Athletic Insight - The Online Journal of Sport Psychology

Differences in Self-concept, Body-concept, and Mood
Between Training Champion and Competitor Type
Athletes in Artistic Roller and Figure Skating

Harald Barkhoff
Universität Stuttgart

Elaine M. Heiby
University of Hawaii

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ABSTRACT

Introduction

Method

Results

Discussion

References

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Abstract

Some athletes repeatedly fail in competition in spite of good results during training (training champions). In contrast, some athletes are able not only to transfer their achievements from training to competition, but often surpass them and achieve even better competition results (competitor types). Other athletes are less consistent in the transfer of performance during training and competition (mixed types). The purpose of this study is to explore whether these three types of elite athletes differ in terms of self-concept, body-concept, and daily mood. Thirty-two athletes in artistic roller and figure skating participated in this study during the German National championships. Participants were German National champions, European and World champions as well as participants in the Olympic Games in Nagano (Japan) 1998 and in Salt Lake City (USA) 2002. Findings indicated that, compared to training champions, competitor types exhibited more positive self- and body-concept. Concerning mood, there were no differences among the three groups but changes over time were found. The results have implications for both training and selection of athletes for participation in highlight sports competitions.

Introduction

      In competitive sports the “training champion”, who repeatedly fails in competition in spite of good results during training is well known (Tschakert, 1987, p. 14). This may be true for artistic roller and figure skaters who fail to present a clean short or long program to music in the spotlight of the audience and the judges. In contrast, the “competitor type” excels in not only transferring his or her achievements from training to competition but possibly surpasses them and achieves even better results in competition (Taylor, 1996; Williams & Kranen, 1993). The remaining elite athletes perform inconsistently between training and competition (mixed types). The individual ability and motivation of an athlete is no longer seen as a sufficient explanation for such differences between performance during practice and during competition (Kuhl, 2001; Kuhl & Heckhausen, 1996; Van Raalte & Brewer, 1996; Weinberg, 1996). It has been proposed that some of the differences in competitive achievement are attributable to self- and body-concept (Alfermann, 1998; Barkhoff, 2000) as well as situational mood (Brehm, 1997; Gomer, 1995; Morgan, 1985; Morgan et al., 1988).

      The particular context of artistic roller and figure skating inherently has barriers to maintaining positive self-concept, body-concept, and daily mood (Prakash & Coplan, 2003). In these creative and aesthetic individual sports, the athletes are requested to present their programs alone in the spotlight of the audience and the judges. Before that, there is a scheduled “warm up” in groups, without music, which gives every skater the opportunity to present his or her abilities (mainly the jumps and some spins) to the audience and the other competitors. The possible discrepancy between the performance in warm up and in competition becomes evident when, for example, an athlete who was able to do a triple jump in the warm up, falls on the same jump minutes later in competition. After such performance he or she sits in the so-called “kiss-and-cry-corner”, a term which interestingly expresses the contrast literally.

      Self-concept (Markus & Wurf, 1987) has been shown to be related to sports performance abilities and competencies, including the ability to deal with the respective demands in training and competition (Brettschneider & Brandl-Bredenbeck, 1997; Gould & Damarjian, 1996; Gould, Finch & Jackson, 1993). Self-concept has been defined to consist of learned verbal labels about oneself that elicit emotions and direct or control behavior. Positive verbal labels are expected to lead to successful performance that is reinforced by others, which, in turn, reinforces positive self-concept (Staats, 1996). One purpose of this study is to describe self-concept reported by artistic roller and figure skaters and to compare self-concept among the three types of elite athletes (competitor type, mixed type and training champion).

