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Adversarial Growth in Olympic Swimmers: Constructive Reality or Illusory Self-Deception?

Karen Howells and David Fletcher

Previous research suggests that adversarial growth is a real and constructive phenomenon that occurs in athletes who compete at the highest level of sport. In this study, however, we adopt a critical stance on the veridicality of growth by exploring Olympic swimmers’ experience of constructive and illusory growth. Semistructured interviews, complemented by timelining, were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Despite the inherently negative aspects of adversity, it was evident from the swimmers’ interpretations that they also perceived positive consequences of their experiences. Analysis revealed that some of these positive outcomes were indicative of illusory aspects of growth, and other positive outcomes were more indicative of constructive aspects of growth. It appears that earlier phases of the growth process were characterized by more illusory aspects of growth, whereas when the temporal proximity from the adversity increased, more constructive aspects of growth were apparent.

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A Research Synthesis and Taxonomic Classification of the Organizational Stressors Encountered by Sport Performers

Rachel Arnold and David Fletcher

The purpose of this study was to synthesize the research that has identified the organizational stressors encountered by sport performers and develop a taxonomic classification of these environmental demands. This study used a meta-interpretation, which is an interpretive form of synthesis that is suited to topic areas employing primarily qualitative methods. Thirty-four studies (with a combined sample of 1809 participants) were analyzed using concurrent thematic and context analysis. The organizational stressors that emerged from the analysis numbered 1287, of which 640 were distinct stressors. The demands were abstracted into 31 subcategories, which were subsequently organized to form four categories: leadership and personnel, cultural and team, logistical and environmental, and performance and personal issues. This meta-interpretation with taxonomy provides the most accurate, comprehensive, and parsimonious classification of organizational stressors to date. The findings are valid, generalizable, and applicable to a large number of sport performers of various ages, genders, nationalities, sports, and standards.

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Sources of Organizational Stress in Elite Sports Performers

David Fletcher and Sheldon Hanton

This study extends recent research investigating organizational stress in elite sport. Fourteen international performers (7 men and 7 women) from a wide range of sports were interviewed with regard to potential sources of organizational stress. Consistent with Woodman and Hardy’s (2001a) theoretical framework of organizational stress in sport, four main categories were examined: environmental issues, personal issues, leadership issues, and team issues. The main environmental issues that emerged were selection, finances, training environment, accommodation, travel, and competition environment. The main personal issues were nutrition, injury, and goals and expectations. The main leadership issues were coaches and coaching styles. The main team issues were team atmosphere, support network, roles, and communication. The findings are discussed in relation to previous research and in terms of their implications for sport organizations and personnel working with elite performers.

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The Relationship between Organizational Stressors and Athlete Burnout in Soccer Players

Yusuke Tabei, David Fletcher, and Kate Goodger

This study investigated the relationship between organizational stressors in sport and athlete burnout and involved a cross-cultural comparison of English and Japanese soccer players. Ninety-eight male players completed the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire (Raedeke & Smith, 2001) to determine levels of perceived burnout. Based on data reported in previous research, and the thresholds developed by Hodge, Lonsdale, and Ng (2008), 22 of the players were identified as exhibiting higher levels of perceived burnout. Nine members of this subsample (4 English and 5 Japanese players) were subsequently interviewed to explore the relationship between their experiences of burnout and the organizational stressors they encountered. Results revealed multiple demands linked to the dimensions of athlete burnout and identified specific organizational-related issues that players associated with the incidence of burnout. Cultural differences between English and Japanese players in terms of the prevalence and organizational stressors associated with burnout were also identified, with the main differences being the relationship with senior teammates and the coaching style.

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Swimmers’ Experiences of Organizational Stress: Exploring the Role of Cognitive Appraisal and Coping Strategies

Faye F. Didymus and David Fletcher

This study investigated sport performers’ coping strategies in response to organizational stressors, examined the utility of Skinner, Edge, Altman, and Sherwood’s (2003) categorization of coping within a sport context, determined the short-term perceived effectiveness of the coping strategies used, and explored appraisal-coping associations. Thirteen national standard swimmers completed semistructured, interval-contingent diaries every day for 28 days. Results revealed 78 coping strategies, which supported 10 of Skinner et al.’s (2003) families of coping. Twenty-four different combinations of coping families were identified. The perceived most effective coping family used in isolation was self-reliance and in combination was escape and negotiation. Stressful appraisals were associated with varied coping strategies. The results highlight the complexity of coping and point to the importance of appraisal-coping associations. Skinner et al.’s (2003) categorization of coping provides a promising conceptual framework for the development of coping research in sport.

