Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
Symposium: Thriving in Sport: Conceptual, Empirical, and Practical Advances
Tuesday, 12/July/2022:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Daniel J Brown
Location: Room 9 - Palazzo del BO

Show help for 'Increase or decrease the abstract text size'

Thriving in Sport: Conceptual, Empirical, and Practical Advances

Chair(s): Daniel J Brown (University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom)

Recent years have seen increased scrutiny on sporting environments owing to a series of high-profile cases where the treatment and protection of athletes within these settings has fallen below acceptable standards. Consequently, sport organizations have undergone culture reviews to ensure changes are enacted that prioritize and protect athlete well-being alongside performance. In consort with these changes, academic literature has emerged to inform and support organizations, their athletes, and their employees to achieve these joint outcomes and, ultimately, to thrive (Brown et al., 2021). The purpose of this symposium is to present contemporary advances from the literature including empirical studies on the social factors influencing thriving, practical attempts to promote thriving, and reflections on key next steps in the field.

Following a brief introduction to the topic of thriving (Paper 1), two papers will be presented examining the role of coaches and teammates on the occurrence of thriving. Paper 2 will examine the importance of athletes’ attachment to their coaches on their experience of thriving and the mediating role of athletes’ basic psychological need satisfaction. Paper 3 elucidates how teammates can both mitigate and exacerbate the effect of organizational stressors on athletes’ subsequent thriving. Shifting focus towards practical applications, Paper 4 describes how, using participatory action research, a researcher worked with an Olympic sport organization to foster thriving through the development of an athlete induction programme. Paper 5 will conclude the symposium by offering critical considerations on how thriving could be conceptualised in team sport settings and on a collective level.


Presentations of the Symposium


What do we mean by ‘thriving’?

Daniel J Brown
University of Portsmouth, UK

The past five years have seen a rapid growth in sport researchers studying the topic of thriving. Within this work, advances have been made in our understanding of what characterizes thriving in sport (e.g., Brown et al., 2018) and of the psychological and social factors that can bring about its occurrence (e.g., Brown & Arnold, 2019; Kinoshita et al., 2021; McHenry et al., 2020; McNeill et al., 2018; Rouquette et al., 2021). However, studies conducted on thriving in sport have also continued to perpetuate a trend of researchers adopting different conceptualizations and operationalizations of the construct in their work (Brown et al., 2017). To provide clarity for readers and consumers of this literature, this opening presentation will describe each of the different approaches that have been adopted by thriving researchers, along with arguments for why thriving is best understood from a functioning-based perspective. The presentation will also provide brief considerations on the distinction between the construct of thriving, and the constructs of growth and resilience.


Thriving through relationships in sport: The coach-athlete attachment relationship

Louise Davis1, Daniel J Brown2, Rachel Arnold3, Henrik Gustaffsson4
1Umeå University, Sweden, 2University of Portsmouth, UK, 3University of Bath, UK, 4Karlstad University, Sweden

The aim of this research was to examine the contextual enablers associated with the occurrence of athlete thriving. One contextual enabler of particular interest is the relationships that athletes develop with significant others, including sports coaches. Outside of sport, research has found that relationships built on secure attachments can act as a contextual enabler for thriving across the lifespan (Feeney and Collins, 2015). Therefore, we aimed to extend previous research by examining (1) how athletes’ attachment relationships to their sports coach (e.g., secure, anxious, avoidant) enable or hinder thriving within sport, and (2) the mediating effects of basic psychological need satisfaction on the relationship between coach–athlete attachment and thriving. In total 290 Swedish athletes (138 female and 152 male) ranging from 11 to 46 years old (M = 18.46) completed a multi-section questionnaire measuring the main variables under investigation. Structural equation modelling showed significant predictive relationships existed between anxious and a secure attachment and thriving; however, a non-significant prediction was found for avoidant attachment and thriving. Furthermore, the results suggest that athletes basic need satisfaction fully mediated the effects of athletes’ secure, avoidant, and anxious attachment styles on thriving. The findings lend support to the contention that basic psychological needs satisfaction is an underpinning process variable through which social-contextual factors (i.e., coaches) can impact thriving (Brown et al., 2017). Future interventions aiming to promote athlete thriving may be enhanced by targeting coaching strategies and behaviours that facilitate positive secure relations as well as address and satisfy athletes’ psychological needs.


