Posts tagged Sport
Posts tagged Sport
“Successful clubs really thrive because of the groundwork they put in and consistency in club values, goals, and strategies. Ajax is a hallmark example because they do exactly this. And even though they are not as “successful” as they used to be, they have survived and continue to produce world-class talent because unlike many clubs in Europe, they focus and value their youth academy.
The Ajax scouting process is thorough and time-invested. They have a model that is consistent and developmental that begins the day a player steps foot into the club up until they enter the senior team. Their specific model is called TIPS; a mix of innate and trainable traits an Ajax player will have.”
Are winning streaks the result of superior talent? Or are they more random than we might suspect? Today on the blog Alex Titkov takes a look at how we as humans can often be deceived by recent runs of good form.
Outstanding performances and absolute domination of some sports of Blacks generated the question, “are blacks better athletes than whites athletes?”. Many were concerned about this question and tried to find an answer (Sokolove, 1988). Caucasians worldwide are searching for proof of the physical advantage of Black athletes while handing them on a platter a psychological advantage - which, until removed, will perpetuate the current state (Hamilton, 2000). Hamilton (2000) claimed that psychology plays a critical role in the dominance of East African (Ethiopian and Kenyan) runners. Psychological factors may perpetuate this dominance by ascribing differences between African and Caucasian runners to stable external factors and in this manner disempowering Caucasian runners and empowering East African runners. Consequently, it is important to study how different stereotypes relate with athletes’ mental skills and affect their participation and performance in sport. To this end, my study aimed at developing a structured scale that can distinguish between different types of stereotypic beliefs, and discover if there are any relationships between athletes’ stereotypic beliefs and their mental skills. In general, the study is intended to examine the relationships between athletes’ stereotypic beliefs regarding themselves and those stable external factors (stereotypic beliefs) to which they attribute their success (their goal achievement and behavioral regulation (Coakley, 2003, Hamilton, 2000)).
The first study was an interview with Ethiopian long distance athletes to assess their perceived reasons for their success in their sport (long distance race). I interviewed eight Ethiopian long distance athletes on the subject, and as a result, the athletes attributed their achievement to different factors. Their reasons included “Because we are Ethiopians”, “We have a better genetic makeup which makes us good in long distance races”, “my family believed that I could make a great long distance athlete and pushed me to it”, “We live on a high altitude which gives us environmental advantage”, “The society believes we are so good in the long distance race and I believe the same”, “It is like a national identity to run long distance, so I believe it is in my blood”, “We train harder than anyone else”, “We have model athletes and it motivates us quite a lot”, “The life style in the country is quite demanding and we had to run everywhere as a child, so it helped us to become great in long distance”. Based on the interview results and what the literature suggests, an initial pool of 48 possible items under four factors was generated and subsequently reduced to 29 items.
The second study tested the psychometric properties and the factor structure of the sport stereotype scale (SSS) through exploratory factor analysis in the Amharic language. The results showed the need for another construct due to one factor splitting into two different factors. As a result, five clear factors emerged for the SSS, I.e. natural factors, environmental factors, social factors, commitment factors, and Ethiopian tradition factors.
The third study had two purposes: (1) to examine the psychometric properties and the factor structure of the second version of the sport stereotype scale (SSS) through confirmatory factor analysis, and (2) to translate and adapt two scales (Behavioral Regulation Sport Questionnaire (BRSQ; Lonsdale, Hodge, & Rose, 2008) and the Achievement Goals Questionnaire (AGQ; Papaioannou et al, 2007) into the Amharic language. The results produced an acceptable psychometric properties and factorial structure of the second version of SSS - and the two questionnaires were translated and adapted to the Amharic language.
The fourth study had three purposes: (1) to further measure the psychometric property of the Amharic versions of SSS, BRSQ, and AGQ, (2) to identify the most prominent stereotypic beliefs of the Ethiopian athletes regarding their sport, and (3) to examine the relationships between athletes’ stereotypic beliefs, their goal achievement, and behavioral regulations. The results provided adequate support for the five-factor model of the SSS, and an acceptable internal consistency. The results of the study also provided supportive evidence for the construct validity of the Amharic version of the two questionnaires (AGQ and BRSQ). Although some items and constructs were removed, the remaining items and constructs produced an instrument matching better the original AGQ and BRSQ. The results showed that Ethiopian athletes scored moderately high, with the highest scores observed for the Ethiopian tradition (M=4.02) and commitment (M=3.94) stereotypes. Finally, the three individual stereotype dimensions correlated positively and significantly with social approval of AGQ.
