Try if you do try if you don’t: Periodized Mental Skills Training with a High Performance Rugby Academy

Stephany Coakley, USA

Theme: Youth sport

Poster Number: 70

Program ID: POS-1

Presentation: October 3, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


There are roughly 20 NCAA Division I rugby programs in the United States compared to 125 Division I football programs. This dearth of opportunities to participate in rugby, beyond high school, creates an atmosphere of tremendous competition to play for one of the existing NCAA Division I rugby programs. Therefore, many high school rugby players seek opportunities to gain a competitive advantage over their peers through academies, clinics, camps and specialized coaching. The Rugby Academy is an holistic immersion development program designed to prepare high school rugby players to systematically improve technical, tactical, physical and mental skills. 70 high school boys from Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia were selected by their coaches to participate in the Rugby Academy’s fall 2012 cycle. Players completed the Athlete Coping Skills Inventory (ACSI-28), and a demographic questionnaire prior to receiving mental skills training during eight sessions of the Rugby Academy. Mental skills training included: goals-setting, developing confidence, concentration and attention control, practicing imagery, emotion control and maintaining composure. During the preparatory period, a team of sport psychology consultants and sport psychology assistants taught fundamental mental skills to the players. The ACSI-28 was then re-administered at the end of the cycle and results from pre and post-tests were analyzed. Additionally, qualitative data was collected at the end of the cycle, from two focus groups of players to examine the long-term practice and utilization of mental skills learned during the preparatory period. Exercise science research has found that periodization of mental skills training enhances physical performance and conditioning (Fleck, 1999; Stone et al, 1999) and supports using this approach to maximize mental skills interventions (Holliday et al, 2008). This presentation will examine the effectiveness of a periodization for a mental skills intervention, specifically during the preparatory period, with high school rugby players.

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