Matthew P. Martens
Issues associated with athletics, alcohol abuse, and drug use continue to be salient aspects of popular culture. These issues include high-profile athletes experiencing public incidents as a direct or indirect result of alcohol and/or drug use, the role that performance-enhancing drugs play in impacting outcomes across a variety of professional and amateur contests, and the public-health effects alcohol abuse and drug use can have among athletes at all competitive levels. For some substances, like alcohol abuse, certain groups of athletes may be particularly at-risk relative to peers who are not athletes. For other substances, participating in athletics may serve as a protective factor. Unique considerations are associated with understanding alcohol abuse and drug use in sport. These include performance considerations (e.g., choosing to use or not use a certain substance due to concerns about its impact on athletic ability), the cultural context of different types of sporting environments that might facilitate or inhibit alcohol and/or drug use, and various internal personality characteristics and traits that may draw one toward both athletic activity and substance use. Fortunately, there are several effective strategies for preventing and reducing alcohol abuse and drug use, some of which have been tested specifically among athlete populations. If such strategies were widely disseminated, they would have the potential to make a significant impact on problems associated with alcohol abuse and drug use in sport and athletics.
Amanda L. Rebar
Much of our sport and physical activity behavior is regulated by processes occurring outside of conscious awareness. In contrast, most sport and physical activity research focuses on processes that are easily accessible by conscious introspection. More and more, however, research is demonstrating that automatic regulation is instrumental to our understanding of how to get people to maintain a physically active lifestyle and how to get the most out of people’s sports performance potential. Automatic regulation is the influence on our thoughts and actions that result from the mental network of associations we use to make sense of the world around us. Habits are automatic associations of cues with behavioral responses. Automatic evaluations are automatic associations of cues as being good or bad. Automatic schemas are automatic associations of cues with actual or ideal self-identity. These processes have been assessed with implicit measures by making indirect inferences from self-report or response latency tasks. Emerging research demonstrates that automatic associations influence sport performance and physical activity behavior, but further work is still needed to establish which type of automatic regulation is responsible for these influences and how automatic regulation and reflective processes interact to impact movement.
Leslee A. Fisher and Lars Dzikus
Bullying is a growing problem in sport and performance settings. Bullying falls under the umbrella of “athlete maltreatment,” which includes any form of harm and all relationships where harm could occur in sport and performance. Specifically, bullying is defined as repeated hostile and deliberate behavior from one person (the perpetrator) to another (the target) with the intent to harm or threaten harm to the target; it is marked by an imbalance of power. Often, after extreme bullying, the target feels terrorized.
Athlete maltreatment in sport and performance has been categorized into one of two forms: relational maltreatment and nonrelational maltreatment. Bullying is a relational problem. In particular, sport and performance bullying can occur from coach to player, parent to player, or player to player, and often takes the form of (1) making unreasonable performance demands of the target, (2) repeated threats to restrict or remove the target’s privileges or opportunities, (3) screaming or yelling directed at the target that is unwarranted, (4) repeated and continual criticism of the target’s abilities, (5) discounting or denying the target’s accomplishments, (6) blaming the target for his or her mistakes, (7) threats of and/or actual physical violence toward the target, and (8) social media or e-mail messages with threats or insults toward the target.
Sport and performance organizations should develop and implement antibullying policies. Six potential steps toward policy development and implementation include: (1) defining bullying behaviors, (2) referring to existing “best-practice” bullying policies, (3) specifically outlining the reporting of bullying incidents, (4) outlining clearly investigation and disciplinary actions to be taken, (5) outlining specific assistance for bullying targets, and (6) including prevention and training procedures. In the meantime, coaches as well as parents and players can recognize that they are role models for everyone with whom they come into contact in sport and performance settings. Coaches, parents, and players can also accept responsibility for creating a respectful and safe sport and performance environment, have a pre-season meeting to discuss antibullying policy, foster open and honest communication, accept critical feedback, not engage or allow bullying behavior themselves, create acceptable boundaries between themselves and others, and teach players to trust their instincts when things do not feel right. More advanced bullying prevention and training procedures can then take place.
Robert C. Eklund and J.D. Defreese
Athlete burnout is a cognitive-affective syndrome characterized by perceptions of emotional and physical exhaustion, reduced accomplishment, and devaluation of sport. A variety of theoretical conceptualizations are utilized to understand athlete burnout, including stress-based models, theories of identity, control and commitment, and motivational models. Extant research has highlighted myriad antecedents of athlete burnout including higher levels of psychological stress and amotivation and lower levels of social support and psychological need (i.e., autonomy, competence, relatedness) satisfaction. Continued longitudinal research efforts are necessary to confirm the directionality and magnitude of these associations. Moreover, theoretically focused intervention strategies may provide opportunities for prevention and treatment of burnout symptoms via athlete-focused stress-management and cognitive reframing approaches as well as environment-focused strategies targeting training loads and enhancement of athlete psychological need satisfaction. Moving forward, efforts to integrate research and practice to improve burnout recognition, prevention, and intervention in athlete populations likely necessitate collaboration among researchers and clinicians.
