Broadly, my research program focuses on achievement as related to sport. This focus can be seen in two ways. On one hand, I’m interested in the cognitive, affective, behavioural, and contextual factors that influence athletes’ achievement efforts in sport. On the other hand, I’m also interested in how athletes’ achievement efforts in sport impact their life outside of sport (e.g., their overall well-being, personal development, and passion for life).
Specifically, there are three streams to my research program. The first, and most established, stream examines the degree to which athletes’ perfectionistic tendencies are healthy vs. unhealthy. This is a controversial topic. The prevalence of perfectionism among world-class athletes suggests that the trait has some beneficial qualities. However, research among samples of athletes associates perfectionism with a host of severely debilitating and dysfunctional characteristics (e.g., suicide, depression, and eating disorders). The long-term goal of this research stream is to untangle and explain this controversial topic.
The second stream of my research program relates to the methods used to study perfectionism in sport. Reflecting a trend in sport and exercise psychology in general, a large percentage of perfectionism research relies on questionnaires to assess the trait. Indeed, John Dunn and I have developed our own sport perfectionism questionnaire (namely, the Sport Perfectionism Questionnaire-2). To what degree can we have faith in the scores produced from such instruments? Completing a questionnaire is a more complicated process than it seems. The second stream of my research addresses this issue.
The third stream of my research program examines how participation in sport can contribute to youth’s emotional, cognitive, and moral development. I’m especially interested in the degree to which unique aspects of certain sports (e.g., the emphasis on “spirit of the game” and self-refereeing in Ultimate Frisbee) encourage participation and the development of characteristics that help youth thrive.