Female varsity athletes perceptions of the development of optimism


This study examined female athletes' perceptions of how they became optimistic. In order to identify optimistic athletes 83 members of Pandas teams at the U of A completed a sport-specific Life Orientation Test (LOT; Dunn, Causegrove Dunn, & Lizmore, 2015). Nine participants (M age = 19 years) who scored high in optimism (M score = 9.22) were purposefully sampled and were interviewed using semi-structured interviews. Seven of these participants also completed a member checking interview. Data analysis was done following Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). Results were organized across a developmental framework documenting shared aspects of participants' perspectives of experiences that contributed to development of optimism over childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. During childhood participants perceived that their parents were supportive, provided feedback, and allowed them to have choice over the sports in which they participated. During adolescence coaches began to play a more important role in developing optimism and participants were able to learn about being optimistic through experiences, particularly negative experiences. Finally, during early adulthood participants developed personal narratives about the ways in which they approached sport with optimism. Practical implications arising from these findings include increasing parents' coaches', and athletes' understanding of how to increase the development of dispositional optimism by utilizing a similar developmental framework.