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Navigating Management Dismissal and COVID-19 in a Professional Football Club: A Trainee Sport Psychologist Finds Her Way Through

Zoe A. Black and Paul McCarthy

In this case study, we report the experiences and reflections of a female trainee sport and exercise psychologist who navigated the dismissal of a management team and COVID-19 in a professional football club. The trainee delivered an educational intervention to a group of 10 players transitioning from a youth academy to the first team at a professional football club. This formed part of a larger organizational intervention to integrate sport psychology into the club. During the delivery, her mode of working changed from face to face to online support (because of the COVID-19 pandemic), and the management team, except the first author, were dismissed from their duties after lockdown. We discuss the challenges of integrating and working within an organization, experiencing the dismissal of the management team, the effect of the practitioner’s gender as a female working in a male-dominated sport, and the unrelenting football culture and how we, as practitioners, may choose to navigate it. We supplement personal reflections and notes from client work with learning logs and supervision as part of coursework components of a doctorate in sport and exercise psychology. This case study contributes to the literature by presenting and reflecting on challenges that novice practitioners might face working within a professional football organization.

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Using a Person-Centered Approach to Facilitate a Male Amateur Distance Runner’s Personal Growth

Joe R. Davis and Paul J. McCarthy

This case study analyzes, synthesizes, and tests a person-centered approach by a trainee sport and exercise psychologist working with a male amateur distance runner. The aim of applying a person-centered approach was to enhance the athlete’s understanding of himself, enable him to make sense of his experience, and facilitate personal growth. This case study explores the client’s change process and how developing the quality of the relationship allowed him to share his true thoughts and feelings and move towards his authentic self. The trainee describes the theoretical framework that guided the consultancy; reflects on the experiences of exhibiting empathy, unconditional positive regard, and congruence; and discusses the challenges with implementing the approach. The case study reflects on and evaluates the support service, so that the practitioner could learn from this experience and enhance service delivery as he moves toward the end of his formal training.

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A Qualitative Study of Sport Enjoyment in the Sampling Years

Paul J. McCarthy and Marc V. Jones

This focus group study examined the sources of enjoyment and nonenjoyment among younger and older English children in the sampling years of sport participation (ages 7–12). Concurrent inductive and deductive content analysis revealed that, consistent with previous research, younger and older children reported sources of enjoyment such as perceived competence, social involvement and friendships, psychosocial support, and a mastery-oriented learning environment. Nonenjoyment sources included inappropriate psychosocial support, increasing competitive orientation, negative feedback and reinforcement, injuries, pain, and demonstrating a lack of competence. Differences between younger and older children’s sources of enjoyment and nonenjoyment also emerged. Younger children reported movement sensations as a source of enjoyment and punishment for skill errors and low informational support as nonenjoyment sources. Older children reported social recognition of competence, encouragement, excitement, and challenge as sources of enjoyment with rivalry, overtraining, and high standards as sources of nonenjoyment. These differences underscore the importance of tailoring youth sport in the sampling years to the needs of the child.

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A Grounded-Theory Study of Meta-Attention in Golfers

Alex Oliver, Paul J. McCarthy, and Lindsey Burns

This study sought to construct a theoretical understanding of meta-attention in golfers. Eight male golfers (7 competitive-elite and 1 successful-elite) were interviewed about their experiences of attentional processes in competitive golf. A Straussian grounded-theory approach was used throughout the research process, and interview transcripts were analyzed using open, axial, and selective coding. Results indicated that meta-attention is resource based, with metacognitive reflections of logistic and shot resources that facilitate attentional control. Attentional control required successful target selection, consistent preshot routines, and consistent postshot routines. Failures in wider or immediate resources or failure to initiate control routines can lead to internal distraction. The emergent theory provides an understanding of the function of meta-attention in golf performance that can be used by golfers, coaches, or psychologists to improve attentional strategies.

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Doing Sport Psychology: Personal-Disclosure Mutual-Sharing in Professional Soccer

Phyllis M. Windsor, Jamie Barker, and Paul McCarthy

This study evaluated the effects of a personal-disclosure mutual-sharing (PDMS) intervention on team cohesion and communication among 21 male professional soccer players from a top division club within the United Kingdom (UK) before an important match in the latter stages of a domestic cup competition. Data from the Group Environment Questionnaire (GEQ) and the British Scale for Effective Communication in Team Sports (BRSECTS) showed no statistically significant changes in cohesion or positive and negative communication from pre to postintervention (i.e., pretest to posttest); yet the team performed above their expectations in the important match only to lose in a penalty shoot-out. Social validation data further revealed that most players felt the intervention was worthwhile and benefitted the team by enhancing closeness, understanding of teammates, and communication. We discuss strategies and guidance for sport psychologists considering a PDMS intervention in the context of professional sport teams. Future research directions considering the effects of PDMS with other professional and youth UK sports, collective efficacy, and social identity is outlined.

