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Psycho-behavioral momentum: Golf matchplay players’ perspectives

journal contribution
posted on 22.06.2021, 03:40 by Christopher McCarthy, Martin I Jones, John K Parker, Antonio LastellaAntonio Lastella, Geoff P Lovell
This study employed a qualitative in-match recording technique to understand how A-grade amateur golfers (n = 8) experience psycho-behavioral momentum during competitive matchplay. The aims were to capture, in real-time, thoughts and emotions associated with perceived changes to psycho-behavioral momentum, to understand what high-standard golfers perceive as significant triggers for both positive and negative psycho-behavioral momentum, and what strategies they might employ during a competition to maintain positive psycho-behavioral momentum and to overcome negative psycho-behavioral momentum. To complement the matchplay data, semi-structured group interviews were conducted to corroborate interpretive findings from the matchplay data and to discuss participants’ beliefs regarding momentum in the matchplay environment. Thematic analysis of both data sets revealed four themes to emerge from the participants’ statements pertaining to the genesis and maintenance of their experience of psycho-behavioral momentum: Unexpected Events (discrepancy between players’ expectations and reality, either positive or negative); Control (feeling in control: cognitions, emotions, behaviors, and outcomes; and appearing in control); Temporality (a perception that psycho-behavioral momentum cannot occur early in matches, sufficient match pressure and intensity is required to generate psycho-behavioral momentum); and Pressure (application and maintenance of psychological pressure upon opponent, and the management of pressure applied by opponent). Findings support existing conceptual models of momentum and extend the knowledgebase regarding how individuals experience momentum in competitive skill-based sports such as golf. Several strategies are suggested that could assist in building awareness of and managing psycho-behavioral momentum fluctuations. Lay Summary: Information from competitive Australian matchplay golfers during interviews and matches revealed four key contributors to experiencing positive and negative psycho-behavioral momentum during rounds of matchplay golf. These key contributors are unexpected events, feeling and appearing in control, how far the game has progressed, and applying and coping with pressure. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE Psycho-behavioral momentum is an important aspect of applied sport psychology instruction and intervention. Sport psychology interventions aiming to enhance psycho-behavioral momentum, and thus performance, should support athletes to develop strategies that enhance feeling and appearing in control, along with skills to effectively manage psycho-behavioral momentum consequences of unexpected events. Sport psychology interventions should aim to build psycho-behavioral momentum early in competition, ideally building from training prior to events.


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External Author Affiliations

University of the Sunshine Coast, University of Exeter, UK; Hartpury University, UK

Author Research Institute

Appleton Institute

Era Eligible



Journal of Applied Sport Psychology