University of Limerick
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Practicing what we preach: an investigation of the work-based well-being of applied sport psychologists

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posted on 2022-11-23, 15:33 authored by Hannah M. McCormack
Research into the work-based well-being of applied sport psychologists has been neglected in the past. While some papers have appeared that investigate their experiences, these have not looked specifically at how these experiences may affect the individual. This thesis intends to change that, by not only examining the work-based well-being of applied sport psychologists in general, but also by investigating the potential effects a large international multi-sport event (e.g. Olympic and/or Paralympic Games) may have on the on practitioners themselves. The first empirical study focuses on the burnout and work engagement of sport psychologists from both academic and applied backgrounds, qualitative interviews were utilised to examine their experiences and their use of social support as a resource. Workaholic tendencies and the use of optimism, and its potential negative effects rounded out this qualitative study. A mixed-methods approach was taken in the second study. A longitudinal survey over four time-points (between May and November of 2016), measured the burnout and work engagement of applied sport psychologists who worked with athletes competing at the Games, along with optimism, mood and passion. Daily diaries also assessed for fluctuations in burnout and work engagement of applied practitioners who were on site at the Summer Olympic and/or Paralympic Games in Rio 2016. The main themes emerging from the research were 1) Burnout is commonly experienced by applied sport psychologists, despite positive engagement with their work. Sources of social support have an impact on the level of burnout experienced, 2) Workaholic tendencies were also common among the same practitioners, as was high levels of optimism, posing the question, can there be a dark side to the optimism reported by these applied sport psychologists, 3) Depersonalisation was the dimension of burnout that had the largest significance over time in the year of the Olympic and/or Paralympic Games, it was also related to the optimism and obsessive passion reported by these individuals. 4) Tentative support for the JD-R model was shown in fluctuations in daily burnout and work engagement in relation to resources such as social support and self-efficacy whilst practitioners were in attendance at the Olympic and/or Paralympic Games, 5) While resources were available to the practitioners onsite, not every attendee utilised them, which had negative consequences for their well-being, 6) Burnout was experienced in the post Games period, often requiring a month (or more) for participants to feel fully recovered from their experiences. Finally, this thesis shows that there is a need for greater reflection regarding the well-being of practitioners, who can benefit from education and training regarding the protection and maintenance of their own mental health and well-being.



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

MacIntyre, Tadhg E.

Second supervisor

O'Shea, Deirdre

Third supervisor

Campbell, Mark J.





Department or School

  • Physical Education and Sports Science

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