Elite athlete receptivity to sport psychology consulting in Ireland

David Woods, Mary Margaret Meade, Craig Mahoney, Gavin Breslin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This study assessed the willingness of elite athletes from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to seek sport psychology consulting (SPC), their perceptions of the potential benefits of SPC to themselves or their team and how accessible they perceive SPC to be. A sample of elite and sub-elite athletes (n = 68) completed an online survey and a sub-sample (n = 7) also participated in a semi-structured interview. Results showed that athletes were willing to seek assistance from SPC for a wide range of topics such as building confidence, improving focus and dealing with injury, although a preference was displayed for topics more readily perceived as directly related to enhancing performance. All SPC topics explored were perceived to be of benefit, with a similar preference expressed for topics more readily associated with enhancing performance, for example, competing as well in competition as in practice, over dealing with personal issues or communication. Chi-square tests revealed athletes with highly effective prior experience of SPC were more receptive to SPC than those with less effective experiences (p < .01). Access to SPC was considered low by 48% of athletes, with identified themes suggesting athlete support networks, either head coaches or governing bodies, were the key decision-makers and ‘gatekeepers’ regarding athlete access to SPC. The findings have implications for marketing the practical benefits of SPC across the island of Ireland and highlight the room for improvement in providing better athletes’ access.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-82
Number of pages17
JournalThe Irish Journal of Psychology
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2016


  • performance
  • expertise
  • exercise
  • games
  • skill


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