Current Sport Psychology Projects and Grants

The UNT Center for Sport Psychology and Athlete Mental Health’s faculty and graduate students maintain active research programs. Areas of research by the Center’s staff include: physical and psychological health of adolescents; eating disorders and body image; psychological antecedents and consequences of athletic injury; influences of parents, peers, and coaches in youth sport; to name a few. Whether a prospective graduate student or an athlete or coach, we invite you to learn more about our ongoing research projects.

Impact of COVID-19 on ​College Student Athletes’ Health, Performance, and ​Psychological Well-Being
Researchers: Trent Petrie, Ph.D., Whitney Moore, Ph.D. (Wayne State University), Tess Palmateer, M.Sc., & Lindsey Slavin, B.A. 
Student-athletes have been uniquely affected. Not only have they endured the general shutdown of higher education and the broader societal impacts of COVID-19, they have had their sport seasons canceled and identities shaken. Further, when student-athletes return to school, they will be required to take on a level of risk, through their sport participation, that every other college student will be able to minimize through physical distancing and remote learning. Student-athletes will be required to navigate universities’ modified learning (and living) environments, and continue to represent their schools through physical activities that will increase their risk of contracting COVID-19. We designed this year-long research project to track student-athletes as they live through these events and thus determine the immediate and longer-term impacts on their coping and psychological well-being, health, and performance. Data from this longitudinal study will be available to all NCAA Division I, II, and III athletic departments so their personnel can understand what their student athletes may be experiencing and make evidence-based decisions on how to care for them as they return to campus and navigate the current realities of COVID-19 and playing collegiate sports. We hope that these reports will promote athletes’ psychological, academic, and athletic well-being during this time of uncertainty and challenge. For more information and detailed reports, click here.

Examination of self-compassion's role in the relationship between body satisfaction and disorder eating symptomology
Researchers: Kaleb Cusack, M.S., M.A., & Trent Petrie, PhD. 
Among athletes, researchers have started to examine the adaptive and positive aspects of self-compassion in relation to multiple outcomes, such as psychological well-being, lower somatic anxiety and worry, and lower utilization of avoidance-focused coping strategies (Ferguson et al., 2014, 2015; Huysmans & Clement, 2017; Jeon et al., 2016), and have identified it as an adaptive emotional coping strategy (Eke et al., 2020; Mosewich et al., 2019; Reis et al., 2015). Although self-compassion has been explored primarily in samples of female athletes, researchers have supported its utility as a psychosocial resource for male athletes as well (Reis et al., 2019; Wasylkiw & Clairo, 2018; Yarnell et al., 2015). Given the extant research on the positive effects of self-compassion on body satisfaction and lower ED/DE symptoms (Braun et al., 2016; Turk & Waller, 2020), as well as the salience of it in relation to athletes’ overall psychological well-being (Reis et al., 2019),  we extended this line of investigation to the at-risk group of male collegiate athletes. Specifically, we examined how self-compassion would affect male athletes’ body satisfaction and ED/DE symptoms over the course of three to four months.  We hypothesized that self-compassion would predict higher levels of body satisfaction over time, and be related, directly and indirectly (through body satisfaction), to lower levels of ED/DE symptomatology; we expected significant relationship to exist from self-compassion to the two outcomes, but not from the outcome to self-compassion.

