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Coaches' Attitudes Toward Seeking Sport Psychology Consultation: The Development of an Objective Measure

The purpose of this research was to create a valid and reliable measure for assessing coachesí attitudes regarding sport psychology services so that a greater understanding of the barriers to sport psychologists could be determined. The revised version of the Attitudes Toward Seeking Sport Psychology Consultation Questionnaire (ATSSPCQ), developed by Martin et al. (1997), was modified to assess collegiate coachesí attitudes toward the utilization of sport psychology professionals for themselves, fellow coaches, and their athletes. The resulting 26-item Coaches Attitudes Toward Seeking Sport Psychology Consultation Questionnaire (CATSSPCQ) was found to be reliable (alpha=.87) A principal components analysis indicated that the questionnaire items measure two dimensions: 1) coachesí attitudes toward seeking sport psychology consultation for coaches and athletes, and 2) the level of stigma attached to seeking sport psychology consultation for coaches and athletes, accounting for 43% of the variablility. Univariate ANOVA's showed that gender and times sport psychologists was used had significant effects on the mean scores from the CATSSPCQ. Overall, frequency data and multiple regression indicated that coaches had a more positive than negative outlook on sport psychology and that Division I female coaches are more likely to hire a consultant. 

The field of sport psychology is growing in popularity in the United States (Gordon, 1990; Halliwell, 1990; Loehr, 1990; Murphy & Ferrante, 1989; Rotella, 1990). However, there is much concern over the insignificant amount of request for applied sport psychology services such as team and individual counseling and consulting (Watie & Pettt, 1993). Although there is empirical evidence that sport psychology is being increasingly accepted at many levels of performance and deemed useful (Bull, 1995; Suinn, 1985), much of this information is anecdotal and relies on the personal experiences of sport psychology consultants (Simons & Anderson, 1995); Murphy, 1988; Rotella, 1990; Loehr, 1990; Halliwell, 1990; Yambor & Connelly, 1991).
Increasingly, coaches, athletes, and athletic administrators comment on the effectiveness and importance of sport psychology and performance enhancement (Silva, 1984), but the ratio of interest to actual "hiring" does not exhibit a strong, positive correlation. The potential clients do not demonstrate their thoughts by following through on the actual consulting process, whether it be individual sessions or workshops. Contrary to these reports, in their survey of recent graduates from sport psychology programs (n=34), Waite & Pettit (1993) found a number that a number of young professionals entering the field reported difficulty finding employment opportunities particularly outside of academia. Additionally, 27% of those surveyed indicated that they were not employed in a sport psychology related profession. 13% of the sample reported not attempting to find work in this area. Despite a majority of their subjects (56%) reporting that their programs emphasized applied aspects of sport psychology, many of these young professionals voiced concern about finding employment. Some also believed they were not adequately prepared by their graduate programs. The relatively small sample size of this study raises questions about the generalizability of these results and demonstrates the necessity for further investigation.

Although the limited hiring of sport psychology professionals could be due to the minimized marketing strategies utilized in and around graduate programs, evidence also demonstrates the importance of networking and simple lines of communication (Anderson, 2003; Simons & Anderson, 1995). Individual personalities and techniques of professionals may have the strongest impact on whether or not one gets hired (Simons & Anderson, 1995). Researchers have documented and explained effective methods and philosophies of successful consultants over the last 25 years. It seems that much of the development is attributed more individuality than outright psychological tactics, and, in a sense, seeking trust is the most important ingredient (Ravizza, 1988).

Research in sport psychology and coaching effectiveness has shown that coaches themselves use sport psychology principles such as motivation, positive self-talk, confidence building, imagery, leadership techniques, and team cohesion (Weinberg & Gould, 1999). However, coaches do not typically utilize a sport psychology consultant unless there is a potential crisis or definitive problem with an athlete or a teamís performance. One of the main functions of sport psychology is not only to work with problems in athletics, but also to integrate performance enhancement into all realms sport. The stigma attached to anything ìpsychologicalî creates a hesitancy to hire or utilize a sport psychology professional in any manner.

