This study used a single-blind, within-participant, counterbalanced, repeated-measures design to examine the relationship between emotional self-regulation and sport performance. Twenty competitive athletes completed four laboratory-based conditions; familiarization, control, emotion suppression, and nonsuppression. In each condition participants completed a 10-km cycling time trial requiring self-regulation. In the experimental conditions participants watched an upsetting video before performing the cycle task. When participants suppressed their emotional reactions to the video (suppression condition) they completed the cycling task slower, generated lower mean power outputs, and reached a lower maximum heart rate and perceived greater physical exertion than when they were given no self-regulation instructions during the video (nonsuppression condition) and received no video treatment (control condition). The findings suggest that emotional self-regulation resource impairment affects perceived exertion, pacing and sport performance and extends previous research examining the regulation of persistence on physical tasks. The results are discussed in line with relevant psychophysiological theories of self-regulation and fatigue and pertinent potential implications for practice regarding performance and well-being are suggested.
Emotion Regulation and Sport Performance
Christopher R. D. Wagstaff
An Exploration of Sport Psychology Professional Quality of Life in British Neophyte Practitioners
Daniel R.F. Martin, Alessandro Quartiroli, and Christopher R.D. Wagstaff
Scholars have noted the importance of helping professionals’ work experiences through the exploration of Professional Quality of Life. Due to the unique experiences of sport psychology professionals, a sport psychology specific equivalent of the construct, the Sport Psychology Professional Quality of Life (SP-PQL), has recently been developed based on the experience of senior and experienced sport psychology professionals, yet researchers have not accounted for the experiences of neophytes. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 14 neophyte sport psychology professionals with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of how they conceptualize, experience, and manage their SP-PQL. The data offer novel insights regarding neophyte’s conceptualizations of SP-PQL as well as the barriers and facilitators toward their SP-PQL. We conclude that greater emphasis on SP-PQL is required within British sport psychology development pathways, outlining considerations for educators, such as the provision of educational resources and curricula to better inform and support future neophyte’s SP-PQL.
“Caught in the Headlights”: A Reflective Account of the Challenges Faced by a Neophyte Practitioner Working With a National Squad
Barnaby Wren, Christopher R.D. Wagstaff, and Alessandro Quartiroli
This article provides a neophyte practitioner’s account of providing psychological support to a national team for the first time. The practitioner felt “caught in the headlights” due to his lack of preparation for the range of organizational issues he encountered. In this confessional tale, experiential knowledge gained by the practitioner is shared through the presentation of self-reflections from the 6-month period when he supported the squad. While the practitioner’s time with this national squad was limited, it gave him a sense of the micropolitical landscape of the sporting organization and illuminated some of the complexities and dilemmas that characterize applied sport psychology practice. These reflections are offered to guide other aspiring professionals during their initial training experiences.
“What if I Get Injured?”: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach for Fear of Injury With a Semielite Youth Snowboarder
David Price, Christopher R.D. Wagstaff, and Richard C. Thelwell
We outline the sport psychology service delivery provided to a 13-year-old male semielite youth Snowboarder, who reported experiencing a fear of injury when performing difficult tricks in training. The trainee practitioner used an approach informed by acceptance and commitment therapy that targeted the six core processes (acceptance, defusion, self-as-context, contact with the present moment, values, and committed action) to increase psychological flexibility. First, the acceptance and commitment therapy matrix was used to conceptualize the client’s “stuckness” and provide a foundation for mindfulness and defusion techniques to be implemented. Subsequently, the case reports how focus circles and “thanking the mind” exercises were introduced to increase the client’s contact with the present moment, and to cognitively defuse from the thought “What if I get injured?” Reflections from the client and their father were obtained to monitor and evaluate the service delivery process. The trainee’s reflections on practice also served to highlight the challenges of using acceptance and commitment therapy with a youth athlete, in particular the dominating “control” agenda, which in performance contexts, can be reinforced by the socially inferred narrative that athletes must control internal states as a prerequisite for optimal performance.