Commitment stereotype had the highest positive correlations with athletes’ goal orientation of social approval, performance approach, and mastery. The correlation between natural stereotype and mastery goal orientation of the athletes was the only negative correlation. The Ethiopian tradition factor showed a moderate positive correlation with the three factors of AGQ. Overall, the results of the present investigation provided considerable evidence and support for the validity of the sport stereotype scale. The results also confirmed that Ethiopian athletes hold stereotypes of different stable external factors ranging from Natural ability stereotype to life style, environmental, commitment, and traditional. The most prominent stereotypes found were the Ethiopian tradition factors, commitment factors, and physical environment factors. These beliefs showed significant relationships with athletes’ behavioral regulation, and goal orientations.
Likawunt Wendwosen has finished his masters in European masters in sport and exercise psychology from the university of thessaly and university of leipzig. Likawunt has also finished a masters in Athletics coaching from Addis Ababa University. He is currently working in the area of counselling and sport psychology in Ethiopia.
“Suck it up. Tough it out. There is no “I” in team. These are a few of the messages athletes receive from coaches, teammates, and fans. There are norms, values, and expectations in every culture, including sports, that affect behavior and emotional expression. When taking a patient’s history, clinicians may ask about participation in sports because it provides health and lifestyle information. However, many clinicians fail to consider the extent to which sport participation can influence a person’s explanatory style, experience of injury, and attitude toward medications. Whether your patient is an elite athlete or someone who participates in sports solely for exercise, the extent to which he or she identifies as an athlete is worth exploring.”
Given the number of medals Russia achieves in international competitive arenas it becomes interesting what the contribution of sport psychology is to these achievements and what could be special about it in Russia. I was lucky enough to visit the International Sport Psychology conference in Moscow June 4-7th, and let me share with you some of my notes.
The conference itself has become an annual traditional event since it was first organized 8 years ago. It is devoted to the memory of the eminent Russian psychologist P. Rudik who stood at the beginning of sport psychology in Russia.
The conference was hosted in the cradle of Russian sport sciences – Russian State University of Physical Culture and Sport in Moscow. There were around 300 attendees, 117 speeches, and 3 round table sessions. In addition, the president of FEPSAC, Paul Wylleman, gave an online presentation followed by an assembly of the Russian Sport Psychology Association.
Moscow State University
Looking through the conference program the first thing that caught my attention was the great number of speakers who told us about peak performance of top athletes. Six sections among seven were devoted to performance enhancement of elite athletes, whereas only one section touched upon psychology of physical education and physical activity.
I would like to focus on a few noteworthy topics which I think may be of interest and could contribute to the development of sport psychology, and then I will outline the general opinion of sport psychology development in Russia.
Professor G. Lojkin from Ukraine presented results on working with coaches. He took an interesting approach: putting focus on a coach’s well-being he investigated destructive processes which could favor a tendency to adapt maladaptive strategy to guide followers. His conception reminds me of some theories from a leadership domain, but with slight emphasis on motivational climate which creates a sense of a coach’s satisfaction. In addition, he proposed some approaches to address coaches’ well-being and influence their behavior in a desirable way. However, to support his conception there is a clear need for additional studies.
The next speaker was Professor V. Malkin from Russia, who started his presentation by criticizing some approaches which were used by one of Russia’s most eminent applied sport psychologists, Rudolf Zagainov. I could assure you that search engines would not find either Zagainov’s biography nor any of his articles, but during his career Rudolf Zagainov worked with 38 world champions and 19 Olympic champions. He is a controversial and scandalous figure who simultaneously has huge applied experience. The critique was mostly related to pressure that this psychologist may have used to manipulate an athlete to guide him towards Olympic gold. On one hand, this is a great ethical issue which V. Malkin pointed out, while on the other hand, sport itself represents a unique environment where people may willingly allow others to manipulate their lives.
The speaker had recently published a book “Managing Psychology Training in Sport”. As he explained to me, this book is based on his 30 years of applied experience and deals with a conception of psychological readiness and how to manage this state during various stages of an athlete’s development. The only regret is that the book is available only in Russian.
One of the extraordinary topics which glued my attention was presented by N. Bogacheva, a PhD student from Moscow State University. In her presentation she explored psychological issues of cyber-sport athletes. This presentation stirred up huge debates and critics. Opponents argued that, firstly, cyber-sport is deemed not to be a sport at all, and secondly, because the majority of computer games promote violence, being involved in cyber-sport does not positively influence an individual’s development. What do you think?
Well, from one side, a growing number of participants in e-sport sparks a huge interest of media to the World Cyber Games, from the other side, there is a tension to accept e-sport as a sports activity (especially true for Russia) and investigate more deeply performance issues of cyber-athletes. I feel that this area really represents a gap in sport / performance psychology.
Instead of a poster presentation, which is very common for international conferences, there were three round table activities, which provided an opportunity for an exchange of views between experts in the field and various stakeholders.
At one round table participants discussed issues related to teaching sport psychology at universities. The questions which were raised were related to distance learning, developing competence criteria for a sport psychologist, and improving collaboration between universities which are involved in teaching students sport psychology.
