Sports Studies and Physical Education - Doctoral Theses

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    The design, development, implementation and evaluation of the Gaelic4Girls intervention
    (University College Cork, 2020-06-26) Farmer, Orlagh; O'Brien, Wesley; Cahill, Kevin; Irish Research Council
    Background: It is widely reported that girls are less physically active than boys throughout childhood, and the age-related decline in physical activity (PA) participation, particularly from early adolescence onwards, is steeper for girls than for boys. Correlates of PA, such as fundamental movement skills (FMS), club-based participation in organised youth sport (OYS), psychological correlates (self-efficacy, enjoyment, PA attitudes), and social support structures (family and peer support) during childhood and adolescence contributes considerably to leisure-time PA for health-enhancing benefits in young girls. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to design, develop, implement and evaluate a multi-component community sports-based PA intervention, specifically tailored for 8- to 12- year old girls in Ladies Gaelic Football (LGF) clubs in Ireland. The existing programme, known as Gaelic4Girls (G4G), was re-designed and revised using the theoretical underpinnings of the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) and elements of the Social Ecological Model (SEM). Methodology: Data for this PhD thesis were gathered from participants (n= 568), using a mixed-methods research design. At baseline, information was gathered on participants (n = 331) levels of PA (self-report questionnaire), FMS proficiency (live assessment of motor skills), and psychological correlates of PA (self-report questionnaire), using validated and reliable protocol. A sub-sample of participants (n = 37) also participated in focus group interviews to explore their perceptions of PA and sport participation. Based on this data, and an exploration of the literature, a revised G4G intervention was developed. A quasi-experimental, non-randomised controlled trial involving three community sports clubs (group 1 - revised G4G intervention; group 2 - existing G4G programme; and group 3 - control condition) was then implemented to evaluate the revised G4G intervention’s efficacy. Participants’ data (n=120) was collected at pre and post time points on the following variables; PA levels, FMS proficiency, and psychological correlates of PA. Focus group data (n = 6) was collected at post-intervention to explore perceptions of the revised G4G intervention. Results: Following a 2 (pre to post) by 3 (group 1, 2 and 3) mixed-model ANOVA, it was highlighted over time that the revised G4G intervention group 1 significantly increased in PA (mean change = 39.7, SD = 81.66, p=.003), FMS proficiency (mean change = 1.86, SD = 4.78, p=.005) and their associated psychological correlates of PA (namely self-efficacy (p<.002), perceived self-confidence (p<.002), enjoyment (p<.003), attitudes towards PA (p<.003), and family social support (p<.002). FG findings reported positive findings for the revised G4G intervention group 1 participants, specifically the heightened psychological wellbeing for girls, and the establishment of emerging friendships between peers. Conclusion: The findings demonstrate that the 10-week specifically tailored, research-informed and revised G4G intervention is a feasible and efficacious programme, leading to a positive effect on the physical and psychological wellbeing of pre-adolescent Irish girls, as relative to the traditionally delivered existing G4G comparative programme, and control group conditions. Further research involving a randomised controlled trial, with a larger sample size is warranted.
