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Mental Qualities and Techniques in Tactical Populations: A Systematic Review

Johannes Raabe, Elmer Castillo, and Johannes Carl

Although applied sport psychology services have traditionally been provided in athletic settings, there has been a trend toward a more general application across different performance domains and, in particular, with tactical populations (i.e., military, law enforcement, and firefighters). The purpose of the current study was to systematically review the existing research on mental qualities and techniques in tactical populations. A database search revealed 7,220 potentially relevant articles, which were screened by two independent reviewers based on predefined inclusion criteria. This systematic screening process helped to identify 49 articles for further analysis. The findings highlight the benefits of developing mental qualities and techniques among tactical populations, as they can help to nurture a range of positive cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes. Yet, this review also indicates gaps and limitations that need to be addressed in future research to gain a better understanding of the antecedents, mediators, and consequences of these psychological constructs.

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The Effectiveness of Autonomy Support Interventions With Physical Education Teachers and Youth Sport Coaches: A Systematic Review

Johannes Raabe, Katrin Schmidt, Johannes Carl, and Oliver Höner

Researchers consider motivation a key determinant of physical activity. In physical education (PE) and youth sport, the more children and adolescents evaluate their teachers and coaches to be autonomy supportive, as opposed to controlling, the more self-determined they are in their motivation. Therefore, it appears valuable to help PE teachers and youth sport coaches optimize their interactions with the individuals they work with. This study was designed to systematically review the literature related to autonomy support interventions with PE teachers and youth sport coaches. After relevant databases were searched and duplicates were removed, 1,523 potentially pertinent articles were found. These were subsequently screened based on specific inclusion criteria. This systematic review process helped identify 21 studies that were included for further analyses. Overall, the interventions were frequently successful in enhancing PE teachers’ and youth sport coaches’ behavior. Additional research appears justified to foster self-determined motivation among children and adolescence.

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Real-World Experiences of the Coaching Pathos: Orchestration of NCAA Division I Sport

Tucker Readdy, Rebecca Zakrajsek, and Johannes Raabe

Sport coaching is marked by a pathos created by limited control and limited awareness, contradictory beliefs, and novelty. Still, coaches can enhance the likelihood of optimal outcomes through orchestration, a process marked by unobtrusive, flexible actions that enhance athletes’ ability to work toward competitive goals (Jones & Wallace, 2005). This research sought to create a detailed understanding of pathos and orchestration in collegiate coaching. Participants were 10 head coaches from National Collegiate Athletic Association universities. Analysis of semistructured interviews produced four themes: (a) true control is limited but attempted control is extensive, (b) orchestration strategies are varied in context and method, (c) relationships enhance the effectiveness of the orchestration process, and (d) planning the next step allows for relative stability in the pathos. These results expand our understanding of pathos and orchestration, suggesting the concepts have promise in educating coaches about sources of adversity and the means to mitigate them.

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Phenomenological Consulting: Long-Term Mental Training With an Elite College Football Place Kicker

Craig A. Wrisberg and Johannes Raabe

This case study depicts the approach taken by a sport psychology consultant who worked with an elite college football place kicker from the beginning of the individual’s freshman year to the end of his senior competitive season. The player expressed an interest in adding mental training to his conventional practice habits to manage the mental and emotional demands he expected to face throughout his career at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I level. The consultant used an approach rooted in the philosophy of existential phenomenology, referred to as phenomenological consulting. The effectiveness of interventions was determined by the player’s description of his experience and reflections of the consultant. The present study represents an example of the benefits athletes might derive from a phenomenological approach to long-term performance consulting.

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An Exploration of National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Assistant Coaches’ Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Frustration

Johannes Raabe, Kim Tolentino, and Tucker Readdy

According to basic psychological needs theory, the quality of individuals’ cognition, affect, and behavior is determined by their perceptions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The purpose of this study was to investigate National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I assistant coaches’ basic psychological need satisfaction and frustration and the respective influence of the behavior of the head coach for whom they work on those perceptions. A total of N = 445 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I assistant coaches (191 women and 254 men; M age = 34.9 ± 9.6 years) participated in the research. Participants reported relatively high levels of both satisfaction and frustration (i.e., compared with previous research) for all three basic psychological needs. A structural equation model (root mean square error of approximation = .06; comparative fit index = .95; Tucker–Lewis index = .95; standardized root mean square residual = .04) indicated that participants’ need satisfaction was significantly associated with the degree to which they perceived their head coaches to engage in need-supportive, need-thwarting, and need-indifferent behavior. Similarly, perceived need-supportive and need-thwarting behavior was also related with assistant coaches’ sense of need frustration. Findings highlight not only the importance of head coaches in shaping assistant coaches’ psychological functioning but also multiple important avenues for future research.