Some reports indicate that although coaches find the services of sport psychologists valuable, they are reluctant or unable to pay for them due to financial constraints (Silva, 1984; Schell, Hunt, & Lloyd, 1984). The resources made available to athlete are often determined at the administrative level or by coaches. At the Division I collegiate level of competition, coaches generally initiate access to sport psychology consultants (Voight & Callahan, 2001). Therefore, a coachís attitude towards and experience with a sport psychologist generally determines which athletes are exposed to sport psychology services. However, few empirical studies since Silva (1984) and Schell, et al., (1984) have evaluated the coachesí beliefs, need, and motivations for utilizing sport psychology consultants. The dearth of empirical research assessing coachesí attitudes regarding sport psychology consultation served as an impetus for this study.

The utilization of sport psychology professionals also could depend on the atmosphere of the sport. For instance, Paige, Martin, & Wayda, (2001) indicate a need for consultants in settings of athletes with disabilities. Services have also been well received at other sites, such as Olympic training facilities (Kirschenbaum, Parham, & Murphy, 1993). In a sense, sport psychologists and therapists in general work to put themselves out of work. For that reason, contracts are necessary upon first hire so that professionals are guaranteed work for a certain amount of time. Experiences also support the fact that graduate students are more likely to have a consistent place for counseling and consulting than a professional because they have structured programs and/or internships (Waite & Pettit, 1993). Training must be a deciding factor as well. For instance, Petrie, Diehl, & Watkins, Jr. (1995) found that those individuals trained in counseling psychology were only involved minimally in the sport psychology field. Caution should be demonstrated to those potential athletes and coaches through enhanced marketing and communication. Guidelines for what to look for are vital so the general population can increase its understanding of what sport psychologists offer.

A few other studies have surveyed the attitudes of athletesí and non-athletesí views regarding the use of sport psychology (Martin, Akers, Jackson, Wrisberg, Nelson, Leslie, & Leidig, 2001; Voight & Callahan, 2001), and these seemed to be an effective mode for both gathering information and serving as an indirect marketing strategy. However, besides the work of Martin & collegues (1997) using the Athleteís Attitudes Toward Seeking Sport Psychology Consulting (AATSSPC), there has been little recent research in sport psychology focused on the needs and potential influences of coaches choosing sport psychology for their programs and even fewer that have directly assessed coachesí attitudes (Bull, 1995; Silva, 1984; Schell, et al., 1984).

It seems that professionals still missing the ìbig picture,î that which signifies the openness and accessibility of sport psychologists and their clients. Obstacles must be overcome (Ravizza, 1988) and barriers must be broken (Silva, Conroy, & Zizzi, 1999). The ìshrinkî has to be forgotten and initiatives such as increased accreditation of graduate programs and educational outreach programs are needed (Silva, et al., 1999). By understanding how coaches feel towards these issues, sport psychology professionals can get a better sense of what they really want and need in order to improve, stabilize, or rethink consultantsí methods who deal with athletes and coaches on a day-to-day basis.



Thirty-seven Division I collegiate coaches (n female and n male) and 13 Division II and III coaches (n female and n male) participated in the study. The coaches ranged in age from 25 to 64 and represented 20 different sports. Five were not included in the analyses because of incomplete data. 


The CATSSPCQ, adapted from the athlete-specific ATSSPCQ (Martin, Wrisberg, Beitel, & Lounsbury, 1997), was designed to evaluate coachesí beliefs, needs, and motivations for using sport psychology professionals. In designing the CATSSPCQ, the authors intended to make the measure as short as possible to minimize the completion time and increase the likelihood that coaches would fill it out and return it. However, caution was used to ensure that it was long enough to provide adequate information. Items were selected from the ATSSPQC that were most relevant for this study and had the greatest face validity. These items were then modified to assess the attitudes of coaches. Many items that were dropped were repeat items with only slightly different wording. 