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    The design, development, implementation and evaluation of Project FLAME: a multi-component, school-based, motor competence intervention for adolescent youth in Ireland
    (University College Cork, 2020) Lester, Diarmuid; O'Brien, Wesley; Chambers, Fiona
    Background: Recent research has shown that Irish adolescent youth are insufficiently active and fail to reach basic levels of fundamental movement skills (FMS) and functional movement. Schools and the engagement of relevant stakeholders, particularly qualified Physical Education (PE) specialist teachers, are key vehicles for the provision of movement-based opportunities in youth. The purpose of the first phase of this research was to gather cross-sectional data on adolescent youth, differentiated by gender and grade across the first three years (Junior Cycle) of post-primary education, specifically to inform the development a multi-component, school-based motor competence intervention entitled Project FLAME (Fundamental and Functional Literacy for Activity and Movement Efficiency). The second phase of the research aimed to evaluate if Project FLAME can improve FMS and functional movement in adolescent youth. Methods: Cross-sectional data, as part of the first phase of the research, were collected on adolescents (N = 219; mean age: 14.45 ± 0.96 years), within two, mixed gender schools. Primary outcome measures were consistent in both phases of the research and included the assessment of ten FMS (including locomotor and object control subsets) in conjunction with the observable, behavioural components from three established testing batteries, namely the Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD), TGMD-2, and the Get Skilled: Get Active manual, as well as the seven tests within the Functional Movement Screen (FMS™). The Project FLAME intervention included four major components, specifically the i) specialist Physical Education (PE) teacher component, ii) kinaesthetic classroom component, iii) student component and iv) digital literacy component. Using a non-randomized controlled trial as part of the second phase of the research, a target sample of 363 participants (56% male, mean age: 14.04 ± 0.89 years old) were recruited from three mixed-gender, sub-urban schools (two intervention; one control) in Cork, Ireland, for baseline data collection, followed by a 13-week consecutive intervention roll out, and post-test data collection. Linear mixed models were used to assess the effect of the intervention with two main effects, treatment and time, and their interaction. Analyses were adjusted for participants’ gender, age, grade and BMI score. Results: Based on the results from the cross-sectional data, levels of actual mastery within FMS and functional movement were low, with significant gender and age-related differences observed. Following the implementation of the Project FLAME non-randomized controlled trial, significant intervention effects across time were observed, with the greatest improvements evident for overall gross FMS (p = .002). Discussion: Findings from the first phase of the research suggested that developing a multi-component, school-based intervention was a strategic step that could improve the observed low levels of adolescent FMS and functional movement. The Project FLAME intervention was successful at improving adolescent overall FMS gross motor competence, resulting in significant treatment-time interactions. A whole-school approach emphasising FMS and functional movement, which include developmentally appropriate activities, and the concurrent involvement of specialist PE, and non-specialist PE teachers appears effective for developing motor competence in adolescent youth.
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    State of Mind Ireland: the design and evaluation of a positive mental health intervention among higher education students
    (University College Cork, 2020) O'Brien, Niamh; O'Brien, Wesley; Chambers, Fiona; State of Mind Ireland
    Young adults are recognised as a vulnerable age group who carry the burden of mental health problems worldwide. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) observe that many students are experiencing mental health issues. HEIs, however, are also in a critical position to reach the young adult population group and promote positive mental health. Low levels of physical activity (PA) participation is observed among Irish higher education students. PA is positively associated with wellbeing. Multilevel interventions for both positive mental health and PA are recommended for wellbeing by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The purpose of this study was to design, develop, implement and evaluate a positive mental health and PA intervention, specifically tailored for the student cohort (aged 18 to 29 years old) in a large HEI in Ireland. The intervention, known as SOMI-HE, was designed using the principles of Intervention Mapping (IM). Data for the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of the intervention were gathered from participants (n=413), using a mixed-method research design. Statistical levels of wellbeing, resilience and PA (n=262) were measured using well-known validated and reliable questionnaires. Observational data was collected (n=151) using open-ended questionnaires, a Delphi technique, and focus group discussions. Intervention evaluation data was collected at three time points (pre, post, and retention). Results suggest that a structured mental health and PA education awareness intervention for Irish pre-service teachers may be warranted and that the IM planning protocol provides an empirical process that has the potential to create such interventions for promoting positive mental health and PA. Intervention evaluation results indicate a significant effect on participants’ wellbeing (t (120) = -4.27, p <.001), PA levels (t (126) = 3.91, p < .001) and motivational readiness for exercise change (χ2 (1, n = 131) = 6.9, p < p = .009 (2–sided). Qualitative findings from the intervention suggest a sustained long-term increase in PA and resilience skills for positive mental health and reduced stigma and barriers to positive mental health. Findings support the efficacy of positive mental health interventions to promote wellbeing and PA with higher education students, using the IM approach. This research highlights the benefits and potential of engaging higher education students with a behaviour change intervention that aims to promote and protect positive mental health.