Addressing the methodological issues of researching flow in elite sport: lessons from the study of European Tour golfers

Swann, Christian and Crust, Lee and Keegan, Richard and Piggott, David (2012) Addressing the methodological issues of researching flow in elite sport: lessons from the study of European Tour golfers. In: ICSEMIS Conference, July 19th-24th, Glasgow SECC.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Flow, commonly referred to as being in "the zone", is an optimal psychological state which is
associated with peak performance (i.e., athletes in flow are believed to perform at the peak of their abilities).
Hence these states are particularly relevant at the elite level where both demands and rewards are greatest, and
the potential implications of explaining and successfully enhancing them are very beneficial. However, despite a
body of literature spanning 20 years, flow is still regarded as being elusive and unpredictable.
AIM: We propose that implicit and sometimes contradictory assumptions and methods underlying existing
research have contributed to this conception, including: (i) repeatedly describing flow in sport rather than
progressing towards an explanation; (ii) failure to search for causality, or any underlying processes through which
flow is experienced; and (iii) ambiguous definition of the nine dimensions proposed to make up flow states
(Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). Drawing on an empirical study qualitatively exploring the flow experiences of elite
golfers, we aimed to overcome these issues.
METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 European Tour golfers, including three winners
and one who had represented Europe in the Ryder Cup three times. We developed and employed clearer
definitions of the flow dimensions, which enabled more transparent coding of data and exploration of the
underlying processes between flow dimensions.
RESULTS: The majority of emerging themes were similar to those in existing literature, while adding scientific
clarification to the flow dimensions resulted in coding analysis which differed to previous studies, and also
suggested links between these flow dimensions.
DISCUSSION: Findings suggest flow may be experienced similarly in golf to other sports. The links between
dimensions allude to causal associations and were used to propose a novel model of flow in elite golf, providing a
tentative explanation of flow states.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Presentation)
Additional Information:BACKGROUND: Flow, commonly referred to as being in "the zone", is an optimal psychological state which is associated with peak performance (i.e., athletes in flow are believed to perform at the peak of their abilities). Hence these states are particularly relevant at the elite level where both demands and rewards are greatest, and the potential implications of explaining and successfully enhancing them are very beneficial. However, despite a body of literature spanning 20 years, flow is still regarded as being elusive and unpredictable. AIM: We propose that implicit and sometimes contradictory assumptions and methods underlying existing research have contributed to this conception, including: (i) repeatedly describing flow in sport rather than progressing towards an explanation; (ii) failure to search for causality, or any underlying processes through which flow is experienced; and (iii) ambiguous definition of the nine dimensions proposed to make up flow states (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). Drawing on an empirical study qualitatively exploring the flow experiences of elite golfers, we aimed to overcome these issues. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 European Tour golfers, including three winners and one who had represented Europe in the Ryder Cup three times. We developed and employed clearer definitions of the flow dimensions, which enabled more transparent coding of data and exploration of the underlying processes between flow dimensions. RESULTS: The majority of emerging themes were similar to those in existing literature, while adding scientific clarification to the flow dimensions resulted in coding analysis which differed to previous studies, and also suggested links between these flow dimensions. DISCUSSION: Findings suggest flow may be experienced similarly in golf to other sports. The links between dimensions allude to causal associations and were used to propose a novel model of flow in elite golf, providing a tentative explanation of flow states.
Keywords:Flow, Peak Performance, Elite Sport
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
ID Code:6341
Deposited By: Lee Crust
Deposited On:27 Sep 2012 19:49
Last Modified:12 Jun 2014 07:53

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