Date of Award

5-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Leslee A. Fisher

Committee Members

Craig A. Wrisberg, Glenn C. Graber, Jeffrey T. Fairbrother

Abstract

Professional motocross is one of the most physically and mentally demanding of sports. Riders often have to simultaneously execute various motor and cognitive tasks while remaining in a calm and focused state. The only published study suggests that detailed pre-performance planning and mental rehearsal are essential when developing motocross athlete’s performance (Collins, Doherty, & Talbot, 1993). While there has been a good deal of information regarding how elite athletes in other sports like figure skating (Gould, Jackson, & Finch, 1993b), wrestling (Gould, Eklund, & Jackson, 1992), and the decathlon (Dale, 2000) deal with the mental demands of their sport, there has been no opportunity for motocross athletes to articulate the mental factors they experience both on and off the track. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to gain an in-depth, comprehensive understanding of professional motocross riders’ experience of the mental demands and coping strategies of their sport. More specifically, an attempt was made to gain a greater understanding of how professional motocross riders view the word “mental demands” as well as how this perspective influences their mindset during practice, competition, around teammates and friends and family. To achieve this purpose, the following questions guided the research: (a) what do they think are some of the mental demands related to being a professional motocross rider?; (b) at what times/when do they experience these mental demands?; and (c) how to they cope with the mental demands that they experience, both on and off the motocross track? Answers to these questions were obtained from seven professional motocross riders who participated in semi-structured interview sessions. Four themes were derived from the interpretive analysis dealing with the athletes’ mental demands. They included: (a) the racing environment; (b) the nature of the sport; (c) expectations; and (d) relationship with others. Three themes representing coping strategies used by the professional motocross riders also emerged. They included: (a) thought control; (b) staying focused; and (c) emotional control. Discussion centered on the consistency of the results with the current sport literature. Finally, implications for sport psychology consultants, riders, and researchers are offered.

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