      In addition to self-concept, body-concept is also considered to play an important role in competitive sports performance (Franzoi & Herzog, 1986; Mrazek & Hartmann, 1989; Späth & Schlicht, 2000). By definition, elite athletes exhibit a heightened self-awareness to their body and somewhat define themselves in terms of their physique and physical performance. This may be particularly true for artistic roller and figure skaters. In their performances in competition, the body not only poses as an “instrument” to succeed in their goals (for example the triple jumps) but as an aesthetic object which is utilized to affect the audience and the judges. This effect is reflected in the judges’ marks for artistic expression (Barkhoff, 2001; Gabler, 1999). Therefore, a second purpose of this study is to describe body-concept reported by artistic roller and figure skaters and to compare body-concept among the three types of elite athletes (competitor type, mixed type and training champion).

      In addition to self- and body-concept, a third purpose of this study is to compare mood across the three types of elite athletes. A Profile of Mood States (POMS) (Renger, 1993) and different states of mood (Hardy, Jones & Gould, 1996) respectively have been shown to be related to sports performance abilities and competencies. Morgan`s mental health model of performance (Morgan, 1985; Morgan et al., 1988) and the so-called iceberg profile postulate that ideal performance states are characterized by high levels of vigour, and low levels of tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion. Rowley et al. (1995) found limited use of the POMS in differentiating between successful and unsuccessful athletes whereas Terry (1995) indicates that the POMS were capable of differentiating between successful and unsuccessful top level athletes. Renger (1993) claims that in the study by Morgan and Pollock (1977) the POMS did successfully differentiate athletes from the nonathlete norms, but were unable to differentiate athletes of differing levels of ability. While some results are mixed, overall there is strong prospective evidence for the model (Cockerill et al., 1991) and the correlation between sport performance and different states of mood in general (Brehm, 1997; Frazier, 1988; Gomer, 1995; Thayer, 1996). The generated criticism and concern regarding the model is leveled at different problem areas in the research (Rowley et al., 1995) e.g. time span between the measurement of these variables, which has occurred anywhere from 1 week to 4 years prior to performance (Morgan & Johnson, 1978). Because mood states change over time (Hill & Hill, 1991; Thayer, 1996), Rowley et al. (1995) hypothesized that studies that assess mood immediately before competition will be better predictors of performance than those that assess mood well before competition or after competition. In the present study the skaters completed the questionnaires immediately before and after their performances in training and competition.

      Landers (1991) suggests that the Morgan`s model`s predictive utility may be limited to specific types of activities and kind of sports. This is why Rowley at al. (1995) hypothesized that the ability of the POMS to predict athletic success will be influenced by the type of activity (e.g., endurance or strength) being observed. Barkhoff and Heiby (in preparation) found support for this hypothesis in a study comparing a sample of artistic roller and figure skaters with a sample of inline speed skaters during competition.

      However, according to the mood-model of Thayer (1996), the competitor type is expected to exhibit a mood state characterised by activation and calmness. In contrast, the training champion is expected to exhibit a mood state characterized by arousal and helplessness. In other words, the training champion is expected to report the situation of competition more as a threat and the competitor type more as a challenge.

      It has to be taken into account that in practice one is not always able to clearly distinguish the competition and training champion types. Inconsistent skaters with rather unpredictable performances of either a “dream program” or a “program full of failures” necessitate a third group; the “mixed type”.

      It is expected that the training champion and competitor type can be differentiated clearly. The competitor type is expected to report a more positive self- and body-concept and mood than the training champion. Given the dynamic nature of emotional states, the mood of the types of elite athletes were compared over time (assessed before and after training as well as before and after the competition). Self- and body-concept are considered to be more stable and were assessed once three months prior to training for the championship.

Method

Subjects

      Participants were a convenience sample of 22 artistic roller and 10 figure skaters in top level of competitive sports (see Table 1), of which there were 13 male and 19 female athletes between the ages of 12 to 24 years (M = 17.53; SD = 2.98). Twenty-three subjects were competing as “single skaters”, six were competing as “dancers” and three as “pair-skaters”. At the time of the investigation six research participants were members of the so-called “A-Kader” (National Team), fifteen of the “B-Kader” (B-Team) and eleven of the “C-Kader” (talent squad members). Participants were German National champions, European and World champions as well as participants in the Olympic Games in Nagano (Japan) 1998 and in Salt Lake City (USA) 2002.

