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Article

Daniel J. Madigan, Andrew P. Hill, Sarah H. Mallinson-Howard, Thomas Curran, and Gareth E. Jowett

Perfectionism and performance have long been intertwined. The conceptual history of this relationship is best considered complex, with some theorists maintaining that perfectionism is likely to impair performance and others more recently suggesting that aspects of perfectionism may form part of a healthy pursuit of excellence. Recent studies on perfectionism and performance in sport, education, and the workplace provide us with evidence that perfectionism is indeed an important characteristic in achievement domains. However, this relationship is exceedingly complex. In examining this relationship empirically, researchers have distinguished between two dimensions of perfectionism. The first is perfectionistic strivings that comprise high personal standards and a self-oriented striving for perfection. The second is perfectionistic concerns that comprise a preoccupation with mistakes and negative reactions to imperfection. With regard to perfectionistic strivings, research has revealed that in certain circumstances they are related to better performance. Evidence for this is strongest in education but notably mixed in sport and the workplace. With regard to perfectionistic concerns, while there is evidence that they may not directly impair performance, there is also enough evidence that they may have a detrimental indirect influence on performance. Based on existing research, we argue that there is currently too little research and too many mixed findings to conclude perfectionistic strivings forms part of a healthy pursuit of excellence. In addition, the role of perfectionistic concerns for performance is likely to be more substantive than currently suggested.

Article

Jessica L. David, Jesse A. Steinfeldt, I. S. Keino Miller, and Jacqueline E. Hyman

Multiculturalism is a broad term that encapsulates a number of idealistic constructs related to inclusion, understanding the diverse experiences of others, and creating equitable access to resources and opportunity in our society. Social justice activism is a core tenet of multiculturalism. In order to be optimally effective, multiculturalism needs to be an “action word” rather than a passive construct, one that is inextricably linked to the ability to commit to and engage in an agenda of social justice wherein the inclusive ideals of multiculturalism are actively sought out and fought for. One such domain where the constructs of multiculturalism and social action are playing out in real time is within U.S. sport. U.S. athletes across all ranks (i.e., Olympic, professional, college, and youth sports) are actively engaging in social justice activism by using their platforms to advocate for equality and human rights. A recent display of activism that has garnered worldwide attention was the silent protest of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. During the National Football League (NFL) preseason games of the 2016 season, Kaepernick began kneeling during the playing of the U.S. national anthem as a means to protest racial injustice, police brutality, and the killing of African Americans. Since the start of his protest, athletes around the nation and the world have joined the activist–athlete movement, thereby raising awareness of the mistreatment of African Americans within U.S. society. The activist–athlete movement has amassed support and generated momentum, but consulting sport psychology professionals can adopt a more active role to better support athletes, thereby advancing the movement. Consulting sport psychologists can strive to better understand the nature of athlete-activism and aspire to help their athlete clients explore and express their opinions so they can work to effect meaningful societal change, using sport as the vehicle for their message.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Bradley W. Young, Bettina Callary, and Scott Rathwell

Paralleling the graying of the baby boomer generation, there has been remarkable growth in the number of Masters athletes (adult sport participants generally 35+ years old) and Seniors athletes (55+) worldwide. The phenomenon of the aging or older athlete is an opportunity to study the psychological conditions and considerations that distinguish older sportspersons from their younger counterparts. Although the vast majority of sport psychology research focuses on youth and adolescents or young adults in a high-performance context, a critical mass of literature on middle-aged and older athletes has emerged. Much research has aimed to understand the sport motivation of older adults; this work has evolved from early descriptive works to increasingly theoretically grounded and analytically advanced efforts that seek to better understand older athletes’ sport commitment and their long-term goal striving behaviors. Another theme of inquiry relates to the nature of adult athletes’ social motivations and the role of social identity in explaining immersion into sport. Research has examined various social influences on older athletes, and specifically how different social agents and social norms come to bear on older athletes’ sport participation. Much work has interrogated how social support facilitates older sport participation as well as the unique negotiations that older adults make with significant others to sustain their experience. Another research theme has sought to determine the various psychosocial benefits of adult sport, cataloguing benefits related to personal growth, age-related adaptation, and successful aging outcomes. Although the discourse on adult sport has been overly positive, several contributions have problematized aspects of adult sport, challenged the assertion that adult athletes are models that many others could follow, and have further suggested that narratives of Masters athletes may reinforce ageist stigma.

