Exploring the pertinence of applied sport psychology in masters sport: A case study


Psychological enhancement strategies are useful and effective practices with younger, high-performance athletes (Weinberg & Gould, 2015). However, applied sport researchers have yet to consider how Masters athletes (MAs) use psychological skills and strategies with respect to multiple facets of their adult sport experience (Makepeace & Young, 2019). This study explored the use of psychological strategies by a serious-minded female Masters dragon boat and canoe racer (Wendy: aged 62; regional, national, and international level competitor). Employing a semi-structured interview methodology, questions explored her use of mental skills relating to performance, the sporting experience, and managing a sporting lifestyle. Data were thematically analyzed (Braun & Clarke, 2006) deductively, using Weinberg and Gould's (2015) traditional mental skills catalogue, and inductively. Deductive results demonstrated use of skills pertaining to "goal-setting", "self-confidence", "concentration", "arousal regulation", and "imagery". Wendy illustrated the importance, resultant outcomes, and various techniques associated with each skill. Inductive results revealed that "past experiences" were important precursors to psychological use in Masters sport, especially when experiences included an enriched sport environment and adequate fitness levels. Wendy noted "actionable psychological strategies" for effectively maintaining a MA lifestyle (i.e., supportive relationships and communication; structuring) and framing sport as an outlet in her life. She also described a "need for psychological supports among MAs", noting their underuse and many barriers. Overall, themes illustrate nuances not typically observed among younger cohorts. Findings show unique properties associated with certain psychological strategies for MAs, while suggesting the importance of integrating psychological support services with MAs' training and competitive regimes.