“Are you here for performance or are you here for well-being?”: Using participatory research to promote thriving in a British Olympic sport organization

Michael John Passaportis*, Daniel J. Brown, Chris Wagstaff, Rachel Arnold

*Corresponding author for this work

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To support the growing calls to safeguard athlete health and well-being in the pursuit of sporting success, empirical research into thriving may offer practitioners potential mechanisms to promote both outcomes simultaneously. Yet, given that elite sport environments are increasingly characterized as complex and volatile, applying theoretical knowledge is often not straightforward. In this novel study we aimed to bridge the gap between theory and practice by partnering with a sport psychologist to explore their experiences of promoting thriving within an Olympic sport organization. Using a participatory research approach in a typically inaccessible context, we sought to support the specific needs of the practitioner through a form of collaborative inquiry. Together, over a 9-month period, we navigated the complexities of translating knowledge into practice and present novel insights into the realities of effectively creating systems-level change. Namely, the need for practitioners to deftly negotiate complex interpersonal relationships and organizational cultures, and to democratize responsibility for psychological change to wider stakeholders. Regarding thriving, we demonstrate that the promotion of thriving requires an in-depth understanding of the athletic environment and organizational systems. Further, an array of athlete perspectives is needed when determining what contributes to and constitutes a thriving experience. Through our collaboration with an applied practitioner, this study makes a significant contribution toward bridging the gap between theory and practice. In doing so, we draw attention to the complex and challenging scenarios practitioners face when promoting change at an environmental level within elite sport organizations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Sport Psychology
Early online date30 May 2024
Publication statusEarly online - 30 May 2024


  • applied practice
  • collaborative inquiry
  • elite sport environments
  • knowledge gap
  • organizational change

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