Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Leslee A. Fisher

Committee Members

Steven N. Waller, Lars Dzikus, J. Amos Hatch


According to Watson and Nesti (2005), the scholarly investigation of spirituality within sport psychology is lacking. Recently, within cultural sport psychology (Schinke & Hanrahan, 2009), a discussion of spirituality has been initiated; however, it has not received the same amount of attention as other aspects of culture that impact sport performance and mental well-being (Butryn, 2002, 2010; Duda & Allison, 1990; Kontos & Breland-Noble, 2002; Krane, Waldron, Kauer & Semerjian, 2010; McGannon & Busanich, 2010). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to understand how AASP-certified (CC-AASP) consultants understand spirituality. Nine AASP-certified (CC-AASP) consultants who have encountered spirituality in their practice were interviewed. A semi-structured interview guide was developed using a modified version of Fisher’s (1993) Social Self-Identity Interview. Bogdan and Biklen’s (2007) data analysis was also used to identify metaphors and major themes found in the transcribed interviews. Results suggest that one major metaphor, The Consulting Relationship as a House, as well as four major themes of spirituality as (a) A Portal; (b) Athlete-Driven; (c) A Coping Mechanism; and (d) Christianity as the Norm emerged from the data. While consultants appeared to have difficulty defining spirituality, of import was building relationships with athletes similar to building a “house”. Trust began by digging a solid “foundation” and having doors and windows representing “portals” into athletes’ use of spirituality. For these consultants, athletes always initiated the topic of spirituality within consultation. Consultants felt that athletes used spirituality in their performance mostly as a coping mechanism when facing adversity. Christianity was the norm in terms of athlete-reported usage in performance. Two consultants used spirituality to ground their own practice. Spiritual identity development models (e.g., Watson & Nesti, 2005) and cultural sport psychology practice models (e.g., Fisher, Roper, & Butryn, 2009) are linked to the discussion. Suggestions are also given for how to engage sport psychology graduate students in this conversation during their training.

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