Applied Sport Psychology Research Group (ASP-RG)

The applied sport psychology research group (ASP-RG) conducts applied research and consultancy to understand performance excellence and to optimise human functioning from a psychological and socio-psychological perspective. Taking a science-informing-practice approach, our research is delivered with National and International partners such as Governing Bodies of Sport, Sport England, and The Football Association. The group comprises 12 members of staff, of which, seven are Registered Sport and Exercise Psychologists (Health Care and Professions Council; HCPC), and a large cohort of Doctoral students.

Research Group Lead: Professor Joanne Butt

The group facilitates psychology research collaborations within three main themes of performance, development, and training and education.

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Performance

In the pursuit of achieving optimal performance performers will experience psychological pressure in many situations throughout their careers. Cutting across sport, business and health care settings, our applied research aims to explore the underpinning mechanisms of the mental processes involved in helping performers to thrive and deliver optimal outcomes in pressure environments. Key areas of research include, creating pressure in training environments, regulating emotions, sport confidence, coping with stress, optimal development environments, and organisational culture.

Development

Working closely with Governing Bodies of Sport we consider athlete development and how to maximise the sporting climate for all involved in the talent development process. Our applied research also aims to explore how elite sporting cultures and career transitions can impact on development, wellbeing, and performance at an individual and organisational level.

Training and Education

We aim to understand the critical issues of professional practice and the subsequent development of sport psychology practitioners. Our applied research enables us to effect the positive development of the profession as well as informing the future training and education of sport and exercise psychologists at an individual and organisational level.

Research Projects

Our research is conducted across a variety of performance domains including elite and youth sport, health care and emergency services, and performing arts to address real world research questions. We have a number of consultancy projects being conducted in collaboration with our Industry partners.

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Psychological Talent Development: British Equestrian

Professor Joanne Butt has been working as an applied sport psychologist for British Equestrian Federation for the past seven years. Joanne has been leading on BEF’s talent development research which has been informing BEF’s Youth Education for Coaches Programme. The research focused on understanding the psychological factors underpinning young rider development. The report captures cognitive development for Equestrian specific career stages of development: Pre-competition (8-11 years), Pony and Junior Competition (12-17 years), Young Riders (18 + years). A profile of key psychological characteristics has been generated together with environment factors that can help coaches to engender the characteristics in their coaching practice.

Staff: Professor Joanne Butt, David Hamer (British Equestrian Federation, Head of Talent & Development), Professor Ian Maynard (University of Essex), Dr Andrew Mills (ModelAthlete®), & Dr Rachel Cholerton (Sheffield Hallam University).

Collaborating Organisation: British Equestrian Federation

Think Aloud and Coach Reflection

Dr Amy Whitehead has developed the Think Aloud Programme which has impacted 375 coaches, mentors and coach educators and adopted by the England Football Association (FA), Rugby Football League (RFL) and UK Coaching. The TA programme has helped the mentors realise the benefit of reflection and has helped coaches to make some adjustments or challenge their thinking or actions.

Amy is also currently developing a Think Aloud resource for Sport and Exercise psychologists and currently leads the Think Aloud Research Group, funded by the British Psychology Society. She has also recently created a series of resources for UK Coaching providing guidelines on how coaches can use Think Aloud within their practice.

Amy works in collaboration with staff from LJMU as well as researchers from other institutions including, Dr Tabo Huntley, Dr Colum Cronin, Prof Zoe Knowles, Dr Gus Ryrie, Steven Vaughan, Dr David Tod (Lancaster University), Dr Hayley McEwan (University of West Scotland), Dr Phil Birch (University of Chichester), Dr Trish Jackman (University of Lincoln), Dr Laura Swettenham (International Federation of Esports Coaches).

Performance Decompression following the Olympic Games

This project is being led by Professor Joanne Butt and is being conducted in partnership with the Performance Psychology team at the English Institute of Sport and focused on the processing the emotions experienced (performance decompression) following an intense period of competition (e.g., Tokyo Olympic Games). The research captured the experiences of practitioners (i.e., psychologists, physiotherapists, coaches, operational management staff) who took part in a 6-stage programme to help them decompress emotionally following the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The research findings concluded that there are several reasons why it’s important to decompress following an intense period of competition, including making sense of the experience, avoiding maladaptive emotional responses and being able to reset more quickly for the next major competition. The research findings highlighted many benefits for practitioners who experienced the decompression programme following the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Staff: Professor Joanne Butt, Ollie Yeomans (MSc placement student in sport psychology), Danielle Adams Norenberg (EIS, Head of Performance Psychology) & Sarah Cecil (EIS Technical Lead).

Collaborating Organisation: English Institute of Sport (Performance Psychology team)

For more information on the project visit the EIS website.

