Psychological processes in sport are inextricably linked to the social contexts within which they occur. However, research and practice in applied sport psychology have shown only marginal concern for the social dimensions of participation. As a consequence of stronger ties to clinical and counseling psychology than to social psychology, the prevailing model of intervention in applied sport psychology has been individually centered. Focus at the individual level has been further bolstered by cognitive emphases in modem psychology. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the need for a balanced consideration of social and personal influences. Four social psychological dimensions of interest will be explored, including athletic subculture membership; athletic identity concerns; social networks of influence; and leadership processes. The relevance of these forms of influence will be examined in relation to applied concerns in the areas of athlete academic performance, overtraining and burnout, and disordered eating patterns. At minimum, consultants need to address contextual and relational correlates of psychological and performance issues.
Robert J. Brustad and Michelle Ritter-Taylor both are with the School of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80526.