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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kristoffer Henriksen, Louise Kamuk Storm, Natalia Stambulova, Nicklas Pyrdol and Carsten Hvid Larsen
This study is focused on reflections of expert sport psychology practitioners about their interventions with competitive youth and senior elite athletes. Two objectives include: (1) to identify key structural components used by practitioners to describe sport psychology interventions and integrate them into an empirical framework, and (2) to analyze the practitioners’ experiences in regard of their successful and less successful interventions in competitive youth and elite senior sport contexts using the empirical framework. We conducted semi-structured interviews with twelve internationally recognized sport psychology practitioners (SPPs) and analyzed the data thematically. The empirical framework derived from the SPPs’ accounts contains eight structural components integrated into two categories: (1) the content and focus (with three components, e.g., adaptation of content), and (2) the organization and delivery of interventions (with five components, e.g., initiation and assessment of athletes’ needs). Using the empirical framework we found differences between successful and less successful interventions and between youth and senior contexts in terms of needs assessment, adaptation and breadth of content, athlete-practitioner relationship, and intervention settings. The empirical framework might inform SPPs in their efforts to design, implement, and evaluate their services in these two contexts.
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.