Anthony P. Kontos and Jamie McAllister-Deitrick
Concussions affect millions of athletes of all ages each year in a variety of sports. Athletes in certain sports such as American football, ice hockey, rugby, soccer, and combative sports like boxing are at higher risk for concussion. Direct or indirect mechanical forces acting on the skull and brain cause a concussion, which is a milder form of brain injury. Conventional neuroimaging (e.g., computerized tomography [CT], magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]) for concussion is typically negative. Concussions involve both neurometabolic and subtle structural damage to the brain that results in signs (e.g., loss of consciousness [LOC], amnesia, confusion), symptoms (e.g., headache, dizziness, nausea), and functional impairment (e.g., cognitive, balance, vestibular, oculomotor). Symptoms, impairment, and recovery time following concussion can last from a few days to weeks or months, based on a variety of risk factors, including younger age, female sex, history of concussion, and history of migraine. Following a concussion, athletes may experience one or more clinical profiles, including cognitive fatigue, vestibular, oculomotor, post-traumatic migraine (PTM), mood/anxiety, and/or cervical. The heterogeneous nature of concussion warrants a comprehensive approach to assessment, including a thorough clinical examination and interview; symptom inventories; and cognitive, balance, vestibular, oculomotor, and exertion-based evaluations. Targeted treatment and rehabilitation strategies including behavior management, vestibular, vision, and exertion therapies, and in some cases medication can be effective in treating the various concussion clinical profiles. Some athletes experience persistent post-concussion symptoms (PCS) and/or psychological issues (e.g., depression, anxiety) following concussion. Following appropriate treatment and rehabilitation strategies, determination of safe return to play is predicated on being symptom-free and back to normal levels of function at rest and following exertion. Certain populations, including youth athletes, may be at a higher risk for worse impairment and prolonged recovery following concussion. It has been suggested that some athletes experience long-term effects associated with concussion including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). However, additional empirical studies on the role of concussion on CTE are needed, as CTE may have multiple causes that are unrelated to sport participation and concussion.
Jack Watson, Robert Hilliard, and William Way
Although many sport and performance psychology (SPP) practitioners are not specifically practicing psychology or counseling, there are numerous counseling and communication skills that should be incorporated into one’s SPP practice for effective consulting. There have been numerous calls within the SPP profession to integrate concepts from counseling psychology because of the similarity of the two domains. One starting point is the use of theory-driven practice. There are a myriad of theories from which a SPP practitioner could operate, but the person-centered, cognitive-behavioral, and psychodynamic theoretical orientations provide useful foundations for effective consultation. Second, the counseling psychology literature is rife with skills that are useful for therapeutic change. Many of these skills appear to have applicability within the realm of applied SPP. One of the most robust findings in the counseling literature is the importance of the working alliance between the therapist and client. Generally speaking, research has consistently found a strong working alliance to be associated with improved client outcomes. Given these findings, many SPP researchers and practitioners have called for a stronger focus on alliance-building techniques within graduate training programs. Several additional characteristics of effective consultants have also been identified in the literature. These include being honest, trustworthy, respectful, approachable, and likable, and possessing good communication skills. Finally, there are several micro-skills that have been identified as important for effective SPP consulting. These include the use of attending behaviors (such as listening, questioning, paraphrasing, and reflecting meaning), confrontation, and self-disclosure. The incorporation of these skills and characteristics within a consultant’s practice is likely to improve the overall consulting process. However, unlike in counseling psychology, the outcome research in SPP is sparse. Therefore, the challenge for researchers is to examine how the use of these various skills influences outcomes in an applied SPP context.
Luc J. Martin, David J. Hancock, and Jean Côté
Talent development in sport is achieved through years of preparation and requires constant interaction between personal and contextual resources. Accordingly, extensive research has been dedicated to understanding factors that contribute to sport performance. Literature suggests the factors influencing athletic development can be classified in terms of the physical environment, the social environment, and engaging learning activities. Investigations pertaining to the physical environment suggest the importance of appropriate settings, which can relate to the sport organization or the larger community. Researchers must also cogitate the activities in which athletes take part. These considerations involve the maturational status of athletes, the volume of deliberate practice and play, and early specialization versus diversification. Finally, the salience of the social environment in relation to sport performance cannot be overlooked. Not surprisingly, the relations established with social agents (i.e., coaches, peers/teammates, parents) can facilitate or impede the developmental process. Consequently, the development of athletes in the context of sport and performance psychology extends past the individual and is influenced by several factors that must be discussed.
Edward F. Etzel and Leigh A. Skvarla
The field of sport, exercise, and performance psychology (SEPP) has evolved over the past 100 plus years. SEPP includes professional consultants, teachers, researchers, and students from diverse educational and training backgrounds. Persons primarily from the merging of sport science, kinesiology, and professional psychology have shaped SEPP into what it is today. Client populations typically served include athletes, coaches, and exercisers, and more recently, performing artists (musicians, singers, dancers), businesspersons, sports medicine professionals, and military personnel.
