Comparing interventions with youth and senior elite athletes: Insights from expert sport psychology practitioners

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Meaningful sport psychology practice requires a context-sensitive approach. Competitive youth sport and senior elite (professional) sport can be seen as two different contexts that require different applied approaches; however we know little about the differences, and we are in lack of studies that directly compare interventions from these two contexts (Henriksen, Larsen, Storm & Ryom, 2014). Literature on applied sport psychology with senior athletes is far richer than corresponding literature on working with youth athletes. The objectives were: (1) to identify key themes that expert practitioners used to communicate their experiences of sport psychology interventions, and to integrate them into an empirical framework, and (2) to explore the experiences of these practitioners in their successful and less successful interventions in youth and senior sports using the framework. Twelve internationally recognized sport psychology practitioners (SPPs) were involved in semi-structured interviews (Smith & Sparkes, 2016). The data were thematically analyzed (Braun, Clarke & Weate, 2016). The SPPs’ intervention narratives contains eight themes integrated into two categories: (1) content and focus, with themes concerning e.g., adaptation of content, targeted mental skills, and beyond mental skills. (2) The organization and delivery with themes concerning e.g. the settings and ways of delivery, the nature of the athlete-practitioner relationship, the involvement of the athletes’ significant others. There were significant qualitative differences between competitive youth and elite senior contexts regarding how the interventions goes beyond mental skills and in how the SPPs involved the athletes’ significant others. From an overall perspective, the present study supports a key notion: talented youth athletes are not miniature versions of their elite adult counterparts. Working in these two different contexts requires specific approaches and should follow different guidelines.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event14th World Congress of Sport Society Psychology - Sevilla, Spain
Duration: 10. Jul 201714. Jul 2017
Conference number: 14


Conference14th World Congress of Sport Society Psychology

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