Psychological Support for the Talent Pathway: Qualitative Process Evaluation of a State Sport Academy’s Psychology Service

Richard Keegan, Snezana Stoljarova, Lena Kessler, Sarah Jack

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)
    187 Downloads (Pure)


    Sport psychologists provide their services in complex settings, with numerous competing demands, resource constraints, and aims/goals for the psychology support service. Research in sport psychology often struggles to characterize the unique challenges of applied practice as it occurs in context. This research examined the delivery of a year-round sport psychology support service in a relatively small state sports academy, which serviced approximately 100 talented and high-potential athletes across multiple sports and levels. A qualitative process evaluation was undertaken. Eight semi-structured interviews were conducted with key stakeholders, including: two current psychologists, one former psychologist, two senior managers, one full time coach and three athletes. After deductively coding content into six higher-order themes, based on process-evaluation approaches, quotes were inductively analyzed using thematic content analysis. Dense and rich category clusters were identified within each higher-order theme: (a) aims and objectives; (b) context and environment; (c) implementation (i.e., what is done by the sport psychologists?); (d) attributes of the sport psychologists; (e) mechanisms of impact; and (f) outcomes generated. The themes extended beyond what is articulated in many current models of service delivery. Analysis suggested that not only are there numerous concepts “in play” when delivering sport psychology services, but that they are deeply interdependent and interconnected. There were notable discrepancies between the assumed aims of the service and the outcomes that were most valued by participants. The study identifies several key strengths and threats for the sport psychology service, and insights that can be applied in diverse service delivery settings.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)665-690
    Number of pages26
    JournalJournal of Applied Sport Psychology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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