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“No Days Off”: Using Self-Determination Theory to Better Understand Workaholism in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Coaches

Kim Tolentino, Tucker Readdy, and Johannes Raabe

Workaholism (i.e., working excessively and compulsively) is associated with negative physical, psychological, and social consequences. Researchers have previously examined antecedents of workaholism, but the experiences of sport coaches have not yet been investigated. This study explored (a) differences in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I coaches’ workaholism, as well as need satisfaction and frustration based on gender, coaching role, gender of athletes coached, age, and years of coaching experience; and (b) how coaches’ perceptions of their three basic psychological needs are associated with tendencies to work excessively and compulsively. A total of 873 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I coaches participated in the research. Data analyses revealed significant differences in participants’ workaholism as well as need satisfaction and frustration. Structural equation modeling indicated a significant relationship between reported levels of workaholism and perceptions of the three needs. Findings illustrate the importance of basic psychological needs in preventing coaches’ workaholism and maintain optimal functioning.

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National Collegiate Athletic Association Coaches’ Beliefs Toward Seeking Mental Health Services for Themselves: Instrument Validation and Exploratory Investigation

Kim Tolentino and Johannes Raabe

While the environment in which National Collegiate Athletic Association coaches operate makes them susceptible to mental health issues, many do not seek professional help. The Reasoned Action Approach posits that attitudes, perceived behavioral control, and perceived norms shape intentions for help-seeking behaviors. This study was designed to: (a) validate two commonly utilized instruments measuring psychological help-seeking beliefs for use with National Collegiate Athletic Association coaches; (b) assess coaches’ attitudes, perceived behavioral control, and perceived norms toward seeking mental health services for themselves; and (c) examine differences in beliefs based on gender, race, coaching role, age, and coaching experience. N = 1,424 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I, II, and III coaches participated. Confirmatory factor analyses indicated the Inventory of Attitudes Toward Seeking Mental Health Services provides valid and reliable measurements for participants’ beliefs toward seeking services for themselves. Participants reported moderately positive attitudes, perceived behavioral control, and perceived norms. Male coaches indicated significantly lower positive beliefs than female coaches.

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Coaches’ Use of Need-Supportive and Need-Thwarting Behaviors Across the Developmental Continuum: A Qualitative Investigation in Figure Skating

Diane Benish, Tucker Readdy, and Johannes Raabe

There is extensive evidence illustrating the influence of coach behavior on athletes’ perceived basic psychological needs. However, much of that research has been conducted with athletes of similar developmental stages (i.e., children, adolescents, or adults). In sports such as figure skating, coach–athlete relationships often span several years and developmental stages; yet, researchers have not comprehensively investigated whether coaches consider athletes’ physical, social, self, cognitive, and emotional development in their interpersonal style. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore (a) what need-supportive and/or need-thwarting behaviors coaches use with athletes in different developmental age groups and (b) whether coaches’ use of need-supportive and need-thwarting behaviors was developmentally appropriate based on theoretical implications and empirical evidence grounded in both developmental and self-determination theory. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 13 coach–athlete dyads (13 coaches and 13 athletes) across four age groups: middle childhood (6–10 years), early adolescent (11–14 years), mid-adolescent (15–17 years), and early adulthood (18–25 years). Deductive reflexive thematic analysis of the 26 interviews revealed four themes highlighting (a) competence-supportive, (b) autonomy-supportive, (c) relatedness-supportive, and (d) need-thwarting behaviors. There were both consistencies and variations in coaches’ use of those behaviors across the four age groups.

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Pathos and Orchestration in Elite Sport: The Experiences of NCAA DI Student-Athletes

Johannes Raabe, Tucker Readdy, and Rebecca A. Zakrajsek

Coaching is characterized by an inherent pathos between the goals coaches hope to accomplish and those that are realized (Jones & Wallace, 2005). Coaches can actively enhance the likelihood of optimal outcomes through orchestration, a process of incremental coping intended to create improvement in performance (Jones & Wallace, 2005). The current study explored to what extent pathos also manifests in the lives of elite athletes and whether they engage in processes consistent with orchestration. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I student-athletes. Primarily deductive analysis of the qualitative data provided confirmation for four domains: (a) sources of ambiguity created by coaches, (b) other sources of ambiguity within student-athletes’ experiences, (c) attempted strategies for orchestrating the pathos, and (d) relationships are crucial for navigating the pathos. The findings potentially offer an approach to understanding the challenges athletes face, which allows coaches to more accurately provide assistance.

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Coaches’ Perceptions of Mental Toughness in Adolescent Athletes: A Phenomenological Exploration

Johannes Raabe, E. Earlynn Lauer, and Matthew P. Bejar

Mental toughness (MT) enables individuals to thrive in demanding situations; however, current conceptualizations of MT are primarily based on research with elite adult athletes. Thus, the purpose of the current study was to explore youth sport coaches’ perceptions of mentally tough adolescent athletes with whom they have worked. Phenomenological interviews were conducted with 14 youth sport coaches (nine men and five women). Using a hermeneutic process, a thematic structure comprising five themes was developed: (a) Youth athletes demonstrate their MT by overcoming various obstacles, (b) mentally tough youth athletes are highly self-determined with respect to their sport participation, (c) mentally tough youth athletes control their emotions in competition, (d) mentally tough youth athletes focus on aspects that facilitate their performance, and (e) mentally tough youth athletes are good teammates. These findings not only complement existing conceptualizations of MT but also highlight important distinctions in the manifestation of the construct in early to middle adolescents.