Article

Zella Moore, Jamie Leboff, and Kehana Bonagura

Major depressive disorder, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder are very common diagnoses seen among athletes, and they are serious conditions that can be debilitating if not properly addressed. These disorders warrant careful attention because they can adversely affect multiple domains of an athlete’s life, including athletic motivation, performance outcomes, interpersonal well-being, health, and overall daily functioning. Key foci include the prevalence of, clinical characteristics of, causes of, and risk factors for major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder/dysthymia, bipolar I disorder, and bipolar II disorder. Sport psychologists should integrate such important information into their overall case conceptualization and decision-making processes to ensure that athletes and performers at risk for, or struggling with, such mental health concerns receive the most effective, efficient, and timely care possible.

Article

Athletes’ transition out of elite sport has drawn the attention of psychologists in view of the number of problems retired athletes face with which they are generally unprepared to cope. Research over the past decades has revealed that athletic retirement should not be viewed as a dead-end stop but rather as a process of transition. The quality of this transition is influenced not only by the pre- and post-retirement phases but also by the challenges retiring elite athletes have faced at different levels of their development. Using the holistic athletic career model, challenges faced by retiring athletes are described at the athletic, psychological, psychosocial, academic, vocational, financial, and legal levels of their development. Particular attention is paid to the influence of these multilevel challenges on retirees’ mental health. In conclusion, the roles of psychologists in preparing and supporting elite athletes during the transition out of their sport are considered.

Article

Rebecca K. Dickinson, Tristan J. Coulter, and Clifford J. Mallett

As a basic psychological framework, humanistic theory emphasizes a strong interest in human welfare, values, and dignity. It involves the study and understanding of the unique whole person and how people can reach a heightened sense of self through the process of self-actualization. The focus within humanism to encourage and foster people to be “all they can be” and develop a true sense of self links to a strengths-based approach in sports coaching and the defining principles of positive psychology. In the field of sport and performance psychology, positive psychology has been influential as a discipline concerned with the optimal functioning and human flourishing of performers. Since the 2000s, many sport and performance psychologists have embraced positive psychology as a theoretical basis for examining consistent and superior human performance. However, in the modern history of psychological science, positive psychology is not a new phenomenon; rather, it stems from humanism—the traditional “third wave” in psychology (after the dominance of psychoanalytic and behaviorist approaches). Sport is recognized as a potentially influential context through which people at all levels and backgrounds can thrive. The tendency to focus on performance outcomes, however—winning and losing—often overshadows the potential of sport to achieve this aspirational goal. As evidence of this view, many high-performing athletes are commenting on their distressing experiences to reach the top and the “culture of fear” they have been exposed to as they pursue their own and others’ (e.g., institutional) ambitions (e.g., medaling at the Olympic Games). Humanism concerns itself with the quality of a person’s life, which includes, but also extends beyond such objective and classifying achievements. It is a person-centered approach to understanding the individual and his or her psychological, emotional, and behavioral reality. It seeks to help people define this reality more clearly in such a way that will help them feel good and perform at a high level. Humanism has been, therefore, an important school of thought for improving the lives and experiences of people who play sport as well as those who perform in various other contexts.

Article

Strength training sessions are developed and overseen by strength and conditioning coaches, whose primary responsibilities are to maximize individuals’ athletic performance and minimize their injury risk. As the majority of education and certification for being a strength and conditioning coach focuses on physiology and physiological adaptations, biomechanics, and related scientific areas of study, there has been less emphasis on coaching behaviors, motivational techniques, pedagogical approaches, or psychological skills. These are important areas because to accomplish both long-term and short-term training goals, strength and conditioning coaches should use and train their athletes in the use of these techniques. Motivation of training session participants is essential to being an effective strength and conditioning coach. Coaches motivate their athletes through their behaviors, design and organization of the training sessions, teaching techniques, role modeling, relationships with the athletes, and the psychological skills they incorporate within and outside of the training sessions. Coaches also often teach athletes about psychological skills not to motivate the athlete but to assist the athlete in their performance, mental health, or general well-being. Some of these psychological skills are so ingrained in the strength and conditioning discipline that coaches do not recognize or categorize them as psychological skills. Because of the relationship built between strength coach and athlete, the strength and conditioning coach often provides informal knowledge of advice on topics regarding general life lessons or skills that can actually be categorized under psychological skills. However, the lack of formal education and training in sport psychology techniques also means that strength and conditioning coaches do not take full advantage of many behaviors, motivational techniques, and other psychological skills. These areas remain an area for further professional development and research within the strength and conditioning field.