It's All About the Mental Game
The Experiences of Position Specialists in a Collegiate Team Sport Environment
Keywords:sport specialization, position specialists, pressure, confidence, coaching
The exploration of early sport specialization and sport specialization in general have been mostly studied in the context of sport revealing potential risks (e.g., injury, dropout, burnout, stress; Baker et al., 2009; Bodey et al., 2013; Gould & Whitley, 2009; Kaleth & Mikesky, 2010). However, limited research is available related to position specialists (those that specialize within a specific role within their sport, e.g., pitcher in baseball). Understanding position specialization can further assist in understanding the growing phenomenon of specialization that is occurring, and also inform organizations or teams on how these unique positions effect team dynamics.
This study examined the experiences of position specialists in a team sport within collegiate athletics through the lens of niche theory (Hannan & Freeman, 1977). Participants were 21 student-athletes who were considered position specialists (i.e., pitchers, kickers, punters, goalies, and goaltenders) in their respective sports of baseball, softball, football, hockey, soccer, and lacrosse. Constant comparative analysis of semi-structured interviews revealed the emergent themes of history of position specialization, magnification of pressure, unique mental approach, and absence of understanding. Participants’ highlighted they found their specialized position accidentally, but felt this position allowed collegiate sport opportunities. The themes also revealed the importance of maintaining confidence in their abilities, the magnitude of pressure received, and the need for competent specialist position coaches. Position specialists’ face distinct challenges in their positions and thus, better understanding of their experiences is needed to provide adequate resources and training.
Adeyoyin, S. O., Ajiboye, B. A., Adegun, A. I. & Tomomowo-Adeyinka, S. (2013). Division of labour and job specialization as catalysts for better job performance among the staff of a Nigerian university library. Information and Knowledge Management, 3(12).
Available online at: www.iiste.org.
Adeyoyin, S. O., Ajiboye, B. A., Adegun, A. I. & Tomomowo-Adeyinka, S. (2015). Effects of job specialization and departmentalization on job satisfaction among the staff of a Nigerian university library. Library Philosophy and Practice. Available online at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/1295
Alcaraz, S., Torregrosa, M., & Viladrich, C. (2015). How coaches’ motivations mediate between basic psychological needs and well-being/ill-being. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 86(3), 292-302.
Baker, J., Cobley, S., & Fraser-Thomas, J. (2009). What do we know about early sport specialization? Not much! High Ability Studies, 20, 77-89.
Baker, J., Côté, J., & Abernethy, B. (2003). Sport specific training, deliberate practice and the development of expertise in team ball sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15, 12-25.
Baum, J. A. & Shipilov, A. V. (2006). Ecological approaches to organizations. In S. Clegg,
C. Hardy, T. Lawrence, & W. Nord (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Organization Studies (2nd ed.) (pp. 55-110). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Benford, R. D. (2007). The college sports reform movement: Reframing the ‘‘edutainment’’ industry. The Sociological Quarterly, 48, 1–28.
Berg, B. L. (2001). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (5th ed). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Bodey, K., Judge, L. W., & Hoover, J. V. (2013). Specialization in youth sport: What coaches should tell parents. Strategies, 26(1), 3-7.
Bray, S., Beauchamp, M., Eys, M., & Carron, A. V. (2005). Does the need for role clarity moderate the relationship between role ambiguity and athlete satisfaction. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 17, 306-318.
Britton, N. (2007). Qualitative interviews. In C. Pope & N. Mays (Eds.), Qualitative research in health care (3rd edition) (pp.12-20). Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing.
Brylinsky, J. (2010). Practice makes perfect and other curriculum myths in sport specialization debate. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 81(8), 22-25.
Busseri, M. A., Rose-Krasnor, L., Willoughby, T., & Chalmers, H. (2006). A longitudinal examination of breadth and intensity of youth activity involvement and successful development. Developmental Psychology, 42, 1313-1326.
Carron, A. V., Eys, M. A., & Burke, S. M. (2007). Team cohesion: Nature, correlates, and development. In S. Jowlett & D. Lavallee (Eds.), Social psychology in sport (pp. 91-101). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Carron, A. V., Shapcott, K. M., & Burke, S. M. (2007). Group cohesion in sport and exercise: Past, present, and future. In M. R. Beauchamp & M. A. Eys (Eds.), Group dynamics in exercise and sport psychology: Contemporary themes (pp. 117-140). New York: Routledge.
Cesare, S. J., & Thornton, C. (1993). Human resource management and the specialist/generalist issue. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 8(3), 31-40.
Coakley, J. (2009). Sports in society: Issues and controversies (10th ed.) New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Coakley, J. (2010). The “logic” of specialization: Using children for adult purposes. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, & Dance, 81(8), 16-25.
Cohen, A., Brown, B., & Peachey, J. W. (2012). The intersection of pop culture and non-traditional sports: An examination of the niche market of quidditch. International Journal of Management and Marketing, 12(3/4), 180-197.
