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.
David Fletcher and Sheldon Hanton
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Daniel J. Brown, Rachel Arnold, Martyn Standage, and David Fletcher
Although considerable research exists on performers’ responses to sporting encounters, little is known about thriving in sport contexts. The current study examined if distinct response patterns existed between sport performers who thrived in competitive encounters compared with those who did not. Participants were 535 sport performers (134 women; Mage = 23.60 years, SDage = 8.08; Mcompeting = 11.84 years, SDcompeting = 7.11). Results of factor mixture analysis supported a four-profile solution comprising a thriving group (n = 146), a low-functioning group (n = 38), and two groups characterized by scores marginally above (n = 131) and below (n = 209) the sample mean. Profile membership was found to be predicted by personal enablers (viz., personal resilient qualities, psychological skills use) and process variables (viz., basic psychological need satisfaction and frustration, challenge appraisal). This examination of thriving in sport performers offers significant implications for research and practice.
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.
Fionnuala B. Barnes, David Fletcher, and Kacey C. Neely
The purpose of this study was to explore growth following the experience of stressors and compare the experiences of elite athletes who exhibit higher and lower levels of growth. Six elite athletes (five female and one male) participated in a semi-structured interview. Three athletes reported experiencing higher levels, and three athletes reported experiencing lower levels of growth. Interpretative phenomenological analysis revealed that understanding of self, development in athletic identity, and social support are key psychological mechanisms, which differentiate elite athletes who reported experiencing higher and lower levels of growth. Athletes higher in reported growth showed greater association with meaningful behavioral actions, ultimately reflecting the modification of previously held beliefs into a new worldview. Athletes lower in reported growth reflected an attempt to maintain beliefs into an already existing worldview, thus hindering growth. The findings show psychological mechanisms that accumulatively promote growth and provide a foundation for subsequent intervention studies.