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ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE IN SPORT PSYCHOLOGY: MYTHS, DEFICIENCIES AND THE BROADENING OF CULTURAL HORIZONS

McDougall, M (2020) ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE IN SPORT PSYCHOLOGY: MYTHS, DEFICIENCIES AND THE BROADENING OF CULTURAL HORIZONS. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

The concept of culture has become increasingly visible in the performance enhancement discourses of organisational sport psychology. It is now regularly recommended that cultivating expertise in organisational culture is essential so that sport psychologists can work more effectively with groups and in a broader, organisational role. In spite of frequent claims regarding the concepts’ importance, the sport psychology scholarly community has developed an action-orientated approach toward organisational culture. An almost uniform concern with how to use culture in practical ways related to performance has occurred prior to and at the expense of seeking deeper understanding about what culture actually is. Unmindful of cultures notorious complexity and heterogeneous intellectual foundations, the existing sport psychology organisational culture literature is theoretically ‘thin’, vague, narrow, and arguably superficial. As a result, emerging research within the field is dominated and underpinned by a range of common assumptions (e.g., culture is what is shared, is easily identified, malleable to planned changed and the domain of leaders) that have not been extensively critiqued or challenged. This thesis is, at its core, an attempt to address these concerns and provide alternative presentations of culture that can progress understanding in the area. Study 1 aimed to challenge the myth that culture is only conceptualised by what is shared, integrated and consistent. Qualitative interviews were used to gain the cultural understanding of a range of participants (n=7) from elite sport. Martin and Meyerson’s three perspective approach was used as an analytical lens and means to fashion and represent three illustrative cases, showcasing different culture perspectives (i.e., what is shared, what is contested, what is ambiguous) for each participant narrative. The study reinforced the need for sport psychologists to resist oversimplifications of culture, such as reducing it to only what is shared, obvious, and the ideas and beliefs of leadership. The findings suggested sport psychologists should develop a more inclusive concept of culture that recognises all in the sport environment as culture-makers, who, moreover, as agentic actors, have the capacity to resist the cultural scripts and ideals of leadership. Study 2 was a critical discourse analysis of #Savethecrew; the Twitter hashtag and grassroot campaign of the Save the Crew movement. This was undertaken with the objective of examining the campaign’s (and fan) resistance to owner-led plans for team relocation. The findings showed how the cultural understandings and traditions valued by fans were threatened by club ownership, plans for progress and the wider capitalistic system. Crew fans and the wider communities that they drew support from (city, business, the wider soccer community) were able to resist powerful forces of governance and economy by protecting the community driven and traditional symbolic meanings that they valued. The findings demonstrated that what is culturally meaningful can be used in deeply practical ways as part of a coherent strategy of resistance to enforced change. Study 3 builds on the findings from the previous chapters but is based in the world of sport psychology and applied practice. Critical nonfiction and an interpretive-critical lens were utilised to construct reflective vignettes that describe a difficult and unsuccessful culture intervention within elite sport. The constructed story acts as a ‘critical moment’ or jumping off point to consider further the concept of culture as an applied concept, and more broadly, the role of the sport psychologist as a consultant that delivers ‘culture’ work. The findings reiterate the complexity of culture and highlight that culture work is intrinsically difficult and ‘ethically charged’ in ways that existing applied sport psychology literature has not considered. For instance, it is suggested culture change has the capacity to contribute to negative, harmful, and destructive outcomes (such as constraining people’s thoughts and actions), as well as favourable ones. Consequently, sport psychologists must deeply consider their values and role when working with culture; or else risk becoming complicit in the machinations of organisation and the attempted management of culture, which is always related to ideas of power, control and domination of others.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Culture; Culture Change; Applied Practice; Anthropology; Interpretation; Story
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Date Deposited: 28 May 2020 10:58
Last Modified: 28 May 2020 10:59
DOI or Identification number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00013001
Supervisors: Nesti, M, Littlewood, M and Richardson, D
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13001

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