Table 1

Materials

      The skaters` self-concept was assessed by the self-concept inventory “Frankfurter Selbstkonzept Skalen” (FSKN; Deusinger, 1986) at Time 1 (before season; see Figure 1). It consists of 78 items with 10 subscales. The items are rated on a six point Likert-scale. The FSKN is scored by summing individual item scores for the total and subscale scores. Higher scores reflect more positive self-concept. For this study the following subscales were used: efficiency, coping with problems, and irritating influence by others. These subscales have good internal consistency: efficiency (10 items) – alpha .84, coping with problems (10 items) – alpha .82, and irritating influence by others (six items) – alpha .69. The author reports strong stability with test-retest reliability estimates ranging from .82 to .73. Deusinger (1986) also reports construct validity was demonstrated by moderate correlations with the Freiburger Personality Inventory and the Eysenck Personality Inventory.

Figure 1

      Body-concept was measured at Time 1 by the, Einstellungsfragebogen zum eigenen KÖRper, Form für Kinder und Jugendliche“ (EKOR/KJ; Mrazek, 1987), which is composed of 60 items with eight subscales. The items are rated on a five point Likert-scale. The EKOR/KJ is scored by summing individual item scores for the subscale scores. The subscales personal hygiene (seven items), eating sweets (two items), smoking/alcohol use (two items), and problems with physical appearance (six items) were selected for this study. Higher scores reflect more of the construct regarding the subscales. This means that high scores regarding eating sweets, smoking/alcohol use, and problems with physical appearance reflect more negative body concept, whereas high scores regarding personal hygiene reflect more positive body concept. The subscales have good to excellent internal consistency ranging from alpha .70 to alpha .80. The author reports strong stability with test-retest reliability estimates ranging also from .70 to .80 (Mrazek, 1987). Furthermore, the author claims good construct validity with the “Bergler-Questionnaire” (Bergler, 1979), which is designed to measure body hygiene and personality.

      Mood was assessed with the “Befindlichkeitsfragebogen” (BEF-2; Kuhl, 1997), which is designed to measure situational mood. This inventory was developed by Kuhl according to the Activation-Deactivation Adjective Check List by Thayer (1989). It consists of 42 items with seven subscales. The items are rated on a four point Likert-scale. The BEF-2 is scored by summing individual item scores for the subscale scores. Higher scores reflect greater intensity of mood. For this study the following subscales were used: activation, arousal, calmness, and helplessness. The subscales have excellent internal consistency: activation (six items) – alpha .85, arousal (six items) – alpha .92, calmness (six items) – alpha .89, and helplessness (six items) – alpha .81. The author Kuhl (personal communication, July, 21st, 2003) claims good construct validity with the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (Watson, et al., 1988) and the Activation-Deactivation Adjective Checklist (Thayer, 1989).

      Performance was measured by a judges’ catalogue of criteria (checklist) according to the “Artistic Roller Skating – Special Regulations & Sport Rules” and “ISU - Judge's Manual Single Skating”. This observational checklist assists a judge to identify and score prescribed elements. The checklist provides a score of difficulty for every possible jump, spin and footstep sequence. It also contains a point system for mistakes in performance (for example, fall down at a jump gives .4 point deduction for that element). The average of every jump, spin and the footstep sequence gives the overall score. Psychometric information on this behavioral checklist is not available. But this instrument is commonly used by professional judges. Checklist scores were used to rate performance as successful or unsuccessful by comparison of the overall scores given in training and in competition. Competition performances with lower scores compared to training scores were categorized as unsuccessful. Similar or superior scores in competition compared to training scores were categorized as successful.

