ENHANCING GRIT IN ELITE ATHLETES THROUGH FUNCTIONAL IMAGERY TRAINING
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Grit has been researched across a wide variety of domains with negative correlations to drop out rates and positive associations to performance. However, there has been little to empirically change character through interventions, and even fewer in sport. A total of six studies are presented through a mixed-method approach to initially gain an understanding how grit is created, and the processes involved in developing the trait (Studies One and Two). From the phenomenological findings, a bespoke Functional Imagery Training (FIT) intervention is initially tailored to athletes and delivered (Study Three). With ceiling effects present from our performance athletes (and those in Study Two) on the Grit Scale, a modified Sporting Grit Scale (SGS) is developed through the help of a small focus group, and then administered to 181 athletes to determine validity and reliability over time (Study Four). Thereafter (Study Five), the SGS is administered to 161 athletes across three levels of competition (elite, performance and talent) and participants randomly split into control or an adapted FIT for Groups condition, where players receive imagery together. Athletes in the FIT for Groups condition significantly increased their grit and perceived performance scores. The final study (Six) was conducted to examine if FIT for Groups was similar to PETTLEP and a control condition based on a penalty kick task and the SGS. Findings showed that PETTLEP and FIT for Groups significantly enhanced penalty performance over a week, however, after more than 15 weeks later only the FIT for Groups condition maintained their performance score. Increases in grit score were only observed in the FIT for Groups condition.
This thesis develops motivational imagery by offering a guide to holistic imagery, developed from FIT, which merges theory and application from motivation, therapy, and imagery, to promote long lasting behaviour and character change for athletes. In addition, it is hoped that this thesis will act as a guide for other practitioners working with groups in other domains and can help promote a gritty mindset which influences performance.