These people and phenomena have fashioned an ethical climate that is generally similar to—but in various ways different from—mainstream psychology. While the ethical values and codes of organizations like the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) are generally comparable, the perceptions and application of these values and codes in SEPP realms may not match; this is due to the different histories of its membership, as well as the sometimes unusual work demands and atypical settings and circumstances in which SEPP persons function.
For both mainstream psychology and SEPP professionals, developments in technology and social media communications have presented ethical dilemmas for many who seek to maintain regular contact with their clientele. These issues, such as the use of technology in consulting, emphasize the importance of core ethical tenets such as privacy, confidentiality, and competence, among others, in the growing area of telehealth. In view of the rather unique ethical climate within SEPP, teaching applied ethics via classroom discussion, continued education, and sourcebooks is essential. To date, there appears to be a lack of continuity in the training and supervision of SEPP students and young professionals with respect to ethical decision making. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity to the current and next generation of scholars, researchers, and practitioners.
Rebecca A. Zakrajsek and Jedediah E. Blanton
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
It is important for sport and exercise psychology (SEP) professionals to demonstrate that the interventions they employ make a difference. Assessing the degree of an intervention’s effectiveness depends, first and foremost, on the nature and scope of the intervention (i.e., the objective of the intervention) and its targeted group; traditionally, these interventions are quite varied between the two fields of sport psychology and exercise psychology, though a common thread, however thin, can be seen as an enhancement of the sport or exercise experience, along with an attempt to help the performer better self-regulate the targeted behavior or mindset. For example, sport psychology interventions have primarily focused on issues related to sport performance enhancement, and the objectives of exercise psychology interventions have focused on issues related to health. While the two fields may have different objectives, it can be argued that sport psychology interventions—specifically psychological skills training (PST) interventions—can inform SEP professionals’ research and applied practices with both sport and exercise populations.
PST includes strategies and techniques used to develop psychological skills, enhance sport performance, and facilitate a positive approach to competition. Since the early 1980’s, there has been a growing body of evidence to support that the PST interventions SEP professionals employ do make a difference. In particular, research evidence supports the use of a multimodal approach to PST interventions—combining different types of sport psychological strategies (e.g., goal-setting, self-talk, imagery, relaxation)—as it has demonstrated positive effects on both psychological skills and sport performance. The research investigating the effectiveness of PST interventions on enhancing performance has primarily centered on adult athletes who compete at competitive and/or elite levels. Elite athletes are certainly important consumers of SEP services; however, SEP professionals have rightfully challenged researchers and practitioners to target other consumers of SEP services argued to be equally deserving of PST as elite athletes. For example, young athletes and coaches have traditionally been two populations largely overlooked in the PST research. PST interventions targeting young athletes can help them to develop (at the start of their sporting career) the type of psychological skills that facilitate a positive approach to competition and better abilities to self-regulate emotional responses to stressful competitive situations. Coaches are also performers with unique needs who could benefit from PST interventions. This has led to what might be considered the most intriguing aspects of the current PST literature. Future endeavors related to PST interventions should target exercise populations. Exercise professionals often operate as coaches in healthy behavior change (e.g., strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers, etc.), and as such should also employ, and monitor responses to, PST.
To facilitate further development and growth of PST intervention research in both sport and exercise settings, SEP professionals need to include a comprehensive evaluation of program effectiveness. In particular, four major areas to consider when evaluating PST programs include: (a) quality of the PST service delivery; (b) assessment of the sport psychological strategies participants use as a result of the PST program; (c) participants’ perceptions of the influence of the PST program on their psychological skills, performance, and enjoyment; and (d) measurement of participants psychological skills, performance, and enjoyment as a result of the PST program.
Diane L. Gill
Gender and cultural diversity are ever-present and powerful in sport, exercise, and performance settings. Our cultural identities affect our behaviors and interactions with others. As professionals, we must recognize and value cultural diversity. Gender and culture are best understood within a multicultural framework that recognizes multiple, intersecting identities; power relations; and the action for social justice. Physical activity participants are culturally diverse in many ways, but in other ways cultural groups are excluded from participation, and especially from power (e.g., leadership roles).
Sport, exercise, and performance psychology have barely begun to address cultural diversity, and the limited scholarship focuses on gender. Although the participation of girls and women has increased dramatically in recent years, stereotypes and media representations still convey the message that sport is a masculine activity. Stereotypes and social constraints are attached to other cultural groups, and those stereotypes affect behavior and opportunities. Race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and physical characteristics all limit opportunities in physical activity settings. People who are overweight or obese are particularly subject to bias and discrimination in sport and physical activity. Cultural competence, which refers to the ability to work effectively with people of a different culture, is essential for professionals in sport, exercise, and performance psychology. Not only is it important for individuals to develop their own cultural awareness, understanding, and skills, but we must advocate for inclusive excellence in our programs and organizations to expand our reach and promote physical activity for the health and well-being of all.