The results of our #Challenge6 survey of elite athletes shaped the app we created for #Challenge7. We found from our survey that, while (as argued in the Bradley article listed below) the general population might be expected to attribute positive outcomes to internal factors (those they control) and negative outcomes to external factors (those they can’t control), elite athletes attribute both positive and negative performances to a mix of internal/external factors or internal factors alone. They critically examine their performances after games and practices, acknowledging both what they did well and what they need to improve. They then set goals for the next time out, focusing on continuing the good and improving the bad.
This thoughtful preparation, based on understanding what they can personally do to attain better results, allows elite athletes to enter competitions with confidence, knowing they’ve positioned themselves well for success. The athletes we spoke with often attributed their success to preparation and to a resulting positive mindset: when they succeeded, they reflected on feeling confident, relaxed, excited, and “up for it,” and when they failed, they noted the lack of these feelings. As one athlete succinctly put it, he had a bad performance because he “could not replicate the confidence” from his last performance.
With this in mind, we considered how we could support athletes at all levels in achieving this productive, growth-oriented mindset that we found was characteristic of elite athletes. We designed Boost, an app allowing users to create and store self-assessments of performance. (Click here to check out the interactive prototype.) In addition, the app features a media feed from professional athletes to provide insights into better training and instill confidence, motivation, and inspiration. Athletes already often have role models in their sports or in other sports, and we wanted to create an app that would capitalize on this desire for connection and inspiration from others.
The “training log” component of Boost directs users to enter a brief record after every practice or competition. Users can make a log entry either by typing or audio recording, to facilitate easy entry of information and thus continued use of the app. They note what they did that day (how long they exercised, what drills they did, etc.), what went well, what went poorly, and what they will do in preparation for next time after every performance. Users then enter whether the the performance was good (green), medium (yellow), or poor (red), and the day becomes highlighted in that color on their calendar. The calendar can be used to see general trends in training as well as review all past performances and comments on them.
In the calendar feature, users also input dates of their upcoming competitions. On the morning of the competition, Boost sends a tailored notification to the user, pulling data from the log to highlight their recent practices. This notification encourages a positive mindset going into the event, reminding users of the work they’ve put in by selecting the most encouraging practice results to share. It could mention the high number of practices they’ve put in that week, recall a particularly good series of practice sessions, or display a note entered by the user of what went well at a specific session.
To keep users engaged with Boost and give them additional inspiration, we created a “pro corner,” a social feed featuring content from professional athletes. Content includes tips about how these elite athletes practice and prepare mentally, motivational video clips, and pump-up playlists curated by the pros. Users can view the app’s general feed or tailor their experience by selecting specific pros to follow, in their sport or others. This allows users to see more content from the elite athletes who most inspire them, which is important given that even the top athletes have different preferences and styles – there’s no single path to success. For example, we found that some athletes we surveyed felt they performed better under a lot of pressure, whereas others did better in a more relaxed mindset. This preference could affect the messaging that athletes at any level find helpful before an event.
Bradley, G.W. (1978). Self-serving biases in the attribution process: A reexamination of the fact or fiction question. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(1), 56-71.