A combination of scholarly research and practical applications results in an intriguing volume

Sepand Mashreghi
Dept. of Sport Sciences, Malmö University

Christopher R. D. Wagstaff (ed.)
The Organizational Psychology of Sport: Key issues and practical applications
273 pages, paperback.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2017
ISBN 978-1-138-95519-6

With the massive commercialization and globalization of sport in the last few decades, there has been a growing demand to establish systems and organizations that deliver success faster and more efficiently, which in turn has resulted in technologization, medicalization and scientization of sport milieus. This book is written to investigate and explore how people in such organizations interpret and experience these environments. The book contains four main parts, which are comprised of thirteen chapters presenting the most recent findings within the sphere of organizational sport psychology.  The first part focuses on attitudes and emotions in sport organizations. Stress and well-being in sport organizations are discussed in the second part. The third part examines behaviours and sport organizations from a variety of perspectives. The concluding chapters are dedicated to address the complexity of environments in sport organizations.

The main body of each part is made up of three chapters showcasing various discussions relevant to the main theme written by various researchers around the world. The discussions are of more general nature in terms of locality, and not region specific. Each chapter, generally, starts with a review of the research pertaining to the discussed topic. Next, new concepts are introduced and explained in detail. Each chapter usually ends with concluding remarks followed by key agendas (usually in bullet form) and their implications pertaining to both the applied practice and future research.

According to the editors, the investigators in the field of organizational sport psychology have already produced strong research within the context of emotion and well-being: “particular strength within this domain relate to elucidation of an understanding of emotion- and attitude-related phenomena, stress and well-being in athletes, coaches, support staff, and parents, key behaviours associated with functioning, and environments which facilitate elite performance” (p. 5). However, Christopher Wagstaff, the editor, wants to highlight that the discussions of many relevant variables exceed the level of analysis and their influence; therefore, “an important obligation for researchers in this domain is to provide conceptual clarity to demystify the hierarchical, correlational or causal nature of their variables of interest” (p. 5) and to “be cognizant of levels of analysis (i.e. individual, dyadic, team, organizational) within organizational psychology” (p. 5). Wagstaff also points out that despite the promising state of the research in this area, most of the researched “has used inductive research design, grounded in sport context to examine phenomena with divergent origins” (p. 6). He encourages researchers to utilize ecologically valid and representative designs (such as ethnography, action research and case studies) to examine various concepts in the field of organizational sport psychology.

I find the different chapters of the book intriguing. The combination of applied and research perspectives are most interesting and helpful in the field of sport psychology, where most practitioners are also involved in research. Chapter 2, named “Commitment in Sport and Exercise” and authored by Jackson, Gucciardi, Hodge and Dimmock, and chapter 6, “Well-being in Sport Organizations” by Neil, McFarlane and Smith, are particularly interesting. In chapter 2 the concept of commitment is discussed in detail. An overview of existing research and theories on commitment is presented. Next a multidimensional approach to commitment is offered where commitment is analysed through various dimensions of affective, normative and continuance. Using this model, researchers and practitioners can investigate and apply the relations between the various dimensions of commitment as well as their links with motivational theories and come to a more holistic view of the dynamics that drive behaviour in sport and exercise.

In chapter 6 well-being in sport organization is reviewed. The authors explain that there are two main research traditions of well-being: hedonic and eudaimonic traditions. They argue that the hedonic approach to well-being (which focuses on life satisfaction, positive affect and absence of negative affect) has been predominant in research and despite recent attempts to investigate “subjective” well-being, it is a not an adequate model for understanding positive human functioning. The authors maintain that “eudaimonic well-being is an alternative approach to conceptualizing well-being which stresses the importance of individuals endeavouring to meet their true potential” (p. 103). “Eudaimonic approach /…/ is not simply interested in subjective happiness, but in the realization of human potential /…/ a meaningful life characterized by personal growth, as opposed to a pleasurable life characterized by hedonic enjoyment” (p. 102). Another criticism that is discussed in the chapter is lack of research on well-being of all staff working within sport organizations (in contrast to the current research which focuses solely on athletes’ well-being). The chapter is concluded by emphasizing the need to address the above shortcomings both in applied and research milieus.

One of the shortcomings of the book, however, is the lack of emphasis on the subject of exercise and exercise settings, such as fitness and recreation centres (both public and private). Only a few chapters of the book briefly mention concepts in relation to exercise psychology whilst the majority of the book is dedicated to analyse problems within sport contexts. In my opinion, however, this is a criticism that extends toward all research and literature within the field of sport and exercise psychology.  There is a need for researchers to investigate the organizational concerns of exercise milieus (i.e. Instructors’ psychological well-being due to overwork, Personal Trainers contradictory roles as health advocates and sales persons, etc.) in order to facilitate organizational efficiency and enhance the interaction between individuals and their organizations.

To conclude, the combined practical and research approach of the book appeals to me because it is relevant to individuals involved in the field. The editor is successful in producing a detailed and applicable volume that has value both in the field and in academia. I recommend this book to both practitioners and students/researcher of sport psychology who can benefit from its hands-on recommendations in various contexts, from researching well-being in sport organizations to everyday dealings with sport media.

Copyright © Sepand Mashreghi 2017


Table of Content

1. Organizational Psychology in Sport: An Introduction
Christopher R. D. Wagstaff


Part I: Attitudes and Emotions in Sport Organizations

2. Commitment in Sport and Exercise: Implications for Individual, Group, and Organizational Functioning
Ben Jackson, Daniel F. Gucciardi, Ken Hodge, and James A. Dimmock
3. Emotions in Sport Organizations
Christopher R. D. Wagstaff and Sheldon Hanton
4. Attitudes to Employment in Sport Organizations
Sarah Gilmore


Part II: Stress and Well-Being in Sport Organizations

5. Stress in Sport: The Role of the Organizational Environment
David Fletcher and Rachel Arnold
6. Well-Being in Sport Organizations
Rich Neil, Helen M. McFarlane, and Andrew P. Smith
7. Resilience in Sport: A Critical Review of Psychological Processes, Sociocultural Influences, and Organizational Dynamics
Christopher R. D. Wagstaff, Mustafa Sarkr, Claire L. Davidson, and David Fletcher


Part III: Behaviors in Sport Organizations

8. Leadership in Sport Organizations
Calum A. Arthur, Christopher R. D. Wagstaff, and Lew Hardy
9. Prosocial and Antisocial Behaviors in Sport Organizations
Maria Kavussanu and Nicholas Stanger
10. Media Behavior in Sport
Elsa Kristiansen, Frank E. Abrahamsen, and Paul M. Pedersen


Part IV: Environments in Sport Organizations

11. The Social Environment in Sport Organizations
Luc Martin, Mark Eys, and Kevin Spink
12. Optimal Environments for Team Functioning in Sport Organizations
Katrien Fransen, Filip Boen, Jeroen Stouten, Stewart Cotterill, and Gert Vande Broek
13. “We are in This Together”: A Social Identity Perspective on Change and Conflict Management
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