Even the most well-prepared athletes are likely to meet challenges, have to adjust game plans, and deal with adversity during competitions, training, and daily life. It has been argued that athletes must have adequate support and be taught skills to ensure that encountering adversity will become a growth experience. Helping athletes prepare for and handle adversity is thus an important task for sport psychology practitioners. In pursuit of confidence, however, when it comes to competitions some athletes (and practitioners) prefer to prepare for and imagine the “perfect race.” The present case study provides an account of how the author has worked to help athletes in the Danish national orienteering team prepare for and handle adversity, with a particular focus on their preparation for a world championship. The applied work took its starting point in acceptance commitment training, was organized as a group setup, and took place in multiple contexts including the gym and the forest. Reflections suggest that daring to prepare for adversity, although unpleasant, is beneficial for athletes and that a group setup potentially promotes normalization and acceptance.
Ole Winthereik Mathorne, Natalia Stambulova, and Kristoffer Henriksen
The overall aim of this paper is to share our experiences in development, implementation, and evaluation of an intervention designed for establishing interorganizational collaboration in talent development between a Danish sports club, a municipality, and a federation. Yet, despite a neat plan, we faced several challenges in what turned out to be a less successful intervention. The account is based on the first author’s field notes, informal interviews, and intervention debriefings. The professional philosophy of the research team was informed by the holistic ecological approach and an empowerment approach. We used the pyramid model for optimizing interorganizational collaboration in talent development as a framework to design and guide the 7-month intervention that included four workshops covering (a) initiation: building relationships; (b) exploration: foundation for the shared philosophy; (c) clarification: negotiating values and strategy; and (d) implementation: from talk to action. However, challenges (e.g., resignations of key stakeholders) led to program adjustments and, ultimately, termination. This paper shows the nuances of a less successful intervention, which can help practitioners plan and carry out better interventions in the future. Despite the challenges faced here, we still deem the pyramid model for optimizing interorganizational collaboration in talent development a valuable framework for practitioners working at an interorganizational level.
Kristoffer Henriksen, Natalia Stambulova, and Kirsten Kaya Roessler
The holistic ecological approach to talent development in sport highlights the central role of the overall environment as it affects a prospective elite athlete. This paper examines a flat-water kayak environment in Norway with a history of successfully producing top-level senior athletes from among its juniors. Principal methods of data collection include interviews, participant observations of daily life in the environment and analysis of documents. The environment was centered around the relationship between prospects and a community of elite athletes, officially organized as a school team but helping the athletes to focus on their sport goals, teaching the athletes to be autonomous and responsible for their own training, and perceived as very integrated due to a strong and cohesive organizational culture. We argue that the holistic ecological approach opens new venues in talent development research and holds the potential to change how sport psychology practitioners work with prospective elite athletes.
Ole Winthereik Mathorne, Kristoffer Henriksen, and Natalia Stambulova
This case study in Danish swimming was informed by a holistic ecological approach in talent development and aimed to explore (a) collaborative relationships between the Danish swimming federation, a municipality, and a local swimming club, termed “an organizational triangle,” and (b) factors influencing the success of their collaboration at the local level. Data collection and analysis were guided by the athletic-talent-development-environment (working) model and a newly developed collaboration-success-factors (CSF) model. Methods included interviews with talent-development coordinators representing the organizations and analysis of documents. Results allowed the authors to transform the CSF (working) model into an empirical model containing the collaboration preconditions (e.g., power to make decisions), processes (e.g., strategic planning), and initiatives (e.g., efficient use of the swimming pool) and shared assumptions of the talent-development philosophy (e.g., long-term focus). The success of this organizational triangle was visible in the way the organizations increased the quality of talent development in the local swimming club.
Knud Ryom, Mads Ravn, Rune Düring, and Kristoffer Henriksen
Interest in talent identification and the development of professional footballers has markedly increased in the past decade. Research in football has primarily focused on individual development and external factors affecting performance. In other sports, research from a holistic and ecological approach has examined successful environments, suggesting that such environments are not only unique, but also share features. Using a single case study design and a holistic ecological approach, this study investigated the youth department of the Belgium elite club KRC Genk (the Jos Vaessen Talent Academy). Results suggest that this environment, in many regards, is consistent with the shared features found in other successful environments in other sports (such as support of sporting goals by the wider environment and support for long-term development). However, three features were also observed as unique. These were (a) cultural awareness, openness, and sharing of knowledge; (b) the club’s ability to accommodate a broad diversity of players in the academy; and (c) an openness toward new ideas and learning on all levels of the organization. Collectively, our results indicate that Genk, in some respects, not only shares features with successful environments in other sports, but also bears unique features.