Procedure

      The investigation took place at seven different times of measurement (see Figure 1). The skaters were asked to fill out the questionnaires at Time 1 mentioned in Figure 1 during a training camp three months before the German National championships. During the week of the competition, the skaters filled out the mood questionnaire before and after their last training before competition, as well as before and after their performances during competition. In addition, during training and competition observation scores of performance were collected by the first author.

      The skaters were willing to fill out the questionnaires right before and after their performances in training and competition, which seems to be very important (Rowley et al., 1995). This is quite unusual knowing that most top athletes would not agree to be interrupted in this precarious situation of preparation just before an important competition like the National championships. This is the season’s highlight for some skaters whereas for others it is the criterion for the nomination for international events (like European, World championships or Olympic Games). The first author knew most of the skaters very well from his own sport experience, which may be one reason for their volunteering in spite of the aggravating circumstances of the study. The first author performed seventeen years in competitive sports, became four times the National Champion, won one silver and one bronze medal at European Championships, and placed four times at World championships in the top ten. For more than 14 years he has been coaching top level athletes in artistic roller and figure skating. The participants of the study were also offered their individual results of the study, which could help them to discover and understand more about their behavior and possibly improve their performance.

Results

      Participants were first classified as successful or unsuccessful during the competition. Second, athletes were identified as either competitor type, mixed type, or training champion. In order to test the hypotheses that types of elite athletes differ in self-concept, body-concept, and mood, a series of ANOVA’s were conducted.

Identification of types of athlete.

      Based on the results of observation and comparison of the performances of the skaters in their short program at Time 3 (during training at the German National championships) and Time 6 (during competition at the German National championships), the athletes first were classified as either successful or unsuccessful by the first author. The circumstances of the study precluded establishment of an inter-judge agreement index.

      Judges’ catalogue of criteria (checklist) mentioned in the Materials section was used to classify performance. One reason for observing the short program was the fact that here the skaters have to provide prescribed elements that are scored. They are not allowed to omit or add an element. So differences between the short program in training and the short program in competition can be identified systematically. Skaters who achieved similar or even superior performances in competition compared to training were classified as successful. Skaters whose performance in competition was inferior to their training were classified as unsuccessful.

      The classification of type of elite athlete was conducted by five expert judges before the German National championships and based on observation of the participants’ past performance. The five experts (three licensed coaches, one international judge, and one coach who is also a licensed judge) are experts in judging elite athletes and had long-term knowledge about the skaters’ performance. Experts classified the skaters into one of the three groups: competitor type, training champion or mixed type. If four out of five experts judged the athlete as a particular type, the skater was classified for the purposes of hypothesis testing. Using this criterion, all participants were classified into one of the three types of athlete (Barkhoff, 2000).

      Table 2 shows that of the twenty-two athletes who were judged to be successful by the first author at the German National championships, seventeen were classified as competitor types, five as mixed types and zero as training champions by the expert judges. Of the ten skaters who were unsuccessful at the German National championships, six were classified as training champions, four as mixed types and zero as competitor types.

Table 2

      Thus, it may be said that all expert-rated competitor types skated successfully whereas all expert-rated training champions were unsuccessful at the German National championships. Of the nine classified as mixed types, five skated successfully and four unsuccessfully. The performance of the mixed type was by definition expected to be split between those who were successful or unsuccessful during the investigated competition. These findings provide an internal validity check of the classification of athletes, which is critical given that ratings at Times 3 and 6 were done without an inter-judge agreement evaluation. In total, this study included seventeen competitor types, nine mixed types and six training champions.

Effect of type of athlete upon self-and body-concept, and mood

      The means, standard deviations, and coefficient alphas of the scores on the self-concept scales (FSKN) for the three types of athletes are reported in Table 3. For the three groups, subscales of the FSKN were compared using a one-way analysis of variance (Bortz, 1999). To avoid an inflated error rate the Bonferroni adjustment was used and a p value of .02 for the self-concept inventory was considered statistically significant. For the body-concept and mood scales a p value of .01 was considered statistically significant.

