From Obstacles to Triumph: A Scheme of Change for Sport Psychology Practice
Samuel, Roy David, 1979- (author)
Tenenbaum, Gershon (professor directing dissertation)
Mondello, Michael J. (outside committee member)
Eklund, Robert C. (committee member)
Eccles, David W. (committee member)
Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems (degree granting department)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
Anecdotal evidence indicates that athletes encounter in their careers various changes that interfere with their "comfortable zone of functioning," or their "athletic status quo." For example, Roy Keane, Ireland national soccer team's captain, had a dispute with his coach and squad during the preparation camp for the 2002 World Cup, and decided to leave the team; Jeremy Wariner, the 400-meter 2004 Olympic Champion changed both his coach and his shoes the year prior to the Beijing Olympic Games, and lost his title. During these transitional periods, change can occur in diverse levels of the athletic experience, such as the identity, personal, performance, physiological, technical, and technological levels. While these and other stories emphasize the importance of understanding athletes' experiences of situations of change, hardly any empirical evidence exists on the magnitude and meaning of this aspect of the athletic career. Additionally, there is a shortage of comprehensive conceptual models in sport psychology to explain how athletes experience, and cope with, situations that require them to initiate psychological and/or behavioral change. The present study, therefore, was an initial attempt to validate a new conceptual framework of change-event experiences in athletes' careers. Specifically, the study was focused on identifying the frequency in which athletes experience various change-events, portraying the characteristics of change-events in terms of perception and reaction, and examining the associated coping and decision-making processes. Hence, this study was a response to an existing theoretical and practical need in the area of athletic career transitions to critically account for potential events influencing athletes' lives that are not explained by the traditional career stage models. The scheme of change for sport psychology practice (SCSPP) is a new conceptual framework in which typical characteristics of change situations that challenge athletes to respond with matching personal adaptations or reactive change are described. It involves a three-stage process of change including the appearance of certain change-events, the athlete's perception and appraisal of these events, and his or her reaction to and coping with the events. The conceptual framework underlying the SCSPP focuses on two dimensions: (a) the situational stages that unfold as athletes encounter and cope with changes in their athletic status quo, and (b) the therapeutic process that might facilitate an effective personal change. It is suggested that certain personal characteristics (e.g., athletic identity, competitive level, capacity for change), as well as particular aspects of the change process, might affect athletes' ability to effectively cope with change-events, and resolve them in a satisfying manner. In this context, it is assumed that when athletes turn to consult with others, and are motivated to make the necessary adjustments involved in initiating a matching personal change in response to a change-event, they will also be more likely to cope effectively with the event and resolve it successfully, given that the necessary environmental conditions exist. Pilot preparation for this investigation of the proposed conceptual framework was focused on developing a new survey (The Change-Event Inventory; CEI) to enable exploring athletes' experiences of change-events, as well as on validating the general structure of the SCSPP. While results were largely encouraging, several limitations were identified in the structure and content of the CEI. Additionally, results indicated that the use of coping strategies is a significant factor that should be assessed as part of athletes' change-event experiences. The purpose of the present study was to explore athletes' change-event experiences from a broad conceptual and methodological perspective. Several modifications were made in the CEI, and two additional relevant variables, athletic identity and coping strategies, were measured. The sample of participants (N = 338) included athletes from diverse athletic and cultural background. This heterogeneous sample enabled exploring the effects of athletes' personal characteristics, such as competitive level and type of sport, on the change-event experience. The psychometric properties of the CEI have been examined using various strategies, and it was concluded that this is a reliable and potentially valid survey, although further research is necessary to establish the latter. The results largely supported the research hypotheses. Athletes reported experiencing various and multiple change-events in their careers, with a transition to a higher-level team or club (89.1%), achieving a major accomplishment (87.9%), and a mild-moderate injury (79.0%) being the most frequently reported ones. Professional/international athletes experienced, on average, the highest number of change-events (M = 10.02, SD = 3.23), and also experienced certain events that relate to the financial status and public perception aspects of the athletic career in significantly higher frequency rates than athletes from other competitive levels. Team sports athletes experienced a change of teams or clubs (71.7%) and a change in field position (78.6%) in significantly higher frequency rates than individual sports athletes. Change-events also exhibited distinct profiles of perception, reaction, and coping, Wilks' Lambda = .20, F(42,1180.75) = 11.38, p ηp2 = .23. Certain change-events were characterized as having a more "positive" profile (e.g., a transition to a higher level, achieving an accomplishment). These change-events involved less severity and negative affective and cognitive reactions, and higher perceived control and effective coping. Alternatively, some change-events were typically more "negative" (e.g., injuries, reduction in motivation, dispute with a coach), and involved higher severity and negative affective and cognitive reactions, and lower perceived control and effective coping. Finally, other change-events had more "moderate" profiles (e.g., change in field position, change of teams). Nevertheless, most change-events on which participants chose to elaborate in the CEI were perceived as relatively significant in their careers. The different profiles can be explained in terms of the change-event's relatedness to the athletic identity and its influence on the continuation of the athletic career, as well as in terms of athletes' perceived control in the process. Athletes' identification with the athletic role was associated with their perception of the significance of a change-event. Additionally, when athletes showed high exclusive athletic identity component, they were also more concerned regarding the change-event. The findings also supported the process of change suggested in the SCSPP. Participants reported on making an initial reaction to consult with others and a subsequent decision to make the necessary adjustments to cope with the change-event (i.e., a decision to change). These two decisions were also associated, in that those athletes who initially decided to consult with others also tended to make the decision to change, χ2(8, N = 325) = 1.27E2, p Most participants (48.2%) reported making a decision to change in response to the change-event. The variables of helpfulness of the emotional/professional support, motivation for change, denial, acceptance, positive reframing, and instrumental support were found to significantly predict participants' decision to change, -2 log likelihood = 729.36,χ2(24, N = 313) = 143.06, p 2 = .37), F(3, 320) = 63.44, p 2 = .22), F(2, 326) = 46.55, p The results are interpreted from both conceptual and practical perspectives. It is suggested that future research should utilize longitudinal designs to better identify the nature of the decision-making process, while experimental/intervention designs will focus on evaluating the application of various therapeutic techniques, such as the processes of change and existential psychotherapy, in facilitating athletes' change-event experiences. Additionally, it is important to examine the role that culture has in athletes' change-event experiences, as well as assessing the experience of out of sport change-events (e.g., marriage, death of a partner), and their influence on the athletic career. Parents, coaches, and sport organizations are encouraged to increase the availability of practitioners for athletes who experience change-events, as professional support may facilitate a more effective change process and increase the probability of a favorable resolution of the change-event experience. Practitioners are challenged to critically examine their consultation processes and therapeutic alliance, as well as educate athletes, coaches, and parents on the prevalence and meaning of potential change-events
Change-Events, Career-Transitions, Psychological Change, Processes of Change, Existential Psychotherapy, Athletes, Competitive Level
March 31, 2009.
A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Gershon Tenenbaum, Professor Directing Dissertation; Michael J. Mondello, Outside Committee Member; Robert C. Eklund, Committee Member; David W. Eccles, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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