Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


A pre-season mental skills program for serving was implemented for the 12 members of a NCAA Division-I volleyball team. Key mental skills taught were relaxation, imagery, and attentional skills. A videotaped expert (i.e., the coach), who articulated and demonstrated the technical performance keys to effective serving, was used for behavioral modeling of the desired performance. Players utilized a three-phase service routine to increase automaticity of performance and to incorporate key mental skills. Phase I included: (a) selecting the target zone, (b) relaxing, (c) goal setting for pace, trajectory, and placement of the serve, and (d) imagery. Phase II included: (a) trusting the serve, (b) use of a serve trigger thought (e.g., "palm to target"), and (c) execution of the serve. Phase III included: (a) observing the outcome of the serve attempt, (b) if a good serve, reinforcing the performance through imagery; if a missed serve, correcting the error through imagery then letting go of the error, and (c) moving on to the next point. Two criteria measures were utilized: season ace-to-error ratio (AER) and good serve percentage (GSP; i.e., percent serves in home matches that pulled the opponent's setter off the net). These measures were highly correlated (r = .85, p < .01). Both were utilized, as GSP was more sensitive than the traditional AER. End-of-the-season reported use of imagery was significantly correlated with GSP (r = .82, p < .01) and AER (r = .63, p < .05). End-of-the-season reported use of a service routine also correlated significantly with GSP (r = .75, p < .01) and AER (r = .60, p < .05). The mean GSP across all servers for the season was .49 (SD = .07); the team GSP goal was .50. Competitive anxiety was negatively correlated with GSP (r = -.68,p < .05). Results indicate that implementing the mental skills training program was associated with increased serve performance.



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