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Sport Psychology Consultants’ Views on Working With Perfectionistic Elite Athletes

Ellinor Klockare, Luke F. Olsson, Henrik Gustafsson, Carolina Lundqvist, and Andrew P. Hill

The purpose of this study was to explore the views and experiences of sport psychology consultants who have worked with perfectionistic elite athletes and, particularly, their views on the use of cognitive behavioral therapy. Semistructured interviews were conducted with four professional sport psychology consultants who identified themselves as having experience of working with athletes they consider to be perfectionistic. Two themes were generated: manifestations of perfectionism and management of perfectionism. The consultants found perfectionistic athletes to have rigid attitudes and strong negative emotional experiences, to use safety behaviors, and to regularly underperform. Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques such as mindfulness, cognitive restructuring, and psychological skills training were most commonly used and were largely viewed as effective against a backdrop of sporting environment that could often encourage athletes to be perfectionistic. The findings highlight the complexity of perfectionism from a consultancy perspective and the potential challenges associated with working with perfectionistic athletes.

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The Prevalence of Emotional Exhaustion in Professional and Semiprofessional Coaches

Erik Lundkvist, Henrik Gustafsson, Daniel Madigan, Sören Hjälm, and Anton Kalén

The present study examined levels of emotional exhaustion, a key symptom of burnout, in Swedish professional and semiprofessional sport coaches in comparison to the normative values specified in the Maslach Burnout Inventory manual, and to the clinical cutoffs developed by Kleijweg, Verbraak, and Van Dijk. The sample contained 318 Swedish coaches (M age = 42.7 years, 12% female) working at least 50% full time away from both team (60%) and individual (40%) sports. Our study shows that, in general, coaches in this sample experience lower average levels of exhaustion than normative samples both regarding the Maslach Burnout Inventory and clinical cutoffs. Two groups of coaches did, however, stand out. Coaches living in single households as well as coaches working part time had higher risk of severe levels of emotional exhaustion. These results place coach exhaustion levels in relation to other occupations and highlight that in this sample, the coaching profession does not stand out as more emotionally exhausting than other occupations.

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Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Associations Between Athlete Burnout, Insomnia, and Polysomnographic Indices in Young Elite Athletes

Markus Gerber, Simon Best, Fabienne Meerstetter, Sandrine Isoard-Gautheur, Henrik Gustafsson, Renzo Bianchi, Daniel J. Madigan, Flora Colledge, Sebastian Ludyga, Edith Holsboer-Trachsler, and Serge Brand

Few studies have examined the association between sleep and burnout symptoms in elite athletes. We recruited 257 young elite athletes (M age = 16.8 years) from Swiss Olympic partner schools. Of these, 197 were reassessed 6 months later. Based on the first assessment, 24 participants with clinically relevant burnout symptoms volunteered to participate in a polysomnographic examination and were compared with 26 (matched) healthy controls. Between 12% and 14% of young elite athletes reported burnout symptoms of potential clinical relevance, whereas 4–11% reported clinically relevant insomnia symptoms. Athletes with clinically relevant burnout symptoms reported significantly more insomnia symptoms, more dysfunctional sleep-related cognitions, and spent less time in bed during weeknights (p < .05). However, no significant differences were found for objective sleep parameters. A cross-lagged panel analysis showed that burnout positively predicted self-reported insomnia symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral interventions to treat dysfunctional sleep-related cognitions might be a promising measure to reduce subjective sleep complaints among young elite athletes.

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Perspectives on the Future of Burnout in Sport

Daniel J. Madigan, Henrik Gustafsson, Andrew P. Hill, Kathleen T. Mellano, Christine E. Pacewicz, Thomas D. Raedeke, and Alan L. Smith

The present editorial provides a series of perspectives on the future of burnout in sport. Specifically, for the first time, seven burnout researchers have offered their opinions and suggestions for how, as a field, we can progress our understanding of this important topic. A broad range of ideas are discussed, including the relevance of the social context, the value of theory and collaboration, and the use of public health frameworks in future work. It is hoped that these perspectives will help stimulate debate, reinforce and renew priorities, and guide research in this area over the coming years.