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An Investigation of the Social Support Experiences of High-Level Sports Performers

Tim Rees and Lew Hardy

Lack of consensus regarding the nature and conceptual definition of the social support construct has led to a plethora of different forms of measurement of this psychosocial variable, many with psychometric limitations. Beyond the psychometric limitations of some measures, in sport there is also a need for measures to be relevant to the specific experiences of sports performers. In order to gain a greater understanding of the social support experiences of sports people, 10 high-level sports performers were interviewed regarding their experiences of social support. Principles of the grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) approach were adopted for analysis of their responses and insights. Four dimensions of support were generated, within each of which were comments relating to sport-specific support and comments relating to support not directly concerning the sport itself. The dimensions were labeled emotional, esteem, informational, and tangible. Example quotes are given to highlight each dimension of support, and implications for intervention are derived.

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Social Support and Performance in a Golf-Putting Experiment

Tim Rees and Paul Freeman

This study examined the impact of a social support manipulation on performance. Participants with high and low levels of perceived support were randomly assigned to an experimental support or control condition, before completing a golf-putting task. Participants with high levels of perceived support performed at a higher level than those with low levels of perceived support. Participants in the support condition performed at a higher level than those in the control condition. A significant interaction was primarily attributable to the low perceived support participants in the support condition performing better than the low perceived support participants in the control condition. Participants in the support condition also experienced less frequent and distracting task-irrelevant thoughts compared with those in the control condition. These results suggest that experimentally manipulated support may lead to improvements in the performance of novices completing a golf-putting task, and that such support may be particularly important for those low in perceived support.

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The Influence of Social Support on the Lived Experiences of Spinal Cord Injured Sportsmen

Tim Rees, Brett Smith, and Andrew C. Sparkes

This study draws upon life history data to investigate the influence of social support on the lives of 6 men who had acquired a spinal cord injury and become disabled through playing sport. Interviews were analyzed utilizing categorical-content analysis (Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998). The participants experienced emotional, esteem, informational, and tangible support (Rees & Hardy, 2000) from various sources. Alongside the positive influence of social support, examples are shown of inappropriate or negatively-experienced support and where participants considered sport to be lacking. The spinal cord injured person is encouraged to be proactive in resourcing social support, but providers might also be taught to recognize the impact, either positively or negatively, that their giving support can have.