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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Garland O'Quinn Jr., PhD (University of Texas El Paso College of Health Sciences)
Description: The psychology of optimal sport performance is the subject of this state-of-the-art book. Susan Jackson has teamed up with the original author, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, to apply this very powerful theory to the specific application of sport performance.
Purpose: The purpose is to provide athletes, coaches, and students of sport a clear description of the internal and external forces present when the psychological state of flow has been achieved. Flow is a subjective state that cannot be directly controlled. Yet, knowledge of the conditions that accompany flow should help performers plan their environment so that this desirable psychological state is achieved more often.
Audience: The authors present a graphic model of the flow state as defined by the parameters of skill and challenge. This model helps the athlete develop self-confidence by forming goals and expectations within his or her range of ability.
Features: Numerous athletes were interviewed for first hand descriptions of their flow experiences. The descriptions of and quotations from these athletes are used to give a visceral dimension to the nine listed components of flow. Each component is well described and documented in the context of sport performance. One of the more interesting aspects of the flow theory is that winning in competition is not a necessary condition for achieving the flow experience. The psychological state of flow results from becoming totally absorbed in the action. Any participant regardless of skill level can achieve flow if he or she succeeds in becoming totally absorbed in a focused effort that pits maximum skill against appropriate challenge. Possibly one of the most intriguing discussions in the book is the epilogue, "Where to from here." The authors discuss possible changes in the challenges of sport during the coming century. Technology/virtual sport is seen as a not so satisfying substitute for physical participation. Flow is believed so thoroughly dependent upon body-mind integration that virtual sport cannot replace the self controlled physical movement that makes sport what it is today.
Assessment: While other books consider one or two of the influences on flow, such as attention or positive attitude or stress, and there is one edited compilation of separate presentations on the psychology of peak performance, no other current volume has so thoroughly integrated the many factors which influence achievement of optimal sport performance.