Performance Adaptability

This research is being led by Liam Burnell, a PhD student (supervised by Dr Martin Eubank and Prof. Joanne Butt) in sport psychology who is also working for Mindflick - one of UK’s leading applied sport psychology organisations. The research is being conducted in partnership between Mindflick and LJMU. The research is centred on Spotlight (a modern personality profile tool) which has been developed in elite sport and focuses on fostering adaptability. The research has begun by exploring how individuals (from business, sport, education settings) who have engaged with Spotlight perceive their experiences to have been beneficial in their pursuit of performance and development. The PhD will continue to conduct research for Mindflick and the use of technology when intervening with Spotlight and the potential outcomes for end users. The sport psychologists leading on the project at Mindflick include: Dr Tim Pitt, Dr Pete Lindsay, and Dr Mark Bawden.

Collaborating Organisation: Mindflick; Spotlight

High Performance Leadership

Dr Gillian Cook has extended her line of research following the completion of her PhD (2019) which focused on the psychology of the world’s best Olympic swimming coaches, and, understanding how they optimise their own and their athlete’s performance. Dr Cook continues to conduct research with British Swimming to inform their coaching education programme on high-performance leadership and how effective leaders create the conditions for others to thrive and deliver optimal outcomes in pressure environments.

Collaborating Organisation: British Swimming

Women's Leadership Project and Kick Some Balls

This research and consultancy project is being led by Dr Francesca Champ. As part of this larger leadership project Dr Champ is conducting research in collaboration with the Football Association and British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) BUCS. This research focuses on monitoring and evaluating the FA Universities Women’s Leadership Programme and its impact on participation and Women working in Football. A second project being carried out by Fran is "Kick Some Balls" which is a qualitative study to evaluation the impact of the "Just in Casey" product on grassroots players experiences of the menstrual cycle. Fran continues to engage in consultancy and is the currently delivering the performance psychology support for Liverpool Women’s football club.

Find out more information on the Women in Football Network.

Developing tactical knowledge and performance using immersive technology

This research project is led by Dr Allistair McRobert and is conducted in partnership with Norwich City FC. Advancements in virtual reality and sports technologies has led to new and innovative assessment and training tools. These technologies may achieve higher fidelity by immersing athletes in scenarios that more closely simulate the environment and interactions required. Norwich City FC are the first in the UK to install a 360-degree immersive football simulator. The SoccerBot360 can replicate the dynamic nature of the game and has multiple training modes designed to develop anticipation, visual search, decision-making and technical skill. This project will examine the underlying mechanisms of performance and develop position- and unit-specific protocols to improve tactical knowledge and performance. This will then inform the development and delivery of a SoccerBot360 training curriculum at the club.

Collaborators: Dr Joe Causer and Dr Mark Robinson (LJMU), Dr Paul Ford (St Mary’s University), Dr Matthew Andrew (MMU), Dr John Iga (Norwich City FC), Woohyuk Chang (LJMU and Norwich City FC).

Evaluating player development during the youth-to-senior transition in North American soccer

This international project involves a research partnership with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), Major League Soccer (MLS), and Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). Despite an increase in the number of homegrown players transitioning into first team soccer in MLS, very little is known about how professional MLS clubs manage the player development transition process. This research project therefore aims to understand current attitudes, perspectives, and working practices of various MLS stakeholders including those operating in MLS Next Pro and USL Championship. The project is led by Patrick Mannix (US Soccer Federation) and supported by Dr Martin Littlewood and Dr Simon Roberts in the LJMU Football Exchange.

Postgraduate Research in ASP

Meet our sport psychology PhD students conducting their research across the 3 themes within our Applied Sport Psychology Research Group: Performance, Development, and Training and Education. Emilie Haspel is our PGR student representative. Emilie is in her first year of doctoral study and focuses her research on lost move syndrome in gymnastics. For more information on postgraduate study in sport psychology please see our Postgraduate research opportunities in Sport and Exercise Science webpage or contact The Research Group Lead, Professor Joanne Butt (j.butt@ljmu.ac.uk).

