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Natalia B. Stambulova

This article deals with the psychological description of the sports career, including the history of the topic in Russian sport psychology before and during perestroika, two theoretical models of the sports career (synthetic and analytic), and conclusions drawn from the empirical research of sports careers of more than 200 Russian athletes representing different sports specializations and levels of achievement. Seven predictable crises of elite sports careers are considered from the perspective of typical problems and difficulties of athletes in each crisis, general symptoms and possible circumstances that reinforce crisis symptoms, ways to resolve a crisis, the influence of a crisis on sport performance, forms of “payment” for failure to resolve crises, and ways of providing psychological assistance to athletes in crisis periods of the sports career.

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Ole Winthereik Mathorne, Natalia Stambulova, and Kristoffer Henriksen

The overall aim of this paper is to share our experiences in development, implementation, and evaluation of an intervention designed for establishing interorganizational collaboration in talent development between a Danish sports club, a municipality, and a federation. Yet, despite a neat plan, we faced several challenges in what turned out to be a less successful intervention. The account is based on the first author’s field notes, informal interviews, and intervention debriefings. The professional philosophy of the research team was informed by the holistic ecological approach and an empowerment approach. We used the pyramid model for optimizing interorganizational collaboration in talent development as a framework to design and guide the 7-month intervention that included four workshops covering (a) initiation: building relationships; (b) exploration: foundation for the shared philosophy; (c) clarification: negotiating values and strategy; and (d) implementation: from talk to action. However, challenges (e.g., resignations of key stakeholders) led to program adjustments and, ultimately, termination. This paper shows the nuances of a less successful intervention, which can help practitioners plan and carry out better interventions in the future. Despite the challenges faced here, we still deem the pyramid model for optimizing interorganizational collaboration in talent development a valuable framework for practitioners working at an interorganizational level.

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Yuri L. Hanin and Natalia B. Stambulova

This study examined feeling states prior to, during, and after best ever and worst ever competition in 85 skilled Russian athletes using metaphor-generation method (Hanin, 2000). Six situations elicited 510 idiosyncratic and functionally meaningful metaphors (67% animate and 33% inanimate agents) and 922 interpretative descriptors. Metaphors and descriptors reflected high action readiness in best ever competition and low action readiness in worst ever competition. Athletes used different metaphors to describe their feelings prior to, during, and after performance. Accompanying idiosyncratic descriptors had multiple connotations with different components of psychobiosocial state. Aggregated content of descriptors had high scores on optimal and low scores on dysfunctional state characteristics in best ever competition but not in worst ever competition. Future research directions and practical implications are suggested.

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Kristoffer Henriksen, Natalia Stambulova, and Kirsten Kaya Roessler

The holistic ecological approach to talent development in sport highlights the central role of the overall environment as it affects a prospective elite athlete. This paper examines a flat-water kayak environment in Norway with a history of successfully producing top-level senior athletes from among its juniors. Principal methods of data collection include interviews, participant observations of daily life in the environment and analysis of documents. The environment was centered around the relationship between prospects and a community of elite athletes, officially organized as a school team but helping the athletes to focus on their sport goals, teaching the athletes to be autonomous and responsible for their own training, and perceived as very integrated due to a strong and cohesive organizational culture. We argue that the holistic ecological approach opens new venues in talent development research and holds the potential to change how sport psychology practitioners work with prospective elite athletes.

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Ole Winthereik Mathorne, Kristoffer Henriksen, and Natalia Stambulova

This case study in Danish swimming was informed by a holistic ecological approach in talent development and aimed to explore (a) collaborative relationships between the Danish swimming federation, a municipality, and a local swimming club, termed “an organizational triangle,” and (b) factors influencing the success of their collaboration at the local level. Data collection and analysis were guided by the athletic-talent-development-environment (working) model and a newly developed collaboration-success-factors (CSF) model. Methods included interviews with talent-development coordinators representing the organizations and analysis of documents. Results allowed the authors to transform the CSF (working) model into an empirical model containing the collaboration preconditions (e.g., power to make decisions), processes (e.g., strategic planning), and initiatives (e.g., efficient use of the swimming pool) and shared assumptions of the talent-development philosophy (e.g., long-term focus). The success of this organizational triangle was visible in the way the organizations increased the quality of talent development in the local swimming club.

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Michaela Elisabeth Karlsson, Natalia B. Stambulova, and Kristoffer Henriksen

This case study is guided by the holistic ecological approach and aimed at (a) providing a holistic description of an athletic talent development environment using a table tennis club in Sweden as a case study and (b) examining the factors perceived as influential to the effectiveness of the club’s talent development. The holistic ecological approach’s two working models informed the data collection (through interviews, observation, and analysis of documents) and were subsequently transformed into empirical models, acting as a summary of the case. Findings revealed that the environment’s success in talent development can be seen as an outcome of the following key features: (a) flexible and supportive training groups, (b) opportunities to learn from senior elite athletes, (c) support through the club and sport-friendly schools, (d) support of the development of psychosocial skills, (e) regular and intensive training, (f) focus on long-term development and athletes as whole persons, (g) strong and coherent organizational culture centered around the basic assumption, “we are a community of committed members,” and (h) integrated efforts among the club and sport-friendly schools to support athletes’ development. This case study can inform other athletic talent development environments on how to optimize talent development processes.