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Development and Validation of the Organizational Stressor Indicator for Sport Performers (OSI-SP)

Rachel Arnold, David Fletcher, and Kevin Daniels

The series of related studies reported here describe the development and validation of the Organizational Stressor Indicator for Sport Performers (OSI-SP). In Study 1, an expert and usability panel examined the content validity and applicability of an initial item pool. The resultant 96 items were analyzed with exploratory factor analyses in Study 2, with the factorial structure comprising 5 factors (viz., Goals and Development, Logistics and Operations, Team and Culture, Coaching, Selection) and 33 items. Using confirmatory factor analyses, Studies 3 and 4 found support for the 5-factor structure. Study 4 also provided evidence for the OSI-SP’s concurrent validity and invariance across different groups. The OSI-SP is proposed as a valid and reliable measure of the organizational stressors encountered by sport performers.

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Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Unhelpful Thinking Toward Body Image With an Elite Figure Skater

Samuel Wood and David Fletcher

We outline the sport psychology service delivery provided to a 23-year-old elite figure skater who reported unhelpful thoughts about her body image that hindered her performance and concentration in training. An acceptance and commitment therapy intervention was implemented over 12 sessions across a 6-month period. The acceptance and commitment therapy matrix was used to conceptualize the client’s “stuckness” and provide a foundation for the techniques implemented. The aim of our work was to increase psychological flexibility, helping the client sit with, rather than change or remove, her unhelpful thoughts, moving her toward the athlete she wanted to be. This case reports how psychological flexibility was achieved through exercises to help the client “unhook” from her unhelpful thoughts about body image. Reflections from the client were obtained to monitor and evaluate the service delivery process. The trainee’s reflections on practice highlight the unpredictability of presenting problems disclosed during service delivery, the isolating and challenging nature of working with elite athletes in private practice, and the need for practitioners to understand the theoretical orientations of their approach.

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Psychological Resilience’s Moderation of the Relationship Between the Frequency of Organizational Stressors and Burnout in Athletes and Coaches

Chris Wagstaff, Rebecca Hings, Rebecca Larner, and David Fletcher

This paper presents 2 studies examining the extent to which the frequency of encountered organizational stressors relates to burnout and whether qualities of psychological resilience moderate any such relationship. The studies were conducted with independent samples of athletes and coaches using a questionnaire design. In Study 1, 372 athletes completed measures of organizational stressors (Organizational Stressor Indicator for Sports Performers [OSI-SP]), resilience (Connor–Davidson Resilience Scale-10 [CD-RISC-10]), and burnout (Athlete Burnout Questionnaire). In Study 2, 91 coaches completed measures of organizational stressors (OSI-SP), resilience (CD-RISC-10), and burnout (Coach Burnout Questionnaire). Data were analyzed in a moderated regression model using Hayes’s PROCESS macro for SPSS and supported the hypotheses that the frequency of organizational stressors was directly related to burnout in both athletes and coaches and that psychological resilience moderated this relationship. These results highlight the influential role of organizational dynamics for athlete and coach well-being and indicate that psychological resilience is a salient individual difference variable that buffers against potential negative outcomes.

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Performance Leadership and Management in Elite Sport: A Black and White Issue or Different Shades of Grey?

Rachel Arnold, David Fletcher, and Jennifer A. Hobson

In this study, the authors interviewed Olympic athletes about their perceptions of their leaders and managers, with a particular focus on perceptions of negatively valenced and socially undesirable characteristics and their effects. The results highlight five main dark characteristics: self-focused, haughty self-belief, inauthentic, manipulative, and success-obsessed. The findings also indicate negative effects of such characteristics (viz., performance and career threats, affected confidence, pressure and anxiety, and a lack of support) and positive effects of such characteristics (viz., motivation, resilience and coping skills, opportunities, and learning and awareness). Hence, it appears that not only are leaders and managers’ personalities “different shades of grey” but also the effects they have are too. The findings are discussed in relation to previous pertinent research, and with regard to their implications for policy development and future research.

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Exploring the Daily Hassles of Neophyte Cycling Coaches

Samuel Wood, David Richardson, Simon J. Roberts, and David Fletcher

Sport coaching is increasingly acknowledged as a stressful activity, especially for those coaching in community contexts. This highlights the significant need to identify the diverse sources of key stressors. The aim of this research was to explore the recurrent stressors experienced by novice coaches to better inform their coping strategies and reduce the dropout rate caused by stress. The novelty of this research lies in its longitudinal exploration of the daily hassles experienced by community sport coaches within their coaching role. Ontologically and epistemologically positioned within the interpretivist paradigm, we interviewed eight recently qualified cycling coaches over an 18-month period. Reflective thematic analysis developed three themes highlighting sources of stress over time: at the start of their participation, coaches discussed the hassles of accessing facilities and struggling to fit in; toward the end of their participation, coaches discussed feeling isolated. Results from this study can better inform the education and support delivered by national governing bodies of sport across the community and club landscape and increase sport psychology practitioners’ awareness of the daily hassles experienced by coaches.