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The Relationship Between an Effort Goal and Self-Regulatory Efficacy Beliefs for Division I Football Players

Gilson, Todd A.1; Heller, Emily A.1; Stults-Kolehmainen, Matthew A.2

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: October 2013 - Volume 27 - Issue 10 - p 2806–2815
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31828151ca
Original Research

Gilson, TA, Heller, EA, and Stults-Kolehmainen, MA. The relationship between an effort goal and self-regulatory efficacy beliefs for division I football players. J Strength Cond Res 27(10): 2806–2815, 2013—When training for sport, it can be argued that self-regulation—or how athletes attempt to learn new skills—is vital for success. However, self-regulation means little if athletes cannot apply it in the throes of adversity. Specifically, the confidence one has to use self-regulation skills (i.e., self-regulatory efficacy [SRE]) when faced with adverse conditions can contribute to positive or negative behavioral implications when examined in conjunction with an athlete's current goals. Therefore, the purpose of this study was twofold: (a) determine if athletes who hold an effort goal when training for sport will have higher SRE scores; and (b) assess the relationship between effort goals and SRE, as the strength of one's effort goal increases. In phase 1, interviews with 11 Division I athletes were conducted to determine the most salient dissuading conditions athletes experience when training for sport. This process resulted in 27 factors that were implemented into a questionnaire for phase 2. During this latter phase, 402 Division I football players (M age = 20.1 years, SD = 1.3 years) completed a 2-part goal statement along with an SRE questionnaire. The results indicated that athletes who held a criterion effort goal related to training (n = 362) had significantly higher SRE scores when compared with athletes who did not report having an effort goal F (27,401) = 1.89, p < 0.01. Additionally, as athletes' effort goal increased, stronger SRE beliefs resulted for all dissuading conditions, with all p values <0.05. Based on these results, practitioners are encouraged to facilitate goal setting sessions early and often with athletes as a way to combat the negative effects of low SRE beliefs.

1Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois

2Department of Psychiatry, Yale Stress Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut

Address correspondence to Dr. Todd A. Gilson, tgilson@niu.edu.

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Introduction

In the field of elite sport, it is known that enhanced physiological adaptations can transfer into positive performance results. However, the importance of psychological constructs should not be overlooked when working with expert athletes as when all individuals are highly skilled, small variations in mental processes can equate to successful or unsuccessful experiences (2,9). Specifically, research has shown that because of sports' combination of movement demands, the time constraints associated with motor production, and the interaction with other moving individuals and objects, high-level performances require both proficient motor skill and adaptive cognitive skill patterns (16). Examining the cognitive aspect, it is vital that elite athletes mentally prepare for competition using well-known psychological skills like goal setting and anxiety regulation; however, they must also make the conscious decision to regularly engage in these behaviors that are adaptive for sport. For instance, setting a goal (or goals) at the beginning of the season is a great first step in the goal setting process, yet, for goal setting to be truly effective, individuals need to revisit their goals on a daily basis and modify them based on current conditions. It is the latter part of this example that requires conscious action on the part of the athlete. Thus, perhaps the most important psychological quality for elite athletes to master is the ability to regulate thoughts and behavior (22).

Self-regulation is defined as self-generated thoughts, feelings, and actions that are planned and cyclically adapted to the attainment of personal goals (20,22). Essentially, self-regulation is how athletes attempt to learn new skills and the feedback they receive during this process. As coaches will attest, athletes do not employ self-regulation with regularity, because sometimes athletes are presented with an opportunity to learn or enhance skills through an optional workout, yet choose not to fully engage in the activity. Thus, although self-regulation is vital for success, this skill means little if athletes cannot get themselves to apply it when facing various dissuading conditions, such as physical difficulties, life event stressors, and competing sources of attention (2). It is this concept, termed self-regulatory efficacy (SRE), which encompasses a person's confidence to perform under adverse situations and may ultimately influence how well one can use cognitive skills to manage the demands of life and sport.

