Term of Award

2001

Degree Name

Master of Science in Kinesiology with an Emphasis in Sport Psychology

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of Health and Kinesiology

Committee Chair

Charles J. Hardy

Committee Member 1

Kevin L. Burke

Committee Member 2

A. Barry Joyner

Abstract

Past research has examined the public's perceptions (e.g., Linder, Brewer, Van Raalte, & De Lange, 1991) and collegiate athletes' perceptions (e.g., Sullivan & Hodge, 1991) of sport psychology, but there is limited research that studied the high school athlete population. This study used a qualitative analysis to examine high school athletes' perceptions of sport psychology and their preferences for different types of services. Sixty-five high school varsity athletes (33 boys & 32 girls) from three southeastern rural schools participated in the study. The athletes had participated in at least one varsity sport (tennis, golf, cross-country, basketball, track, softball, baseball, & soccer) and were currently in the 9th through 12th grade year. Athletes participated in a 30-45 minute focus group session, completed a background questionnaire, and the "Preferences for Sport Psychology Services" survey {PSPS} (Burke, 1999). By using the focus group methodology, an informal, open, non-directive discussion was created. Eight focus group sessions were conducted, four sessions for each gender. The focus group discussion guide consisted of nine questions concerning the athletes' perceptions of the mental side of sport, meaning of sport psychology, description of a sport psychologist, purpose of a sport psychologist, and important mental issues. Also, barriers and facilitators of using a sport psychologist and high school athletes' preferences for the types of services were ascertained. Each focus group session was audiotape recorded. The PSPS, the Ethnograph v5.0 computer program (1998), and four researchers were utilized to triangulate the data for themes. Major themes for male and female athletes were compared, and they perceptions of sport psychology were very similar. The only three major differences were on associations with the words "sport psychology," descriptions of a sport psychologist, and reasons for not liking certain services. Overall, the male and female athletes had a positive attitude toward sport psychology. Both groups believed that the services could be beneficial to a wide variety of athletes, but did not feel that athletes and coaches had enough information about sport psychology.

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