Creating Environments for Thriving in Olympic Sport Organisations

  • Michael John Richard Passaportis

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In response to growing calls for elite sport organisations to safeguard athlete well-being in the pursuit of success, scholars have begun to investigate how thriving in sport may contribute to such a duty of care. The purpose of this thesis was to extend this line of enquiry into thriving by providing the first exploration of how thriving might be promoted in elite sport environments. Namely, three empirical research studies are presented that qualitatively explored how Olympic sport organisations created environments that fostered thriving for those athletes who prepare and compete within them. In Study 1 (see Chapter 2) a 16-month ethnography within an Olympic and Paralympic sport organisation demonstrated how promoting interpersonal relationships founded on understanding, openness, and trust created athletic environments in which athletes displayed indicators of thriving. In Study 2 (see Chapter 3), participatory research with a sport psychologist working to promote environments for thriving in an Olympic sport organisation identified several key considerations for practitioners: promoting thriving requires an in-depth understanding of the organisational context, diverse athlete perspectives are needed when determining what contributes to and constitutes a thriving experience, and practitioners need to negotiate complex interpersonal relationships when creating change at an organisational level. In Study 3 (see Chapter 4), participatory action research was used to create an induction programme for athletes transitioning into an Olympic sport organisation. Collaboration with multiple stakeholders created guiding thriving principles of trust, clarity, and belonging. These principles were used to inform the interactions athletes had with key social agents (e.g., coaches, support staff) and ensured staff maintained a consistent focus on thriving throughout the induction process. Compiling this thesis provided opportunity to share personal reflections (see Chapter 6) into the challenges of conducting qualitative research in complex elite sport environments.
Overall, the findings in this thesis make a meaningful advancement to the thriving in sport literature by illustrating the subjective and contextualised nature of thriving, and demonstrating the importance of athletes establishing deep, meaningful interpersonal relationships with significant social agents. In addition to advancing theoretical knowledge, this thesis makes a significant contribution to applied sport psychology practice by showing that it is possible to create environments that promote thriving within elite sport organisations.
Date of Award13 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorDaniel Brown (Supervisor) & Chris Wagstaff (Supervisor)

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