The Profile of Mood States is a common assessment tool for athletes. However, it was originally designed for use with college students and psychiatric outpatients. Though the tool has shown to be valuable with a number of populations it is important that we evaluate the specific demands of a particular group, unique traits, and adjust expectations from the measure so it provides meaningful and useful results.
Terry and Lane (2008) indicate that the athletic population is unique in that athletes experience more positive moods that non-athletes. Perhaps this is the benefit of exercise, that athletes possess greater coping skills for negative emotions, or that athletes respond in a socially desirable manner to appear favorable to coaches and other support staff. It is important to consider all these possibilities in evaluating assessment responses. Additionally, this study found differences in the level of athletic ability and competition. Perhaps this reflects athletes’ purpose for competition and how integrally tied their identity can be to performance versus participating in sport of health benefits. The type of sport could also impact mood. For example, endurance athletes may experience more fatigue and higher rates of overtraining, which have been found to negatively impact mood states.
Sport psychology consultants should have the experience of taking the assessments they may give to clients. To uphold this standard I took the POMS (short form) prior to running a marathon and again post-race. Results matched findings by Terry and Lane (2008) in that scores on tension and fatigue were lower, and vigor scores were higher at the post-competition stage. As indicated by the researchers, normative values must be established with various populations to make results meaningful.
Finally, the POMS is an excellent assessment that could be used in two additional ways (1) to establish a baseline for a particular individual. If an athlete takes POMS at the three stages regularly, one could expect responses to show a pattern. However, if scores change at a certain point in time, a coach may consider holding an athlete out of a competition, evaluating other life demands, and investigating signs for potential burnout or overtraining. Additionally, if scores on the POMS dramatically differ in the pre-competition stage versus post-competition or away from athletics this may be an opportunity for the athlete to learn mental skills including relaxation and managing arousal as a means to improve performance and the experience surrounding athletic competition. (2) POMS could be used for other performers, for example, musicians. Such use would require understanding levels of achievement and situational demands. Normative values would be necessary to make use of the POMS. Furthermore, showing a contrast between physical and non-physical performance may provide greater insight into the experience of these performers and the moods of these groups.
Terry, P. C. & Lane, A. M. (2008). Normative values for the profile of mood states for use with athletic samples. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 12(1), 93-109.