The authors investigated the effects of a stress-management program on performance, mental rehearsal, attentional skills, and competitive anxiety. The subjects included 24 male and female, international-caliber gymnasts, matched into pairs and assigned to either an experimental or control group. Over an 8-month period, both groups completed attentional, competitive anxiety, and mental rehearsal inventories and received performance scores from competitions. The experimental group received a stress-management program, based upon Meichenbaum’s stress inoculation training. Compared with the control group, the experimental group demonstrated superior performance, mental rehearsal, and attentional skills. Competitive anxiety levels were significantly higher for the experimental group, perhaps due to an increase in facilitative rather than debilitative anxiety. Specific implications for optimizing athletic performance are discussed.
Gretchen Kerr and Larry Leith
Gretchen Kerr and Harold Minden
This study reports data regarding gymnastic injuries. Examined were the number, severity, and location of injuries, events associated with injury occurrence, relationship in time between occurrence and competition, and the perceptions of causes. In addition, this study investigated the relationships between the psychological factors of trait anxiety, locus of control, self-concept and stressful life events, and the occurrence of athletic injuries. The subjects were 41 elite female gymnasts and five national level coaches. There was a high rate of injury (83 %), primarily to the ankle region, with most injuries occurring during the floor exercise. The timing of injuries was related to the approach of competition. The data indicated that stressful life events were significantly related to both the number and severity of injuries. Significant relationships were not found between trait anxiety, locus of control, self-concept, and the injury measures.
Jenessa Banwell, Gretchen Kerr, and Ashley Stirling
Women remain underrepresented in the coaching domain across various levels of sport both in Canada and internationally. Despite the use of mentorship as a key strategy to support female coaches, little progress has been seen in achieving parity. At the same time, greater advances in gender equity have occurred in other non-sport sectors such as business, engineering, and medicine. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to learn from non-sport domains that have seen advances in gender equity to inform mentorship for women in coaching. A mixed-methods methodology was employed and consisted of distributing mentorship surveys to female coaches (n = 310) at various competitive levels, representing current (88%), former (12%), full-time (26%), part-time (74%), paid (54%), and unpaid (46%) coaching status. In addition, eight in-depth semi-structured interviews were also conducted with women in senior-level positions across various non-sport domains, including business (n = 1), media (n = 1), engineering (n = 2), higher education (n = 1), law (n = 1), and medicine (n = 2), regarding the role of mentorship in advancing women in their field. A descriptive and thematic analysis of the survey and interview data were conducted and findings are interpreted to suggest considerable variation in the characteristics of female coaches’ mentoring relationships, as well as the need to move beyond mentorship to sponsorship for advancing women in coaching. Recommendations for future research and advancing women in coaching are provided.
Gretchen Kerr, Anthony Battaglia, and Ashley Stirling
The recent, highly publicized cases of maltreatment of athletes have garnered critical attention by the public at large and stakeholders in sport, alike. For many, these cases threaten popular views that sport contributes in important ways to positive youth development. The growing evidence showing that maltreatment occurs to youth sport participants highlights the need for safe, harm-free sport environments as a fundamental prerequisite for positive developments to be reaped. By unpacking the case study of USA Gymnastics and Dr. Larry Nassar’s abuses in this paper, the authors show that for athlete maltreatment to occur and be sustained across so many victims and so many years, more than a perpetrator is needed. The nature of the environment, from the interpersonal level to organizational policies and societal influences, contributes to the occurrence and perpetuation of athlete maltreatment. Using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological-systems model, the authors argue for a systemic approach to preventing and addressing athlete maltreatment. Recommendations are posed for safeguarding youth athletes and fostering the sporting conditions in which positive youth development can occur.
Gretchen Kerr, Erin Willson, and Ashley Stirling
This study sought to explore the long-term effects of emotionally abusive coaching on female athletes. Although the long-term effects of childhood emotional abuse are well-documented in the child abuse literature, this question has not been explored empirically in the domain of sport, an environment in which emotionally abusive coaching practices are known to be common. In various prevalence studies of athlete maltreatment in sport internationally, emotional abuse is the most frequently experienced form and yet the long-term implications of these experiences are not well-understood. This study involved interviews of eight retired, elite, female Canadian National Team members. The findings revealed that athletes reportedly experienced different effects depending on whether they were in their competitive careers, in the retirement transition, or in post-transition life. All of the athletes required professional psychological assistance to help them recover from their emotionally abusive experiences; for some, this process continued for six years post-retirement. The effects described by the athletes resembled the symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder suggesting an important line of future research. Until coaching practices become abuse-free, these findings also indicate a clear need for the provision of psychological supports and resources for athletes during and post-athletic career.