How to gain respect and smoothly join a team for a sport psychologist was discussed during another round table. Professor V. Sopov shared his experience with freestyle skiers and concluded that if an athlete needs some assistance from a sport psychologist right before performing, this in turn could indicate that this sport psychologist had worked insufficiently with the particular athlete. In addition, A. Ter-Minosan, a sport psychologist who simultaneously works as a coach, shared his opinion on why coaches usually resist sport psychologists. According to him, coaches’ negative opinion about sport psychologists is based on the assumption that sport psychologists are not good at coaching and while they are distributing annoying questionnaires and reporting irrelevant information they bring only additional problems. On the contrary, for smooth integration into a team a sport psychologist must eliminate problems from the coach’s head - and the key to that is previous experience in coaching or at least a desire to understand the coach’s methods and philosophy.
Lastly, I have noticed some Russian sport psychologists attempting to create unique theories and / or applied practices. For example, Professor V. Sopov (Russian State University of Physical Culture and Sport) investigated the mechanism of beliefs. His conception is based on a specific linguistic technique mixed with mental simulation . This activates subconscious processes and increases beliefs in one’s ability. Another example is the research of A. Kolosov (Scientific Laboratory of Ukrainian Sport Teams). He presented a conception of a dependence phenomenon in coach-athlete collaboration and linked it to a mechanism of a power influence. Due to the uniqueness of these conceptions they currently stand alienated, and I feel that there is a clear need for supporting researches.
At the end of the conference there was an assembly of the Russian Sport Psychology Association. Given the number of Russians regions this association is constantly growing. The president of this association, Professor V. Sopov emphasized during his online conference with FEPSAC president Paul Wylleman that one of the aims of the Russian association is to increase collaboration with European colleagues and join FEPSAC. I hope this event will help identify the next steps towards future actions in the field of sport psychology and positively influence its development.
Dmytro Bondarev is currently doing the European Master’s in Sport and Exercise Psychology (EMSEP) at Lund University, Sweden. His current research area is in automatic processes in decision-making.
Believe it or not, we are nearing the end of Leipzig period 2012! It has been such a great experience in so many ways that I think many of us are wishing we could extend our time here.
Gathering here in Leipzig with our colleagues from all three coordinating universities, Lund (Sweden), Jyvaskyla (Finland) and Thessaly (Greece), has opened our eyes to new people, new cultures and new ideas. It definitely makes life interesting being surrounded by 22 people from 17 different countries, all living and studying together in Germany – a country foreign to all of us! I believe that the friendships we have made here will last long after we leave Leipzig.
Last month we had a chance to hear each student present his or her area of interest during our thesis seminars. It is such a unique opportunity to share our passion for sport and exercise psychology with such a diverse group of people. There were many different topic areas covered and I think we all took away new ideas for our own thesis work and our future in the field. One area that I have discovered through my fellow students here is mindfulness – a very interesting and seemingly effective concept (which I’m sure you will see featured in some future blogs!). Some students have been so inspired by their classmates’ ideas that they have abandoned previous thesis topics for new ones! And just so we didn’t miss our home universities too much, our professors paid us a visit to make sure we are all on track.
Not only have we been fortunate enough to learn from our fellow students, but from international professors who are true experts in the field. We have taken in a lot of information from a variety of subject areas over the past few weeks, with a good balance between theoretical and applied knowledge. We started off with local Leipzig professor Dorothee Alfermann, talking about cross cultural differences and similarities in sport. This was a great topic given the international audience, and allowed for some interesting first-hand insight from various parts of the world.
We had a little help bringing our group together early in the semester with a fun, hands-on session about team cohesion with Peter Schneider. Our knowledge about groups was extended later on with a visit from Mark Eys. We talked about the development of groups, the benefits and potential drawbacks, status, roles, norms, and other factors in between. Very often in life and in sport we function as part of a group, so understanding groups is key – a point that Harold Riemer also emphasized.
Professor Riemer outlined the history of leadership and motivation research, both in and beyond the sport context… while also making me a little homesick with some scenic photos of Canada. I now have a better understanding of some of the roots of sport leadership and motivation research that stemmed from organizational psychology. He provided an excellent whiteboard sketch of Vroom’s Expectancy Theory, explaining how it is linked to goal setting theory, and is particularly relevant to motivating athletes and exercisers.
One major thing that I have gained throughout this semester is some very valuable insight into applied sport psychology. Oliver Stoll provided us with an inside look into real consulting work with elite athletes – something that many of us intend to pursue in the future. Robert Weinberg also shared invaluable wisdom in this area. We got the chance to learn some of his techniques and practice our own skills in assessment and first meetings with athletes. Professor Weinberg, along with numerous other lecturers, have provided us with insightful answers to our what if… and how do I… questions. Vanessa Shannon shared some really useful tools to deal with injured athletes and athletes going through career transition. We will all leave Leipzig with our toolbox full and ready to take on upcoming practicum work!