Understanding the relationship between organizational stressors, interpersonal dynamics, and thriving in competitive rowers

Lucrezia Fossi1, Daniel J Brown1, Chris Wagstaff1, Alessandro Quartiroli2
1University of Portsmouth, UK, 2University of Winsconsin-La Crosse, USA; University of Portsmouth, UK

Thriving is a desirable experience in the athletic context as it is characterised by both high levels of performance and well-being (Brown et al., 2017). While social characteristics have been found to facilitate its occurrence (Brown & Arnold, 2019), organizational stressors may have detrimental effects on performance (Didymus & Fletcher, 2017) and well-being (Arnold et al., 2017). Given the impact of organizational stressors, it is important to analyse the mitigating role that social characteristics may hold. The aim of this research was to provide the first explicit exploration into the association between organizational and interpersonal dynamics on thriving. A mixed methodology was employed with quantitative data collected to guide questioning within subsequent semi-structured interviews conducted with 15 Italian rowers. Data were collected at two times in the athletic season, first, during the off-season and, second, during the competitive phase. Such distinction was made to understand if and how the athletes’ behaviours and perceptions changed during differing levels of competitive stress. Reflexive thematic analysis of the two sets of interviews generated three themes that reflected ambivalent effects of social characteristics in facilitating thriving and mitigating the effects of organizational stressors. The importance of team support and trusting relationships, shared adversities, and self-identification within the team facilitated the experience of thriving. However, as in previous research, social support was also perceived to exacerbate the experience of organizational stressors (Arnold et al., 2018). The results of the study offer insights for practitioners on the mitigating and facilitative role of social characteristics.


Using participatory action research to develop an induction programme to facilitate thriving in an Olympic sport organisation

Michael Passaportis1, Daniel J Brown1, Chris Wagstaff1, Rachel Arnold2
1University of Portsmouth, UK, 2University of Bath, UK

Elite sport environments are becoming increasingly complex and volatile as sport organisations search for a competitive edge to deliver instant and consistent success (Wagstaff, 2016). These multifaceted environments have the potential to significantly impact athlete well-being and performance, and may be a particularly salient influence for athletes transitioning into elite sport organisations. Thriving may offer practitioners a means to ease potentially difficult transition processes by promoting high levels of wellbeing and performance simultaneously. Thus, this study aimed to create an induction programme for new athletes transitioning onto an Olympic programme that would facilitate thriving by enhancing both athlete performance and well-being. To achieve these aims, a participatory action research (PAR) design was employed. PAR approaches view research as a collaborative enterprise based on the assumption that academic researchers and community members can come together to create or change practices. The lead researcher and several members of a British Olympic sport organisation (e.g., sport psychology practitioner, Head of People and Culture) undertook a joint process of self-reflective cycles involving planning, acting and observing, and reflecting over eight months. Through this collaboration, an induction programme underpinned by guiding principles of trust, clarity, and belonging was created to promote athlete thriving. These principals were enabled through excellent two-way communication, appropriate challenge and support, and an individual needs led approach. This ensured multidisciplinary support teams maintained a consistent focus on thriving throughout the induction process which positively benefited inductees and effectively communicated the organisation’s commitment to holistic development of their athletes.


Collective thriving in team sports: Conceptual and methodological considerations

Cailie S. McGuire1, Daniel J Brown2, Luc Martin1
1Queen's University, Canada, 2University of Portsmouth, UK

Despite conceptual advances and preliminary associations highlighting the benefits of thriving in sport (e.g., goal achievement, Kinoshita et al., 2021; enhanced life satisfaction, Rouquette et al., 2021), opportunities for continued research are numerous. Notably, sport specific research involving thriving has predominantly taken an individual athlete perspective (Brown et al., 2021). Interestingly, evidence from organizational psychology suggests that thriving can manifest at a collective level through interdependent team member interactions (Walumbwa et al., 2018; Xu & Wang, 2019). Given the potential for collective thriving to occur in team sports, a critique of collective athlete thriving is advanced. More specifically, the authors first discuss the implications of a conceptual shift in focus using example constructs that have been examined at both individual and collective levels from within (e.g., collective efficacy; Feltz, 2007) and beyond sport psychology (e.g., team burnout; Urien et al., 2021). Based on established conceptual underpinnings, the complex and dynamic emergence of collective thriving is considered (i.e., compositional versus compilation emergence; Kozlowski & Klein, 2000), paying particular attention to potential contagion effects. Further, the attainment of ‘team thriving’ is explored, cogitating the necessity of member awareness and group consensus, and the potential for varying degrees of influence from certain athletes. Finally, and with a view to operationalization, collective thriving is discussed as a shared or configural construct (Klein & Kozlowski, 2000), and if most accurately represented through the aggregation of individual-level perceptions or the adoption of a multi-level approach.

Contact and Legal Notice · Contact Address:
Privacy Statement · Conference: FEPSAC 2022
Conference Software: ConfTool Pro 2.6.146+TC
© 2001–2023 by Dr. H. Weinreich, Hamburg, Germany