Exploring the characteristics of thriving in professional sports competition

Daniel J. Brown, Pieter Kruger, Michael John Richard Passaportis

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The topic of thriving continues to receive increasing attention from sports scholars and practitioners wanting to protect and promote athlete welfare alongside supporting performance enhancement. However, to date, researchers have adopted differing interpretations of thriving suggesting that greater clarity is needed on what it means to thrive and how these experiences manifest in sports competition. The purpose of this presentation is to discuss the findings from two studies that explored what was considered to characterise thriving in professional rugby union players across a multinational sample. In the first study, 10 coaches from two professional rugby clubs (one based in South Africa and one based in Ireland) were asked to identify players who they considered to have thrived in each of eight consecutive matches and then to describe the characteristics that led them to select those individuals. In the second study, an exploratory sequential mixed-methods research design was used to compare the experiences of players who thrived with those who did not. Players from an English professional rugby club completed quantitative assessments of their in-match functioning following two matches, with these scores then used to purposefully sample 10 players (thriving, n = 6; non-thriving, n = 4) to take part in an interview. Inductive content analysis conducted on the coach data resulted in five themes for characteristics of thriving (i.e., acumen, attitude, mental state, physical contribution, and technical proficiency) and one context theme against which the characteristics were judged. From the player data, differences were described in thriving and non-thriving players’ expressions of shared codes (e.g., body language, mistakes) and in their experiences of significant negative events throughout the match. Collectively, the findings from these studies provide novel insight into what it means to thrive in sports competition and offer a framework that may be used to identify thriving performers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2020
Event35th Annual Meeting of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology - Virtual
Duration: 21 Oct 202024 Oct 2020


Conference35th Annual Meeting of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology


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