In the fields of both academia and health and exercise promotion, SRE has been a topic of interest during the last 20 years. For instance, research has shown that students who possess higher levels of SRE—compared with other classmates—were more confident in their ability to master subject matter content, were more prosocial with others, more popular, and experienced less overall rejection than peers (2,23). In contrast, students with low levels of SRE—who had little confidence to regulate their behavior—procrastinated more with schoolwork, earned lower grades during middle school and high school years, and were more likely to drop out of school (6,12). Similar positive and negative effects of SRE in the health and exercise fields have also been found; as specifically, programs developed that offered repeated and individually tailored messages to enhance confidence, increased both SRE and adaptive exercise behaviors for subjects (3,8,19). Thus, most recently, SRE has been shown to have cyclical benefits of increasing time on task and overall learning, and reducing participant attrition (15).

Because SRE focuses on one's confidence to engage in adaptive behaviors when faced with conditions that encourage the opposite, it is an ideal concept to study in the field of sport (and training for sport). However, SRE research examining antecedents, consequences, and relationships to other variables is conspicuously absent from the literature. Some researchers have begun to take initial steps, examining psychological differences between expert and novice athletes related to behavioral choices. Findings from these preliminary works revealed that experts were more confident in their abilities, reflected on performances more often, and set more specific goals than novices (7,11). In other words, elite players—across a number of team and individual sports—were more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and, furthermore, were able to use this awareness to develop plans of action (17). Although these studies of elite athletes help to explain how differences in the use of positive strategies are used by athletes, they do not answer the question as to why these strategies are used by some athletes and not employed by other athletes in an identical condition.

One behavior that could help explain the differences in behavioral decisions is the process of goal setting. Self-regulation (or a plan of action) is a cyclical process, namely, because as athletes receive feedback from a prior performance, these athletes then use this information to make necessary adjustments toward current efforts (1,22). Specifically, these adjustments stem from a process where athletes either make proactive or reactive comparisons (22). Proactive methods of comparison rely on forethought when conceptualizing what one wants to accomplish in the future (21), whereas athletes who employ reactive methods of comparison lack specific baseline goal information and depend more heavily on social comparisons against others (24). For instance, when attempting a power clean, an athlete who employs a proactive method may set the goal of completing the “transition” phase quicker by dropping the hips and readying for the “catch” phase. In contrast, if the same athlete were to use a reactive method he or she would examine performance in relation to others and attempt to minimize the perceived discrepancy by emulating others' behavior. Although the latter approach is not problematic on the surface, it is important to note that the behavior adopted may not be in an area where the athlete is deficient; therefore, these social comparison changes do not offer an individualized problem solving strategy. Thus, proactive methods are more adaptive as high levels of expertise depend on self-reflection judgments using refined criteria (22). Taken as a whole, it would seem logical to assume that athletes—training for sport—who are more proficient at goal setting strategies and employ a goal (or goals) to measure their behavior or progress in this environment against a criterion standard would also be less affected by various conditions that might adversely affect SRE.

Therefore, the purpose of this 2-part study was to examine the relationship between goal setting and SRE specifically in strength and conditioning. Two hypotheses were proposed: (a) athletes who hold a criterion effort goal in strength and conditioning training sessions will have a higher SRE compared with athletes who did not report an effort goal, and (b) as athletes' reported criterion effort goal strength increases—for athletes who stated a goal—stronger SRE beliefs among various factors of dissuading conditions tested in this study will result.

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Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

To best measure the research hypotheses of interest, a sequential, mixed-methods design was implemented. In phase 1, 11 current Division I athletes were interviewed about their perceptions of physical, cognitive, environmental, social, and life stress factors they thought would prevent them from giving maximum effort in strength and conditioning training sessions. Interviews were conducted using a semistructured approach (14) and transcribed verbatim upon completion. Finally, an inductive content analysis strategy was used when analyzing participants' answers, as the goal was to identify specific situations in which athletes believed their ability to display high effort level could be compromised. These steps were important because research has noted that behavior is regulated by present conditions (2); thus, the researchers thought it vital to gain an insight into current athletes' perceptions of dissuading conditions instead of developing conditions from previous experience.

