Iceberg Profile

The  iceberg  profile  in  sport  is  a  visual  representation  of  desirable  emotional  health  status, characterized  by  low  raw  scores  on  the  tension, depression,  anger,  fatigue,  and  confusion  scales and  above  norms  (the  “water  line”)  on  vigor  as assessed  by  the  Profile  of  Mood  States  (POMS). The  iceberg  profile  as  a  metaphoric  image  has been  employed  for  better  understanding  of  emotion–performance  relationships  and  well-being in  competitive  and  high-level  athletes.  This  entry examines  the  utility  of  the  iceberg  profile  in description of interaction effects of multiple negative and positive mood states affecting preparation and athletic performance.

Iceberg Profile as a Metaphor

An  iceberg  (ice  mountain,  from  Middle  Dutch  ijsberg;  Norwegian  isberg)  is  a  large  mass  of  ice floating  in  the  sea.  The  iceberg  image  is  often used  metaphorically  to  represent  the  notion  that only a very small amount (the tip) of information about  a  situation  is  available  or  visible  whereas the real bulk of data is either unavailable or otherwise  hidden.  The  principle  gets  its  name  from the fact that only about one tenth of an iceberg’s mass can be seen above the water’s surface, while about  nine  tenths  of  it  is  submerged  and  invisible.  Another  interesting  feature  of  the  iceberg profile,  which  should  be  emphasized,  is  its  ability  to  identify  the  interactive  effects  of  the  components of different phenomena. That is why the iceberg profile as an image, principle, or a model is  popular  in  various  contexts.  The  iceberg  diagram has also been helpful to identify some of the crucial aspects and influences in management and organizational  settings.  The  iceberg  graphically demonstrates the idea of having both visible and invisible  structures  interact.  It  is  also  helpful  for understanding of global issues and is often used in systems thinking. In this case, at the tip above the water  are  events  happening  in  the  world;  below the waterline there are often patterns or the recurrence of events. Patterns are important to identify because they indicate that an event is not an isolated  incident.  Like  the  different  levels  of  an  iceberg, deep beneath the patterns are the underlying structures or root causes that create or drive those patterns.

Profile of Mood States-Based Iceberg Profile in Sport

William Morgan introduced the term iceberg profile, as a metaphor, in sport in the late 1970s; it was based on his systematic research and monitoring of overtraining and staleness in competitive and elite athletes across different sports. In his assessments, Morgan used the 65-item POMS and noticed that elite athletes and active individuals in general tend to score below the population average on the tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion scales. Moreover, these individuals usually scored about one standard deviation above the population average on vigor. This profile has been called the iceberg profile because the resulting configuration resembled an iceberg. All five negative  mood  states  fell  below  the  population average  (T-score  of  50),  and  one  positive  mood state was one standard deviation above the population  mean  (see  Figure  1).  (It  has  been  observed that  it  was  good  luck  that  the  developers  of  the POMS  placed  the  vigor  subscale  fortuitously  in the  middle,  or  there  would  be  no  iceberg  profile at all!)

The  POMS  yields  five  negative  mood  states measures,  one  positive  mood  state,  and  a  global measure of mood. A global score is computed by adding five negative mood states (tension, depression,  anger,  fatigue,  and  confusion)  and  subtracting the one positive mood state (vigor). Since this computational  procedure  sometimes  yields  negative values a constant of 100 is added (Ten + Dep+  Ang  +  Fat  +  Con  +  100  –  Vig).  These  values are employed as a baseline for individual athletes (and in groups) to estimate the dynamics of staleness during the season. If the athlete suffers from chronic fatigue and is unable complete a workout session,  his  POMS  profile  can  become  inverted. The  inverse  iceberg  profile  is  characterized  by  a lower  level  of  vigor  and  higher  levels  of  tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion than the average  individual.  This  type  of  mood  profile  is associated with a poor state of physical and mental functioning.

The  POMS  has  several  response  sets  depending on the focus in the assessment of mood states. These  sets  include  statelike  (right  now,  today,  or prior to your last competition) and traitlike (generally, usually, typically during a week or a month) foci. For instance, if the athlete is asked to respond to the question “How have you been feeling during  the  past  week,  including  today?”  rather  than “How  have  you  been  feeling  today?”  then  both statelike  and  traitlike  aspects  of  emotional  state are assessed.

Iceberg Profile and Mental Health Model

The  POMS-based  iceberg  profile  represents  visually  the  interaction  of  multiple  mood  states,  and it  is  grounded  in  Morgan’s  mental  health  model (MHM).  Briefly  described,  the  MHM  assumes that  performance  is  inversely  correlated  with psychopathology.  Thus,  positive  mental  health  is associated  with  high  performance  levels  whereas mood disturbances are predicted to result in performance  decrements.  The  basic  premise  of  the model  is  that  positive  aspects  of  mental  health should be associated with broadly defined success in sport.

iceberg-profile-sports-psychologyFigure 1    Profile of Mood States Iceberg Profiles in High-Level Runners,Wrestlers, and Rowers

There are several concerns with the application of  POMS-based  iceberg  profiles  for  testing  thevalidity of the MHM in prediction of athletic performance, especially at the individual level. First, POMS  emotion  descriptors  are  predominantly negative  (five  negative  versus  one  positive  mood state).  Second,  the  researcher-generated  mood descriptors  are  “fixed”  and  thus  do  not  capture the  idiosyncratic  nature  of  athletes’  individual emotional  experiences.  Third,  POMS-based  iceberg  profiles  as  measures  of  mood  states  are not  related  directly  to  preperformance  and  mid-performance  situations.  Neither  are  they  focused on  optimal  and  dysfunctional  impact  of  mood states  on  performance.  Fourth,  population  average (norms) rather than individually optimal and dysfunctional profiles serve as criteria to evaluate post performance  emotion  impact.  Finally,  there is  a  need  to  examine  the  effectiveness  of  deliberately  created  iceberg  profile  based  on  other  than POMS  assessment  measures—for  instance,  idiosyncratic  emotion-centered  and  action-centered profiles.

