Context:

Psychological skills training improves performance in athletes. However, few studies have looked at the efficacy and satisfaction of mental skills training programs for collegiate athletes.

Objective:

We aimed to evaluate satisfaction of collegiate athletes with a 6-session mental skills course, and to assess changes in mental toughness and coping skills before and after the course.

Design:

Prospective cohort study following collegiate female athletes through a 6-session mental skills course.

Setting:

Division 1 collegiate athletic teams

Patients/Participants:

54 Division I female athletes (mean age =19.8) participated in the program and 42 (77.7 %) completed pre-course assessments, which subsequent evaluations were matched to.

Main Outcome Measures:

The Athletic Coping Skills Inventory (ACSI, range=0-84) and Mental Toughness Index (MTI, range=8-56) assessed coping skills and mental toughness pre-course, immediate post-course and 4-month post course. Satisfaction was assessed on a 10-point scale.

Results:

For participants with paired pre- and immediate post-course data (n=37, 68.5%), MTI scores improved by a mean 2.6 points (95% CI=1.1-4.1; p=0.001) and ACSI scores improved by a mean 4.0 points (95% CI=0.6-7.4; p=0.02). At four-month follow-up (n=25, 46.2%), no change was detected from pre-course in mean MTI score (p=0.72), but there was a significant increase of 3.4 points in mean ACSI (95% CI=0.4-6.4; p=0.03). Overall satisfaction had a median score of 9/10 (IQR, 8-10) at post-course, and eighteen participants (48.6%) shared positive free-text comments regarding course delivery, content, and impact. No negative feedback was reported.

Conclusions:

Mental toughness and coping skills scores significantly improved at post-course assessment, with coping skills scores maintaining their effect at four months. The improvements identified spark the question of the potential impact of mental skills training programs when studied in larger athlete populations or over more sustained periods of time. Athletes reported being highly satisfied with course content and reported overall positive experiences.

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Author notes

We have no known conflicts of interest to disclose.