Upon the completion of phase 1, the dissuading conditions deemed most important by multiple athletes (n = 27) were included into a questionnaire to be distributed to Division I football players. Additionally, athletes also completed a dichotomous goal question indicating whether they held an effort goal for strength and conditioning training sessions, and if so, a second question asked them to quantify the strength of that goal. Questionnaires were distributed to over 400 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football players at 7 geographically distinct universities. Data were subsequently analyzed using a traditional software package in relation to hypotheses postulated. Specifically, for hypothesis 1, athletes' SRE scores were compared by the grouping variable to the following question: “Do you have an overall goal for how much effort you want to give in strength and conditioning training sessions?” To examine hypothesis 2, athletes' effort goal magnitude, in strength and conditioning training sessions (which ranged from 40% to 100%), was grouped and then compared with dissuading conditions developed from phase 1 of this study.

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Subjects—Phase 1

Approval for both phase 1 and phase 2 was granted by an Institutional Review Board at a Midwestern university. A convenience sample of participants (n = 11) from 11 unique collegiate sports were contacted about participation. Upon initial contact, 100% of the athletes agreed to participate and completed a qualitative interview with the lead researcher. In all, 4 men's sports and 7 women's sports were represented: baseball, football, men's basketball, wrestling, and women's basketball, women's golf, gymnastics, women's soccer, softball, track and field, and volleyball. All the athletes were required to have at least achieved sophomore status, so they could adequately speak to the factors that might prevent them from training at a maximal level for their sport.

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Instrumentation—Phase 1

Researchers constructed a 12-item interview guide to help facilitate each interview (Appendix A). Because the goal of these qualitative interviews was to learn the dissuading conditions the athletes believed negatively impacted their effort in strength and conditioning training sessions, stress literature was consulted for a theoretical foundation. Specifically, Lazarus and Folkman's Transactional Model to understanding stress was best suited for the population of interest. According to this model, stress does not result directly from the external events an athlete experiences but from an interaction between the stressor and the individual's perception/ability to cope (13). Additionally, according to this model, stress can be grouped into various factors, such as: physical, work, family, psychological, social, and environmental. Thus, this framework was adopted to create the 5 most salient factors of stress that athletes experience related to performance when training in sport; these factors were categorized as follows: physical, mental, environmental, social, and life stress.

When developing the questions on the interview guide to ask athletes, question 1 was a practice question that allowed the participants to gain experience with the qualitative interview process and was not used in data analysis. Question 2 simply asked the participants to categorize themselves, based on current collegiate sport. Questions 3–12 then focused on each of the 5 factors where dissuading conditions might affect effort levels in strength and conditioning training sessions (e.g., physical, cognitive, environmental, social, and life stress) in blocks of 2 questions for each factor. For example, the first question related to physical factors asked athletes to describe physical factors that might negatively affect their effort levels in strength and conditioning training sessions. Then, the second question focused on which physical factor the athlete listed would most hinder their effort levels. Upon completion of the interview guide, an expert in the field of physiological and psychological stress was asked to review proposed questions to check for alignment with theoretical underpinnings and clarity. The expert reviewer suggested minor word changes related to articulating questions, but had no additional suggestions for improving the content of interview guide.

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Procedures—Phase 1

Upon institutional review board (IRB) approval, the 12-question interview guide was pilot tested with 1 NCAA Division I athlete in the sport of football. This sport was selected because the ultimate goal of this study was to construct a questionnaire related to adverse conditions experienced by NCAA Division I football players. Upon completion of the pilot test, the participant was asked if he understood the questions completely or if he perceived any redundancy. The participant noted satisfaction with the wording and order of the questions; therefore, no further pilot testing was conducted.

To locate potential participants, athletes at a Division I university were recruited to participate based on previous relationships the researchers had with coaching staffs. The researchers then made contact with players on each athletic team, without coaches present, to explain the benefits and any potential risks involved with participation. (This contact took place during the winter-sport season.) The athletes were then instructed to contact the lead researcher at their convenience if interested. Once an athlete wished to partake in an interview, the lead researcher set up a date and time suitable for both parties and in a location separate from any campus athletic facility. On the date of the interviews, the participants were rebriefed about their rights and responsibilities during the research process, signed an informed consent form to participate and have their interview digitally recorded, and then began the interview process. The lead researcher asked the same set of questions in the same order for all the participants, though probing was used as necessary to gain greater clarity into a participant's answer(s) (14). At the completion of the interview, the participants were offered the chance to ask any questions they might have and thanked for their participation.

