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Emotional labor and professional practice in sports medicine and science

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

This thesis reports research into emotional labor, professional practice, and professional development of sports medicine and science practitioners in the United Kingdom. Specifically, it investigates how and why sport and exercise psychologists, strength and conditioning coaches, physiotherapists, sport and exercise medicine consultants, and sport scientists enact emotional labor when operating in elite sport. The research investigates the factors affecting emotional labor, how emotional labor manifests itself in daily practice, and the personal and professional outcomes of emotional labor of sports medics and scientists. The main conclusion of this thesis is that emotional labor forms a necessary part of daily practice, yet emotional labor is not explicit in codes of conduct that govern how practitioners act when at work. Therefore, this thesis addresses the emotional labor educational-training-practice gap in sports medicine and science practitioners, with specific focus on sport and exercise psychology.
An interpretive subjectivist, ontological relativist and abductive approach to theory generation underpins the studies in this thesis. The main part of this thesis is comprised of four papers. First, a qualitative research synthesis establishes the conceptual basis for the empirical studies. Second, qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with sports medics and scientists, and two data analysis methods were used to represent the data (a) interpretive thematic analysis, and (b) qualitative creative non-fiction in the form of composite vignettes. Finally, semi-structured interviews were conducted with those engaged in the professional formation of sport and exercise psychology, and the data were analysed using interpretive thematic analysis.
The results indicate the pervasiveness of emotion-laden interactions in the complex environments that sport science and medics operate. Specifically, emotional labor is a feature of navigation of professionally challenging situations but can be debilitative to practitioners’ well-being. In addition to significantly contributing to theory in the field of emotional labor, the thesis makes policy recommendations applicable to professional associations and governing bodies to address the emotional demands of practice. In addition, implications are identified for university curricula regarding professional education and formation processes in these fields to take account of emotional labor requirements.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateSep 2018
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