Conroy, D. E., Willow, J. P., & Metzler, J. N. (2002). Multidimensional fear of failure measurement: The performance failure appraisal inventory. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 14(2), 76-90.
Corbin , J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Corden, A., & Sainsbury, R. (2006). Using verbatim quotations in reporting qualitative social reseearch: Researchers’ views (pp. 11-14). York, UK: University of York.
Côté, J. (1999). The influence of the family in the development of talent in sport. The Sport Psychologist, 13(4), 395-417.
Côté, J., & Hay, J. (2002). Children’s involvement in sport: A developmental perspective. In M.J. Silva and D.E. Stevens (Eds.), Psychological foundations of sport, (pp. 384-502). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Côté, J., Lindor, R., & Hackfort, D. (2009). ISSP position stand: To sample or to specialize? Seven postulates about youth sport activities that lead to continued participation and elite performance. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7, 7-17.
Datta, S., & Iskandar‐Datta, M. (2014). Upper‐echelon executive human capital and compensation: Generalist vs specialist skills. Strategic Management Journal, 35(12), 1853-1866.
Dixon, M., Turner, M. J., & Gillman, J. (2017). Examining the relationships between challenge and threat cognitive appraisals and coaching behaviours in football coaches. Journal of Sport Sciences, 35(24), 2445-2452.
Dwyer, B., Greenhalgh, G.P., & LeCrom, C.W. (2016). Niche-versus mainstream-sport spectators: An analysis of need for uniqueness and sport eFANgelism. International Journal of Sport Communication, 9, 364-383.
Dwyer, B., Greenhalgh, G.P., & LeCrom, C.W. (2015). Exploring fan behavior: Developing a scale to measure sport eFANgelism. Journal of Sport Management, 29, 642-656.
Eys, M. A., Burke, S. M., Carron, A. V., & Dennis, P. W. (2010). The sport team as an effective group. In J. Williams (Ed.), Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (6th ed.) (pp. 132-148). Boston, MA: Higher Education.
Eysenck, M. W., & Calvo, M. G. (1992). Anxiety and performance: The processing efficiency theory. Cognitive and Emotion, 6, 409-434.
Fraser-Thomas, J., Côté, J., & Deakin, J. (2008). Examining adolescent sport dropout and prolonged engagement from a developmental perspective. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20, 318-333.
Geertz, C. (1994). Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. Readings in the philosophy of social science, 213-231.
Godfrey, M. G. (2011). College football players as nontraditional students: The cultural experience of expectations in higher education. Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 5, 105–125.
Gould, D. (2010). Early sport specialization. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, & Dance, 81(8), 33-37.
Gould, D., & Whitley, M. (2009). Sources and consequences of athletic burnout among college athletes. Journal of Intercollegiate Athletic, 2, 16-30.
Greenhalgh, G. P. & Greenwell, T.C. (2013). Professional niche sports sponsorship: An investigation of sponsorship selection criteria. International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, 14, 77-94.
Greenhalgh, G. P., Simmons, J. M., Hambrick, M. E., & Greenwell, T. C. (2011). Spectator support: Examining the attributes that differentiate niche from mainstream sport. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 20, 41-51.
Haggar, M. S., Chatzisarantis, N., Culverhouse, T., & Biddle, S. J. H. (2003). The processes by which perceived autonomy support in physical education promotes leisure-time physical activity intentions and behavior: A trans-contextual model. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 784-795.
Hannan, M. T. & Freeman, J. H. (1977). The population ecology of organizations. American Journal of Sociology, 83, 929–84.
Hardin, R., Cooper, C. & Huffman, L. T. (2013). Moving on up: NCAA Division I athletic directors’ career experiences. Journal of Applied Sport Management, 5(3), 55-78.
Hardin, R., Ruihley, B., & Veraldo, C. (2013). Collegiate athletic directors’ perception of academic research: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Contemporary Athletics 8(1), 37-52.
Jarvis, N. (2002). Sponsorship and gay sport: A case study of the 2000 gay softball world series. International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, 4(3), 205-230.
Jones, M. V., Meijen, C., McCarthy, P. J., & Sheffield, D. (2009). A theory of challenge and threat states in athletes. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2(2), 161-180.
Kaleth, A. S., & Mikesky, A. E. (2010). Impact of early sport specialization. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, & Dance, 81(8), 29-37.
Kimball, A. C. (2007). ‘‘You signed the line’’: Collegiate student athletes’ perceptions of autonomy. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8, 818–835.
Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Lally, P. (2007). Identity and athletic retirement: A prospective study. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8, 85-99.
Langfred, C. W. (2004). Too much of a good thing? Negative effects of high trust and individual autonomy in self-managing teams. Academy of Management Journal, 47(3), 385-399.
