The psychological environment where sporting activity is undertaken has been suggested to influence performance. The coach orchestrates practice activities and their perception of the psychological environment has been regularly evaluated in competition research but not in practice. The aim of this study was to explore coach perceptions of the psychological influencing factors present in the practice environment. Participants were six U.K. academy basketball coaches (mean age = 35 years). Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Five superordinate themes were constructed from data analysis, which were player characteristics, team-first orientation, current performance perceptions, coach characteristics, and coaching structure. Results suggest that the coach has a unique insight into the psychological influencing factors of the practice environment. Combined with the practice environment framework offered by Smith, Cotterill, and Brown, a model is offered to aid practitioners in understanding the interrelatedness of psychological influencing factors in the practice environment.
Steve M. Smith, Stewart T. Cotterill, and Hazel Brown
Jamie Taylor and Dave Collins
There appears to be general agreement that interaction with significant challenge should be a central feature of the development pathways for future high performers. There is, however, far less clarity about how such programs should be designed and delivered against core psychological principles. Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to offer guidelines for talent development practitioners seeking to offer athletes the opportunity to maximize their growth and development. The authors propose that genuinely developmental experiences will likely offer a level of emotional disturbance and, as a result, more fully engage performers, prompting self and other facilitated reflection, and motivate future action. Furthermore, there is a necessity for these experiences and their follow-up, to be managed in a coherent manner and integrated with existing skills, experience, and future performance aims. In highlighting these issues, the authors offer recommendations for talent development coaches, managers, psychologists, and parents of athletes.
Anita Navin, Don Vinson, Alison Croad, Jennifer Turnnidge, and Jean Côté
This Participatory and Appreciative Action and Reflection (PAAR) investigation illustrates a leader’s first steps in a “values-to-action” journey. Drawing on the interface between transformational leadership and organizational culture, this study focused on the birth of the Severn Stars—a professional netball club in the United Kingdom. In particular, this PAAR investigation explored how the leader’s values were operationalized through the club’s inaugural year. Fourteen operational managers, coaches, and players were individually interviewed in order to gain an appreciative gaze and subsequently reframe their lived experience. Results demonstrated how transformational leadership was manifested through the pragmatic deployment of club values and how the organizational culture was, in part, characterized by individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, idealized influence, and inspirational motivation. These behaviors and the organizational culture were shown to enhance prosocial relationships and social connections across the club, the influence of the Super Stars, and stakeholders’ perceptions of autonomy.
Johannes Raabe, Andrew D. Bass, Lauren K. McHenry, and Rebecca A. Zakrajsek
Approximately 90% of players in Minor League Baseball will be released at some point in their career. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore the role of individuals’ basic psychological needs during the release from professional baseball and throughout their subsequent transition to a new career. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 former Minor League Baseball players. Thematic analysis generated four themes: (a) The release resulted in immediate but temporary basic psychological need thwarting, (b) the “liberating experience” of the release allowed individuals to perceive autonomy in the transition out of affiliated baseball, (c) perceptions of competence served as the foundation for a positive transition to a new career, and (d) meaningful connections fostered individuals’ perception of relatedness in the transition out of affiliated baseball. The findings suggest that need fulfillment might act as a buffer between potential stressors in the transition process and athletes’ cognitive, emotional, and behavioral response.
Alessandro Quartiroli, Justine Vosloo, Leslee Fisher, and Robert Schinke
Cultural competence, identified as the ability to understand other cultures and being aware of one’s own cultural assumptions, has been found to be important for sport psychology professionals (SPPs). In the current study, one of a few exploring the SPPs’ own perceived cultural competence, a sample of 203 SPPs completed an online survey examining the perceptions of their own levels of cultural competence. Most participants reported receiving formal training in cultural competence. However, this training was perceived as only moderately effective and only able to predict the reported level of the SPPs’ perceived cultural competence in a limited way. These results could be attributed to the reported lack of support for SPPs engaging in culturally centered self-reflective practice and to the limited role that these factors have played in training programs. Additional findings are described and discussed, along with recommendations for professional development and applied training.
Sarah P. McLean, Christine M. Habeeb, Pete Coffee, and Robert C. Eklund
Efficacy beliefs and communication are key constructs that have been targeted to develop task cohesion. This study’s purpose was to (a) examine whether collective efficacy, team-focused other-efficacy, and team-focused relation-inferred self-efficacy are predictive of task cohesion and (b) evaluate the possibility that communication mediates efficacy–task cohesion relationships. British university team-sport athletes (N = 250) completed questionnaires assessing efficacy beliefs, communication (i.e., positive conflict, negative conflict, and acceptance communication), and task cohesion (i.e., attractions to group, group integration). Data were subjected to a multigroup path analysis to test mediation hypotheses while also addressing potential differences across males and females. Across all athletes, collective efficacy and team-focused other-efficacy significantly predicted attractions to group and group integration directly. Positive conflict and acceptance communication significantly mediated relationships between efficacy (team-focused other-efficacy, collective efficacy) and cohesion (attractions to group, group integration). Findings suggest that enhancing athletes’ collective efficacy and team-focused efficacy beliefs will encourage communication factors affecting task cohesion.
Kendra Nelson Ferguson and Craig Hall
Biofeedback is among the various self-regulation techniques that mental performance consultants can utilize in their practice with athletes. Biofeedback produces psychophysiological assessments in real time to enhance awareness of thoughts and emotions. Quantitatively, research shows that biofeedback can facilitate self-regulation, allowing an athlete to gain control over psychophysiological responses that could be detrimental to performance. With technology becoming a widespread tool in monitoring psychophysiological states, an exploration of consultants’ use of biofeedback, their perceptions of effectiveness, and limitations of their use was warranted to qualitatively evaluate efficiency of the tool. A qualitative descriptive approach was taken through semistructured interviews with 10 mental performance consultants. Inductive reasoning uncovered three themes: positive implications, practical limitations, and equipment options. With biofeedback, athletes have the ability to develop a deeper level of self-awareness and thereby facilitate the use of self-regulation strategies intended for optimal performance states and outcomes.
Mental toughness is a factor related to performance, better coping, and increased confidence. There has been a growing trend toward assessing mental toughness behaviorally. The purpose of this paper was to develop a behavioral assessment of mental toughness in volleyball. Following a five-stage process to develop a systematic observation instrument, the current study identified 10 mental toughness behaviors in volleyball, specifically, six behaviors occurring during a play and four behaviors after a play (i.e., when a point is scored from the opposing team). Furthermore, eight behaviors represent mentally tough actions, while two behaviors represent mentally weak actions. The results indicate that the behavioral checklist is a reliable systematic observation instrument. Coaches and certified mental performance consultants can benefit from using this checklist by discussing mental toughness and behaviors corresponding to mental toughness during game play, and then have a quantifiable way to track behaviors with individuals and volleyball teams.
Rachel A. Van Woezik, Alex J. Benson, and Mark W. Bruner
Injuries are commonplace in high-intensity sport, and research has explored how athletes are psychologically affected by such events. As injuries carry implications for the group environment in sport teams, the authors explored what occurs within a team during a time period of injury from a coach perspective and how high-performance coaches manage a group at this time. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 Canadian university basketball head coaches. Thematic analysis revealed four high-order themes in relation to how coaches managed group dynamics from the moment of the injury event to an athlete’s reintegration into the lineup. Strategies to mitigate the negative effects of injury on the group environment while prioritizing athlete well-being involved remaining stoic at the time of an injury event, maintaining the injured athlete’s sense of connection to the team, and coordinating with support staff throughout the recovery and reintegration process.