Your companion in the sport and exercise psychology jungle: A comprehensive and learning-focused collection

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Andreas Stenling
Department of Psychology, Umeå University


Athanasios G. Papaioannou & Dieter Hackfort (red) Routledge Companion to Sport and Exercise Psychology: Global perspectives and fundamental concepts 1002 pages, h/c. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2014 (International Perspectives on Key Issues in Sport and Exercise Psychology) ISBN 978-1-84872-128-9

Athanasios G. Papaioannou & Dieter Hackfort (red)
Routledge Companion to Sport and Exercise Psychology: Global perspectives and fundamental concepts
1002 pages, hardcover.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2014 (International Perspectives on Key Issues in Sport and Exercise Psychology)
ISBN 978-1-84872-128-9

Routledge companion to sport and exercise psychology: Global perspectives and fundamental concepts is one of the most comprehensive sport and exercise psychology resources available.   The book, edited by Athonasios G. Papaioannou and Dieter Hackfort, consists of 62 chapters written by 155 authors from 24 countries around the world. It is an impressive author list of top scholars in the various topics covered in the book. I will not go into detail about the individual authors, but it might be of interest to the audience of idrottsforum.org that some of the authors are located in Scandinavia, for example Magnus Lindwall at University of Gothenburg, Urban Johnson and Natalia Stambulova at Halmstad University, Juri Hanin and Taru Lintunen at University of Jyväskylä, and Elsa Kristiansen at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences.

The Routledge companion has had many predecessors with similar scope, most similar and almost as comprehensive are probably the three editions (1993, 2001, and 2007) of the Handbook of Sport Psychology, with various editorial constellations (Wiley). Another popular textbook is Weinberg and Gould’s classic Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, which in 2014 was released in its 6th edition (Human Kinetics). In relation to these various predecessors I think that the Routledge companion is a useful mix of many of them and does a nice job of presenting up-to-date research while maintaining a focus on learning. Given the comprehensiveness of this textbook I will not go into detail about each specific chapter. I will instead try to paint a broad picture of the book and highlight various issues that caught my attention while reading. The 1002 pages might initially be a bit intimidating to dive into but I think that the book is well worth the effort. For most of the readers this book will probably function as an encyclopedia of sport and exercise psychology, rather than something you read from cover to cover. Given its all-encompassing content and learning-focused approach the book is a valuable resource for students, researchers, and practitioners in the field of sport and exercise psychology.

The companion contains nine sections:

  • sport and exercise participants;
  • the influence of environments on sport and exercise;
  • motor skills;
  • performance enhancement;
  • building and leading teams;
  • career, life skills and character development;
  • health and well-being enhancement;
  • clinical issues in sport psychology; and
  • professional development and practice.

In the introductory chapter the editors provide a schematic figure (see Figure ii) of the content and how it is divided into antecedents (social environment and significant others), mediators (the individual and the team), moderators (sport and exercise psychology consultant), and outcomes (motor learning and action; performance enhancement; character, life skills, and career; exercise, health, and well-being; clinical issues). The idea is to illustrate the various parts of the book and how each shape in Figure ii corresponds to a particular part of the book and the main message conveyed in that part. Although the figure is a very simplified description of the various processes going on in sport and exercise settings (e.g., it does not acknowledge reciprocal relations), it provides the reader with an overarching framework that shows how the book is structured. Readers familiar with theoretical frameworks in sport and exercise psychology will also notice that this type of process-oriented framework is very common in the sport and exercise psychology literature. Hence, I think the framework provides the reader with an overview of the content that is familiar and makes this comprehensive book a bit easier to grasp.

The structure of the chapters is fairly similar throughout, and it is rewarding to see that each chapter clearly state objectives (i.e., what the reader should be able to do after reading it), contains practical recommendations for athletes, coaches, parents and practitioners, and provides the reader with additional learning aids, such as case studies, review questions, exercises, and additional reading. In the introductory chapter the editors state that

This book is an introduction to sport and exercise psychology. Its aim is to help readers understand the challenges, the fundamental concepts and how to apply the theory of modern sport and exercise psychology. Each chapter focuses on “what is important to know” and “how to do it”.

I think that the structure of the chapters nicely conveys this overall aim.

The problem with this volume is that it’s lacking critical analyses of the various research, theories, and methods presented. The inclusion of critical perspectives, for example one chapter in each of the nine sections, would have been valuable for the readers the gain a more complete understanding of the possibilities and boundaries of the content. Such critical perspectives could also have illuminated various possibilities for methodological and theoretical integration, which could provide interesting questions for future research and be helpful for practitioners when designing interventions.

My overall impression of the companion is, however, very positive and I think it is a valuable resource for students, researchers, and practitioners that provides the reader with up-to-date knowledge and practical guidelines about “how to do it.

Copyright © Andreas Stenling 2016

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