Authored by: Noora J. Ronkainen , Mark S. Nesti

Routledge International Handbook of Sport Psychology

Print publication date:  February  2016
Online publication date:  February  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138022423
eBook ISBN: 9781315777054
Adobe ISBN: 9781317692324


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Until recently, there have been few sport psychology publications that have focused on spirituality. The lack of engagement with this area of human experience in sport psychology is partly connected to the history of the discipline: sport psychology only emerged as a distinct field in the 1960s when positivism was the dominant philosophy of science in psychology (Ryba & Wright, 2005). Aligning itself with the dominant paradigm of the time, sport psychology was little affected by the views of the founding fathers of psychology including William James and G. Stanley Hall, who perceived no need to separate the spiritual from psychological study (Pargament, 2011). In contrast, spirituality fits poorly with positivist conceptions of psychology; traditional assumptions associated with spirituality including transcendence, holism and subjectivity of the experience are antithetical to modernist psychological theory based on the philosophical assumptions of materialism, universalism and atomism (Slife, Hope, & Nebeker, 1999). Indeed, sometimes it has been held that spirituality cannot or should not be studied scientifically (Miller & Thoresen, 2003). However, these views have been challenged, especially in the last decade, and spirituality has become a visible research area within health sciences (Chiu, Emblen, Van Hofwegen, Sawatzky, & Meyerhoff, 2004), occupational psychology and management (Lips-Wiersma, 2002), education (Webster, 2004) and leisure studies (Humberstone, 2011).

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