Table 3

      In regard to the self-concept subscale efficiency, the one-way ANOVA indicated a significant difference (F (2,32) = 5.14; p = .012) between groups. The competitor types reported the greatest mean, followed by the mixed types and training champions. The effect size of the difference between the competitor type and training champion was d = -1.22. No significant differences were found regarding the self-concept subscales coping with problems and irritating influence by others. The means, standard deviations, and coefficient alphas of the scores on the body-concept scales (EKOR/KJ) for the three types of athletes are reported in Table 4. In regard to the body-concept subscale personal hygiene the one-way ANOVA indicated significant differences (F (2,32) = 5.62; p = .008). The training champions reported less personal hygiene than the competitor types and the mixed types who reported the greatest mean. The effect size of the difference between the competitor type and training champion was d = -1.11.

Table 4

      In regard to the body-concept subscale eating sweets the one-way ANOVA indicated significant differences (F (2,32) = 5.62; p = .008). The training champions reported more eating sweets than the mixed types and the competitor types who reported the greatest mean. The effect size of the difference between the competitor type and training champion was d = -2.25.

      In regard to the body-concept subscales smoking/alcohol and problems with physical appearance the one-way ANOVAs indicated no significant difference between groups.

      Mood was assessed before and after training as well as before and after the competition. The means, standard deviations, coefficient alphas, and results of the repeated measures ANOVA for the BEF-2 mood-scales are reported in Tables 5 and 6.

Table 5

Table 6

      For the mood subscale activation the repeated measures ANOVA indicated a time effect (F (3,32) = 5.45; p = .005) which shows some fluctuation with peaks before training and before competition. There were no significant group differences or an interaction effect.

      A time effect was found also for the mood subscale arousal (F (3,32) = 9.82; p <.0005). Similar to the subscale activation, the results show some fluctuation with peaks before training and before competition. The repeated measures ANOVA indicated no significant difference between the groups or an interaction-effect.

      The repeated measures ANOVA indicated a significant time-effect for the mood subscale calmness (F (3,32) = 4.90; p = .008), which again shows fluctuation. In contrast to the other mood scales, calmness peaks are shown after training and after competition. However, there was no difference between the groups and no significant interaction effect for this subscale.

      There were no significant effects found for the subscale helplessness.

Discussion

      The phenomenon of different performance in competition compared to training permitted classifying elite artistic roller and figure skating athletes into three types based upon success of performance and expert ratings (competitor type, training champion, and mixed type). This study found that the competitor and training champion types significantly differed in certain aspects of self-concept and body-concept as predicted. No significant differences between groups could be found regarding mood.

      The interpretation of the results will focus primarily on the implications of identifying the competitor type of elite athlete and of enhancing the performance of the training champion type of athletes.

      It was found that, compared to training champions, competitor types reported more positive self-concept in terms of efficiency. Competitor types also reported more positive body-concept in terms of better personal hygiene and consuming fewer sweets. Finally, no differences between groups over time were found regarding mood.

      Of course, these findings must be viewed within the limitations of the method employed in this study. The first author was the only judge in evaluating success of performance, which limited the internal validity check of the experts’ classification of the athletes into three types. The athletes were a convenience sample, and not randomly selected from all elite artistic roller and figure skaters. The small sample size (n = 32) may limit the generalizability of the findings. In addition, there was an uneven representation of types (seventeen competitor types, nine mixed types and six training champions) in the sample. In general these problems occur when facing issues concerning investigations with elite athletes at top level performance as so few athletes can reach this level (Conzelmann, 1999). Furthermore, it has to be taken into account that only a limited amount of psychometric information for the used instruments is available. The coefficient alphas for all questionnaire subscales are reported in Tables 3 - 6.

