Aggressive behaviors and attitudes are investigated first of all from the viewpoint of psychology, sociology, and philosophy. These three disciplines could provide a coherent groundwork for the science on aggression in sport. The science on aggression in sport would be a discipline united by a bond between related issues and a unity of subject, and not by one uniform method.
There are two different viewpoints concerning aggression in sport: the cognitive and the ideological. The cognitive viewpoint approaches sports phenomena objectively in order to describe, explain, and compare them—that is, to present the real situation. The ideological viewpoint approaches the subject in an ideological way; that is, it strives for to presenting sport in the most favorable light, while attempting to hide its vices. This viewpoint makes it nearly impossible to diagnose the existing state of affairs, Attitudes towards aggression in sport, while taking into account other criteria, may be divided into the cognitive and the commonsense interpretations. Proponents of the commonsense viewpoint suggest that aggression is a solely negative entity and that it takes place only in the form of emotionally driven aggression meant to do harm. The cognitive interpretation suggests that there exist two forms of aggression in athletic rivalry: emotional aggression aimed at doing harm to an opponent and necessary aggression resulting from the regulations of a given sport.
Aggression in sport—considered from the viewpoint of regulations of particular sports—may be either necessary (that is, instrumental) or non-instrumental (that is, potential in the sense that it enables expression of emotions which are not provided for by regulations). Aggressive behavior is necessary when called for by the regulations of a given sport, specifically, among others, combat sports such as boxing, judo, or wrestling. Competitors who avoid fighting and who do not manifest aggressive behaviors in such a field are induced to manifest them and—if this does not bring results—may be punished by referees and, as a last resort, sent off.
Shuge Zhang, Tim Woodman, and Ross Roberts
Anxiety and fear are unpleasant emotions commonly experienced in sport and performance settings. While fear usually has an apparent cause, the source of anxiety is comparatively vague and complex. Anxiety has cognitive and somatic components and can be either a trait or a state. To assess the different aspects of anxiety, a variety of psychometric scales have been developed in sport and performance domains. Besides efforts to quantify anxiety, a major focus in the anxiety-performance literature has been to explore the impact of anxiety on performance and why such effects occur. Anxiety-performance theories and models have increased the understanding of how anxiety affects performance and have helped to explain why anxiety is widely considered a negative emotion that individuals typically seek to avoid in performance settings. Nonetheless, individuals approach anxiety-inducing or fear-provoking situations in different ways. For example, high-risk sport research shows that individuals can actively approach fear-inducing environments in order to glean intra- and interpersonal regulatory benefits. Such individual differences are particularly relevant to sport and performance researchers and practitioners, as those who actively approach competition to enjoy the fear-inducing environment (i.e., the “risk”) are likely to have a performance advantage over those who compete while having to cope with their troublesome anxiety and fear. Future research would do well to: (1) examine the effects of anxiety on the processes that underpin performance rather than a sole focus on the performance outcomes, (2) test directly the different cognitive functions that are thought to be impaired when performing under anxiety, (3) unite the existing theories to understand a “whole picture” of how anxiety influences performance, and (4) explore the largely overlooked field of individual differences in the context of performance psychology.
Faye F. Didymus
The cognitive–behavioral model of psychotherapy holds cognition at the core of psychological problems and disorders. The theoretical foundations of this model imply that dysfunctional thinking is common to all psychiatric disorders, psychological problems, and medical problems with a psychological component, and that changing an individual’s cognition results in causal changes in emotions and behaviors. In addition, when working with the cognitive–behavioral model, practitioners acknowledge that ongoing cognitive formulation is the basis of effective practice; that working with an individual’s beliefs about themselves, the world, and others results in sustained change; and that neurobiological changes occur following cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT). The cognitive–behavioral model has been successfully applied in many domains (e.g., clinical, occupational, and sport psychology) where interventions are framed around the beliefs that characterize a presenting issue. Cognitive restructuring is one technique for implementing CBT that has been applied in sport and performance psychology. This technique is particularly relevant to performance domains because of the focus on cognitive formulation; the underpinning associations between cognition, emotion, and behavior; and the links between positively valenced emotions and superlative performance. Findings of sport psychology research extend the application of CBT beyond clinical populations and highlight the usefulness of cognitive–behavioral approaches for optimizing experiences of and performance in sport.
