Exploring the role of the sport psychologist : athletes' and practitioners' reflections on applied experiences and competencies
The role of the sport psychologist is multifaceted. One element of this role is in using relating skills. This aspect has received little detailed attention in the sport psychology literature. In study I of the thesis, the roles of researcher and consultant were combined in an applied project with junior dlite archers. Findings from study I included using both task and ego-oriented (Duda, 1996) forms of elicitation in baseline assessment, adapting a performance profile (Butler, 1989) to be archery-specific and emphasising transfer of skills to help in other life domains. Reflections of the consultant's role included questioning the training involved in the relating skills of applied sport psychologists in the UK. A key consideration was dealing with 'issues not directly related to sport/performance' that were raised in consultations. The perceived prevalence and impact of these issues were examined further in study 2 by assessing the perceptions of athletes and other practitioners. The findings confirmed that these issues are raised in consultations and have a perceived impact on athletes' training and competition performances. Various relating skills (including counselling skills) were highlighted as important to the role of the sport psychologist. The terminology used by respondents required clarification on practitioners' understanding of these terms in order to address further the role of relating skills for sport psychologists. Study 3 explored practitioners' use of relating skills, their understanding of various relating terms, perceptions of the importance of counselling skills and implications for the training of sport psychologists via focus group methodology. A definition of 'interaction' was developed to complement the unique qualitative analysis of data from the focus groups. Many themes emerged which included the importance of listening and interpersonal skills to the role of applied sport psychologists. Perceptions of different types of counselling existed and most of the practitioners possessed relating skills based on their ‘craft' knowledge (McFee, 1993), this was contrasted with a notion of sport psychologists being 'formal' helpers (Egan, 1998) with 'professional' knowledge (Sch6n, 1983). There was a lack of clarity and diverging perceptions from the groups on various aspects of relating skills that sometimes caused underlying tensions to emerge. In conclusion, an integrated model of 'helping' for applied sport psychologists was presented which included the notion of adapting approaches and giving 'appropriate responses' based on a foundation of core relating skills developed from professional and craft knowledge. At the end of this thesis the researcher reflects on her conceptual and methodological journey, a route that encompassed different writing styles and legitimisation criteria. This journey includes a notion of development both as a researcher and consultant and in using different methodological and philosophical perspectives that were appropriate to the research questions.