“Rocked by Racism”: A Confessional Tale From a Trainee Practitioner Following a Racism Scandal at an Elite Youth Soccer Academy
David Price, Christopher R.D. Wagstaff, and Alessandro Quartiroli
In this case study, we present a confessional tale that outlines the unique challenges and experiences of a trainee practitioner working in an elite youth soccer academy, during and following a racism scandal. We first locate our intersectional identities before contextualizing how the racism scandal emerged. Nested within the confessional tale is a series of critical reflections relating to the internal conflict between the trainee practitioner’s values, beliefs, and ethical obligations when working with released players who engaged in the racist behavior, confronting his Whiteness, White privileges, and experiences of White guilt and the lack of a culturally centered framework within the supervisee–supervisor relationship. While the trainee practitioner recognizes the significant work still required to become more culturally humble, we conclude by offering several applied recommendations to support others in developing a more culturally grounded practice framework.
Organizational Systems in British Sport and Their Impact on Athlete Development and Mental Health
Zoë A. Poucher, Katherine A. Tamminen, and Christopher R.D. Wagstaff
Sport organizations have been noted as pivotal to the success or failure of athletes, and sport environments can impact the well-being and development of athletes. In this study, the authors explored stakeholders’ perceptions of how high-performance sport organizations support athlete development. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 18 stakeholders from the United Kingdom’s high-performance sport system and transcripts were analyzed using a semantic thematic analysis. Participants emphasized the importance of performance lifestyle advisors, sport psychologists, and financial assistance for promoting athlete development. Several stakeholders observed that despite the extensive support available to athletes, many do not engage with available support, and the prevalence of a performance narrative has led to an environment that discourages holistic development. It follows that sport organizations could develop alternative strategies for promoting athletes’ access to and engagement with available supports, while funding agencies might broaden existing funding criteria to include well-being or athlete development targets.
Collective Emotions in Doubles Table Tennis
Alexander W.J. Freemantle, Lorenzo D. Stafford, Christopher R.D. Wagstaff, and Lucy Akehurst
Researchers have shown that the emotions that athletes experience during sporting competition can be transferred between team members to create collective team emotional states. Nevertheless, collective emotions have not yet been investigated for sporting dyads. In this study, the emotional experiences of 68 doubles table tennis players (34 dyads) were examined at three time points: precompetition, in-competition, and postcompetition. It was found that the intensity of each emotional state differed as a function of match situation (positive/negative). Moreover, in-competition anxiety, dejection, and anger were shown to predict poorer subjective performance, and anxiety was shown to negatively impact future objective athlete performance. Most pertinently, within-dyad emotional aggregation was identified for athlete in-competition happiness and dejection and for postcompetition happiness, dejection, and anger. These findings represent the first quantitative evidence of emotional convergence in sport dyads and provide support for the social functional theory of emotion in sport.
Improvement of 10-km Time-Trial Cycling With Motivational Self-Talk Compared With Neutral Self-Talk
Martin J. Barwood, Jo Corbett, Christopher R.D. Wagstaff, Dan McVeigh, and Richard C. Thelwell
Unpleasant physical sensations during maximal exercise may manifest themselves as negative cognitions that impair performance, alter pacing, and are linked to increased rating of perceived exertion (RPE). This study examined whether motivational self-talk (M-ST) could reduce RPE and change pacing strategy, thereby enhancing 10-km time-trial (TT) cycling performance in contrast to neutral self-talk (N-ST).
Fourteen men undertook 4 TTs, TT1–TT4. After TT2, participants were matched into groups based on TT2 completion time and underwent M-ST (n = 7) or N-ST (n = 7) after TT3. Performance, power output, RPE, and oxygen uptake (VO2) were compared across 1-km segments using ANOVA. Confidence intervals (95%CI) were calculated for performance data.
After TT3 (ie, before intervention), completion times were not different between groups (M-ST, 1120 ± 113 s; N-ST, 1150 ± 110 s). After M-ST, TT4 completion time was faster (1078 ± 96 s); the N-ST remained similar (1165 ± 111 s). The M-ST group achieved this through a higher power output and VO2 in TT4 (6th–10th km). RPE was unchanged. CI data indicated the likely true performance effect lay between 13- and 71-s improvement (TT4 vs TT3).
M-ST improved endurance performance and enabled a higher power output, whereas N-ST induced no change. The VO2 response matched the increase in power output, yet RPE was unchanged, thereby inferring a perceptual benefit through M-ST. The valence and content of self-talk are important determinants of the efficacy of this intervention. These findings are primarily discussed in the context of the psychobiological model of pacing.