Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Rebecca Zakrajsek

Committee Members

Jedediah Blanton, Jeffrey Cochran, Leslee Fisher


Professional philosophy and the working alliance between consultant and client have been consistently identified by researchers as foundational to effective mental performance service delivery (Perna et al., 2005; Poczwardowski & Sherman, 2011). Mental performance consultants (MPCs), especially those embedded within organizations, work in complex environments that can exert major influence on their service delivery process (see Hardy, Jones, & Gould, 1996). While researchers have recognized the need to consider the context of service delivery (Poczwardowski & Sherman, 2011), there has been minimal investigation into how context influences the foundations of consulting. Today, MPCs are employed by and deliver services throughout 27 of 30 major league baseball organizations (Nightengale, 2018), making professional baseball a setting worthy of exploring the intersection of context, professional philosophy, and working alliance. Therefore, Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR; Hill, 2012) was used to explore this intersection through semi-structured interviews with 13 MPCs (10 males, three females) who have worked in professional baseball. Five domains were constructed: (a) The Context of Professional Baseball, (b) Intersection of Cultures Within Professional Baseball, (c) Long-game Philosophy of Establishing Value of MPC Services, (d) Cultivating Trust in the Working Alliance, and (e) Personal and Situational Factors that Influence Receptivity to and Delivery of MPC Services. MPCs discussed how unique factors about the context (e.g., limited player privacy) and cultural considerations (e.g., nationality, language, gendered norms) influenced their philosophy of service delivery. MPCs emphasized trust as critical and focused on the development of working alliances in their first few years with an organization. This included building the trust of multiple stakeholders (coaches, support staff, scouts, front office) in the MPC’s services. Client and MPC characteristics, organizational support, and agents also influenced MPCs’ process of service delivery. Findings from the current study revealed that context does shift an MPC’s service delivery process. MPCs should consider adapting their professional philosophies and working alliance to contextually meet the needs of clients within the environment they are working. In addition, MPCs’ experiences revealed that professional baseball has placed an emphasis on mental skills training, offering considerations for other professional sport organizations looking to integrate mental performance services.

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