How could we share our research findings with athletic populations?

Alister McCormick, Plymouth Marjon University, @ACM_SportPsych

Think about the intended beneficiaries of your research. How many of this population benefit from your research? How do your research findings get to them? Is there a risk that your research is being wasted, through not getting to them? How would this population prefer to get guidance and information that is based on your research findings?

The sport and exercise psychology community conduct a lot of research. As an applied profession, this research has the potential to benefit a range of athletic populations, including athletes, parents, coaches, practitioners such as sport therapists and rehabilitators, and recreational exercisers. Within these populations, research has the potential to impact outcomes relating to performance, health, injury, wellbeing, and quality of experience. Sport and exercise psychology researchers who want people to benefit from their research need to consider ways of sharing their findings so that people find and then engage with them. The sport and exercise psychology community are generally effective at sharing their research findings within the academic community, particularly through journal articles and academic conferences. So that our findings reach athletic, non-academic populations, it is important to also share findings using ways like websites and magazine articles, and to use different communication styles – Sommer (2006) referred to this as “dual dissemination”.

My own research to date has focused on endurance sports and demonstrated that psychological interventions can benefit the performances of people who participate or compete in endurance sports (for reviews, see McCormick, Meijen, & Marcora, 2015; McCormick, Meijen, Anstiss, & Jones, 2019). Thousands of people recreationally participate in endurance sports competitively and non-competitively, and most of these will not have access to a psychology practitioner who has read my research. I therefore wondered, how should I share my research-informed advice and guidance, in order to maximise its reach and impact?

To answer this question, I conducted a piece of research with Paul Anstiss and David Lavallee (McCormick, Anstiss, & Lavallee, 2018), which aimed to answer the following research questions: How do endurance-sport participants and athletes acquire guidance on psychological aspects of training for, preparing for, and performing in endurance events? And, what are their preferences for receiving psychological guidance? People in the UK (N = 574) who participated competitively or non-competitively in running (5km and greater), road cycling (time trials, road races, or sportives), or triathlon events completed an online survey. The main survey questions addressed how they have intentionally looked for psychological guidance in the last year, how they have got guidance without looking for it, and their preferences for receiving guidance. We found that the most common ways of intentionally finding guidance were looking on websites (48.1% of participants), asking other athletes (46.7%), and asking coaches (32.5%). People most commonly tried to find guidance on coping, motivation, and managing nerves. In relation to finding guidance without looking for it, we found that posts on social media (51.3%), spoken word (48.0%), and magazines (45.9%) were common ways of getting guidance. Other athletes (68.1%) and coaches (40.4%) were most often a source of guidance. Websites (49.5%) and online videos (41.8%) were the most preferred ways of receiving guidance, although others were psychologists working with coaches (35.5%) and event organisers (34.8%), and through reading about findings in magazines (34.7%).

Based on our findings, I encourage researchers to share evidence-based guidance using websites, online videos, social media, magazines, and by working with coaches and event organisers. Research conducted to date offers tips on how to communicate guidance with athletic populations: the language used should be accessible and user-friendly; content should be kept concise and simple; guidance should be practical and made concrete through specific examples, activities, exercises, tools, and materials (rather than just informational content); and downloadable resources such as workbooks and activities are likely to be helpful. These suggestions and other considerations such as required skillsets and media ethics are explored within the journal article (McCormick, Anstiss, & Lavallee, 2018).

RESIST, a DSEP-funded research working group (which stands for Research-evaluated Endurance Strategies Intending to Support Training) has engaged with these ways of sharing evidence-based guidance on how to overcome the urge to stop, slow down, walk, or quit during endurance events. In particular, we have launched a website that includes evidence-based written guidance and online videos relating to how to overcome the urge to stop, including using psychological strategies such as if-then planning, self-talk, pacing decision making, goal setting, cueing techniques, controlling attentional focus, and re-appraisal (

Looking forward to the future, it would be great to see sport and exercise psychology researchers sharing guidance and suggestions based on their research, using ways such as websites, online videos, social media, magazines, and by working with coaches and event organisers. It would also be great to see experimental research testing the effects of interventions that are delivered in these preferable and realistic formats.

For further detail on the study findings check out the full open access paper: McCormick, A., Anstiss, P. A., & Lavallee, D. (2018). Endurance athletes’ current and preferred ways of getting psychological guidance. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1-14.


McCormick, A., Anstiss, P. A., & Lavallee, D. (2018). Endurance athletes’ current and preferred ways of getting psychological guidance. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

McCormick, A., Meijen, C., Anstiss, P., & Jones, H.S. (2019). Self-regulation in endurance sports: theory, research, and practice. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 9, 235-264.

McCormick, A., Meijen, C., & Marcora, S. (2015). Psychological determinants of whole-body endurance performance. Sports Medicine, 45, 997-1015.

Sommer, R. (2006). Dual dissemination: Writing for colleagues and the public. American Psychologist, 61, 955–958.

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