Volume 34 (2020): Issue 1 (Mar 2020)
“Don’t Touch My Bag”: The Role of Superstition in Professional Male Boxing
Georgia Allen, Claire Thornton, and Holly Riby
The superstitious actions athletes undertake before competition have been well documented, yet the role of such behaviors has received little qualitative attention. The aim of this study was to explore the role of superstitious routines in professional male boxing. A descriptive phenomenological approach was adopted, and individual semistructured interviews were conducted with 5 professional male athletes in the United Kingdom. Results show that superstition is regularly used by boxers in the lead-up to fights to aid mental preparation, fulfill a need for control, and improve the likelihood of success. Common themes emerged, such as the use of praying and engagement in acts thought to bring good luck and/or the avoidance of behaviors that might bring bad luck. Findings also indicate that despite a rational link, boxers use superstition as a coping mechanism (e.g., as a scapegoat/excuse for losing) and to gain a sense of control.
Experiences of Peak Performance in Elite American Football
Andy Gillham and Craig Stone
Elite athletes strive for a superior state of psychological functioning to achieve peak performance, and peak performance is the central construct of this study. Peak performance as a phenomenon is a state of superior functioning allowing athletes to perform at their highest levels, attaining outstanding results. The purpose of this study was to understand the phenomenon of peak performance through semistructured interviews with 16 elite-level American football players. Four higher-order themes divided into mental, physical, emotional, and sensory elements. Those themes are supported by 18 lower-level categories. Findings were largely consistent with previous research despite this being the first study to include American football players. A specific noteworthy conclusion is the connection between mental and physical components that provides ample opportunities for both researchers and applied practitioners. In addition, the participant quotes prompted a return to the discussion of the connection between individual zones of optimal functioning, peak performance, and flow states.
A Grounded-Theory Study of Meta-Attention in Golfers
Alex Oliver, Paul J. McCarthy, and Lindsey Burns
This study sought to construct a theoretical understanding of meta-attention in golfers. Eight male golfers (7 competitive-elite and 1 successful-elite) were interviewed about their experiences of attentional processes in competitive golf. A Straussian grounded-theory approach was used throughout the research process, and interview transcripts were analyzed using open, axial, and selective coding. Results indicated that meta-attention is resource based, with metacognitive reflections of logistic and shot resources that facilitate attentional control. Attentional control required successful target selection, consistent preshot routines, and consistent postshot routines. Failures in wider or immediate resources or failure to initiate control routines can lead to internal distraction. The emergent theory provides an understanding of the function of meta-attention in golf performance that can be used by golfers, coaches, or psychologists to improve attentional strategies.
Implementation and Evaluation of a Performance-Profile Intervention With College Dancers
Elmer A. Castillo and Graig M. Chow
The purpose of this study was to systematically examine the impact of a revised performance-profile (PP) intervention on college dancers’ self-awareness and behavior-change levels. The secondary aim was to assess dancers’ perceptions of the benefits and future use of the revised-PP technique. Forty-four dancers were randomly allocated to a revised-PP condition or a didactic-PP condition to examine the pre–post impacts of a single PP intervention on the outcome measures. Results revealed significant differences in the pre–postintervention self-awareness scores between conditions, with a significant increase in the revised-PP condition and a decrease in the didactic-PP condition. There was no significant difference in pre–post behavior scores between the experimental and active-control conditions. Revised-PP participants indicated that the intervention provided several benefits and that they were highly likely to use their individual PPs again in the future.
Sport Psychology Consultants’ Reflections on the Role of Humor: “It’s Like Having Another Skill in Your Arsenal”
Stephen Pack, Monna Arvinen-Barrow, Stacy Winter, and Brian Hemmings
Previous research demonstrates that sport psychology consultants use humor to facilitate working alliances, reinforce client knowledge, and create healthy learning environments. The current study sought to gain further insights into consultants’ reflections on the role of humor, humor styles, purposes for humor, and experiences of humor use. Forty-eight sport psychology consultants completed an online survey comprising open-ended questions. Thematic analysis revealed four themes: “It’s the way I tell ’em,” “It’s the way I don’t tell ’em,” “This is why I tell ’em,” and learning to use humor in consultancy. Participants used 2 styles of humor (deadpan and self-deprecating), each with the goal of facilitating the working alliance. Although not all participants used humor during consultancy, its incorporation might render the working alliance and real relationship as resources in ways (e.g., a “barometer” that predicts consultancy outcomes) previously not considered in applied sport psychology.
Achievement Despite Adversity: A Qualitative Investigation of Undrafted National Hockey League Players
Jordan D. Herbison, Luc J. Martin, and Mustafa Sarkar
Adversity is viewed as both an inevitable and an important experience for elite athletes. The purpose of this study was to explore elite athletes’ perceptions of the experiences and characteristics that helped them overcome a shared sport-specific adversity. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 professional athletes (M age = 27.25, SD = 3.28 yr) who had progressed to careers in the National Hockey League (NHL) despite not being selected in the annual amateur entry draft. Participants discussed their long-term objectives of playing in the NHL, previous experiences with adversity, certain psychological characteristics that facilitated their progression (e.g., competitiveness, passion, confidence), and the significance of social support as key factors that helped them overcome the initial and subsequent adversities associated with being unselected during the amateur entry draft. Practical implications and proposed avenues for future research are discussed in the context of the study’s limitations.
Athletes as “Cultural Architects”: A Qualitative Analysis of Elite Coaches’ Perceptions of Highly Influential Soccer Players
Line D. Danielsen, Rune Giske, Derek M. Peters, and Rune Høigaard
The main purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of highly influential players in elite soccer. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 elite coaches to determine their perceptions of the characteristics, emergence, and impact of highly influential players. The interview guide was anchored in coaching literature and leadership theory, and after the interview data in this frame were explored, these athletes were labeled cultural architects. The results of the analysis revealed 3 general dimensions of cultural architects in elite teams: (a) personal characteristics, which include elements related to their achievements on the soccer pitch, mind-set, and collective orientation; (b) relationship to the coach, which includes integrity and trust; and (c) intrateam facilitator, which includes their impact as a task-team and social-team influencer. The results represent original findings identifying the characteristics of cultural architects in soccer that are most likely transferable to many other team sports.
Athletes’ Perceptions of Pragmatic Leadership in Youth Football Coaches
Kurtis Pankow, Amber D. Mosewich, and Nicholas L. Holt
The overall purpose of this study was to explore athletes’ perceptions of pragmatic leadership in award-winning Canadian youth football coaches. Using a qualitative description methodology, semistructured interviews were conducted with 15 men who had been coached by 5 award-winning youth football coaches. The coaches were classified as pragmatic leaders. Participants’ perceptions of the coaches’ leadership were grouped into 3 main themes: individualized consideration, accountability/responsibility, and solving problems by valuing unique contributions. Because leadership is a process of interpersonal influence, on a practical level these themes may account for key features of the coach–athlete relationship that arise from pragmatic leadership.