Extension of Iceberg Profile Applications

The  utility  of  POMS-based  iceberg  profiles  can be  enhanced  by  adding  context-specific  and  relevant  response  sets.  These  response  sets  include recalled  iceberg  profiles  of  past  emotional  experiences  (“How  did  you  feel  prior  to  your  season best  competition?”);  anticipatory  profiles  (“How do you think you will feel prior to the upcoming competition?”);  performance  related  (pre-,  mid-, post-event)  profiles;  interpersonal  profiles  (“How do  you  feel  while  interacting  with  your  coach  or a teammate?”), and intragroup profiles (“How do you feel in this team and in your previous team?”).

Iceberg   profile   applications   can   also   be extended by the assessment of emotions other than POMS mood states. For instance, does the iceberg principle  work  for  other  multiple  emotion  measures,  such  as  CSAI-2  (with  self-confidence,  cognitive  and  somatic  anxiety)  or  the  individualized emotion-centered  profiling?  Some  of  these  concerns were addressed empirically in the individual zone  of  optimal  functioning  (IZOF)  model  that predicts  high  probability  of  individually  successful performance if the intensity of athlete’s optimal pleasant  (P+)  and  optimal  unpleasant  (N+)  emotions interacts with low intensity of dysfunctional unpleasant  (N–)  and  dysfunctional  pleasant  (P–) emotions. Figure 2 depicts two individualized iceberg profiles based on the assessment of personally relevant  and  performance-related  idiosyncratic emotions. These iceberg profiles were constructed by  deliberately  placing  optimal  positively  toned and negatively toned emotions in the middle and dysfunctional emotions (negative and positive) by their sides (N– >N+ and P+ >P–).

Individualized  emotion-centered  profiling  captures the fact that one athlete may perform quite well  when  angry  or  anxious  whereas  another athlete with the same mood may perform poorly. That is why it is crucial to use task and personally relevant items (idiosyncratic emotion descriptors). In  both  cases,  the  predominance  of  functionally optimal  positively  toned  and  negatively  toned emotions  (P+N+)  over  the  dysfunctional  negatively   toned   and   positively   toned   emotions (N–P–)  serves  as  a  predictor  of  high  probability of   individually   successful   performance   (well functioning).  On  the  other  hand,  predominance of  positives  (well-being  P+P–)  over  the  negatives (ill-being  N+N–)  characterizes  the  athlete’s  situational mental health status. A distinction between well-being  (vs.  ill-being)  and  well-functioning (vs.  ill-functioning)  is  made  by  identifying  both positive and negative emotions that have optimal and  dysfunctional  impact  on  mental  health  and athletic performance.

Variability  of  optimal  intensity  zones  for  each emotion descriptor and their interaction are identified  during  the  repeated  (recalled  and  current) assessments  of  emotion  profiles  prior  to  several successful  performances  in  a  single  athlete.  Prior to  unsuccessful  performance,  the  profiles  are “flat” or positively skewed or negatively skewed. Consistent  results  suggest  that  there  are  two success-related  and  two  failure-related  iceberg profiles  based  on  measures  of  multiple  positively toned  and  negatively  toned  emotions.  These  four profiles  are  the  summary  of  intraindividual  emotion  dynamics  contrasting  individually  successful and unsuccessful performances (Figure 3).

Enhancing the Utility of Individualized Emotion Profiling

There are several ways to enhance the utility of the iceberg profile and its applications.

iceberg-profile-sports-psychology-f2Figure 2    Individualized Pre-Game Zone of Optimal Functioning Emotion Profile of Soccer Players A and B

  1. “Ideal” emotion iceberg profiles should be identified by multiple intraindividual profiling of five to seven personally successful (self-referenced) performances.
  2. Emotion descriptors should be idiosyncratic and self-generated by the athlete rather than fixed researcher-generated markers
  3. To create iceberg profile, these multiple successrelated factors should be placed in the middle; poor performance factors are located by the sides.
  4. The main focus in research and applications should be on distinguishing intraindividually between the profiles related to success and poor performance.
  5. Action-centered profiling is also recommended in considering successful and unsuccessful performances processes.


The  findings  suggest  that  iceberg  profile  predicting successful performance is possible to create by using  idiosyncratic  athlete-generated  and  aggregated  researcher-generated  emotion  descriptors. Successful performances are predicted by two predominant types of profiles (P+) or (P+N+) that are similar  for  most  athletes  even  if  they  have  different emotion markers. On the other hand, inverse (“flat,”  “cavity-shape,”  N-skewed,  or  P-skewed) iceberg  profiles  predict  high  probability  of  individually  poor  performances.  A  future  challenge in  sport  psychology  (SP)  is  the  development  of individualized emotion scales capable of capturing interactive  effects  of  emotions  on  athletic  performance. Iceberg profile provides a partial solution to this challenging task.

iceberg-profile-sports-psychology-f3Figure 3    Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning Emotion Profiles Before Successful (“Iceberg”) and Poor (N-Skewed or P-Skewed) Performances


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