Entering the zone: a positive psychological framework for athlete flow and flourishing
Stander, Frederick Wilhelm
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Both flow and flourishing are highly favourable human states and have been described as optimal experience phenomena in the well-being literature. This being said, more research is required to gauge how these states can be more readily achieved – in general, but specifically in sport – and athletic contexts; where it has remained largely unexplored. The objective of this research was to ascertain whether specific contexts can influence the experience of flow and flourishing amongst athletes. It further investigated the state-like properties of these experiences, by evaluating whether certain resources in the environment of the athlete can promote flow and flourishing and assessing whether athlete flow is dynamic over time, i.e. whether it fluctuates over the course of a particular athletic cycle. The research comprised three separate studies, reported in article format. Manuscript 1 evaluated a structural model of athlete flow by investigating the role of both job (sport) – and personal resources in the experience of athlete flow among student athletes. The resources under investigation were teammate relationships and communication (job resources) as well as self-efficacy (a personal resource). Using structural equation modelling direct paths were revealed between teammate relationships, self-efficacy and athlete flow. The findings provide some evidence that athlete flow are associated with contextual factors that relate to the team environment as well as the personal resources of the athlete. Manuscript 2 focused on the flourishing of athletes. An exploratory study was conducted to evaluate relationships between athlete flourishing, team and individual strength use, team embeddedness and withdrawal behaviour. Results suggested that flourishing is related to team strength use. It also revealed positive paths from both the strength use dimensions to team embeddedness. Flourishing related positively to team embeddedness. Withdrawal behaviour was negatively associated with team embeddedness. The results revealed important information from the perspective of antecedents and outcomes of athlete flourishing. Manuscript 3 explored the state-like properties of athlete flow by conducting ecological momentary assessment of the experience amongst under-21 Currie Cup rugby players during a competitive stage of their athletic cycle. The objective of this study was twofold. Firstly, it sought to ascertain whether athlete flow will vary over time and during/ after specific key events during an athletic cycle. Secondly, it investigated whether the introduction of specific interventions during such cycle could influence athlete flow experience. The study, which adopted a longitudinal design, revealed that athlete flow was dynamic over time. Positive relationships were also established between challenging athletic activities, as well as strength-based team and individual interventions; and flow. This provides sport coaches and management teams with information that may assist them in assisting athletes to achieve more readily the favourable and optimum human state that is flow.