      In spite of the limitations of the study, the results suggest some aspects of artistic roller and figure skaters may differ significantly between competitor and training champion types. The competitor type is defined by not only being able to transfer his or her achievements from training to competition without any apparent problems but to surpass them and achieve even better results in competition. The classified competitor types in this study reported a more positive self- and body-concept than the training champion or mixed types. The self-concept of efficiency turns out to be of particular interest. The competitor types consider themselves as more efficient compared to the mixed types and to the training champions. These findings suggest that measures of this aspect of self-concept may be useful in selecting athletes for championship competitions.

      Compared to the training champion, the positive body-concept of the competitor types is featured by better self-care in terms of hygiene and eating sweets. These health habits may reflect a more attentive and non-problematic attitude towards the body. This is particularly important in artistic roller and figure skating. Here the athletes have to present the body as an aesthetic object and act with it.

      An additional phenomenon occurring in artistic roller and figure skating concerns the body-concept subscale problems with physical appearance. It seems that the female athletes in particular have to meet a special level of slimness. It is no surprise that there are cases of anorexia nervosa and bulimia in the so-called aesthetic kinds of sports (Clasing, Herpertz-Dahlmann & Marx, 1997; Steinhausen, 1995). Therefore, while types of athletes did not differ on this self-concept subscale, a secondary analysis was conducted. A significant difference between male and female skaters was identified (F (1,31) = 16.62; p <.0005). The female athletes (M = 20.16; SD = 5.59) reported more problems with physical appearance (for example: “I am afraid of gaining a lot of weight”) than the male athletes (M = 12.77; SD = 4.06). Female and male athletes did not differ on any other scale of the self-concept, body-concept or mood. Also no significant differences were found regarding conducted analysis concerning age.

      The reported mood of the competitor type showed no significant differences compared to the training champion. Thus, this study supports the limited use of the Profile of Mood States in differentiating between successful and unsuccessful athletes (Rowley et al., 1995). However, there were time-effects for the mood subscales activation, arousal and calmness. In general these findings suggest the so-called dis- and equilibration-effects (Brehm, 1997).

      The training champion was defined as someone who repeatedly fails in competition in spite of good results during training. The results of the present study show training champions report a more negative self- and body-concept compared to mixed types and competitor types. The findings suggest that training champions may benefit from psychological interventions targeted toward modifying aspects of self-concept, such as self-esteem and self-control training as well as cognitive restructuring (Beckmann, 1999). The training champions may also benefit from interventions designed to enhance compliance to health habits (Heiby & Frank, in press; Marcus, Bock, Pinto & Clark, 1996; Schlicht, 2002). Finally, the performance of the training champions at competitions may be enhanced through relaxation training and systematic desensitisation (Barlow, Esler, & Vitali, 1998) as well as imagery training (Gould & Damarjian, 1996) and hypnosis (Morgan, 1996).

      The mixed types were defined as inconsistent skaters with rather unpredictable performances, either a “dream program“ or a “program full of failures”. It is conceivable that their performances are determined by situational conditions. For a closer investigation mixed types should be observed and analysed over several competitions in which they perform one time successfully and another time unsuccessfully. But the present study includes just one competition (the German National championships). Perhaps that is one reason the results of the mixed type did not provide a consistent profile in terms of self-concept, body-concept, and mood (Barkhoff, 2000). Therefore, performance enhancement interventions for the mixed type are not suggested from the findings.

      In conclusion, the results of the study support the view that performance during training and motivation to compete in championships are inadequate predictors of performance at championship events (Barkhoff, 2000; Kuhl, 2001; Kuhl & Heckhausen, 1996; Van Ralte & Brewer, 1996; Weinberg, 1996). The results also provide preliminary empirical support that some of the differences in competitive achievement among artistic roller and figure skaters may be attributable to self- and body-concept (Alfermann, 1998; Barkhoff, 2000; Gomer 1995) – factors that are amenable to performance enhancement interventions.

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Address correspondence to Harald Barkhoff, Universität Stuttgart, Institut für Sportwissenschaft, Allmandring 28, 70569 Stuttgart, Germany or Email: harald.barkhoff@sport.uni-stuttgart.de

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