Michaela Elisabeth Karlsson, Natalia B. Stambulova, and Kristoffer Henriksen
This case study is guided by the holistic ecological approach and aimed at (a) providing a holistic description of an athletic talent development environment using a table tennis club in Sweden as a case study and (b) examining the factors perceived as influential to the effectiveness of the club’s talent development. The holistic ecological approach’s two working models informed the data collection (through interviews, observation, and analysis of documents) and were subsequently transformed into empirical models, acting as a summary of the case. Findings revealed that the environment’s success in talent development can be seen as an outcome of the following key features: (a) flexible and supportive training groups, (b) opportunities to learn from senior elite athletes, (c) support through the club and sport-friendly schools, (d) support of the development of psychosocial skills, (e) regular and intensive training, (f) focus on long-term development and athletes as whole persons, (g) strong and coherent organizational culture centered around the basic assumption, “we are a community of committed members,” and (h) integrated efforts among the club and sport-friendly schools to support athletes’ development. This case study can inform other athletic talent development environments on how to optimize talent development processes.
Kristoffer Henriksen, Carsten Hvid Larsen, Louise Kamuk Storm, and Knud Ryom
Young competitive athletes are not miniature elite athletes; they are a distinct client group to whom sport psychology practitioners (SPPs) increasingly deliver services. Interventions with this client group are often undertaken by newly educated SPPs who are in need of good guiding principles. Yet, there is a lack of research informing SPPs’ work with this group. In this current study, semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with four experienced practitioners about their most successful interventions in competitive youth sport. Analysis showed three major themes: (a) young athletes should be equipped with a holistic skills package that enables them to handle a number of existential challenges; (b) young athletes are embedded in an environment (coaches, experts, teammates etc.) that should be involved in the interventions; and (c) interventions with young athletes should maintain a long-term focus. These themes are discussed in the context of current literature on sport psychology service delivery.
Carsten H. Larsen, Dorothee Alfermann, Kristoffer Henriksen, and Mette K. Christensen
The purpose of this article is to present practitioners and applied researchers with specific details of an ecological-inspired program and intervention in a professional football (soccer) club in Denmark. Based on an ecological agenda, the aim is to reinforce the culture of psychosocial development in the daily practice of a professional football academy, provide the skills required to succeed at the professional level and create stronger relations between the youth and professional departments. The authors suggest six principles as fundamental governing principles to inform an intervention inspired by the holistic ecological perspective. Descriptions of the intervention program and findings are presented in four interconnected steps. Insights are provided into delivery of workshops, the supervision of the coach, on-pitch training, evaluation of the program, and integrating sport psychology as a part of the culture within the club.
Michelle Seanor, Robert J. Schinke, Natalia B. Stambulova, Kristoffer Henriksen, Dave Ross, and Cole Giffin
Olympic-medal performances represent peak accomplishments in athlete development. Seanor, Schinke, Stambulova, Ross, and Kpazai identified environmental factors in a high-performance Canadian trampoline sport environment that developed decorated Olympic medalists. The current intrinsic case study was authored to further highlight the idiosyncrasies of a high-performance trampoline environment (re)presenting stories garnered from this localized Canadian sport environment. Through guided walks, a mobile method of conversational interviews, three contextual experts who are engaged in the development of Olympic athletes provided tours of their sport environment. Each contextual expert’s guided walk played out uniquely in relation to his or her ascribed role (i.e., Olympic coach, assistant coach, and Olympic champion). Three main themes were identified through interpretive thematic analysis: creating lift (subthemes: facility design, sport-culture paragons), providing a tailwind (subthemes: establishing athlete–coach partnerships, team interactions), and soaring onto the Olympic podium (subthemes: preparing athletes to be untethered, competitive collaboration). Each theme is presented through three portrait vignettes, with discrete vantages derived from each contextual expert to illuminate the context from idiosyncratic ascribed roles within the environment. These stories create a rich (re)presentation of a high-performance sport environment through the interplay of the contextual experts’ narratives, their surrounding context, and their Olympic-podium accomplishments.
Lukas Linnér, Natalia Stambulova, Louise Kamuk Storm, Andreas Kuettel, and Kristoffer Henriksen
This case study of a dual career development environment (DCDE) was informed by the holistic ecological approach (HEA) and aimed at (a) providing a holistic description of a DCDE at university level in Sweden and (b) investigating the perceived factors influencing the environment’s effectiveness in facilitating the development of student-athletes. The authors blended in situ observations, interviews, and document analysis to explore the case, and HEA-informed working models were transformed into empirical models summarizing the case. Findings show a well-coordinated DCDE with the key role of coaches in daily dual career support and how efforts were integrated through a dual career-support team sharing a philosophy of facilitating healthy performance development and life balance, with a whole-person and empowerment approach. This study adds to the literature by identifying features of a successful DCDE, and insights from the case can be useful for practitioners in their quest to optimize their DCDEs and support.