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Statistical Analyses—Phase 1

At the conclusion of each interview, participants' answers were transcribed verbatim.

The researchers then developed a spreadsheet listing all participants' answers, grouped by physical, cognitive, environmental, social, or life stress factor. Using an inductive content analysis (14), categories of like answers were developed by the lead researcher and then discussed by the research team until a consensus of all repeated categories was reached. This process resulted in a total of 148 unique factors that athletes believed impaired their effort when training for sport. Finally, using the same process as previously described, the most important factor related to a reduction of effort—based on athletes' responses—was categorized and discussed. Upon consensus, it was revealed that 27 adverse conditions were mentioned by multiple athletes; thus, these 27 factors were then organized into a questionnaire for phase 2.

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Subjects—Phase 2

A cross-sectional design was utilized and complete data were collected from 402 Division I football players at 7 universities located throughout the USA. Specifically, data were collected from 2 universities in the west, 2 in the Great Plains, and 3 in the Midwest. All the subjects were administered questionnaires either immediately before or after a strength and conditioning training session, with the earliest time being 6:00 AM and the latest being 3:00 PM. (Note—participation in this study by the athletes only required approximately 15 minutes; however, strength and conditioning coaches selected a convenient date and time for data collection. Thus, the 9-hour “window” presented reflects the range in which data were collected across all universities.) Demographic responses of the subjects revealed that ages ranged from 18 to 25, with an M age = 20.1 years, SD = 1.4 years. Self-report data regarding race indicated that 62.9% of athletes were white, 25.9% were African-American, 5.5% indicated that they belonged to multiple races, 3.0% were Asian, 1.7% were Hispanic, 0.5% were Native American, and 0.5% categorized themselves as “other (not listed).” Athlete eligibilities ranged from a low percentage of Senior/fifth year of 17.5% to a high percentage of Redshirt Freshman of 23.8%. Regarding scholarship status, 48.1% of subjects were on a full athletic scholarship, 35.5% had no athletic based scholarship, and 16.4% had a partial athletic scholarship. Finally, 33.3% of athletes surveyed indicated they were a starter on the team, whereas 66.7% reported being a reserve player.

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Instrumentation—Phase 2

Two questionnaires were used in this phase: a demographic questionnaire and the aforementioned SRE questionnaire (Appendix B). The demographic questionnaire asked standard questions related to age, race, eligibility, scholarship status, and playing status. Furthermore, a dichotomous question asking whether the subject currently held a goal related to the amount of effort he wanted to give in strength and conditioning training sessions and the magnitude of the effort goal the subject held, stratified by 10% (e.g., 10, 20, … 100%), were also collected.

The SRE was developed from the results found in phase 1 and consisted of 27 dissuading conditions that might negatively affect an athlete's effort level in strength and conditioning training sessions. The questions were constructed according to guidelines developed by Bandura (4) and grouped according to factors, which yielded: physical factors (n = 6), mental factors (n = 5), environmental factors (n = 5), social factors (n = 5), and life stress factors (n = 6). The stem for every question in the SRE was, “Overall, how certain are you that you can get yourself to give 100% effort during strength and conditioning training sessions when faced with … ” The subjects then responded on a scale of 0–100, with 0 = cannot do at all and 100 = absolutely certain can do. Thus, a subject's response of 75 to a question would indicate that the athlete believed he could give 100% effort 3 out of 4 times when faced with the dissuading condition in question.

