Individuals high in alexithymia use high-risk sport to regulate their anxiety. Given the conceptual similarities between arduous high-risk sports and extreme endurance running, we investigated the relationship between alexithymia and the anxiolytic effects of endurance running. We measured marathon and ultramarathon runners (n = 35) on alexithymia, and pre- and postrace anxiety. Bootstrapped regression analyses using MEMORE revealed that alexithymia moderated the relationship between pre- and postrace anxiety such that there was a significant anxiety reduction for individuals high in alexithymia only. In conclusion, extreme endurance running provides an emotion regulation function for individuals high in alexithymia. The modest sample size points to the need for replication and further exploration.
Alexithymia and the Anxiolytic Effect of Endurance Running
Tim Woodman and Charlotte Welch
The Philosophical Underpinning of Athlete Lifestyle Support: An Existential-Humanistic Perspective
Darren J. Devaney, Mark Stephen Nesti, Noora J. Ronkainen, Martin A. Littlewood, and David Richardson
This study aims to highlight how an existential-humanistic perspective can inform athlete support and in doing so, emphasize the importance of explicating the philosophical underpinnings of athlete lifestyle support. Drawing on applied experience with elite youth cricketers over a 12-month period, ethnographic data were collected through the observation, maintenance of case notes, and a practitioner reflective diary. Based on thematic analysis, we created three nonfictional vignettes that we use to illustrate how existential-humanistic theorizing can inform lifestyle support. We discuss the implications of this professional philosophy in terms of considerations for performance and talent development programs, and how holistic support for athletes is positioned. We also discuss implications for athlete lifestyle and performance psychology practitioners, with regard to training, underpinning theoretical grounding of support and the strategic positioning of their practitioner roles.
Differences in Body Appreciation and Functionality Appreciation Outside of and Directly Following Sport Among Collegiate Student-Athletes
Zachary A. Soulliard, Hannah F. Fitterman-Harris, Joanne E. Perry, Lindsey M. Poe, and Michael J. Ross
The present study examined differences in body appreciation and functionality appreciation between student-athletes and nonathletes. Additionally, the present study assessed differences in these constructs among female and male athletes outside of their sport and directly following participation in their sport. Seventy-five student-athletes and 211 nonathletes from a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I university completed online measures, including the State-Based Body Appreciation Scale and Functionality Appreciation Scale. Student-athletes completed the same measures following a sport practice. Student-athletes reported higher levels of body appreciation and functionality appreciation compared to nonathletes. No differences in body appreciation were found among student-athletes outside of their sport compared to directly following participation in their sport; however, student-athletes reported higher levels of functionality appreciation after their sport practice. Implications for coaches and athletic staff are discussed, including placing a greater emphasis on body functionality rather than specific body ideals.
Exploring Female University Athlete Experiences of Coping With Protracted Concussion Symptoms
Rebecca M. Steins, Gordon Bloom, and Jeffrey Caron
Concussions result in a multitude of somatic, cognitive, and/or emotional symptoms as well as physical and behavior changes and disturbances in balance, cognition, and sleep. Moreover, some concussed athletes can experience these symptoms, changes, and disturbances for extended periods of time. This qualitative study explored the coping skills used by five female university athletes who suffered persistent concussion symptoms for more than 6 weeks. Our analysis of the interview data indicated that the athletes used emotion-focused coping strategies, such as avoidance and acceptance, throughout their recovery. In addition, the lack of perceived control over their injuries, a lack of a symptom-specific treatment protocol, and the type of social support they received influenced their coping abilities. These results add to the limited, yet growing, body of literature on the psychology of sport-related concussions, particularly with respect to identifying the types of resources that athletes may use to cope and manage concussion symptoms.
From the Lesson Tee to the Course: A Naturalistic Investigation of Attentional Focus in Elite Golf
Steven Orr, Andrew Cruickshank, and Howie J. Carson
While debate continues on “optimal” attentional focus, little empirical knowledge exists on the way that attention is operationalized across training and performance in elite golf. Accordingly, this study aimed to (a) explore the attentional foci promoted or used by coaches and players for different types of shots in training, plus their underpinning rationale and (b) explore the attentional foci promoted or used by coaches and players in competition, plus their underpinning rationale. Our findings revealed that (a) various foci were used across training and competition; (b) all players used different combinations of foci across training and competition, and within different aspects of training itself (e.g., short vs. long game); and (c) players often used alternative or additional foci in training to those promoted by coaches, and self-generated foci for competition. These results highlight the complexity and practical reality that needs to underpin future advances in theory, research, and practice.