Lindlo f, T. R., & Taylor, B. C. (2019). Qualitative communication research methods (4th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
McCoyd, J. L., & Kerson, T. S. (2006). Conducting intensive interviews using email: A serendipitous comparative opportunity. Qualitative Social Work, 5, 389-406.
Milne, G. R., McDonald, M. A., Sutton, W. A., & Kashyap, R. (1996). A niche-based evaluation of sport participation patterns. Journal of Sport Management, 10, 417-434.
McPhail, A., & Kirk, D. (2006). Young people’s socialization into sport: Experiencing the specializing phase. Leisure Studies, 25(1), 57-74.
Meijen, C., Jones, M. V., McCarthy, P. J., Sheffield, D., & Allen, M. S. (2013). Cognitive and affective components of challenge and threat states. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31(8), 847-855.
Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research a guide to design and implementation. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Boss.
Molles, M. & Sher, A. (2019). Ecology: Concepts and applications. New York, NY: Mc- Graw-Hill Education.
Moore, L. J., Vine, S. J., Wilson, M. R., & Freeman, P. (2014). Examining the antecedents of challenge and threat states: The influence of perceived required effort and support availability. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 93, 267-273.
NCAA (2018). Student-athletes. Retrived from: http://www.ncaa.org/student-athletes
Nicholls, A. R., Levy, A. R., Carson, F., Thompson, M. A., & Perry, J. L. (2016). The applicability of self-regulation theories in sport: Goal adjustment capacities, stress appraisals, coping, and well-being among athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 27, 47-55.
Novick, G. (2008). Is there a bias against telephone interviews in qualitative research? Research Nursing Health, 31(4), 391-398.
Patel, D. R., Omar, H., & Terry, M. (2010). Sport-related performance anxiety in young female athletes. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 23(6), 325-335.
Patton, M. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Rubin, H. J., & Rubin, I. S. (2011). Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2002). An overview of self-determination theory. In E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 3-33). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.
Sagar, S., Busch, K. B., & Jowett, S. (2010). Success and failure, fear of failure, and coping responses of adolescent academy football players. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. 2, 213-230.
Salas, S., & Gaertner, D. (2004). The behavioral dynamics of fishers: management implications. Fish and Fisheries, 5(2), 153-167.
Saldaña, J. (2013). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Schwarzenberger, V. (2011). The role of sports brands in niche sports subcultures. Unpublished dissertation. Auckland University of Technology. Auckland, New Zealand.
Simonsmeier, B. A., & Buecker, S. (2017). Interrelations of imagery use, imagery ability, and performance in young athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 29(1), 32-43.
Smith, A. L., Nourmanis, N., Duda, J. L., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2011). Goal striving, coping, and well-being: A prospective investigation of the self-concordance model in sport. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 33, 124-145.
Spiggle, S. (1994). Analysis and interpretation of qualitative data in consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research, 21, 491-503.
Sturges, J. E., & Hanrahan, K. J. (2004). Comparing telephone and face-to-face qualitative interviewing: A research note. Qualitative Research 4, 107-118.
Taylor, E. A. & Hardin, R. (2016). Female NCAA Division I athletic directors: Experiences and challenges. Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 24(1), 14-25.
Tichenor, P. J., & McLeod, D. M. (1989). The logic of social and behavioral science. In G. H. Stempell III & B. H. Westley (Eds.), Research methods in mass communication (pp. 10-29). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Torres, C. R. (2015). Better early than late? A philosophical exploration of early sport specialization. Kinesiology Review, 4, 304-316.
Turner, M. J., Jones, M. V., Sheffield, D., & Cross, S. L. (2012). Cardiovascular indices of challenge and threat states predict competitive performance. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 86, 48–57.
Van Wijk, E., & Harrison, T. (2013). Managing ethical problems in qualitative research involving vulnerable populations using a pilot study. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 12(1), 570-586.
Vealey, R. S., & Chase, M. A. (2008). Self-confidence in sport. In T. S. Horn, (Ed.), Advances in sport psychology (pp. 66-97). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Wall, M., & Côté, J. (2007). Developmental activities that lead to dropout and investment in sport. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 12(1), 77-87.
Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2011). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (5th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Wiersma, L. D. (2000). Risks and benefits of youth sport specialization: Perspectives and recommendations. Pediatric Exercise Science, 12, 13-22.
Willia ms, J. M., Zinsser, N., & Bunker, L. (2015). Cognitive techniques for building confidence and enhancing performance. In J. Williams & V. Krane (Eds.), Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (7th ed.) (pp. 274-303). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Wilson, P. M. & Rodgers, W. M. (2004). The relationship between perceived autonomy support, exercise regulations and behavioral intentions in women. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 5, 229-242.
Wright, A. D., & Côté, J. (2003). A retrospective analysis of leadership development through sport. The Sport Psychologist, 17, 268-291.