Nikos Chatzisarantis gave us something different to think about with Wegner’s Ironic Process Theory and the difficulties of thought suppression. We also discussed theories of behaviour change and some strategies to apply them – continuing to be hopeful about closing the ever-present intention-behaviour gap and get people exercising!
Our lectures wouldn’t be complete without a lesson on the fundamental concept of self-efficacy. Deborah Feltz taught us about efficacy beliefs of individual athletes, collective efficacy of teams, and coaching efficacy. In addition to learning about the theory and research, we also went over some practical approaches to improving efficacy beliefs and talked about the role they play in sport performance.
David Shields introduced us to his very own Contesting Theory. We looked at the benefits of seeing athletic contests as a partnership with opponents, in which both sides can strive for excellence and have mutual benefit, rather than taking the perspective of battling against opponents. On a similar moral note, we learned about building democratic team culture with Brenda Bredemeier. She showed us how excellence in athletic performance and moral character can be fostered through team culture, and presented some scenarios that stimulated some great group discussions.
In between all of the classes we still found time to enjoy ourselves. We spent many quality afternoons hanging out in the park or at the lake. Within our group you could always find a friend willing to join whatever activity: basketball, football, table tennis, badminton, kendo, capoeira, rock climbing, weight lifting, volleyball, yoga, tai chi… and the list goes on! We represented our program well, with team EMSEP winning an indoor football tournament, placing well in a team triathlon, and participating in various distances during the Leipzig marathon. There are so many fun memories to look back on!
I am looking forward to learning more about my fellow students in our future seminars, and the upcoming lectures from Martin Hagger, who will conclude the program with a range of topics from emotions in sport and home advantage, to eating disorders and exercise addiction.
I feel very lucky to have had the chance to meet so many of the experts whose research papers and chapters I have read and am inspired by, and my classmates here who are an incredible group of people. It has given me a lot to reflect on and even more enthusiasm for my future in the field of sport and exercise psychology. I know I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again, our time here in Leipzig has been fantastic, thank you to everyone behind EMSEP who has made this experience possible!
Franciszek Smuda, the head coach of the Polish national football team, is no doubt a character. He is known for his hot temper, simplistic language, and often contradictory, semi-philosophical statements. Although he never was a successful player himself, he has contributed a lot to Polish football, especially at the club level. Presently he is the last coach who lead a Polish team into the Champions League’s group stage (Widzew Łódź in 1995/1996), and In 2009 when Smuda was appointed by the Polish Football Association to coach the national team, he got one clear assignment - to prepare the optimal squad for the most important event in the history of Polish sports: the Euro Cup 2012.
Throughout his coaching career, Smuda has emphasized the importance of the mental aspect of the game. In one interview, he admitted that: “Seventy-five percent of football is clear-cut psychology” (Fabjański, 2011, para. 1).There is a catch to this strong statement coming from his mouth though. Despite attributing so much to the mental domain, he had never appointed a trained sport psychologist on the staff of any of the teams he had coached. Instead, he had considered himself to be the best possible psychologist (Błoński, 2012; Fabjański, 2011; Polska Agencja Prasowa [PAP], 2012a). The following quote should give an idea of Smuda’s general attitude:
“I believe that every coach should be somehow able to cope with the psychological aspects of the game by themselves. If one can play football well and has the character to succeed, then there is no need for further mental training. In the 1970s Werder Bremen hired four psychologists and the team crumbled. They almost got relegated! The results got better once the psychologists were sacked. Whenever there is a problem I talk with my players. I often drink coffee with them. It always works.” (Fabjański, 2011, para. 35).
Furthermore, Smuda claimed that there was little space for improvement of mental skills; you are able to play or you are not, you have the right character to deal with pressure or you do not. Therefore, if you do not have the mental ability to compete at the elite level, there is no hope for you in the team anyways, no matter what kind of support you get there. If you do have such ability, then why would you need a sport psychologist (Fabjański, 2011; PAP, 2012b)?
In January 2012 Smuda announced that Barry Solan, an Irish physiologist, to be the last staff member joining the Polish national football team before the Euro Cup. At the same press conference, one of the journalists inquired about the possibility of hiring a sport psychologist as well. Smuda responded with all seriousness: “I have no more room on the staff for anyone else, even a psychologist. There are no lunatics on this team” (Kołodziejczyk, 2012, para. 11).
This statement caused an outrage, but it was relatively short lasted. The public opinion, no matter how critical it had been of the coach, quickly accommodated and appeased the issue. After all, the statement was not so deviant from the general ideas of how Smuda wanted to run the team. In fact, the resentment towards cooperation with a trained sport psychologist fitted quite well into the picture.