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Procedures—Phase 2

To acquire subjects, 57 Division I football programs were contacted by e-mail (via the head strength and conditioning coach) by the lead researcher. During this initial contact, the researcher explained the purpose and goals of this phase of the study, along with requesting access to athletes for questionnaire completion either immediately before or after a strength and conditioning training session. (This contact took place during the winter- and spring-sport seasons.) If no response was received within 1 week, the researcher followed up the first response with a second e-mail. If, again, no response was received after 1 week's time, it was concluded that the university had no interest in participating. If, however, the head strength and conditioning coach responded to either e-mail, the researchers began the process of setting up data collection either in person or via US mail.

Of the initial 57 universities contacted, 7 agreed to participate, with 2 electing to complete all survey responses via US mail. For these 2 universities, the researchers constructed a detailed instruction sheet, included the demographic and SRE questionnaires, enclosed the informed consent form, and mailed these items to the head strength and conditioning coach. The instruction sheet explicitly outlined that the head strength and conditioning coach was to have another coach, with at least a master's degree so that this coach was familiar with the informed consent process, facilitate the distribution of questionnaires, as to prevent the comprising of any data. This latter point was also communicated to the head strength and conditioning coaches via telephone after materials were mailed out. Additionally, the portion of instruction sheet to be read to the athletes informed potential subjects about the purpose of this phase of the study and stated that participation was completely voluntary and that there were no repercussions if an athlete chose not to participate. Informed consent forms were distributed to athletes for review; however, per IRB approval, because no identifying information was collected on either questionnaire, the act of completing and turning in questionnaires was viewed as consent. The athletes who then wished to partake in this study individually completed questionnaires in the strength and conditioning room, most commonly using the floor as a writing surface. Upon completion of questionnaires by athletes, the facilitating coach sealed completed data packets into the envelope and mailed them back to the researchers.

If a university elected to complete questionnaire in person, at least one researcher from the byline traveled to the university to administer questionnaire packets either before or after a scheduled training session. The same procedures were followed as outlined with US mail correspondence with the exception that the researcher(s) completed the role assumed by the facilitating coach in reading the instruction sheet, distributing the informed consent, and collecting questionnaires upon completion.

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Statistical Analyses—Phase 2

Data were entered into a traditional statistical software package (e.g., SPSS) for analysis. Of the 411 completed questionnaires, 9 multivariate outliers were removed from future analyses, leaving the previously outlined complete data set of 402 subjects. Preliminary data analysis revealed that the reliability of all dependent variables reached acceptable levels, as α >0.8 for all measures. Furthermore, observed power (>0.99), 95% confidence interval for intraclass correlations [0.84, 0.88], and skewness and kurtosis on dependent variables of interest all meet assumptions of linear statistics.

One-way multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVAs) were then computed to compare grouped independent variables to the continuous dependent variable(s) outlined in the hypotheses. Specifically, for hypothesis 1, a 1-way MANOVA was performed with the independent variables (i.e., the groups) designated by those individuals who held a goal for strength and conditioning training sessions and those individuals who did not set a goal for training sessions. These groups were compared with the continuous dependent variables found in the 27-item SRE questionnaire. In regard to hypothesis 2, the athletes who indicated that they held a goal for sport training sessions were grouped by the strength of the effort goal, which ranged from 40% to 100% effort, stratified by multiplies of 10%. These groups were then compared with the continuous 5 factor dependent variables of the SRE questionnaire (e.g., physical, mental, environmental, social, and life stress).

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Results

Table 1 presents the means and SDs for all 27 items of the SRE questionnaire for the 402 subjects in this study. As one might expect, the dissuading condition with the greatest maladaptive impact on effort in strength and conditioning training sessions was a “death in the family” (MeanSRE = 55.68), though it is interesting to note that “a nagging injury” (MeanSRE = 66.07) was viewed as more difficult to overcome than “other family problems” (MeanSRE = 68.56) and “poor attitude” (MeanSRE = 73.45). Conversely, “problems with roommate” (MeanSRE = 93.70) was viewed as the condition that would have the least negative impact on one's ability to give effort in strength and conditioning training sessions—followed closely by “thinking about expectations from significant others” (MeanSRE = 91.53) and “car trouble” (MeanSRE = 90.54).

