Skip to content

The prediction of thriving in elite sport: a prospective examination of the role of psychological need satisfaction, challenge appraisal, and salivary biomarkers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Objectives - To examine (i) whether levels of, and changes in, athletes’ basic psychological need satisfaction (BPNS) and challenge appraisals predicted in-match thriving; and (ii) if salivary biomarkers could be defined that were related to thriving.

Design - Prospective study design.

Method - Fifty-one elite male hockey players ( M age = 24.94 years, SD age = 4.73) completed questionnaires measuring their BPNS and challenge appraisals on seven consecutive days prior to a competitive match, as well as providing saliva samples immediately on waking, and then + 0.5, + 3, and + 5.25 hours on the day of the match. Saliva was assayed for catabolic (i.e., cortisol) and anabolic (i.e., dehydroepiandrosterone [DHEA]) hormones. In-match thriving was assessed retrospectively using measures of subjective performance and well-being.

Results - Latent growth curve modelling showed pre-match levels of BPNS and challenge appraisals to positively predict thriving. Although not statistically significant, small and moderate negative associations were found for thriving with cortisol concentration (+ 5.25 hours sample) and total cortisol exposure across the morning of the match, respectively. DHEA concentration shared a small positive, yet nonsignificant, association with thriving.

Conclusions - Athletes’ pre-match levels of BPNS and challenge appraisal predict inmatch thriving; thus, offering potential mechanisms through which both high-level performance and the experience of well-being can be facilitated. Furthermore, associations suggest that total cortisol exposure across the morning of the match, and cortisol and DHEA levels in pre-match samples may offer sport science and sports medicine practitioners potential biomarkers for thriving. Future research is required to substantiate this initial finding.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)0
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Early online date8 Oct 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 8 Oct 2020


  • The prediction of thriving in elite sport

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 591 KB, PDF document

    Due to publisher’s copyright restrictions, this document is not freely available to download from this website until: 8/10/21

    Licence: CC BY-NC-ND

Related information

Relations Get citation (various referencing formats)

ID: 22580120