The matter should have come to an end at that press conference and so I thought it would. However, the developments of this case took an unexpected turn. On May 11, 2012 unofficial news hit the Polish media: the football team would get assistance from a sport psychologist (Zdankiewicz, 2012). He was first to join the team at the training camp in Lienz, Austria between 16-28 May (PAP, 2012b). What!? I could not believe what I read. Knowing Smuda’s attitude it came to me as a bolt from the blue.
At the beginning of the camp, Smuda touched upon the sport psychologist issue again, this time on a completely different note: “I have thought for a long time whether I should include a sport psychologist on my staff, and finally I made my decision. The psychologist will be at the disposal of the players who really need his services. “ (PAP, 2012a, para. 4).
Paweł Habrat , a graduate of University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw and a licensed sport psychologist by the Polish Olympic Committee, was the one appointed for the job (Zdankiewicz, 2012). Recently he has been all over the media, marketing a book called “Under Pressure” (Pod Presją), which he coauthored with Jerzy Dudek, a former goalkeeper of Feynoord, Liverpool and Real Madrid. Frankly, Habrat was not a bad choice. He is young, motivated and active, yet at the same time relatively experienced.
“Great!”, you may think. The climate for the sport psychologists in football environment is finally changing. At the beginning, I was quite pleased with such a turn of action too. Only later the pitfalls of having Habrat on Smuda’s staff came into my mind.
First and foremost, the decision to hire the psychologist literally three weeks prior to a major tournament is rather dubious. I wondered how much last minute changes on the staff are going to influence the individual players and the team as a collective? If they do at all, are they going to enhance or hinder the performance? Unfortunately, a sport psychologist continues to be perceived as a quick fixer. “Hey, Mr. Habrat, make the players mentally tough. Yes, overnight, please”. What many people do not realize is that sport psychology is not magic. To improve any kind of skill you need a sufficient amount of practice time and there is no difference with mental skills. You do not hire a physiotherapist only when a player gets injured or you do not hire a goalkeeper coach only when the team goes down by five goals. No, these kind of people work with the team all the time. They get the time and space to focus on the process, get to know the players, build relationships, assess the needs, and come up with an appropriate intervention plan.
Paweł Habrat has no such luxury. He does realize the constraint of having limited time left before the first kick off at the Euro, but still strives to make the best out of it (Srogosz, 2012). Another sport psychologist, also licensed by the Polish Olympic Committee, and the founder of the Polish Association for Sport Psychology, Katarzyna Selwant, admitted that the situation indeed was not easy. However, like Habrat himself, she emphasized that it is better to have a sport psychologist on board than not to have him all (Paśniewski, 2012). This is a general stance of Polish sport psychology community: better late than never. I still wonder though if calling up a psychologist last minute will eventually do more harm than good…
Furthermore, there is a lot of media attention right now on Paweł Habrat. From what I have learnt so far about sport psychology practice, the sport psychologist should remain in the shadows. Habrat plays games with the media, which is always a double-edged sword. On the positive side, he does a lot of marketing for the field of sport psychology. He patiently responds to the basic questions in numerous interviews he has given during the recent days, explaining what sport psychology is all about and debunking myths about it (e.g., Srogosz, 2012). On the negative side, he might unconsciously portray himself as someone with more power and actual influence over the team he just joined than he has in reality. In that sense, it is a gamble. Not only for himself, but for the entire field of sport psychology in Poland. In case of a failure during the Euro Cup, Habrat might be scrutinized for doing a poor job and sport psychology for not being effective. There would be no excuse any more for players choking under pressure, because they had a sport psychologist at their disposal. Nobody will remember that he has worked with the team for a mere three weeks prior to the tournament. In case of success, however, the media will definitely attribute some part of it to Habrat’s work, which might open doors of many Polish football clubs for young specialists in sport psychology. This is one reason why I pray for Poland to succeed at this tournament.
Another thing that I have been curious about is how a decision of getting a sport psychologist will confuse the players? “Couple of months ago the coach said, that only the lunatics need a psychologist. Now he’s appointed one… Has some of us gone mad?” players might wonder. “Am I nuts if I go for a consultation now?”
Thus, I speculate whether Smuda made this decision himself, or whether someone put pressure on him to take such a step. For if a sport psychologist should be effective, he must earn Smuda’s trust and approval. Habrat claims that so far they have everything straight (Błoński, 2012; PAP, 2012a; Srogosz, 2012), but who really knows how the dynamics will develop between the two of them. Again, I keep my fingers crossed that they will figure out their roles in time. Especially considering recent developments of the entire drama.