Table 1

Table 1

To examine the first hypothesis that athletes who hold a criterion effort goal in strength and conditioning training sessions will have higher SRE scores compared with athletes who did not report an effort goal, the subjects were categorized respective to self-report data of this question. In all, 362 of the 402 athletes in this study reported holding an effort goal for strength and conditioning training sessions. Statistical analysis aggregating all responses from the 27-item SRE questionnaire confirmed the first hypothesis, as the subjects who held an effort goal had significantly higher levels of SRE, when compared with the athletes who did not report having an effort goal Wilks' λ = 0.88, F (27, 374) = 1.89, p < 0.01. To examine the relationship between an effort goal and SRE levels, further analysis was conducted related to the second hypothesis outlined.

In examining whether stronger SRE beliefs would result as subjects' criterion effort goal strength increased, the magnitude of self-reported effort goals was analyzed related to the 5 factors of the SRE questionnaire. Specifically, of the 362 athletes who reported maintaining an effort goal in strength and conditioning training sessions, self-reported effort goals ranged from 40 to 100% effort. Initial results yielded proof that there was a significant relationship between effort goal magnitude and SRE scores, Wilks' λ = 0.86, F (20, 1172) = 2.75, p < 0.001, thus requiring additional analysis.

As Table 2 highlights, the relationship between an effort goal in strength and conditioning training sessions and SRE was positive, in that as individuals' self-reported effort goals increased, athletes reported higher levels of SRE. Furthermore, this linear relationship held true for each one of the 5 factors of the SRE questionnaire (e.g., physical, mental, environmental, social, and life stress factor). As an example, the subjects who reported a 70% effort goal for the 5 questions that made up “mental factors” had a mean SRE score of 71.0, 80% effort reported a mean SRE score of 77.5, 90% effort recorded a mean SRE score of 81.6, and the subjects who stated an effort of 100% had a mean SRE score of 85.9. The aforementioned relationship was noted regardless of the factor examined and confirmed the fact that effort goals, strength and conditioning training sessions, and SRE scores are intertwined.

Table 2

Table 2

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Discussion

This study took the first step in understanding the relationship between goals and SRE for Division I collegiate football players. As is evident from the results, a significant relationship was observed between goal setting and SRE, and furthermore between the magnitude of an effort goal in strength and conditioning training sessions and stand-alone factors of the SRE. To date, no other research has specifically examined the effects of SRE when training for sport; thus, only comparisons of these results to other environments are possible.

As previously noted, higher levels of SRE generally result in a decrease of maladaptive behaviors and an increase in adaptive behaviors (3,12,19). The results of this work emulate this trend. Specifically, findings indicate that individuals who held an effort goal for strength and conditioning training sessions reported higher levels of the SRE and would be less swayed by unfavorable conditions—when giving effort—regardless of the unfavorable condition experienced. It can now be demonstrated that this aforementioned relationship holds true in the academic (6), health behavior (19), and sport training environments. Thus, the importance of the SRE in these settings is that an individuals' strong SRE beliefs cannot only withstand the constant grind of daily struggles but it also allows individuals to raise aspirations and can positively affect future life paths through the decision processes these individuals make (6).

Additionally, it is known that SRE and self-regulation are intertwined, because individuals who can prevent various dissuading conditions from affecting their behaviors (i.e., possess higher levels of SRE) will likewise, be able to direct this effort into the process of learning and mastering skill development (15,22). Perhaps because of this fact, research has empirically confirmed the notion that elite athletes are known to spend more time reflecting on past practices and competitions to improve their future performances (11,17). Through this reflection, individuals may be motivated to proactively set goals (21), and they thus try harder to succeed, even when faced with potentially adverse conditions (17). Therefore, one may assume that individuals in the second phase of this study who set a high effort goal for strength and conditioning training sessions and had higher SRE levels—compared with subjects who set lower effort goals and had lower levels of SRE—can better implement the cyclical relationship of goal setting as personal, behavioral, and environmental factors constantly change during the skill acquisition process (22). Thus, these athletes will be more successful in strength and conditioning training sessions, when compared with their counterparts who exhibit lower levels of SRE and subsequent self-regulation.

