Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Craig Wrisberg

Committee Members

Joy DeSensi, Diana Moyer, Mark Hector


In this dissertation, I trace the historical development of sport psychology and draw on multiple fields to rethink its taken-for-granted practices and future trajectories. Influenced by Foucault’s (1977) genealogical approach to historical analysis, I challenge the conventions of linear chronology and provide competing narratives that highlight a set of discursive possibilities for the emergence of the psychology of sport. Though my focus is on a dual genealogy of applied sport psychology (i.e., American and Soviet discourses), I do not offer a new hegemonic discourse or origin story. Rather I attempt to provide a genealogical analysis of the (sub)discipline to show how and why sport psychology discourse has come to be the way it is performed today. Drawing on Foucault’s (1982, 1995) conceptual understanding of the subject and of knowledge production, I approach the work of Avksenty Cezarevich Puni and Coleman Roberts Griffith as two sites of origins of (applied) sport psychology. My prime interest here is not so much in identifying these two scholars’ individual practices as in uncovering the discursive formations of that historical conjuncture that shaped the way sport psychology has come to be conceptualized, theorized, practiced and institutionalized. I situate a dual genealogy of the discourse within global and local (i.e., glocal) particularities of the Cold War culture and socio-political practices in order to interrogate the interplay between the actual events and their representations in scholarly activities, particularly as they relate to the construction of oppositions and tensions between the Soviet and American discourses. I examine the implications of certain exclusions and inclusions for shaping current interpretations of international sport psychology within a broader context of national identity construction, deconstruction and reconstruction. My discourse analysis highlights rhetorical strategies aligned with technologies of institutional power and reveals the role of (sport) historiography in the production of a hierarchical and sealed system of knowledge. Each chapter of this dissertation holds a piece (or a fragmented narrative) of the historical analysis of the psychology of sport. The presentation of competing narratives of the past, the present and the future throughout the dissertation is aimed at “provoking [the field of sport psychology] into new moves and spaces where [it] hardly recognizes [itself] in becoming otherwise, the unforeseeable that [it is] already becoming” (Lather, 2003, p. 5). Finally, drawing on a recent co-authored paper with Handel Wright (Ryba &Wright, 2005), I attempt to articulate the intersection of sport psychology and cultural studies as one of the possible approaches to future work in sport psychology and put forward an argument for an integrated sport studies that includes (applied) sport psychology.

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