When considering the effectiveness of the suggested framework, Weinberg and Williams` (2001) found that 85% of 45 studies which used it, noted positive effects after its use. Thelwell and Greenlees (2001) suggest that the frameworks effectiveness could stem from the extensive assessments which are undertaken with the athlete, these assessments provide an abundance of useful information for the consultant to use. Specific information allows the consultant to target areas which are going to have the largest overall effect on the athlete’s performance, in doing so the program is given the greatest chance of success.
Other programmes such as Singer`s (2006) self-paced five step MST programme, offer less specificity with respect to the needs of the athlete, reducing the likelihood of the programme using appropriate techniques. As suggested in Weinberg and Williams’ (2001) framework, phase 1 requires the selection of the client. The client which has been selected is a 20 year old, male rugby player, who currently plays for County Durham. Prior to injury (ACL tear) the athlete played nationally and had a short-term contract with the Newcastle Falcons.
After playing at a high standard for a number of years the performer can be considered relatively experienced. After the client has been identified, the framework suggests an initial meeting with the client should take place. Meeting with the athlete provides them with greater detail of their requirements throughout the process as well as providing the practitioner with greater detail on the performer. As a sport science student and high performing athlete, the client had previously been exposed to the concept of MST and states it is something that they would be willing to try.
Despite brief exposure, the client reveals that they have never used MST for extended periods or been involved in the production of a MST programme, consequently it was something they were interested in. After meeting with the client the framework suggests that they should be educated on the specific processes of MST. During this phase the practitioner is also required to undertake an assessment of clients sport. As the client is a second year sport science student they had prior knowledge of MST, because of this, this phase took the format of a discussion rather than the educational process recommended in the framework.
The discussion with the client started by broadly covering the general effectiveness of MST, at which point the work of Vealey (1994) was discussed, Vealey (1994) found in a review of 12 studies, 9 identified MST as effective. The purpose of showing client this paper was to solidify their enthusiasm in MST, by showing them it had worked on a number of occasions prior to the production of this programme. Perhaps going beyond what the framework intended, the discussion with the client continued and considered why MST appeared to be effective.
It is widely reported that anxiety and other negative stressors can have detrimental effects on sports performance (Woodman and Hardy, 2003). Therefore, an individual’s ability to control these stressors is likely to affect their ability to perform well in a task (Boyd and Zenong, 1999). An individual who feels a high degree of self-mastery over task interference, is more likely to be able to control the stressors which are effecting their performance (Wuff and Toole, 1999).
Without the ability to control task interference, their ability to maintain a psychological state which allows good task performance is reduced (Rotella and Heyman, 1986). By incorporating MST an individual’s likelihood of maintaining a good psychological state is increased, thus improving their chances of a good performance. As the client had a good level of knowledge in psychology and skill acquisition, discussing concepts of self-mastery to rationalise the effectiveness of MST, appeared to further their interest in the programme.
Phase 3 also suggests an evaluation of the clients sport be undertaken. During earlier discussion the client referred to the term “mental toughness” on numerous occasions, almost suggesting it was a prerequisite for success in rugby. Jones (2002) provides an exploration into the term and proposes that it is one of the most important psychological attributes contributing to an athlete’s success (Eklund, Gould, and Jackson, 1993).
While an absolute definition is hard to form, some prevailing ideals are expressed throughout the literature, including, an ability to deal with high pressure, stress and adversity (Goldberg, 1998); the ability to deal with failure (Dennis, 1981); self-determination (Gibson, 1998); self-control (Jones, 2002) and masculinity (Jones, 2002). From a psychological standpoint the above features can be considered key traits of an elite performer. Similar traits are highlighted in detailed accounts provided by ex-England rugby player Johnny Wilkinson (McRae, 2005 in Roberts and Treasure, 2012).