Exploring the Role of Spirituality and Spiritual Beliefs in the Pursuit of Excellence and Attainment of Peak Performance in Professional Athletes

Ashley Ballard, M.Sc.

University of Edinburgh

Charles H. Wilson Jr, Ph.D.

Georgia Southern University



Little research has been found which examines the assessment of spirituality in sport performers and its possible role in performance enhancement. The goal of the current study was to understand if and how spirituality impacts athleticism. The subjective experiences of Christian spirituality in an American World Sprinter (male), a British Olympic Sprint Canoe Racer (female), and a retired American Minor League Baseball player (male) were analyzed through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith & Osborn, 2003). Semi-structured interviews were used to gather data leading to three major themes: “The Belief and Confidence in God”, “Individual and Communal Prayer”, and “The Influential Role of Scripture”. These findings support previous research into athletic excellence and optimal performance. Moreover, this research provides insight into how spirituality can be acknowledged and used in athlete-centered models to enhance performance while providing holistic care for the entirety the athlete: mind, body, and spirit.
Keywords: Spirituality, Peak Performance, Sport Psychology, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), Psychological Skills Training (PST)

From the Journal of the Christian Society for Kinesiology and Leisure StudiesVolume 4, Number 1 (2017)