The purpose of this study was to synthesize the research that has identified the organizational stressors encountered by sport performers and develop a taxonomic classification of these environmental demands. This study used a meta-interpretation, which is an interpretive form of synthesis that is suited to topic areas employing primarily qualitative methods. Thirty-four studies (with a combined sample of 1809 participants) were analyzed using concurrent thematic and context analysis. The organizational stressors that emerged from the analysis numbered 1287, of which 640 were distinct stressors. The demands were abstracted into 31 subcategories, which were subsequently organized to form four categories: leadership and personnel, cultural and team, logistical and environmental, and performance and personal issues. This meta-interpretation with taxonomy provides the most accurate, comprehensive, and parsimonious classification of organizational stressors to date. The findings are valid, generalizable, and applicable to a large number of sport performers of various ages, genders, nationalities, sports, and standards.
A Research Synthesis and Taxonomic Classification of the Organizational Stressors Encountered by Sport Performers
Rachel Arnold and David Fletcher
Development and Validation of the Organizational Stressor Indicator for Sport Performers (OSI-SP)
Rachel Arnold, David Fletcher, and Kevin Daniels
The series of related studies reported here describe the development and validation of the Organizational Stressor Indicator for Sport Performers (OSI-SP). In Study 1, an expert and usability panel examined the content validity and applicability of an initial item pool. The resultant 96 items were analyzed with exploratory factor analyses in Study 2, with the factorial structure comprising 5 factors (viz., Goals and Development, Logistics and Operations, Team and Culture, Coaching, Selection) and 33 items. Using confirmatory factor analyses, Studies 3 and 4 found support for the 5-factor structure. Study 4 also provided evidence for the OSI-SP’s concurrent validity and invariance across different groups. The OSI-SP is proposed as a valid and reliable measure of the organizational stressors encountered by sport performers.
Performance Leadership and Management in Elite Sport: A Black and White Issue or Different Shades of Grey?
Rachel Arnold, David Fletcher, and Jennifer A. Hobson
In this study, the authors interviewed Olympic athletes about their perceptions of their leaders and managers, with a particular focus on perceptions of negatively valenced and socially undesirable characteristics and their effects. The results highlight five main dark characteristics: self-focused, haughty self-belief, inauthentic, manipulative, and success-obsessed. The findings also indicate negative effects of such characteristics (viz., performance and career threats, affected confidence, pressure and anxiety, and a lack of support) and positive effects of such characteristics (viz., motivation, resilience and coping skills, opportunities, and learning and awareness). Hence, it appears that not only are leaders and managers’ personalities “different shades of grey” but also the effects they have are too. The findings are discussed in relation to previous pertinent research, and with regard to their implications for policy development and future research.
Stress and Coping Experiences of U.K. Professional Football Managers During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Sofie Kent, Tracey Devonport, Rachel Arnold, and Faye Didymus
Guided by transactional stress theory, this study aimed to explore elite U.K. soccer coaches’ perceived stressors, the situational properties, appraisals, and coping during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study also aimed to explore any variation in stress experiences across football league standards A total of 13 professional first-team male U.K. association football coaches between 38 and 59 years of age (M = 43.00, SD = 6.94) participated in telephone (n = 5) or online (n = 8) semistructured interviews. Informed by the philosophical position of critical realism, Braun et al.’s six-phase approach to thematic analysis was used to generate competitive, organizational, and personal stressor themes. Deductive thematic analysis generated themes reflective of all situational properties of stressors identified by Lazarus and Folkman and an array of appraisal and coping strategies. Future research and recommendations for supporting coach performance and well-being post-COVID-19 pandemic are offered.
Thriving on Pressure: A Factor Mixture Analysis of Sport Performers’ Responses to Competitive Encounters
Daniel J. Brown, Rachel Arnold, Martyn Standage, and David Fletcher
Although considerable research exists on performers’ responses to sporting encounters, little is known about thriving in sport contexts. The current study examined if distinct response patterns existed between sport performers who thrived in competitive encounters compared with those who did not. Participants were 535 sport performers (134 women; M age = 23.60 years, SD age = 8.08; M competing = 11.84 years, SD competing = 7.11). Results of factor mixture analysis supported a four-profile solution comprising a thriving group (n = 146), a low-functioning group (n = 38), and two groups characterized by scores marginally above (n = 131) and below (n = 209) the sample mean. Profile membership was found to be predicted by personal enablers (viz., personal resilient qualities, psychological skills use) and process variables (viz., basic psychological need satisfaction and frustration, challenge appraisal). This examination of thriving in sport performers offers significant implications for research and practice.
Pulling the Trigger: The Effect of a 5-Minute Slow Diaphragmatic Breathing Intervention on Psychophysiological Stress Responses and Pressurized Pistol Shooting Performance
Aodhagán Conlon, Rachel Arnold, Ezio Preatoni, and Lee J. Moore
This study examined the effect of slow diaphragmatic breathing on psychophysiological stress responses and pressurized performance. Sixty-seven participants (40 female; M age = 20.17 ± 2.77 years) were randomly assigned to either a diaphragmatic-breathing, paced-breathing, or control group. Participants completed a nonpressurized shooting task and then received instructions about a pressurized version. Next, the diaphragmatic group was told to breathe at 6 breaths/min, the paced group at 12 breaths/min, and the control group received no instructions. Following a 5-min intervention period, participants completed the pressurized task while performance was assessed. Psychophysiological stress responses (e.g., cognitive anxiety, heart rate) were recorded throughout. Results revealed that diaphragmatic breathing had mixed effects on stress responses, with some unaffected (e.g., heart rate) and others reduced (e.g., cognitive anxiety), and little effect on performance. Findings suggested that slow diaphragmatic breathing might not aid pressurized performance but could benefit psychological stress responses.