The modified questionnaire used in this study consists of 26 items that assess: a) coachesí the level of recognition that teams may need sport psychology, and b) coachesí openness to utilizing a sport psychology consultant. The first page of the CATSSPCQ asks coaches general demographic information consisting of age, gender, sport they coach, title, college division, times they have had their team(s) use a consultant, and personal experience with sport psychology professionals (SEE Appendix A). 


Eighteen Division I, II, and III colleges in the northeast with athletic programs were randomly selected from the NCAA Directory of schools. Of these colleges, all head coaches (n=187) from all sports at each institution were mailed an introduction letter explaining the study (SEE Appendix B), an informed consent form (SEE Appendix C), a demographics form, and the 26-item CATSSPCQ. 


Descriptive Statistics

Fifty questionnaires were returned (27% return rate) with 48 completed. Thirty-seven Division I colleges responded, while there were only 13 CATSSPCQís returned by the smaller schools. Three were not included in the analyses due to discrepancies. A reliablility analysis was conducted using the 45 returned questionnaires. The alpha for the entire measure is .8688 with 45 subjects and 26 items. 

Of the 48 participating coaches included in the analyses, 26 agreed that their experience was a positive one (52%) while 18 believed the experience to be negative (36%). Four coaches reported a neutral tone. In addition, 31 of the coaches who had utilized sport psychology consulting at least once indicated they would be open to more consulting in the future (62%). Sixteen of those coaches have used a sport psychology professional more than five times. The range from the mean scores on the CATSSPCQ was 3.19 to 6.23 (mean=5.2, SD=.68).


Univariate ANOVAís indicated significant effects on the CATSSPCQ score for gender F (1,40)= 16.199, p<001. There were no significant results for age or college division on the overall CATSSPCQ score. In addition, correlations showed that older coaches utilized sport psychology more often than younger coaches (r=.335, p<.005), and the average score on the CATSSPCQ increased with the number of times professionals were used (r=.537, p<.001). 

A multiple regression with gender, division, and times used as predictors of stigma score showed a highly significant relationship F (3,44)=4.89, p<.01). Overall, the model accounted for 25% of the variability. Times used was the most significant predictor of stigma of the three factors (B= -.231, p<.05). In addition, there were strong correlations between stigma and division (r=.331, p=.011) and stigma and times used (r= -.425, p=.-001). There was a trend involving gender suggesting that males have greater stigma than females. 

Factor Analysis

An exploratory principal components analysis was performed on the 26 CATSSPCQ items with a varimax rotation of the resulting factors. The following criteria was used to determine the most parsimonious factor structure; 1) Cattellís Scree Test, 2) Eigenvalues > 1, 3) Proportion of variance explained, and 4) Interpretability. The scree plot suggested that a two factor model best represented relationships among items that could be meaningfully interpreted (Cattell, 1966). Both factors had eigenvalues above 1.0 (see Table 1 for factor loadings). The first factor accounted for 32% of the overall variance explained, and was composed of items measuring coachesí attitudes toward seeking sport psychology consultation for coaches and athletes. The second factor accounted for nearly 11% of the overall variance and consisted of items measuring the stigma attached to seeking sport psychology consultation by athletes and coaches. 
Include scree plot diagram, table for factor loadings, Subscale correlations, and Internal consistency estimates (alpha coefficients). 
Cronbachís index of internal consistency was computed on the overall scale and the two subscales to determine alpha coefficients. Both subscales and the overall scale indicated satisfactory reliability (see Table 2). 


The results from the CATSSPCQ demonstrate that more coaches find the use of sport psychology consulting to be a positive experience; one that leads to a desire for extended consulting rather one that creates a negative attitude. A much higher percentage of coaches reported the use of sport psychology professionals in this study than the Voight & Callaghan (2001) study of athletesí attitudes toward sport psychology (only 44% stated they would utilize some form of sport psychology consulting again).
Because the relationship between gender and CATSSPCQ score was both significant and positive, this study shows that females have a better attitude towards sport psychology consulting than males. The current data reflects previous research that has shown females believe sport psychology consultants demonstrate a stronger bond to personal commitment than males (Martin, et al., 2001). It seems that female coaches are more willing to hire sport psychology professionals if the consultants are able to relate well to the coaches and athletes rather than "talking down" to them. 