Black Male Collegiate Football Players’ Experiences of Racism: A Qualitative Analysis
Researchers: J. Andy Walsh, M.S., M.A., Trent A Petrie, Ph.D., Martinque Jones, Ph.D., Anthony Papathomas, Ph.D., C. Ed Watkins, Ph.D. 
African American college athletes historically have endured racism, discrimination, and other racial inequalities (Beamon, 2014; Brooks & Althouse, 2013), particularly at PWIs (Edwards, 2000; Melendez, 2008). These athletes are exploited for their athletic ability and are expected to commit the majority of their time and effort to athletics (Hyatt, 2003), pulling them away from other responsibilities and perpetuating prejudices and racist beliefs across campus (Anglin & Wade, 2007; Beamon, 2014). Critical Race Theory (CRT) provides a framework through which to understand their experiences and empower Black male college athletes (Delgado, 1995). Specifically, the tenets of permanence of racism and storytelling offer insight into the underlying issues perpetuating racism in college sport and the lived experiences of athletes operating within that system. For example, Black student-athletes graduate at far less rates compared to peers (Lapchick, 2011), are more likely than their White counterparts to experience depression and anxiety (AIR, 1989), and are forced to navigate racist remarks and beliefs inside and outside the classroom (Melendez, 2008). Existing literature outlines various avenues through which systems and individuals can better support the needs of these athletes (e.g., diversifying campus leadership, mentorship programs, fostering community engagement; Beamon, 2014; Melendez, 2008, Sadberry & Mobley, 2013). However, research that affords these athletes themselves the opportunity to advocate for what needs to change within college athletics is warranted. Thus, the purpose of this study is to examine Black male collegiate football players’ lived experiences of racism, racial inequality, and discrimination within the realm of collegiate sport in general, and their team and athletic department in particular. Semi-structured interviews comprised of open-ended questions will be used to explore how these experiences have impacted the athletes’ psychological well-being and mental health and what coping resources and social support they have used to manage the potentially adverse effects of their experiences.

The Effects of Coach-Created Motivational Climate on Teamwork Behaviors
Researchers: Derek Sokoloff, M.S., M.B.A., & Trent Petrie, Ph.D.
Teamwork in sport is a group’s effort to complete their goals and mission through their individual and joint behaviors (McEwan & Beauchamp, 2014). Within the realm of sports, findings suggest teamwork behaviors are associated with multiple variables, including team cohesion, collective efficacy, commitment to one’s team, satisfaction with both team and individual performance, and enjoyment in one’s sport (McEwan, 2019). However, findings are limited in terms of the aspects and conditions that occur before developing teamwork behaviors. This study aims to examine how the individual athlete perceptions of motivational climate act as an antecedent and influence beliefs about teamwork behaviors. Specifically, how the aspects of coach-created motivational climate are associated with: (a) understanding the team’s purpose and the ability to plan to achieve the team’s mission, (b) implementing designed plans for team success, (c) assessing team performances and environment, (d) creating alterations focused on increasing the probability for team success, and (e) preserving interpersonal relationships by resolving conflicts effectively. 

Athletes’ Perceptions of the Impact of Mental Health on Sport Performance
Researchers: Kelzie E Beebe, Heather Kiefer, Lindsey Slavin, Macey Arnold, & Trent Petrie
The purpose of this research is to explore the beliefs of college student-athletes on how mental health impacts sport performance. Specifically, we will be assessing the percentage of college student-athletes who endorse the belief that mental health impacts athletic performance, and through qualitative analysis, their reasons for why they hold this belief (or do not hold the belief). The results from this study will be a first true attempt to understand how mental health impacts sport performance. The prevalence of mental health concerns among young adults is high and continues to increase (NIMH, 2021; SAMSHA, 2018). Findings suggest that, as a specific subset of young adults, NCAA student-athletes experience these concerns at a similar or greater prevalence than their non-athlete, age-matched peers (Golding et al., 2020; Gouttebarge et al., 2019). However, despite the rising number of college student-athletes who are experiencing mental health concerns, understanding the connection between mental health and sport performance has not been a robust area of study in psychology or sport psychology.

Personality as a Predictor of Draft Selection and Performance in Professional Baseball Players
Researchers: Tess Palmateer, M.Sc., & Trent Petrie, Ph.D.
Sports organizations have put more resources toward identifying athletes in response to the pressures to be successful (Abbott & Collins, 2004), which is justified given the potential financial benefit a team could experience from a successful draft selection (Durand-Bush & Salmela, 2001). Personality has been found to be related to both academic (Poropat, 2009) and job performance (Judge et al., 2013), and thus researchers began exploring its utility in predicting performance within sport. Research has demonstrated that personality factors are associated with sport performance as measured by coach ratings and objective performance outcomes (e.g., Piedmont et al., 1999), as well as factors/behaviours that are understood to be facilitative for performance, such as problem-focused coping and quality of preparation (Kaiseler et al., 2019; Woodman et al., 2010). Given the potential utility of personality assessment, professional sport organizations have integrated it into their pre-draft procedures. However, it remains unclear whether such data, particularly at the factor level, can add value to draft selection process, over and above that of past performances. The purpose of the present study is to explore if the Big-Five personality traits are related to draft order and predictive of athletes’ future performance in professional baseball. Cluster analysis will be used to explore if personality facets cluster in a meaningful way in relation to draft order. Subsequently, multiple regression analysis will be used to explore if personality domains and facets are predictive of performance in the season following the draft, after controlling for performance in the previous season.