Some would argue that the first scientifically testable paradigm that was built on the cognitive–behavioral model of psychotherapy, and came chronologically slightly before CBT, is rational emotive behavior theory (REBT). Because both CBT and REBT share cognitive–behavioral roots, they have many similarities in their underpinning assumptions and in the ways that they are applied. REBT, however, focuses on rational and irrational beliefs and the links between an individual’s beliefs and his or her emotions and performance. REBT has a more philosophical focus with motivational theoretical roots when compared to other CBT approaches. Distinguishing features of REBT also lie in the techniques used and, hence, the way in which the underlying principles of the cognitive–behavioral model are applied. Disputing is the applied foundation of REBT and is a method of questioning an individual’s beliefs that generate emotional responses. This technique aims to help an individual recognize and adjust flaws in his or her thinking to work toward a more functional philosophy. Research that has used REBT in sport and performance contexts is sparse but that which does exist highlights the approach as a promising one for optimizing athletes’ beliefs and their emotional, behavioral, and physiological responses.
Loredana A. Marchica and Jeffrey L. Derevensky
With the gambling market continuously shifting and evolving, one form of gambling has uninterruptedly remained a staple in most cultures. Sports wagering has been and remains one of the most popular forms of gambling, especially among males. With the increase in the gambling market, sports wagering has also grown into the online gambling and fantasy sports wagering markets. These escalations in popularity have brought substantial revenue to sports wagering operators and have influenced government officials, policymakers, legislation researchers, the media, and the general public. There are two major groups of issues that surround sports wagering: sports wagering as an economic and tax-generating entity and the integrity of the game. More recently, a concern over problem gambling from a public health perspective has evolved. It is equally important that these issues be considered when creating or changing legislation around sports wagering.
Laura Healy, Alison Tincknell-Smith, and Nikos Ntoumanis
Within sporting contexts, goal setting is a commonly used technique that can lead to enhanced performance. Recommendations for goal setting have been widely embraced in sport and performance settings by researchers, practitioners, athletes, and coaches. However, it could be argued that these recommendations are overly simplistic, and that a lack of critical commentary in the sporting literature fails to acknowledge the complexity of goal setting in practice. For example, there has been limited acknowledgement within the applied recommendations of important factors such as personal differences with those individuals setting goals, contextual and environmental factors, and the characteristics of goals being pursed. Equally, the focus of goal setting research and practice has predominantly been on goal progress or goal attainment, thus overlooking the wider benefits of effective goal pursuit on additional aspects such as well-being. Similarly, the interactions between these factors has gained little attention with the academic literature or applied recommendations. This may result in diminished effectiveness of goal setting for athletes, and ultimately lead to sub-optimal performance and well-being.
Critical and comprehensive reviews of the literature are timely and necessary, in order to develop a deeper understanding of goal setting in sport and performance. Combining research from both within sport and from theorists examining goals within other contexts can enhance our understanding of how to promote and support adaptive goal pursuit within sport and performance. Overall, this may lead to more appropriate and useful recommendations for researchers, athletes, coaches, and applied practitioners, ensuring that goal setting can be an effective technique for a range of individuals within sport and performance contexts.
The ability to withstand or adapt to environmental demands is an inherent aspect of performance sport. At the highest level of competition, phenomenal levels of psychological resilience are necessary to attain and sustain success. Although various biopsychosocial factors contribute to the development of this resilience, an important differentiating factor in the emergence of the world’s best athletes is an ability to benefit in some way from the adversity they encounter, to the extent that they psychosocially grow and develop their resilience beyond their pre-trauma functioning, resulting in superior performance. These interrelated experiences of adversity, growth, and resilience involve ongoing complex interactions of numerous personal and situational factors. To briefly elaborate, following adversity-related trauma, athletes go through a “transitional process” whereby growth is facilitated through a combination of internal and external processes. For the world’s best athletes, changes to their motivation and personality appear to be particularly salient psychological aspects of adversarial growth. With regard to the development of resilience, the combined influence of psychological (i.e., personality, motivation, confidence, focus, support) and environmental (i.e., challenge, support) factors underpin athletes’ enhanced ability to withstand or adapt to environmental demands. Although there are a variety of potential beneficial outcomes of these experiences, it appears that there may also be some darker aspects to the world’s best athletes’ development and performance that have less desirable effects on their mental health and relationships. The integrative synthesis of psychological resilience and adversarial growth offers one of the most exciting and insightful avenues for future research in sport and performance.
