Plain English Summary
Background and study aims
Struggling to deliver performance in competitions is one of the main reasons why athletes seek the advice of sport psychologists. Psychologists apply a variety of techniques, many of which are not evidence-based. Evidence-based techniques could help athletes to increase and maintain functional athletic behaviour in competitions/games (i.e., being focused on task-relevant cues and executing movements and actions in high quality). However, well-designed studies investigating the effectiveness of sport psychological interventions for performance enhancement are scarce. The aim of this study is to examine the effectiveness of two interventions with elite and sub-elite athletes: psychological skills training (PST) and a mindfulness-based intervention (MI).
Who can participate?
Elite and sub-elite athletes aged 18 or over
What does the study involve?
Participants are randomly allocated to receive either the PST or MI intervention or to be put on a waiting list. Both interventions last 5 weeks, consist of four 2-hour sessions and are administered by a trained sport psychologist. All sessions take place in the same athletic performance centre. The participants’ functional athletic behavior is assessed during a competition/game. Competition anxiety, cognitive interference and negative outcome expectations are also assessed. Assessments are carried out before and after the intervention as well as at 2 months follow up.
What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
Both PST and MI are expected to help improve functional behavior in athletes, and we will not only be able to answer the question of whether the interventions work, but also how, under what conditions, and for whom. There are no possible risks in participating in this study.
Where is the study run from?
Swiss Federal Institute of Sport Magglingen SFISM (Switzerland)
When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
October 2016 to March 2018
Who is funding the study?
The Swiss National Science Foundation (Switzerland)
Who is the main contact?
Mr Philipp Röthlin
Psychological skills training and a mindfulness-based intervention to enhance functional athletic performance: design of a randomized controlled trial using ambulatory assessment
The primary objective of this study is to assess the effects of a psychological skills training (PST) and mindfulness-based intervention (MI) in promoting functional athletic behavior (FAB) in elite athletes. We hypothesize that both active interventions are more effective than a waiting-list control condition in promoting FAB. We do not expect PST to be superior over MI or vice versa; rather, they are expected to increase FAB through different routes.
The ethics committee of the Swiss Federal Institute of Sport Magglingen SFISM, 15/03/2014
Interventional parallel-group randomised controlled trial
Primary study design
Secondary study design
Randomised parallel trial
Patient information sheet
Not available in web format, please use contact details to request a participant information sheet
Functional behavior in athletes
After a first contact and checking for inclusion and exclusion criteria (time 0), athletes will be stratified for gender, sport, and performance level, then randomly assigned to one of following three groups, and will be informed about their experimental condition:
1. Psychological skills training (PST): imagery, self-talk, goal-setting, arousal regulation
2. Mindfulness-based intervention (MI): mindful meditation, body scan, yoga
3. Waiting-list control group (WC)
The study is single-centre (all sessions will conducted at the center for elite sports of the Swiss Federal Institute of Sport). The interventions will be realized in groups of six athletes each, leading to six sub-groups in each condition (6 x 6 = 36 athletes, see power analysis). A manual will accompany the instructions for the interventions. All components of both interventions must be administered according to the manual’s specifications by a trained sport psychologist. Two independent raters will evaluate the adherence to each intervention on the basis of video recordings. In addition to psycho-education and practice at home guided by audio files that can be played on computers or portable devices such as smart phones. All participants will also be provided with a calendar of their exercises to tick off as they are completed, and daily text messages will remind them to practice their PST or mindfulness exercises. Each intervention consists of four 2-hour sessions over the course of 5 weeks. Participants will be advised to practice daily and record their amount of practice.
Primary outcome measure
Functional athletic behavior (FAB) assessed using ambulatory assessment (during games and competitions) before and after the intervention (pre-post) as well as at two months follow up (three timepoints in total).
Secondary outcome measures
1. Cognitive interference, competition anxiety, and negative outcome expectations measured by the according subscales of the Thought Occurrence Questionnaire (TOQS) and the Competition Anxiety Inventory State (CAI-S)
2. Objective measures of performance will be win/lose, points scored, unforced errors etc, subjective measures will be assessed using a single item (how well did you perform?)
Secondary outcome will be measured directly before and after the intervention (pre-post), as well as at two months follow up (three timepoints in total)
Overall trial start date
Overall trial end date
Reason abandoned (if study stopped)
Participant inclusion criteria
Elite, sub-elite, and recreational athletes from four sports (curling, volleyball, i.e., indoor and beach, tennis, and hockey, i.e., floorball and ice hockey), who are members of the respective Swiss national sport associations
Target number of participants
Total final enrolment
Participant exclusion criteria
1. Likely mental disorder
2. Significant previous experience with PST or MI
3. Less than 4 hours of athletic training per week
4. Being younger than 18
Recruitment start date
Recruitment end date
Countries of recruitment
Trial participating centre
Swiss Federal Institute of Sport Magglingen SFISM
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung
Swiss National Science Foundation, Fonds National Suisse de la Recherche Scientifique, Fondo Nazionale Svizzero per la Ricerca Scientifica, Fonds National Suisse, Fondo Nazionale Svizzero, Schweizerischer Nationalfonds, SNF, SNSF, FNS
Funding Body Type
private sector organisation
Funding Body Subtype
Trusts, charities, foundations (both public and private)
Results and Publications
Publication and dissemination plan
We intend to publish a study protocol first, the manuscript is finished and has already been submitted. Next, we intend to publish the results of our intervention study in approximately one years' time.
Intention to publish date
Participant level data
To be made available at a later date
Basic results (scientific)