Through narrative methodology this study explores the processes and consequences of identity development among young elite athletes, with particular reference to the influence of sport culture. We focus on life stories of two elite male athletes, recounting significant moments from their lives analyzed through the lens of narrative theory. Our findings offer insights into three strands of sport psychology literature. First, responding to calls for a cultural sport psychology, our study reveals how elite sport culture shapes psychological processes of identity development. Second, it shows how the origins of a potentially problematic athletic identity are seeded in early sport experiences, shedding light on how athletic identity is developed or resisted. Finally, it extends previous narrative research into the lives of female professional golfers, documenting how comparable processes unfold among male athletes in other sports, deepening understanding of how cultural narratives influence behavior and life choices.
David Carless and Kitrina Douglas
Peter Jensen, Jorge Roman, Barrett Shaft, and Craig Wrisberg
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a relatively new and rapidly growing sport within contemporary athletics yet, to date, it has received relatively little attention in the sport psychology literature. To shed more light on the sport, the aim of the current study was to examine the experiences of MMA fighters during sanctioned competitions. Audio-recorded phenomenological interviews were conducted with seven participants and the transcripts were qualitatively analyzed to identify emerging themes. The findings revealed that the most important aspect of fighters’ experience was the chaotic nature of MMA fights, which participants characterized as “cage reality.” The results also suggested that fighters’ arousal regulation skills are at least as important as their technical skills for performance success. Taken together, the present findings extend previous research on MMA and suggest several implications for sport psychology consultants interested in working with fighters.
Leilani Madrigal, Sharon Hamill, and Diane L. Gill
Mental Toughness (MT), which refers to an inner focus and commitment to rise above challenges when facing adversity, is viewed as one of the most important psychological attributes in determining success in sport. However, there is little consensus on key components of MT, and existing measures vary greatly while focusing on elite athletes. The purpose of this research was to develop a measure of MT for use with college athletes. Collegiate and noncollegiate athletes (N = 271) completed the original 54-item Mental Toughness Scale (MTS) in study 1. Factor analysis (PCA) results reduced the scale to an 11-item scale, with good reliability and validity as demonstrated by its positive correlations with self-esteem and flow. A second study of college basketball players (N = 143) was conducted to establish the psychometric properties of the MTS. Study 2 demonstrated convergent, divergent and criterion validity through correlations with related measures, and a CFA provided moderate support for the MTS as a one-dimensional measure of mental toughness in sport.
John Jouper and Henrik Gustafsson
Research on how to recover from athlete burnout is scarce. The current aim is therefore to describe an intervention with an elite shooter suffering from burnout, and the use of mindfulness and Qigong to reestablish sport functioning as well as general well-being. The participant used mindfulness and Qigong exercise on a daily basis. Exercise frequency, exercise time, concentration level and Qigong state were noted daily, and levels of stress, energy and primordial force were self-rated weekly for 20 weeks, and followed up after 30, 40 and 50 weeks. The participant recovered from burnout to a state of general well-being (energy and primordial force changed from weak to strong), and her ability to stay concentrated in a Qigong state changed from weak to strong. Her capacity to shoot high scores was reestablished, even if her shooting endurance was not fully recovered. Mindfulness and Qigong techniques may be useful in the prevention of and recovery from athlete burnout.
Ross Roberts, Mike Rotheram, Ian Maynard, Owen Thomas, and Tim Woodman
The present investigation examined whether perfectionism might predict whether an athlete would suffer from the ‘yips’ (a long term movement disorder consisting of involuntary movements that affects the execution of motor skills). A sample of ‘yips’-affected individuals from golf, cricket, and darts as well as a sport-matched sample of non ’yips’-affected athletes completed the shortened version of Frost, Marten, Lahart, and Rosenblate’s (1990) multidimensional perfectionism scale (FMPS). Results revealed that three aspects of perfectionism (personal standards, organization, and concern over mistakes) were associated with a greater likelihood of suffering from the ‘yips’, indicating that ‘yips’ sufferers had an unhealthy perfectionism profile. The results highlight perfectionism as a possible antecedent of the ‘yips’ experience within sport.
Anthony M.J. Maranise
This article discusses the use of superstition and religious rituals within sport. While the popular view among skeptics seems to be that religious ritual is nothing more than superstition, I argue that while there admittedly are many similarities, there also exist major differences which separate superstition and religious ritual into distinct entities. The realm of sport is one widely known for the numerous exhibitions of both superstition and religious ritual. The examples of sport-related superstition and religious ritual are so numerous that they have even gained noted media attention in the past two decades. Thus, I situate both terms within the practical framework of sport participation. From this foundation, I define both terms in context and begin to examine the effects on athletes’ individual holistic development arguing that religious ritual leads ultimately to a greater holistic development than does superstition. Holistic development is examined in four aspects which are comprised of physiology, emotionality, intellectuality, and spirituality. The positive effects of religious ritual as applied within athletics are mentioned in each aforementioned category. I approach the topic from the perspective of the psychology of religion, sports psychology, as well as Judeo-Christian theological concepts regarding religious ritual. The numerous positive benefits of religious ritual over superstition within athletics lead to a final argument that religious ritual provides significant meaning to the lives of athletes in a way which superstition is simply unable.
Most of the leadership training that team captains receive at the collegiate level consists of either receiving a list of books or articles about leadership or a list of responsibilities that they must do with little or no guidance or instruction. Still others will focus on this reading and/or responsibilities with active discussion in the off-season, yet when it matters the most, during the competitive season, time spent on leadership instruction and follow-ups becomes an afterthought at best. Due to the supposed benefits of improved leadership for sport teams, a leadership development intervention program was developed and applied to two NCAA Division I teams who were successful enough to make it to the NCAA National Championships in their sport. Program effectiveness was determined by the teams meeting not only their seasonal goals but exceeding the primary objectives of the leadership development program set by the leadership consultant and coaching staffs, in addition to the favorable feedback provided by the team to the captains during/after the season, and semistructured interviews of the captains postseason.