Results concur with Petrie, et al. (1996) in that certain characteristics of sport psychology professionals enable females to be more open to hiring consultants than males. Attractiveness, trustworthiness, and general ìgood counselorî dimensions are qualities that have been deemed important for potential consultants.

The present research also suggests that quality of the initial consultations is extremely important, especially for consultants just making beginning contacts. The times used variable relationships with mean score and ages shows that coaches are more willing to continue with sport psychology consulting if they have positive experiences in the first place. Consultants should never underestimate the power of the first interview or neglect to inform clients of their philosophy and approach to consulting. The use of the CATSSPCQ could lead to ideas related to improving personal consultation models similar to those of Martin, Thompson, & McKnight (1998).

The multiple regression model with the stigma score as the dependent variable and gender, division, and times used serving as predictors strengthens the studyís purpose by demonstrating the coaches most open to a sport psychology professional. Individual ANOVAís significantly suggested that lower divisions report greater stigma and that times used decreases stigma. In general, it seems that Division I females who have had access to sport psychology work before are more likely to feel comfortable with the consultant situation. These data give sport psychologists and researchers added insight into the strategies for increasing contracting opportunities. 

Implications from the principal components analysis is limited due to the small number of respondents. Generally, large sample sizes, ranging from n=100 to n=250 are recommended for conduct of principal components analyses that provided precise factor loadings and useful interpretation (Gorsuch, 1983; Kline, 1979; Guilford, 1954; Cattell, 1978). However, more recent researchers have indicated that small sample sizes can be adequate and offer interpretation (MacCallum, Widaman, Zhang, and Hong, 1999). 

Limitations of the current study stem from the small sample size. Although there was a large number of questionnaires mailed across the northeast, only a small number were returned. The smaller sample size made it more difficult to analyze the CATSSPCQ for consistency and reliability.
Possible neglect to return the questionnaires may stem from inaccurate data concerning coachesí statuses, such as moving to another school or position. Failure to send questionnaires back may also result from the stigma that sport psychology consultants ìwantî something from the coaches. Another reason could be that still many coaches are afraid of sport psychology consultants stepping into their environment simply because they do not understand what sport psychology really entails.

In the future, consultants need to be more aware of that fact that potential clients may not fully comprehend the issues and the techniques that sport psychology professionals utilize. As Bull (1995) suggests, more documented accounts of consulting programs can be maintained that provide details on contracting and maintaining clients. In addition, verbalizing and/or communicating the effectiveness and efforts of beneficial sport psychology work is incumbent on the eventual success and expansion of the field. In this respect, media will also increase its understanding of workshop, lecture, and event coverage in the world of sport psychology.

The data mostly reflects attitudes of Division I schools versus Division II and III colleges. It is important to gather coachesí views from the smaller schools so that sport psychology consultants can make a case for those athletic departments fitting sport psychology into their budgets. Previous studies have highlighted the point that although athletic departments are open to sport psychology work by females, they still receive less money than their male counterparts (Waite & Pettit, 1993). Only through a more extensive study and an attempt to relieve much of the initial stigma can sport psychology professionals as a whole enhance their own work via more opportunities to actually meet with athletes and coaches.

Data from both the overall CATSSPCQ and the individual stigma questions show that Division I coaches, females, older coaches, and positive initial experiences are all beneficial for continued relationships with sport psychology consultants. These results serve as useful guidelines for evaluating applied sport psychology models and should be used to inform the development of future and existing programs, enhance internship opportunities, and increase consultation prospects. It is our hope that the CATSSPCQ will serve as a fundamental basis for improving and implementing sport psychology consulting not only to collegiate athletics, but youth, high school, Olympic, and professional athletics.


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