With the demands of the United States Military constantly evolving, it is necessary to think outside of the common battlefield to find a competitive advantage. Aside from tactical and technical advancement in military science and weaponry, the psychological component of warfare and readiness has been given more attention and resources in recent years. While the primary goal of these programs, which are mainly with the US Army and Navy, is to psychologically train soldiers for optimal performance and readiness, the mental health and psychological well-being upon return from deployment is also a top priority. These programs have grown in scope and size over the past 20 years, and with no end in sight of U.S. military responsibilities, the psychological training platforms continue to be a critical component of global military readiness.
Religion, spirituality, and sport is an increasingly popular discipline in the sport psychology framework, often based on one’s own faith and religious beliefs. The spiritual dimension of the human experience first focused on religious and mystic experiences; later, various other states of mind, such as peak experiences, flow, and “being in the zone,” were discussed using the framework of humanistic and positive psychology, including in the context of sports. Human movement activities were part of religious cults and rites in ancient societies, for example in the Greek Olympic Games. Thanks to this tradition, the father of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, wrote about religio athletae when discussing the transcendent aspects of modern sport. Contemporary sport is not connected to religion in such a direct way, however. The modern athlete normally follows his or her own religious tradition in a private manner. This does not mean, however, there is no connection between religion and sport. On the contrary, religious and quasi-religious behavior is commonly found in the sport environment, including superstitious rituals of athletes and fans, prayer in sporting areas, and application of non-Christian practices in sports psychology consulting. Furthermore, deeper values and meanings can be attributed to sport activities as a kind of nonreligious spirituality. It is possible to observe an increasing interest in the religious and spiritual aspects of sports in the new millennium, which can be seen in the establishing of specific professions like sport psychologists or chaplains, as well as university centers for the study of religion and spirituality in sport.
Nikos Ntoumanis, Cecile Thørgersen-Ntoumani, Eleanor Quested, and Nikos Chatzisarantis
Compelling evidence worldwide suggests that the number of physically inactive individuals is high, and it is increasing. Given that lack of physical activity has been linked to a number of physical and mental health problems, identifying sustainable, cost-effective, and scalable initiatives to increase physical activity has become a priority for researchers, health practitioners, and policymakers. One way to identify such initiatives is to use knowledge derived from psychological theories of motivation and behavior change. There is a plethora of such theories and models that describe a variety of cognitive, affective, and behavioral mechanisms that can target behavior at a conscious or an unconscious level. Such theories have been applied, with varying degrees of success, to inform exercise and physical activity interventions in different life settings (e.g., schools, hospitals, and workplaces) using both traditional (e.g., face-to-face counseling and printed material) and digital technology platforms (e.g., smartphone applications and customized websites). This work has offered important insights into how to create optimal motivational conditions, both within individuals and in the social environments in which they operate, to facilitate long-term engagement in exercise and physical activity. However, we need to identify overlap and synergies across different theoretical frameworks in an effort to develop more comprehensive, and at the same time more distinct, theoretical accounts of behavior change with reference to physical activity promotion. It is also important that researchers and practitioners utilize such theories in interdisciplinary research endeavors that take into account the enabling or restrictive role of cultural norms, the built environment, and national policies on physical activity.
Nicola D. Ridgers and Samuel K. Lai
Commercially available wearable activity trackers are small, non-invasive electronic devices that are worn on the body for the purposes of monitoring a range of outcomes including steps, energy expenditure, and sleep. These devices utilize sensors to track movement, and these recorded data are provided to the user via a visual display on the device itself and/or by syncing the device with an accompanying app or web-based program. Combined together, these devices and accompanying apps incorporate a broad range of behavior change techniques that are known to change behavior, including self-monitoring, goal setting, and social support. In recent years, wearable activity trackers have become increasingly popular, and the growth in ownership within different populations has occurred at an exponential rate. This growth in appeal has led to researchers and practitioners examining the validity and reliability of wearable activity trackers for measuring a range of outcomes and integrating the results into physical activity promotion strategies. Acceptable validity has been reported for steps and moderate validity for measuring energy expenditure. However, little research has examined whether wearable activity trackers are a feasible and effective method for changing physical activity behaviors in the short- and longer-term, either alone or in combination with additional strategies. Some initial results are promising, though concerns have been raised over longer-term use and impacts on motivation for physical activity. There is a need for research examining the longer-term use of wearable activity trackers in different population groups, and establishing whether this technology has any positive effects on physical activity levels.