At the end of the training camp in Austria, Smuda went back to his old conservative, autocratic and contradictory self: “This was the first time we had a sport psychologist, which I thought was necessary. Some players might have been motivated by his movies and talks. However, we need to remember that those who can truly play football do not need a psychologist.” (PAP, 2012b, para. 12).
If you are confused about the whole situation, then welcome on board. I am also very, very confused. I do not know what to make out of Smuda’s conception of having Paweł Habrat on board. In general, I do not know what to expect of Poland in the Euro Cup. Having played only friendlies for the past 20 months, the Poland squad’s real potential, with or without a sport psychologist, is a real mystery. On paper they do not stand a chance. According to the most recent UEFA ranking, Poland stands 32nd (out of 53 classified nations) and is by the far the worst team in the tournament (“FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking,” 2012). But with a relatively even group (Greece, Russia and Czech Republic), home field advantage, a couple of star players (think for example of Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski and Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczęsny), and a sport psychologist on the staff, Poland might actually surpass the nations’ hopes and expectations. I certainly keep my fingers crossed for such a scenario. The first answers shall come later this week as Poland takes up Greece on Friday, June 8 at 18.00 CET in the opening game of the Euro.
Błoński, R. (2012, May 17). Franciszek Smuda: Obiecałem, że dam z siebie wszystko. Gazeta Wyborcza. Retrieved from http://www.sport.pl/
Fabjański, M. (2011, August 31). Kopać albo nie kopać. Coaching. Retrieved from
FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking: UEFA (2012, May 9). Retrieved from http://www.fifa.com/
Kołodziejczyk, M. (2012, January 28). Smuda widzi cel. Rzeczpospolita. Retrieved from
Paśniewski, R. (2012, May 24). Katarzyna Selwant: Wygrać głową. Klub Kibica Reprezentacji Polski.
Retrieved from http://www.klubkibicarp.pl/
Polska Agencja Prasowa (2012a, May 17). Smuda: Nie wiedziałem, że będzie tak ciężko. Przegląd Sportowy. Retrieved from http://euro2012.przegladsportowy.pl
Polska Agencja Prasowa (2012b, May 27). Smuda: Tym piłkarzom zabrakło czegoś, aby załapać się do kadry na Euro. Gazeta Wyborcza. Retrieved from http://www.sport.pl/
Srogosz, K. (2012, May 25). Drzwi psychologa kadry otwarte całą dobę. Eurosport. Retrieved from
Zdankiewicz, H. (2012, May, 11). Paweł Habrat tajną bronią Smudy: Psycholog dołączy do sztabu
reprezentacji. Polska the Times. Retrieved from http://www.polskathetimes.pl/
Grzegorz Więcław is currently a Master’s degree student in the EMSEP program at University of Jyväskylä (Finland). He has received his B.A. in psychology and communication from Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada). Grzegorz is interested in mental skills training in young, aspiring athletes. He also writes a personal blog on sport psychology, which you are welcome to visit: http://emsep.blogspot.com
For the last couple of years I was interested in multicultural sport teams, their functioning, communication and relations between the players from various countries. Players from all over the world gather together for a rather short period of time (depending on their contract), coming from a different cultural, language and religion background, and the only one thing that connects them is their team. Therefore their coach has an extremely difficult aim: not only to make the players play together, but actually make the team work as one unit, regardless of the possible differences mentioned above.
During the last 2 years I visited several men’s basketball teams in Europe (Czech Republic, Latvia, Germany), interviewing the players (both domestic and foreign), as well as the coaches of the teams. Although the coaches were not my main aim in this research, I found some of their opinions very interesting, unexpected, and sometimes surprisingly honest and controversial. Therefore, dear readers, I would like to share with you some of their quotes in order to show the problems that might appear while working with multicultural teams.
- Small subgroups of foreigners from the same countries:
Although subgroups of foreigners inside the same team can have both positive and negative effects, a coach should prevent the negative impact on the group dynamic and cohesion:
‘There is this tendency [to form subgroups] for sure. But it is a natural thing. If they come from the same country, they are close to each other, it is caused by the language and the culture of the country they lived in. When there is a domestic player, who understands their language, then there is no problem for them to communicate about anything possible.’
‘We had three players of the same nationality, and that was too much so we left only two of them. It was bad, because they were together all the time… They went somewhere together before the game, during the lunch they were sitting together, and then, again all three of them, went somewhere for a coffee. I was annoyed with it. I wanted to solve this problem, so I got rid of one of them, I let the other two stay here and now I behave towards them the way neither of those two can be sure that he will stay here forever. And now it works.’
- Special impact of American and African-American players on team cohesion:
There are players from all over the world in multicultural teams, i.e. players of various nationalities and races. Considering the popularity of basketball in the USA overall, especially among African-American players, this group forms one of the most common representatives of basketball sport migrants in Europe. Therefore their presence and impact on relationships was specifically mentioned by several coaches.