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Johan Ekengren, Natalia Stambulova, Urban Johnson, Andreas Ivarsson, and Robert J. Schinke

In this paper, the authors share how a career assistance program was developed, implemented, and evaluated with a Swedish elite handball team. Within this case study, the initial version of the career assistance program’s content was created based on the career-long psychological support services in a Swedish handball framework and the first author’s applied experiences. During implementation, the head coach was terminated unexpectedly, and the team appeared in a crisis. This transitional situation led to modification of the career assistance program to help the players cope with changes. Eighteen players took part in eight workshops dealing with various aspects of their sport and nonsport life (e.g., performance, training, lifestyle, recovery, and future planning) with crisis-related issues (e.g., coping with uncertainty) incorporated. Mixed-methods evaluation revealed the players’ perceived increase in personal resources (awareness and skills) and decrease in stress and fatigue. Reflections on working in applied sport psychology from a holistic perspective in a dynamic real-life setting are provided.

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Michelle Seanor, Robert J. Schinke, Natalia B. Stambulova, Kristoffer Henriksen, Dave Ross, and Cole Giffin

Olympic-medal performances represent peak accomplishments in athlete development. Seanor, Schinke, Stambulova, Ross, and Kpazai identified environmental factors in a high-performance Canadian trampoline sport environment that developed decorated Olympic medalists. The current intrinsic case study was authored to further highlight the idiosyncrasies of a high-performance trampoline environment (re)presenting stories garnered from this localized Canadian sport environment. Through guided walks, a mobile method of conversational interviews, three contextual experts who are engaged in the development of Olympic athletes provided tours of their sport environment. Each contextual expert’s guided walk played out uniquely in relation to his or her ascribed role (i.e., Olympic coach, assistant coach, and Olympic champion). Three main themes were identified through interpretive thematic analysis: creating lift (subthemes: facility design, sport-culture paragons), providing a tailwind (subthemes: establishing athlete–coach partnerships, team interactions), and soaring onto the Olympic podium (subthemes: preparing athletes to be untethered, competitive collaboration). Each theme is presented through three portrait vignettes, with discrete vantages derived from each contextual expert to illuminate the context from idiosyncratic ascribed roles within the environment. These stories create a rich (re)presentation of a high-performance sport environment through the interplay of the contextual experts’ narratives, their surrounding context, and their Olympic-podium accomplishments.

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Lukas Linnér, Natalia Stambulova, Louise Kamuk Storm, Andreas Kuettel, and Kristoffer Henriksen

This case study of a dual career development environment (DCDE) was informed by the holistic ecological approach (HEA) and aimed at (a) providing a holistic description of a DCDE at university level in Sweden and (b) investigating the perceived factors influencing the environment’s effectiveness in facilitating the development of student-athletes. The authors blended in situ observations, interviews, and document analysis to explore the case, and HEA-informed working models were transformed into empirical models summarizing the case. Findings show a well-coordinated DCDE with the key role of coaches in daily dual career support and how efforts were integrated through a dual career-support team sharing a philosophy of facilitating healthy performance development and life balance, with a whole-person and empowerment approach. This study adds to the literature by identifying features of a successful DCDE, and insights from the case can be useful for practitioners in their quest to optimize their DCDEs and support.

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Kristoffer Henriksen, Louise Kamuk Storm, Natalia Stambulova, Nicklas Pyrdol, and Carsten Hvid Larsen

This study is focused on reflections of expert sport psychology practitioners about their interventions with competitive youth and senior elite athletes. Two objectives include: (1) to identify key structural components used by practitioners to describe sport psychology interventions and integrate them into an empirical framework, and (2) to analyze the practitioners’ experiences in regard of their successful and less successful interventions in competitive youth and elite senior sport contexts using the empirical framework. We conducted semi-structured interviews with twelve internationally recognized sport psychology practitioners (SPPs) and analyzed the data thematically. The empirical framework derived from the SPPs’ accounts contains eight structural components integrated into two categories: (1) the content and focus (with three components, e.g., adaptation of content), and (2) the organization and delivery of interventions (with five components, e.g., initiation and assessment of athletes’ needs). Using the empirical framework we found differences between successful and less successful interventions and between youth and senior contexts in terms of needs assessment, adaptation and breadth of content, athlete-practitioner relationship, and intervention settings. The empirical framework might inform SPPs in their efforts to design, implement, and evaluate their services in these two contexts.