Journey From Control to Liberation: Exploring Student-Athletes’ Physical Activity Perceptions and Experiences in the Transition Out of Collegiate Sport
Erin J. Reifsteck, Jamian D. Newton, Melinda B. Smith, DeAnne Davis Brooks, and Shelby N. Anderson
There is growing interest in how athletes’ physical activity participation may be impacted when they transition out of competitive sport; however, few studies have examined the process of physical activity transitions in collegiate student-athletes using a qualitative approach. The purpose of our study was to explore student-athletes’ perceptions of, and experiences with, physical activity in the transition out of collegiate sport. Our analysis of transcripts from 13 focus groups conducted with current and former student-athletes (n = 59) suggests that student-athletes experienced a journey from control to liberation as they transitioned into their postcompetitive lives. In this exciting yet challenging transitional journey, participants were faced with navigating newfound autonomy over their physical activity outside of the controlled environment of collegiate sports and were considering the value and meaning of physical activity within a health promoting context. We offer practical recommendations from these findings to support student-athletes in this transition.
“Short and Sweet”: A Randomized Controlled Initial Investigation of Brief Online Psychological Interventions With Endurance Athletes
Carla Meijen, Alister McCormick, Paul A. Anstiss, and Samuele M. Marcora
There is potential in delivering brief, educational interventions online, particularly for recreational athletes. This initial investigation examined how two online interventions were perceived by endurance participants and how they affected outcomes of interest. After measuring self-efficacy, 142 people were randomized to one of three groups (self-talk, implementation intentions, and control) before an endurance event. Ninety-four completed postevent measures, which were self-efficacy, goal attainment, performance satisfaction, coping, stress appraisals, and social validity. The interventions involved approximately 10 min of initial engagement with online material. Perceptions of stress controllability were significantly higher in the implementation intention group compared with the control. There were no other statistically significant effects. Nevertheless, both intervention groups were satisfied with their interventions, found them useful, and were planning to continue using them. The findings demonstrate the feasibility and value of using brief, online psychological interventions, which may be timely in our changing profession, as COVID-19 has moved many interventions online.
Stress-Related Growth in Elite Sport Performers: Qualitative Differentiators in Psychosocial Mechanisms
Fionnuala B. Barnes, David Fletcher, and Kacey C. Neely
The purpose of this study was to explore growth following the experience of stressors and compare the experiences of elite athletes who exhibit higher and lower levels of growth. Six elite athletes (five female and one male) participated in a semi-structured interview. Three athletes reported experiencing higher levels, and three athletes reported experiencing lower levels of growth. Interpretative phenomenological analysis revealed that understanding of self, development in athletic identity, and social support are key psychological mechanisms, which differentiate elite athletes who reported experiencing higher and lower levels of growth. Athletes higher in reported growth showed greater association with meaningful behavioral actions, ultimately reflecting the modification of previously held beliefs into a new worldview. Athletes lower in reported growth reflected an attempt to maintain beliefs into an already existing worldview, thus hindering growth. The findings show psychological mechanisms that accumulatively promote growth and provide a foundation for subsequent intervention studies.
In Pursuit of Excellence: How to Win in Sport and Life Through Mental Training (5th Ed.)
Coaches’ Perceptions of Mental Toughness in Adolescent Athletes: A Phenomenological Exploration
Johannes Raabe, E. Earlynn Lauer, and Matthew P. Bejar
Mental toughness (MT) enables individuals to thrive in demanding situations; however, current conceptualizations of MT are primarily based on research with elite adult athletes. Thus, the purpose of the current study was to explore youth sport coaches’ perceptions of mentally tough adolescent athletes with whom they have worked. Phenomenological interviews were conducted with 14 youth sport coaches (nine men and five women). Using a hermeneutic process, a thematic structure comprising five themes was developed: (a) Youth athletes demonstrate their MT by overcoming various obstacles, (b) mentally tough youth athletes are highly self-determined with respect to their sport participation, (c) mentally tough youth athletes control their emotions in competition, (d) mentally tough youth athletes focus on aspects that facilitate their performance, and (e) mentally tough youth athletes are good teammates. These findings not only complement existing conceptualizations of MT but also highlight important distinctions in the manifestation of the construct in early to middle adolescents.