Sport psychology professionals maintain an ethical obligation to ensure services are helping clients (and conversely, not harming them), and thus allowing clients the opportunity to provide feedback is a key element of effective service provision.
Components of Evaluation
There are a variety of subjective (or self-report) and objective measures available that consultants can select to evaluate the effectiveness of any consultation. Self-report forms typically include items focused on characteristics of the consultant, positive and negative experiences with the consultation, impact on team and individual performance, ratings of individual intervention components, time spent on aspects of the consultation, and specific information learned. Items can ask clients to rate their agreement or disagreement with particular statements, or they may ask clients to rate satisfaction (from “not at all satisfied” to “very satisfied”) with specific intervention components. Often, these forms allow open space for athletes to express confidential feedback regarding any aspect of the consultation. It may also be useful to solicit similar feedback from the coaching and other support staff, assuming they were involved as clients in a team consultation. These self-report data solicited from athletes and coaches can be critical to helping consultants understand if the clients’ needs are being met, and if there is a desire to continue services in the future. It is best practice to have someone else besides the consultant administer these subjective forms so clients can feel free to express their true opinions.
These subjective measures of effectiveness can be complemented with objective measures to provide a more comprehensive evaluation model. Depending on the nature of the consultation, the professional may choose a specific behavior (e.g., improved first-serve percentage or reduced penalty minutes) or performance indicator (e.g., defensive points against, running or swimming time in a specific event) that is a relevant dependent variable in the consultation. If the consultant intends to share this behavioral or performance data at a scientific meeting or in the form of a scholarly publication, an informed consent for research prior to data collection must be obtained. If the data remain internal to the consultation, then a brief discussion of the measurement approach and intervals for data collection is sufficient. The key dependent variables in any consultation emerge from a joint discussion between client and consultant based around the question, “How would we know if the time spent on sport psychology services was worth the effort?”
Timing of Evaluation
Most professionals suggest that postseason (or termination) evaluations are necessary to meet the minimum requirement for evaluation. However, best practice guidance from the literature suggests that an ongoing evaluation with regular tracking of performance and behavioral data is a more useful and effective approach. Thus, subsequent to a needs assessment and the identification of individual client or team needs, the parties can put into place a transparent system that allows everyone to track progress toward objective goals. Additionally, consultants may want to gather self-reported feedback from all involved parties at regular intervals throughout the consultation, at least once in the middle and once at the end of the experience.
In sum, a comprehensive approach to evaluation has the potential to generate empirical support for the efficacy of sport psychology interventions and strengthen the field as a whole. Without the checks and balances provided through a comprehensive evaluation system, sport psychology practice can seem like a trial-and-error process, and will likely prove less efficient and potentially less effective for the consumer.
- Anderson, A. G., Miles, A., Mahoney, C., & Robinson, P. (2002). Evaluating the effectiveness of applied sport psychology practice: Making the case for a case study approach. The Sport Psychologist, 16, 432–453.
- Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology. (n.d.). Ethics code: AASP ethical principles and standards. Retrieved June 12, 2012, from http://appliedsportpsych.org/about/ethics/code
- Gould, D., Murphy, S., Tammen, V., & May, J. (1991). An evaluation of US Olympic sport psychology consultant effectiveness. The Sport Psychologist, 5(2), 111–127.
- Grove, J. R., Norton, P. J., Van Raalte, J. L., & Brewer, B. W. (1999). Stages of change as an outcome measure in the evaluation of mental skills training programs. The Sport Psychologist, 13, 22–41.
- Partington, J., & Orlick, T. (1987). The sport psychology consultant evaluation form. The Sport Psychologist, 1, 309–317.