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Serving a Brief-Contact Cognitive Behavior Therapy Intervention in Youth Tennis Using a Single-Case Design

Zoe Louise Moffat and Paul McCarthy

Brief cognitive behavior therapy is planned brief therapy designed to influence a specific target behavior (e.g., sport performance) with the lowest investment of cost and time. We report a brief cognitive behavior therapy intervention delivered to improve serve performance in county-level youth tennis players (three male and one female; M age = 14.90 years). Following an assessment of athlete needs, we implemented a brief-contact intervention involving diaphragmatic breathing. The intervention was delivered across two “structured” sessions, with the athletes having access to the sport psychologist between sessions as required. To assess the effectiveness of the intervention, we implemented a single-case withdrawal design. Results indicated that the intervention had a positive effect on performance, with athletes’ first-serve percentage increasing significantly (3.91%, p < .05). Results also indicated that a minimum preperformance-routine time (routine > 2 s) might be required for effective performance outcomes. Finally, we offer reflections on the delivery and implementation of a single-case design, while navigating avenues of professional development.

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Shifting Attributions, Shaping Behavior: A Brief Intervention With Youth Tennis Players

Zoe Louise Moffat, Paul Joseph McCarthy, and Bryan McCann

This case reports a brief attribution-retraining (AR) intervention with youth tennis players. Athletes were struggling to maintain emotional control, resulting in problematic on-court behavior (e.g., racket throwing). The intervention used a Think Aloud protocol and AR across five key phases: (a) assessment, (b) psychoeducation, (c) AR, (d) evaluation, and (e) follow-up. The authors determined intervention effectiveness using qualitative (Think Aloud) and quantitative (Causal Dimension Scale-II) athlete data and feedback provided by athletes and the coach, alongside practitioner reflections. Evaluation suggested that AR and Think Aloud interventions can improve athletes’ emotional control and attribution capabilities, and, in turn, their behavior. The case seeks to present a novel approach to working with youth athletes, highlighting the importance of practitioner adaptability.

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A Life-Span Approach to Understanding and Managing Choking With a Youth Athlete

Zoe Louise Moffat, Paul Joseph McCarthy, Lindsey Burns, and Bryan McCann

Life-span perspectives illustrate the critical features of development that clients experience; however, little evidence exists to illustrate how to integrate these approaches or use them in sport and exercise contexts. Attending to a clients’ developmental stage is a critical component of ethical and effective professional practice. We present an account of how we considered, selected, or dismissed components of life-span perspectives throughout the stages of service delivery with James, a youth sport athlete presenting with “choking” difficulties. The life-span approach offered a context to understand James’s presenting difficulty to determine the appropriateness and applicability of intervention, and acknowledged bias and experience of the psychologist.

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Book and Resource Reviews

Paul McCarthy, Frank D. Perry, Derek Schwandt, and Wade Gilbert

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Consulting on Tour: A Dual-Phase Personal-Disclosure Mutual-Sharing Intervention and Group Functioning in Elite Youth Cricket

Jamie B. Barker, Andrew L. Evans, Pete Coffee, Matt J. Slater, and Paul J. McCarthy

In a one group pretest-posttest design, 15 elite academy cricketers were exposed to two personal-disclosure mutual-sharing (PDMS) sessions during a preseason tour. Within PDMS1, athletes disclosed (via prepared speeches) relationship-oriented information and within PDMS2, mastery oriented information. Social identity, social identity content, and collective efficacy were measured at baseline (1 week before the tour), post-PDMS1, midpoint, and post-PDMS2, while social validation was also obtained after each intervention session. Quantitative data revealed significant increases in social identity and friendships identity content at post-PDMS1, and results identity content and collective efficacy at post-PDMS2. Qualitative social validation data highlighted the thoughts and feelings of the athletes before their speeches and supported the effectiveness of the PDMS sessions. In sum, the data suggest practitioners can develop team outcomes (e.g., a focus on results) through developing specific aspects of teams’ identities. Study limitations, practitioner guidelines, and areas for future research are discussed.