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Gretchen Kerr and Larry Leith

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Zoë A. Poucher, Katherine A. Tamminen and Gretchen Kerr

Support providers may experience positive and negative outcomes associated with supporting others. However, there is a lack of research on support provision to elite athletes and the views of athletes’ support providers. This study addressed this gap by exploring the experiences of providing and receiving support between female Olympians and their main support providers. Five female Olympians and their main support providers participated in separate semistructured interviews. It appeared that support provision was personally and professionally rewarding, as well as challenging, for support providers, and athletes were generally satisfied with the support they received. Athletes appeared highly dependent on their support providers, but both athletes and support providers felt that high levels of support were necessary for athletic success. Further research is needed to understand how support providers are able to foster their own personally supportive relationships and whether high levels of interpersonal dependence are required to achieve athletic success.