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The Psychology of Sports

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Courtney Driscoll: Researching to Understand the Moods of College Athletes

Courtney Driscoll  
UMD junior, Courtney Driscoll, majoring in psychology, criminology, and Hispanic studies.  

University of Minnesota Duluth junior, Courtney Driscoll, is already making strides in the psychology research community. At the beginning of spring semester, her proposed study was accepted by the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), which put her research in motion.

Driscoll’s inquiry is focusing on how college athletes’ moods change as their careers end compared to the moods of returning athletes. Although there has been similar research in this area before, a majority of it has been focused on professional athletes. “I’m on the UMD soccer team, and you can see how the seniors change, and there aren’t many resources for that,” says Driscoll explaining the driving force behind her research. It is a quantitative study that will look at UMD athletes, in which she will be comparing male and female athletes, longer seasons to shorter seasons, and team versus individual sports. “I will have them fill out a questionnaire during their last season, immediately after the end of the season, and one month after the season.” Her hypothesis is that depression and negative mood scores will increase as the athlete reaches the end of their last season, more so for females as well as team sports. “I wanted to do a depression scale, but as I’m not qualified to diagnose or treat depression, I will just be looking at mood change.”

The idea for her study came about in her research design class with Dr. Robert Lloyd. "I try to get them to research topics they're interested in,"says Lloyd. He knew that Driscoll was an athlete and thought that this would be a good direction for her, but soon found Driscoll had a lot of ambition. "Her research proposal went above and beyond what was needed for class, so we decided to apply for a UROP."

Under the guidance of Lloyd, Driscoll started the application process in the fall. For the application process, she first had to get approval from UMD, the next step was getting approval from the Institutional Review Board. Driscoll explains, “It is a fifteen page application, and I went through the process three times before it was approved.” The application was just the beginning of the hard work, however. Driscoll started administering surveys at the beginning of March. When she gets them back she will have to start analyzing the data, compiling it, and preparing for a presentation of her findings at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in May.

Although it is a hard process, Driscoll explains how lucky she is to have a supportive advisor who has helped her every step of the way. "It's nice to work with someone with so much experience. Dr. Lloyd helped me with the grant writing process and forming the questionnaire." While Lloyd is a great asset, he still makes sure that Driscoll does a majority of the work. "He pushes me to go outside my limits and work hard." Lloyd expounds on this, "She comes to my office hours or asks me a question when she sees me in class, but she does a majority of the work on her own."

Her UROP funding ends in May, but Driscoll has plans to continue research. "Dr. Lloyd wants me to continue with the research until I graduate. Then I can research other students and different sports' seasons," explains Driscoll. Lloyd sees a lot of potential in this research. He says, "If her findings are significant, it could be useful for college sports programs in providing counseling to try and avoid depression."

After her undergrad degree is complete, she plans on attending grad school and hopes to be accepted into UMD's new psychological sciences graduate program where she would focus on clinical and counseling. "I want to go to grad school here so I can continue working with Dr. Lloyd on this research. No matter what happens, I am working towards having it published."

For more information on UROP at UMD click here.

Those Who Can, Duluth  

Written by Katherine Revier Mar. 2014


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