Sports psychology study on mental skills training helps improve Soldiers’ performance

WASHINGTON – Army researchers have found effective techniques to dramatically improve Soldiers’ cognitive and physical abilities through a regimen of mental skills training.

Success of the study led the Army to permanently incorporate cognitive skills training into basic combat training, and, following the research done at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, that training has since spread Army-wide, delivered by trainers from Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness, or CSF2.

Much of the study’s design was derived from previous research conducted at the Center for Enhanced Performance at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York. That center now serves as the core element of CSF2 under the Army Resiliency Directorate, according to Amy B. Adler, a clinical research psychologist at the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Maryland.

Adler and others conducted the study and published their findings in the article “Mental Skills Training with Basic Combat Training Soldiers: A Group-Randomized Trial,” published May 25 in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The Army funded the research, hoping to improve recruits’ basic combat training performance using mental skills training techniques, Adler said, adding that most of her colleagues in the study had a background in sport psychology as well as research.

“No one has ever done this kind of study using sport psychology techniques before. A lot of these types of studies have been correlational in nature,” she said, meaning there wasn’t a cause-effect relationship established, and a lot of the measures of effectiveness outside the research environment were anecdotal in nature.

Also, past studies tended to be small, using elite athletes, she said. That would have the effect of reducing the reliability of the study and it would also make it harder to generalize the findings to recruits, who are most likely not elite athletes.

Adler pointed out that 2,432 recruits were randomized, by group, across 48 platoons. Each group, in this case a platoon, would either be the mental skills training group or the active comparison group. Size and randomization would increase the validity of the experiment and confidence in any significant findings.

The study’s success led to implementation of a condensed version of mental skills training to every recruit. Two-and-one-half hours of mental skills training is provided per platoon by drill sergeants, each of whom have been trained in the techniques, according to Coreen Harada, a sport psychology consultant and member of the research team.

Harada said Soldiers, Families and Army civilians Army-wide are also now getting mental skills training through CSF2, delivered in a variety of ways such as in a classroom setting, during field exercises, and at the school houses.

Master resilience trainers also provide some of the training in their own venues, she added.

The Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research partnered with CSF2 in setting up the study, Adler mentioned.

Adler said the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience’s Research Transition Office took the completed study and transitioned it to implementation for basic combat training.

Source: Sports psychology study on mental skills training helps improve Soldiers’ performance

Via: Google Alert for Neuroscience

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