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Performance behaviour in elite sports

A holistic perspective on the challenges and psychological competencies throughout the athletic career
PhD ceremony:Ms S.J.E. (Suzan) Blijlevens
When:December 04, 2019
Supervisors:dr. M.T. (Marije) Elferink-Gemser, prof. dr. P. Wylleman, C. (Chris) Visscher
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG
Performance behaviour in elite sports

To win that one final, to be the best in the world or to become an Olympic champion. That is what high-potential and elite athletes train for. Every day and for many years. The way to get there is dynamic and complex, and full of challenges athletes need to handle.

To effectively deal with the challenges this rocky road throws at them, athletes require performance behaviour. Performance behaviour reflects the athlete’s actual behaviour in all situations he is confronted with on a day-to-day basis. It leads to optimal development and a maximum level of performance in sport. To enhance athletes’ performance behaviour, they should develop psychological competencies.

This dissertation provides insight in the psychological competencies that high-potential and world-class athletes require to deal with the challenges they face in different stages of their athletic career.

Yet unanswered questions are studied, such as: what are the perceived challenges high-potential and elite athletes are confronted with throughout their athletic career? What psychological competencies do they need to deal with the challenges of their athletic career? Are those psychological competencies the same in each of the stages of athletic development? And how can coaches assess the psychological competencies of their athletes?

Being the first to study the competencies of performance behaviour, Suzan Blijlevens’ dissertation shows that high-potential and elite athletes in different stages of their athletic career are confronted with partly similar and partly different challenges. As a consequence, the need and importance of the possession of specific psychological competencies changes throughout the athletic career.

This dissertation revealed a number of recommendations for those responsible for athletes’ development (e.g. coaches, sport psychologists and other support staff). The practical output of this dissertation is among others an observation tool performance behaviour and a learning line for TeamNL, which now will be further optimized and implemented.