Self-perceived psychological factors that limit peak performance in elite athletes

Susan O'Neill

Research output: Other contribution


In elite sport, frequent peak performances are crucial to ensure the achievement of personal or group goals. No research examining the perception of elite athletes on what prevents their maximum performance in competition has been conducted so far. To investigate this, 12 experienced (M = 11.25 years, SD = 4.413) athletes (9 male, 3 female) were interviewed. Thematic analysis (cf. Braun & Clark, 2006) was used to identify multiple psychological factors and the complex individual circumstances behind them. The main themes that emerged from the data indicated that the athletes were a) limited by preparation and b) limited by distractions. These themes and the determined concurrent psychological variables are discussed in the context of psychological theory on motivation and anxiety, as well as further literature related to peak performance and expertise, specifically in sport but also other related areas, such as healthcare. The author recommends further research to quantify predominant factors preventing optimal performance as well as focusing on greater sample sizes within the same sport, gender and cultural background to determine potential differences and more general assumptions for certain parts of the population.
Original languageEnglish
TypeMasters Dissertation
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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