Automatic self-talk of elite athletes provides valuable insight into their emotional experience and self-regulation strategies in competition. To date, there is a shortage of research examining elite junior athletes’ automatic self-talk in competition through a qualitative lens. Despite parents’ key role in the well-being and performance of their child, there is no study about junior elite athletes’ and their parents’ self-talk during a competition. Hence, the aim of this study is to examine the content of elite junior tennis players’ automatic self-talk as well as the content of their parents’ self-talk regarding their emotions during important matches. In each of the two cases under investigation, individual in-depth interviews were conducted with a tennis player and his or her most dedicated parent. The results were analyzed using Yin’s (2014) multiple-case study strategy and Polkinghorne’s (1995) narration inquiry strategy. An analysis of automatic self-talk content was conducted individually for each case, followed by an intra-case and cross-case analysis. The results reveal that each player’s and parent’s automatic self-talk is related to their own subjective emotional experience during the matches. The findings highlight similarities in athletes’ and parents’ self-talk patterns, reflecting the potential influence of parents in athletes’ performance pressure and their goal-directed self-talk strategies. The differences observed between the self-talk of players and their parents demonstrate the relevance of examining their profiles to better understand the origin of individual differences in self-talk.


elite athletes, parenting, qualitative research, competitive performance, emotions

Author Bio(s)

Véronique Boudreault is a professor in Clinical Psychology at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR), with an emphasis in Sport Psychology and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Her research interests revolve around cognitions and emotions among elite athletes. She also conducts research to promote mental health in elite athletes. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to : veronique.boudreault@uqtr.ca

Christiane Trottier is an associate professor in Sport Psychology at the Department of Physical Education, Laval University, Canada. Her area of expertise encompasses the development of mental and life skills in sport, and the role of various sport stakeholders in fostering positive youth development. She combines this expertise with extensive experience as a mental performance specialist.

Martin D. Provencher is a Full professor at Laval University in the School of psychology in Quebec City, Canada. His research interests revolve around anxiety and mood disorders and their psychological treatment using evidence-based treatments, more specifically Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and the evaluation and implementation of these interventions in clinical settings.

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