The discovery of goal setting behavior being the catalyst for SRE changes is not surprising, especially when one considers how goal setting is linked to physiological benefits an individual experiences from actions one undertakes. Specifically, through the “direct method” of influence, it is believed that when an individual sets a goal, this process mobilizes an action plan where the individual directs more attention to the task, increases persistence, and actively seeks to learn new techniques and strategies (18). It is clear that these behaviors—in combination with enhanced SRE levels—will produce enhanced physiological changes by giving individuals the mental toughness needed to persevere when facing struggles. For instance, because training for sport includes many activities in which an athlete must persist to failure, having a proactive goal related to a future performance will aid one physiologically by providing the incentive to push through adverse conditions such as fatigue, pain, and mentally giving up.

Although this study did take significant steps in understanding the relationship of SRE to perceived criterion effort goals in strength and conditioning training sessions, it was not without limitations. For instance, data were collected from subjects using a cross-sectional design. Given the fact that research on the topic of SRE was devoid in the literature when examining sport participants, this methodology made sense to build foundational knowledge of how goal setting and SRE beliefs operate in this context. However, this methodology prevented this study from drawing a cause-and-effect relationship between the strength of an effort goal and personal perceptions related to adverse conditions one may face when training for sport. Additionally, the exclusive focus on Division I football athletes, although beneficial for those who participate in this environment, presents the problem of generalizing these results to female athletes, athletes who compete in different sports, and athletes who participate at different levels of competition (e.g., high school, private clubs).

In examining how these deficiencies can be corrected, future researchers are encouraged to partake in longitudinal studies, assess SRE beliefs related to objective measures of performance, and consider experimental designs. First, researchers are encouraged to examine SRE beliefs over the course of a season—or at least during different parts of the training cycle—so that a more complete picture of how goal setting and SRE beliefs can be conceptualized. This suggestion is a vital next step as research has shown that individuals' SRE—in an academic environment—exhibit a negative slope over time and this relationship is greatest for men (6). Second, psychological measures should be systematically compared with objective measures of performance. This step is especially important for SRE beliefs because of their aforementioned absence from the literature in the field of sport. However, this step will require great care as it has been noted that comparing psychological variables directly to objective outcomes can be contentious because of confounding variables that also affect impending performance (1,4). Therefore, researchers may want to use a blend of objective measures such as performance and improvement, and subjective measures such as effort and satisfaction, as past research has noted the absence of sport specific variables in self-regulation research (17). Finally, future work should consider an experimental methodology with multiple sports and participants at different levels of competition. For instance, altering the sport experience to lessen the maladaptive impact of specific dissuading conditions for a subset of a sample tested, while leaving the training environment unchanged for another segment of athletes would further researchers' and practitioners' understanding of the cause-and-effect relationship between SRE and the dependent variable of interest.

Regardless of current SRE levels for individuals, the process of goal setting may offer a way to enhance SRE, which can augment self-regulation (3). Furthermore, the practitioner is a central component in this process, as it is known that individuals who are continually reminded about important aspects of the task are better able to remain focused, regardless of current performance levels (15,17). By coaches enhancing self-regulation levels, through the process of goal setting, individuals will be able to exert more control over their learning to improve and eventually master a task (20).

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Practical Applications

This study demonstrates the importance of cultivating the goal setting process with athletes, because this behavior is linked with an athlete's ability to display high levels of effort when faced with adverse conditions. Furthermore, this study also provides goal and goal setting as psychological skill for strength and conditioning coaches to use (besides traditional motivational methods) to increase an athlete's ability to withstand pressures related to adverse conditions. However, for practitioners to correctly implement the tenants of goal setting, a few foundational principles must be conveyed. First, practitioners should understand the 3 different types of goals that exist and how these goals can build upon each other to give the participants the best chance of a successful experience. Failure to fully integrate the important principles of goal setting can produce a “double-edged sword,” as athletes universally know that goal setting is productive and helps facilitate future accomplishments; however, many athletes also struggle with how to best implement a goal setting strategy that will yield the best results (5).