‘Also it’s very hard with black players. They have a different mentality. They don’t want to train to their maximum. We have to understand that the best players will not come here [the Czech Republic], only those players will come here who will be satisfied with the money we offer. It’s the same in Poland, Germany, Ukraine… the best players are in Russia, because Russians can pay for it. And when he is not a good player, he cannot be a good person. There is always a problem in his head… And when you really want to have a group of black players, you have to be very well prepared and you must have good information.’
‘For many Americans it’s important to have that feeling that… they matter, or they are very important, they are almost the stars, without any bad connotation. So in our case, I’ve sometimes felt like it’s not a good thing to have too many Americans on the team. Last year we had seven, too many, yet now we still have six or five at this point. But that can be a problem because they tend to want to play the first violin. They want to be in the driver’s seat sometimes. … And there lies another big task for the coach, to design certain roles that the players have to accept eventually and fulfil.’
- The maximum amount of foreigners in a team:
So is the number of foreign players in the team essential? Coaches cannot always choose the exact amount of players from different countries in their team; moreover some foreign players can be invited to the team simply because they can attract fans’ interest. However, if the coaches could chose, they’d prefer not to have more than three foreign players in their [basketball] team.
‘I guess two or three. If there are three, then two can be from the same country, and one from another.’
‘Three out of twelve. Eight good domestic players, one from the former Yugoslavia, one from Baltic, and one black player. So they won’t make small groups. Every one of us learns something every day. And when a foreigner comes here, he has to learn as well. So they will learn from each other and I will have a good team.’
- Communication in the team – language barriers:
First of all, the coach has to make sure that every foreign player understands what is exactly needed from him. It can be especially difficult when a foreign player does not have any interest in learning the language of the country he plays in, and a coach cannot speak English as a primary language for communication in multicultural teams. That can be a problem for some coaches (not to mention domestic players who usually make the majority in the team, but have to speak in English even if there’s only one foreign teammate), so the help of assistants/translators is necessary. Yet some of the coaches do not have any language barrier in their teams.
‘I don’t speak English, that’s why I give my instructions in Czech, and one of the players, who speaks English the best, translates it.’
‘…in practice we talk English, pretty much exclusively. The game, it’s … an English speaking game. So I don’t really make that distinction there. The fact is that you have different mentalities, also now with the Serbian playing in our team. You see sometimes a difference in the behaviour, simply due to his education of basketball.’
‘Basketball is like sex. We all speak the same language.’
The aim of this paper was to briefly outline the most common issues for the coaches in my research sample. All the interviews were anonymous and should not be generalized into the whole coach population – take it as an inspiration for a future research project!
Miss Anastasiya Khomutova is a PhD student of kinanthropology (focusing on sport psychology) at Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic. She was born in Ukraine, earning a master’s degree in psychology (Palacky University), and was recently a visiting research student at Loughborough University (UK) and University of Glamorgan (UK). Her main research interest is sport labour migration and multicultural sport teams.
“I would like to learn how to control the negative thoughts during longer slumps in order to quickly return to playing well”. This quote is from one of the ice hockey players in the study when he described what he wanted to improve with his imagery. Studies on imagery have found that imagery is used in ice hockey (Hall, Rodgers, & Barr, 1990; Hallman & Munroe-Chandler, 2009). Moreover, athletes in general seem to experience voluntary and spontaneous imagery (e.g., Murphy, Nordin, & Cumming, 2008) with positive and negative effects. Based on previous imagery research Hall (2001) writes that most imagery is experienced to have positive effects rather than negative effects. Substantial research has focused on the positive effects of imagery (e.g., Salmon, Hall, & Haslam, 1994). However, not all athletes can use imagery in a controlled way and hence sometimes experience imagery with negative effects (e.g., Dridiger, Hall, & Callow, 2006). Therefore, the distinction between voluntary and spontaneous imagery and its effects is interesting. This article presents a discussion about spontaneous and voluntary imagery experiences and its effects.
Eleven male professional ice hockey players participated in the study. They were between 20 and 32 years old (M = 23.09, SD = 3.41). The eleven players had played ice hockey for a mean of 16.63 years (SD = 3.38). Four players had represented the junior national team of their country. They all filled in IPIES that is an instrument examining imagery experiences in sport.
Ten out of 11 ice hockey players in this study experienced voluntary and/or spontaneous imagery. Nine players used voluntary imagery with positive effects. Six players experienced spontaneous imagery with positive effects and five players experienced spontaneous imagery with negative effects.
Research has found that athletes use imagery more in relation to competition compared to practice (e.g., White & Hardy, 1998). This was also found among the ice hockey players in this study. The ice hockey players used imagery in all the major contexts except for directly after practice. The reason why athletes seem to use imagery more in relation to competition compared to practice is probably because the competitive situations are more important to them. Research (e.g., Weinberg et al., 2003) shows that athletes seem to use imagery more often after competition compared to after practice. If athletes find it beneficial to use imagery after competition it should also be beneficial to use imagery after practice.