Patricia S. Miller and Gretchen A. Kerr
This study examined the role experimentation of university student athletes using in-depth interviews. The results revealed participants’ role experimentation was limited to three spheres: athletic, academic, and social. Participants’ exploration of and commitment to roles revealed a two-stage model of identity formation. The first stage, Over-Identification with the Athlete Role, revealed a singular focus on athletics that persisted throughout much of the participants’ university careers. The second stage, Deferred Role Experimentation, reflected an increased investment in academic and social roles in the participants’ upper years. Results were consistent with previous findings of an athletic identity among intercollegiate student-athletes (Brewer, Van Raalte, & Linder, 1993), but supported Perna, Zaichkowsky, and Bocknek’s (1996) suggestion that identity foreclosure may have been overgeneralized.
Alexia Tam, Gretchen Kerr, and Ashley Stirling
Inspired by the #MeToo movement, women worldwide are coming forward to publicly share their accounts of sexual violence. These harmful experiences have been reported in a range of domains, including sport. As such, providing safe sport experiences for athletes is at the forefront of current discussions for all stakeholders in the sport environment, particularly coaches. Thus, the purpose of this research was to explore coaches’ perspectives of the #MeToo movement in sport and its influence on coaches’ practices and relationships with athletes. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 Canadian coaches, including male (n = 7) and female coaches (n = 5) from a variety of sports and competition environments. The study highlights that coaches expressed strong support for the #MeToo movement, while also noting an associated fear of false accusation. Coaches reflected on how the movement has impacted their coaching practices and relations with athletes and expressed a desire for greater professional development in this area. Implications include a need for greater coach education on safe touch, appropriate boundaries in the coach–athlete relationship, and clarifications regarding the process of investigating athletes’ accusations of sexual violence in order to alleviate coaches’ fears of being falsely accused.
Gretchen Kerr, Anthony Battaglia, Ashley Stirling, and Ahad Bandealy
The negative consequences associated with punishment, highlighted by researchers in the parenting and education domains, have stimulated a shift toward more developmentally appropriate methods of behavior modification. Despite the reported negative outcomes linked with punishment use, preliminary research in sport indicates that punishment, specifically in the form of exercise, remains a common strategy in this domain. The purpose of this study therefore was to explore interuniversity coaches’ perspectives on the use of exercise as punishment. Semistructured interviews with eight interuniversity coaches (four males and four females) were conducted. Data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. Participant accounts revealed that exercise as punishment was implemented frequently in a variety of forms (e.g., push-ups and sprints). Perceived benefits for the use of exercise as punishment, such as performance motivation and team cohesion, as well as suggested alternative methods of behavioral modification were also reported. Findings are interpreted in accordance with punishment, shaming, and coach education research. Recommendations for future research and practice are suggested.
Joseph J. Gurgis, Gretchen A. Kerr, and Ashley E. Stirling
Despite a significant number of coaches pursuing formal coach training through the National Coaching Certification Program in Canada each year, very few complete the entire certification process. The purpose of this study was to investigate the barriers and facilitators that influence Canadian coaches’ decisions to acquire coaching certification. A mixed-methods convergent parallel design was employed to address the research question. The participants included 1,518 certified and noncertified coaches across Canada who completed an online questionnaire identifying the barriers and facilitators to pursuing coaching certification; of this sample, 38 coaches participated in a follow-up telephone interview. Using the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, the findings suggest that most coaches reside in the precontemplation stage, in which they believe in and are thinking about certification, but have yet to engage in preparation. The barriers to pursuing certification included time, cost, tediousness of the process, and inaccessible evaluators, whereas the facilitators included enhanced knowledge and skills and improved coaching reputation. Future directions for increasing participation rates in the certification process include clearly identifying and broadly disseminating the benefits of acquiring certification, clarifying the criteria for evaluation, streamlining the certification process and incorporating online models, enhancing accessibility of evaluators, and incentivizing and rewarding certification.
Erica Berman, Mary Jane De Souza, and Gretchen Kerr
This study employed the method of qualitative exploration to examine the relationships between body image, exercise and eating behaviors. It also addressed a controversial question in the literature: Do weight and appearance concerns motivate physical activity participation or does participation in physical activity exacerbate weight and appearance concerns? Seven female recreational exercisers (ages 23 to 35) were interviewed about weight and appearance concerns, eating and exercise behaviors. All but one reported past or present disordered eating behaviors. While all of the women cited numerous physical and psychological benefits from physical activity, weight and appearance concerns were important motivators to exercise. For all participants, weight and appearance concerns as well as disordered eating problems led to the adoption of recreational fitness activities and not the reverse.