To most effectively reach goals, there are 3 types of goals that should be incorporated: outcome, performance, and process. Outcome goals, being generally the most common type of goal that athletes strive to achieve, are the ultimate culminating event (18). An example of an outcome goal in the sport of football would be to win the conference. The process to help achieve this larger goal is most effective through the implementation of both performance and processes goals. The aim of performance goals is to develop a criterion standard to measure against one's pervious accomplishment(s) and modify as necessary (18). For example, perhaps a quarterback's goal—who completed 60% of his passes last year—would be to complete 65% of passes that he attempted for the upcoming season. Lastly, process goals are specific techniques to incorporate during one's performance that would increase the chances of an optimal outcome (18). One specific process goal for the aforementioned quarterback would be during practice, to establish the goal of checking-down to his second and third wide receivers when executing 15 different plays. Thus, achieving both performance and process goals may help one reach the ultimate outcome goal. In the above example, we see that the quarterback who is able to check-down to his second to third wide receivers in practice will be more comfortable using these wide receivers in an actual game situation; therefore, this will allow him to increase his completion percentage, and ultimately aid his team in achieving their outcome goal. However, it is important to remember that while process, performance, and outcome goals do build upon each other, they do not result in automatic attainment of one's culminating goal(s).

In addition to establishing outcome, performance, and process goals, a coach (or practitioner) must also be able to convey the importance of goal setting to athletes. To best accomplish this aspect, Gould (10) recommends a 3-phase process, which incorporates: planning, meeting, and evaluation. In the planning phase, both athletes' and team goals need to be assessed to determine which specific strategies should be used for attainment. For example, during the first 5 minutes of a training session, the strength and conditioning coach may offer recommendations of where the team's weaknesses rest and address how specific ways of training rectify these shortcomings. The meeting phase is when the coach gathers the entire team to discuss potential goals. After the initial meeting, it may be beneficial for the strength and conditioning coach to schedule individual meetings with athletes, or to incorporate subgroups (i.e., freshman, sophomore, juniors, and seniors) to facilitate athletes’ ability to “buy into” the goals established. Lastly, the evaluation phase is a time when athletes and coach(es) can convene and reevaluate original goals to maximize results. For example, the first training session in January, after the team won their bowl game, would be an optimal time for the strength and conditioning coach to state observations on how previous goals helped the team reach the current level of success, and furthermore, how the goal setting process will continue to produce optimal future performances. In conclusion, although many dissuading conditions athletes face when training for sport cannot be neutralized, setting optimal goals can potentially facilitate adaptive changes to athletes' motivational levels and result in positive changes to behavior when training.

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Appendix A Phase 1—Interview Guide

Practice Question

Q1: In terms of effort, what is expected of you, and your teammates, day-in and day-out when you engage in strength and conditioning training sessions?

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Dissuading Conditioning

Q2: What collegiate sport do you currently participate in?

Q3: What are some physical factors that might prevent you from giving 100% effort in strength and conditioning training sessions? (Explain if necessary).

Q4: Which physical factor that you named most impacts your ability to give 100% effort?

Q5: What are some cognitive (i.e., mental) factors that might prevent you from giving 100% effort in strength and conditioning training sessions? (Explain if necessary).

Q6: Which cognitive (i.e., mental) factor that you named most impacts your ability to give 100% effort?

Q7: What are some environmental factors that might prevent you from giving 100% effort in strength and conditioning training sessions? (Explain if necessary).

Q8: Which environmental factor that you named most impacts your ability to give 100% effort?

Q9: What are some social factors that might prevent you from giving 100% effort in strength and conditioning training sessions? (Explain if necessary).

Q10: Which social factor that you named most impacts your ability to give 100% effort?

Q11: What are some life stress factors that might prevent you from giving 100% effort in strength and conditioning training sessions? (Explain if necessary).

Q12: Which life stress factor that you named most impacts your ability to give 100% effort?

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Appendix B Phase 2—SRE Questionnaire

Directions: Overall, how certain are you that you can get yourself to give 100% effort during strength and conditioning training sessions when faced with.

Rate your degree of confidence using a number from 0 to 100, using the following scale.

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Keywords:

sport psychology; effort; strength and conditioning; adverse conditions

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