Rooney, D., Jackson, R. C., & Heron, N. (2021). Differences in the attitudes to sport psychology consulting between individual and team sport athletes. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, 13(1), 1-8.
Mental skills have become increasingly integrated into sports performance; as a result, more sports psychology consultants are working with athletes. Attitudes toward sports psychology consulting (SPC) has been investigated. Findings from previous research show that there are four major factors that determine attitudes toward SPC, including stigma associated with seeing an SPC provider, confidence in SPC services, cultural preferences, and personal openness or willingness to work with SPC providers. Also, positive experiences with SPC services contribute to more openness to future work with SPC. Based on these findings, a Sport Psychology Attitude-Revised (SPA-R) assessment was developed to evaluate an athlete’s expectations and receptiveness to SPC. Subsequent findings have identified moderating factors, including gender, personality, and type of sport. In regards to gender, males are less like to seek SPC than female athletes; in terms of personality, those with higher levels of openness, conscientiousness, and extraversion lead to more positive attitudes toward SPC. In terms of sport, contact sports have shown to be less willing to work with SPC.
The current study aims to study if there is a difference in attitudes toward SPC between individual and team-based sports, which is an area that has not been studied yet. Prior research that is relevant to this topic has shown that team-sport athletes who worked with SPC were judged less favorably by teammates, and individual sport athletes were more willing to work with SPC. The goals of the current study is better understand the attitudes between individual and team sports.
This is a cross-sectional survey study. 120 participants were included, half from individual sports and half from team sports. Athletes were from the UK and competed at the university, county or national level. Age range was 18 to 34 years old (mean= 21.6, SD-2.82). Each group had the same number of males and females. Of the entire sample, 29% had experience with SPC before with 19% being from individual sports and 8% from team sports. Each participant was administered the SPA-R assessment, however, questions on cultural preferences were removed. In terms of statistical analysis, a two-way MANOVA was administered.
Results showed that overall, athletes from individual sports had greater confidence in SPC. This may be explained by the fact that individual athletes only have their own performance to rely on. Gender was an important factor, such that individual male and females from team sports were less likely to engage with SPC (than individual female and males from team sports, respectively). Athletes with prior SPC experience exhibited less stigmatization of SPC compared to those with no SPC; this was the only statistically significant finding. This may have been the case since those who are open to SPC would likely reach out in the first place. Limitations include low sample size, participants being from only the UK and higher education, and team sport athletes only being from contact sports (while individual athletes were from non-contact).
In my opinion, the findings of this study suggest that it may be useful for SPC providers to consider the receptivity of athletes from individual vs. team sports, and males vs females. SPC providers may have to make a stronger case for themselves when working with team sports than individuals sports. Similar to multiculturalism, however, SPC providers should still refrain from making sweeping generalizations and not make assumptions. This study did not look at race/ethnicity/culture; they mention research in the introduction that shows athletes from Western countries do not have a preference for SPC providers to be of the same race or culture. However, this was from one study and I do wonder how true this is in reality. Overall, the SPA-R is a useful assessment tool that I had never heard of that can help at the start of a new working relationship.
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