  • Sam Alder - Youth Sport and talent development
  • Liam Burnell - Psychological Adaptability in High Performance Environments (Mindflick)
  • Eleanor Cantwell - Exploring the lockdown experiences and learnings of British Gymnastics performance pathway gymnasts and coaches: Implications for return to training and competition and for future provision of support and coaching (British Gymnastics)
  • Reece Chapman - An Investigation into the Past and Present Practices of FA Grassroots Coach Education (Football Association)
  • Noel Dempsey - An Examination of Coach Education Provision in Grassroots Football (Football Association)
  • Emilie Haspel - Exploring Lost Move Syndrome: A Study of the Coach's Knowledge, Understanding and Experience of Coaching an Athlete With LMS
  • Amy Elizabeth Hardwick - Coach Learning, Development and Practice in the Context of Special Olympics
  • Libby Mitchel - Talented Athlete Support Scheme (TASS)/Performance Psychology
  • Andrew Newland - Exploring the Athlete-Coach relationship within high performance football
  • Alice Stratford - Career stage transitions in Women’s football

ASP RG houses around 30 Trainee Sport and Exercise Psychologists who are registered on LJMU’s Professional Doctorate in Sport and Exercise Psychology (BPS Accredited). Our trainee practitioner psychologists have contracts with many of our Liverpool City partners including Mindflick, British Gymnastics, British Sailing, The English Institute of Sport, Blackburn Rovers Football Club, Warrington Rowing Club, Everton Football Academy, Lancashire County Cricket Academy, City of Liverpool Trampolining and Gymnastics Club, Nuffield Health, Be Strong, and Merseyside Sport Partnership.

Contact Dr Martin Eubank for interest and enquires about the Professional Doctorate in Sport and Exercise Psychology m.r.eubank@ljmu.ac.uk.

ASP RG currently has seven members of staff who are registered to supervise trainee sport and exercise psychologists on the Professional Doctorate and Stage 2 training programme (British Psychological Society Qualification) working towards Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Registration.

  • Professor Joanne Butt
  • Dr Gill Cook
  • Dr Martin Eubank (Prof Doc Programme Director, Qualification Manager, QSEP Stage 2 training programme, BPS)
  • Dr Zoe Knowles (Chair of British Association for Sport & Exercise Sciences, BASES)
  • Dr Martin Littlewood
  • Dr Nick Wadsworth (January 2023 onwards)
  • Dr Amy Whitehead

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Currently enrolled Professional Doctorate students in Sport and Exercise Psychology

  • Joanne Stockton
  • Seshnee Dam
  • Deborah Thompson
  • Daniel Ransom
  • Kristin McGinty
  • Samuel Porter
  • Fionnuala Barnes
  • Susan Jones
  • Emily Stout
  • Hope Youngs
  • Ella Whitcomb-Khan
  • Abigail Bowman
  • Simon Lange-Smith
  • Freddie Turner
  • Emily White
  • Chiara Mansfield
  • Steven Vaughan
  • Aaron Shaheed
  • Luke McCarron
  • Johnson Chandigere
  • Jordan Hayman
  • Scott Whitfield
  • Lauren Garner
  • Matt Bagley
  • Ellie Glover
  • Amelia Macintosh
  • Richard Murray
  • Ashleigh Seddon
  • Andrew Shaw
  • Amelia Simpson

Sport Industry collaborators

Our research team work collaboratively with national and international organisations. In addition, we work collaboratively with researchers across the world in attempt to bring multicultural perspectives to our research. We are also open to working with new collaborators and if you or your organisation would like to discuss further, please contact Professor Joanne Butt j.butt@ljmu.ac.uk.

  • Aston Villa Football Club
  • British Swimming
  • Blackburn Rovers Football Academy
  • British Equestrian Federation
  • British Volleyball
  • British Universities and Colleges Sport (FA Women’s Leadership programme)
  • Chester Netball
  • Dundee United Football Club
  • England Volleyball
  • Everton Football Club
  • Everton in the Community/Football College
  • Liverpool Women’s Football Club
  • Mindflick
  • Model Athlete: Shaping Optimal Development Pathways
  • Norwich City Football Club
  • PGA golfers
  • Royal Belgium Football Association
  • The English Football Association
  • The English Institute of Sport
  • UK Coaching
  • UK Sport
  • West Ham Women’s Football Club

Special Interest Research and Networking Groups

Pressure and Performance

  • Prof Joanne Butt
  • Dr Martin Eubank
  • Dr Gill Cook
  • Abbie Williams
  • Prof Ian Maynard (University of Essex)
  • Dr Paul Freeman (University of Essex)
  • Dr William Low (Herriot Watt University)
  • Dr Mike Stoker (English Institute of Sport)

Practitioner Development

  • Dr Martin Eubank
  • Dr Nick Wadsworth
  • Dr Martin Littlewood
  • Dr David Tod (Lancaster University)
  • Dr Hayley McKewan (University of West Scotland)
  • Prof Moira Lafferty (University of Chester

Think Aloud

  • Dr Amy Whitehead
  • Steven Vaughan
  • Gus Ryrie
  • Tabo Huntley
  • Dr Colum Cronin
  • Dr David Tod (Lancaster University)
  • Dr Phil Birch (University of Chichester)
  • Dr Hayley McEwan (University of West Scotland)
  • Dr Trish Jackman (University of Lincoln)
  • Dr Laura Swettenham (International Federation of Esports Coaches)