indicate that within the assessed athletes, nearly all sources of sport enjoyment were important contributors to life satisfaction. Furthermore, the authors found that for girls, competition seemed to be less important, whereas parental support was perceived as a valuable resource. Their findings provide useful information for developing strategies that strengthen adolescents’ involvement in sport activities. The second article, entitled “Personality profiles of junior handball players: Differences as a function of age, gender, and playing positions” and authored by Dóra Kőnig-Görögh, Noémi Gyömbér, Zoltán Szerdahelyi, Nóra Laoues, Zsuzsa Olvasztóné Balogh, Anita Tóth-Hosnyánszki, and Csaba Ökrös, investigated the specificity of personality characteristics of Hungarian junior handball players as a function of age (14-18 years old), gender, and playing positions (goalkeeper, backcourt player, playmaker, winger, pivot), based on the Big Five Questionnaire. Their results advocate for taking personality factors into account when studying sport performance, whereas, from an applied perspective, the results can be useful for coaches looking to improve their position-selection procedures and effective training methods. Finally, the third article from this section focused on investigating the relationship between anxiety, attention control, and sport performance. The authors, Raluca Liștea, Emmanuel Ducrocq, Amalia Siminiceanu, and Laura Visu-Petra, have suggestively entitled their paper “Getting the butterflies to fly in formation: A review on the modulating effect of attentional control on motor and visual aspects of sports performance under pressure”. Their review focuses on anxiety-related changes in gaze and motor behaviors, as well as their direct and indirect impact on sport performance. Additionally, the authors reviewed findings from pioneering studies that translate such knowledge into different strategies designed to improve gaze and motor behavior in order to promote resilient sport performance in competitive contexts.
Articles in the second part of this special issue focused on the role of motivation in sport performance. This section opens with Robert Paic, Attila Kajos, Balázs Meszler, and Gyöngyvér Prisztóka’s study dealing with the “Validation of the Hungarian Sport Motivation Scale (H-SMS)” and offering a reliable measure of sport motivation of Hungarian athletes. The fifth study, entitled “Age-related differences in motivational climate and extrinsic-intrinsic motivational factors among members of the Hungarian national wrestling teams”, authored by Ágnes Szemes, Péter Vig, Kinga Nagy, Gábor Géczi, Kornél Sipos, and László Tóth, investigated whether sport motivation and the perceived motivational climate of the members of the Hungarian national wrestling team varied depending on the age-group of the wrestlers. Their findings indicate that wrestlers from the youngest age-group were more prone to lose their motivation and rely on extrinsic regulation factors in order to be motivated. These aspects have practical importance as a supportive attitude shown by coaches may meet athletes’ psychological needs specific for their age, thus increasing their motivation for preparation and competition. The closing article of the second section, “Sport motivation and perceived motivational climate among members of a national para-swimming team”, conducted by Ágnes Szemes, Péter Szájer, and László Tóth, aimed to reveal the sport motivation and perceived motivational climate of para-swimmers in comparison to similar data obtained from non-disabled swimmers. Their findings confirmed the assumption that disabled and non-disabled athletes show more similarities than differences, but also point out the importance of research on the structure of highly successful athletes’ motivations, which can provide unique insights regarding their potential.
Finally, the closing article of this special issue concentrates more on identifying ways to aid athletes’ recognition of concussions, with direct practical implications upon the physical health of athletes practicing contact sports. Thus, the authors, Attila Nagy, Csaba Kiss, Csaba Sós, and Gábor Géczi, offer through their paper entitled “Recognition of the symptoms of a concussion by Canadian and Hungarian ice hockey players” significant practical information, highlighting the importance of developing players’ knowledge and skills of concussion recognition for preventing negative physical health outcomes.
Navigating through this special issue offers the interested readers access to important data regarding the inter- and intra-individual factors and mechanisms involved in sport performance, not only revealing the theoretical and practical importance of this specific research, but also highlighting the potential cultural differences (between the Western and Eastern-European cultures) that need to be taken into account when looking at psychological aspects of sport performance.
Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to all the contributors for their interest in this special issue, and their sustained effort in presenting their research to the public.
László Tóth, PhD. (Dr. habil)
University of Physical Education, Budapest, Hungary
Amundson, N. (2006). Challenges for career interventions in changing contexts. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 6, 3–14.
Feinstein, L., Vorhaus, J., & Sabates, R. (2010). Learning through life: Future challenges. In C. L. Cooper, J. Field, U. Goswami, R. Jenkins, & B. J. Sahakian (Eds.). Mental capital and well-being (pp. 307-342). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
Tenenbaum, G., & Eklund, R. C. (2007). Handbook of sport psychology (3rd Ed). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.