Enhancing Wellbeing, Long-Term Development, and Performance in Youth Sport: Insights from Experienced Applied Sport Psychologists Working with Young Athletes in the United Kingdom

Sam Thrower*, Jamie B. Barker, Adam Bruton, Pete Coffee, Jennifer Cumming, Chris Harwood, Karen Howells, Camilla Knight, Paul J. McCarthy, Stephen Mellalieu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although applied sport psychologists are supporting young athletes drawing on experiential evidence of what works, there is a lack of understanding regarding how to effectively help young athletes enhance their wellbeing, long-term development, and performance. The aim of the current study was to gain insights into the consultancy process from accredited applied sport psychologists working with young athletes (5-18 years) in the United Kingdom, to inform the training and development of practitioners. An Interpretive Descriptive (ID) design was used to generate grounded knowledge relevant to applied practice contexts. The current study was conducted by a British Psychological Society (BPS), Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology (DSEP), research working group and consisted of two phases: First, working group members (n = 6) participated in two separate focus groups. Second, in-depth interviews were conducted with UK-based sport psychology practitioners (n = 9) who had extensive knowledge and experience of working with young athletes. Reflexive thematic analysis generated six higher order themes: (a) Clear intentions, motives, and boundaries; (b) flexible and adaptable theoretical approaches; (c) seeking and securing connections; (d) multiple perspectives matter; (e) indirect interventions maximize impact; and (f) adaptation and integration determine Psychological Skills Training (PST) effectiveness. The current study offers unique and detailed insights regarding the consultancy process when working with young athletes. Such insights are crucial for applied sport psychologists to promote evidence-informed developmentally appropriate practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Applied Sport Psychology
Early online date31 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Oct 2023


  • Applied Psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology

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