As many among us have learned from the sport psychology literature, many factors contribute to and surround the stories of optimal athlete performance. With performance in mind, the last few months have been interesting for those among us who follow amateur elite sport. For you, as me, there are probably certain memorable moments recalled of athletes performing with grace in one among the most complex and challenging of amateur tournaments: the Olympic Games.
What makes an athlete’s performance memorable? Some are among the most dramatic of stories of human endurance and the ability to achieve a dream regardless of resource constraints, and even despite human tragedy. There are also other stories that warm the viewer’s heart about athletes [and coaches] who are able to bridge understanding and share knowledge with others from different cultures and nations with no reason other than to share what they love. As a Canadian, I was recently delighted and fascinated by the performance of the Canadian Women’s Ice Hockey Team. The women’s team won their second consecutive gold medal, and their outcome was celebrated by Canadians and residents from the Olympic Games host city, Torino, Italy. When a national team’s social support widens to include people from more than their own nation, such support is often earned by an act that binds nations and cultures.
I was intrigued and delighted that spectators from two countries joined forces and encouraged one national team in their pursuits. As the story unfolded, it became clear that the Italian spectators’ support was an act of reciprocity earned through generosity, with one act of kindness [the athletes] followed by another [the host city’s]. When the team was featured, it was noted that they arrived in Italy one month early in order to acclimatize, focus, and prepare. Though perhaps not intentionally part of their formal preparatory plan, they allotted time to assist Italian junior hockey players through informal hockey clinics and invited speeches. Something must be said of peak sport performances that are built on a foundation of sharing, generosity, and so, a broader perspective than the self. Optimal performance, this story would indicate, can originate with generosity, and result in both a deepened drive to succeed and a broadened social support.
Building upon the aforementioned example, sport behaviour is explained by a wide array of topics, with all offering parts to a larger picture. Within the present installment of Athletic Insight, four unique sport psychology contributions are featured, varying from psychological momentum, to athlete aggression, the gender – sport discipline relationship, and the supportive assistance of applied sport psychology practitioners. Each submission offers the reader something different to consider in regards to sport performance. The first submission is from Lee Crust and Mark Nesti, British authors conduct “A Review of Psychological Momentum in Sport”, and propose that qualitative methods be used by future researchers to explore their chosen topic. Next, Chris Gee and Phillip Sullivan from Canada, by videotaping, employ “A Direct Observation Approach to Study Aggressive Behavior in Ice-Hockey Athletes”. Their contribution, beyond its methodological rigor, indicates one effective way to record athletes’ aggressive behaviours and rule infractions. Third, BreeAnn Milligan and Mary Pritchard from the United States consider “The Relationship between Gender, Sport, Self-Esteem, and Eating Disordered Behaviors” with Division One university athletes. They consider male and female athletes, and provide the reader with some interesting data when disordered behaviours are considered in relation to sports classified as lean and non-lean. The final submission, titled “Referral Practices: Are Sport Psychology Consultants Out of their League?” features the reflective work of Amy Gayman and Jane Crossman, from Canada. Within their submission, Gayman and Crossman interviewed eighteen nationally certified mental training consultants with a structured questionnaire regarding their varied referral practices. Clearly, their submission will spark debate regarding the parameters of applied sport psychology practice in relation to the consultant’s education and expertise.
In closing, Dr. Miguel Humara and I would like to extend our best wishes to you for the Spring of 2006, and thank you for your continued interest in Athletic Insight. We appreciate your interest in the journal, its quality authors, and its fantastic review staff.