Bodies in Motion for Life: A Long-Term Qualitative Evaluation of an ED Prevention Program with Retired Female Athletes 
Researchers: Stephanie Barrett, M.S., Trent Petrie, Ph.D., Dana Voelker, Ph.D. 
The Bodies in Motion program is a cognitive dissonance and mindfulness-based eating disorder prevention program designed to address the unique needs of female athletes with regard to their body image, and relationships with food and exercise.  This 5-session workshop teaches female athletes to become aware of the societal and sport-specific pressures they face about their bodies, and learn skills (i.e., mindfulness, self-compassion) to help challenge these messages and relate to themselves in healthier and more functional ways. The purpose of this study is to conduct a long-term qualitative evaluation of the effectiveness of the program with female athletes who have transitioned to sport retirement. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve female athletes who have completed the program and retired from their collegiate sport careers to explore their current perceptions of their bodies as athletes and as women, as well as their relationships with food and exercise/physical activity. Thematic analysis of the participants' responses is currently underway, and aggregate findings will be published to help extend current literature on body image and sport retirement among female athletes. 

College Student Athletes and Psychological Well-being in Retirement
Researchers: Karolina Wartalowicz, M.S., & Trent Petrie, Ph.D.
Retiring from sport can be a challenging and difficult time for college athletes (Smith & Hardin, 2018), and although many former student athletes (SAs) are doing well years after retirement, substantive numbers still struggle with different concerns (i.e. body image, depression, eating; e.g., Papathomas, Petrie, & Plateau, 2018) up to six years after retirement (Wartalowicz & Petrie, 2018). During the transition from competitive sport, athletes may experiences stress and anxiety, lowered levels of self worth, loss of social support, changes in mood, isolation, loneliness, disordered eating and even depression (Lally, 2007; Wylleman et al., 2004). The current study will investigate elite student athletes’ psychological health and well-being in the months immediately following retirement, which has been indicated as a critical time period (Stokowski, Paule-Koba, & Kaunert, 2019). Participants will consist of collegiate retiring athletes who are surveyed across two time points: the end of their competitive seasons (baseline)  and three months after collegiate careers have ended (Time 2). Separate hierarchical regression models for each outcome (i.e., depressive symptoms, body satisfaction, and satisfaction with life) will be run to examine the extent to which the significant BALANCE (Lavallee, 1999) items predict their Time 2 scores by controlling for baselines scores of each outcome in the regression analysis. Results can inform the development of pre-retirement programming within athletic departments to target the critical period of time post retirement of (1-3 months). 

The Current Status of Sport Psychology in Counseling Psychology Training Programs
Researchers: J. Andy Walsh, M.S., M.A., Trent Petrie, Ph.D., others TBD
The purpose of the study is to replicate Petrie & Watkins (1994) and learn more about the involvement and interest in sport psychology that is held by both faculty and students in APA-accredited counseling psychology training doctoral programs by surveying the programs’ training directors. We are examining what types of opportunities are already in place for faculty and students in a variety of avenues (e.g., research, practicum experiences) and the openness that the training directors have in allowing faculty and students to pursue these interests if opportunities are not already in place.

Collins, J. R., & Martin, S. B. (2015-2020). Development of leadership, sport, and health in girls attending high school and middle school. Girls in the Game (Fossil) $55,800.00 (FUNDED). High school students involved in the program also received college scholarships (to date > $15,000).