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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Paul McCarthy, Frank D. Perry, Derek Schwandt, and Wade Gilbert
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.
Paul J. McCarthy, Marc V. Jones, Chris G. Harwood, and Laura Davenport
Positive affect is linked to enhanced motivation, commitment, and performance among youth sport performers; yet, few psychological interventions have specifically attempted to enhance positive affect among these athletes. To address this circumstance, we implemented a single-subject multiple-baseline design to examine the effects of a goal-setting intervention on the positive and negative affective responses of three competitive youth athletes. Statistical analysis coupled with visual inspection criteria revealed a significant overall increase in positive affect for participants 1 and 2. A statistically significant increase in positive affect also emerged for participant 3, yet it was not possible to detect a significant experimental effect using visual inspection criteria. No statistically significant decreases in negative effect emerged for any of the three participants. These results show some support for the hypothesis that goal setting may enhance positive affect among junior multievent athletes.
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.
Paul J. McCarthy, Marc V. Jones, Chris G. Harwood, and Steve Olivier
One reason sport psychologists teach psychological skills is to enhance performance in sport; but the value of psychological skills for young athletes is questionable because of the qualitative and quantitative differences between children and adults in their understanding of abstract concepts such as mental skills. To teach these skills effectively to young athletes, sport psychologists need to appreciate what young athletes implicitly understand about such skills because maturational (e.g., cognitive, social) and environmental (e.g., coaches) factors can influence the progressive development of children and youth. In the present qualitative study, we explored young athletes’ (aged 10–15 years) understanding of four basic psychological skills: goal setting, mental imagery, self-talk, and relaxation. Young athletes (n= 118: 75 males and 43 females) completed an open-ended questionnaire to report their understanding of these four basic psychological skills. Compared with the older youth athletes, the younger youth athletes were less able to explain the meaning of each psychological skill. Goal setting and mental imagery were better understood than self-talk and relaxation. Based on these fndings, sport psychologists should consider adapting interventions and psychoeducational programs to match young athletes’ age and developmental level.