One player imagined driving a Porsche during competition. Irrelevant contents of imagery were found by Nordin and Cumming (2005). The dancers reported that they took a “mental holiday”. Imagining driving a Porsche might also be used in order to think of something else, and although the image may be seen as irrelevant it had a positive effect for the athlete. The contents reported by the ice hockey players were mostly reported in a general form (e.g., positive performances). The content Positive performances consist of several different performances. During an ice hockey game there are a great variety of different specific performances and situations. This might be because ice hockey is a team sport and it is difficult to single out specific situations to imagine. Tennis players, playing an individual sport, reported more specific contents, for example, good serve and good shots (Weibull, 2005). There are also a great variety of situations to imagine in tennis. However, there are more different variables to keep in mind in ice hockey. For example the player may have several teammates and opponents to consider. Imaging specific performances before competition might therefore have debilitative effects on the performances of an ice hockey player.
Most of the ice hockey players’ imagery patterns were used to experiences positive feelings. To experience positive feelings is a rather vague purpose. It would be interesting to further investigate the feelings involved. Athletes in Munroe et al.’s (2000) study alluded to use imagery to help get into a certain “mode”. Other purposes that were reported by the ice hockey players were for example to enhance motivation, enhance confidence, and improve concentration. This is in line with previous research that found imagery to be used to enhance motivation and self-confidence (White & Hardy, 1998). More specifically, the results of this study support the notion of a relationship between imagery and self-confidence (Rattanakoses, et al., 2009). Moreover, several players in this study used imagery to re-create past experiences. This is an interesting way of using imagery and has been found in previous research (e.g., White & Hardy, 1998).
Imagery was experienced voluntary and spontaneously by the ice hockey players in this study. Nine players used voluntary imagery with positive effects, although this study has used a small sample, this offers some support to Hall’s (2001) conclusion that imagery most often has positive effects rather than negative effects. No voluntary imagery was found to have negative effects in this study. However, this can be experienced by athletes and in Wallsbeck’s (2009) master thesis one ice hockey player reported that he used a voluntary imagery pattern with a negative effect.
This study supports previous findings that athletes experience spontaneous imagery (e.g., Smith & Holmes, 2004). Three ice hockey players experienced spontaneous imagery patterns with positive effects and 5 players experienced spontaneous imagery patterns with negative effects. This supports previous findings that spontaneous imagery both can have positive (Smith & Holmes, 2004) and negative effects (e.g., Dridiger, et al., 2006). Moreover, the effects of spontaneous imagery are complicated. For example, one ice hockey player experienced spontaneous imagery of positive situations and perceived this to have a negative effect. This study did not present what the spontaneous imagery had an effect on. In a study by Hanton et al. (2004) the participants reported to experience negative images. These images were perceived to have negative effects on their performance and be related to low self-esteem.
There are still no clear guidelines for athletes and sport psychologist on how to work with spontaneous imagery. Spontaneous imagery has been reported to be easy to control (Starker, 1974) and to have positive effects (Smith & Holmes, 2004). This suggests that spontaneous imagery might facilitate athletes’ performances in certain situations. However, spontaneous imagery can have negative effects for athletes (e.g., McIntyre & Moran, 2007) and this was also found in this study on ice hockey players. In order to control the negative effects, the athletes need to learn how to control their imagery use. Hence the athletes need to have the imagery ability to do this. This perspective of spontaneous imagery supports Gerard (1961) in his suggestion that the goal of imagery is to have controlled voluntary imagery. Spontaneous imagery with negative effects has also been reported to be reduced after an intervention (Weibull, 2006). Athletes differ in their ability to generate images (Isaac & Marks, 1986) and therefore sport psychologist should consider these differences in order to successfully work with athletes’ imagery experiences.
Several players in this study did not reflect over the fact that they used imagery. In order to handle the negative effects and enhance the positive effects of imagery, it is important to increase the athletes’ awareness of their voluntary and spontaneous imagery experiences and its effects. Using the IPIES and receiving help from sport psychology consultants can be one strategy helping athletes becoming more aware of their imagery experiences.
Mikael Wallsbeck has a European masters in sport and exercise psychology. He has a background in hockey and is currently a referee. Mikael also consults with athletes and groups in order to enhance their performances, he owns the company “Imagine that” with Fredrik Weibull that deliver workshops andindividualized imagery programs in business and sport settings. He is also a board member of the Swedish association of sport psychology (www.svenskidrottspsykologi.se) .
If you want you can check out our blog on http://idrottspsykologi.wordpress.com. Most texts are in Swedish but some texts are in English.