Optimal Performance: Elite Level Performance in “The Zone”

Robert J. Harmison and Kathleen V. Casto

in The Oxford Handbook of Sport and Performance Psychology

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199731763
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Optimal Performance: Elite Level Performance in “The Zone”

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Curiosity about and interest in optimal performance has grown markedly among researchers, practitioners, athletes, and performers over the past 30 years. Despite this interest, elite-level performance in “the zone” continues to be an elusive phenomenon for researchers and practitioners to understand. This chapter discusses the various psychological factors involved in optimal performance and summarizes the historical and current research and scholarly writings in the area. The subjective experience of optimal performance is defined and clarified, and the psychological profile of optimal performance is described and elaborated. Issues related to the assessment of psychological characteristics and skills associated with optimal performance are discussed, and a model for understanding the myriad of factors that impact optimal performance is provided. The application and effectiveness of psychological skills training to promote the occurrence of optimal performance is reviewed as well. Finally, directions and opportunities for future research are presented.

Keywords: Peak experience; peak performance; flow; psychological profile; mental toughness; ideal performance state; psychological assessment; psychological preparation; psychological skills training

Article.  13228 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Health Psychology

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