President’s Message — The Status and Possibilities of the International Society of Sport Psychology

In 1993, I began my Masters in Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa. The Summer before embarking on this journey I walked through the university’s bookstore and stumbled upon the founding edition of the Handbook of Sport Psychology, which was underwritten by the International Society of Sport Psychology. Even before the first semester’s course began, I purchased that handbook and spent an entire Summer reading through selected chapters by some of the world’s leading authorities in our field from that era. The ISSP was the Launchpad of that project under the leadership of a very active President – Robert Singer. The Autumn semester then followed and I listened intently, intrigued, alongside my colleagues and friends Natalie Durand Bush, Gordon Bloom, Wade Gilbert, and Jenelle Gilbert, among many others, as Dr. John Salmela, then an executive committee member, espoused the importance of this society to the broader field, as the leader of intellectual scholarship. We are now 24 years past that early personal introduction to the ISSP. As its recently appointed President, I am working closely with a managing council, whose members span five continents. This is the beginning of my second four-year term involved with the ISSP, and my elected place in this term reflects only the second time in history where a member from the managing council has reached presidency after only four years of serving the ISSP (the other exception was Robert Singer). There is a reason in my case for this recent outcome, with less having to do with me and more reflecting the society’s current status as compared to other vibrant societies. Focusing inward to the ISSP, what personally resonates is a balance of both optimism and concern. The optimism stems from the very strengths that ISSP has – it is a society prepared to travel the world and reach out to countries through its various initiatives. For example, there was a recent special section in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology devoted to sport psychology research and practice in emerging countries. A second special section has followed, and is now in press awaiting release. The ISSP also now has an Ambassador’s Program, where each year a budget line has been devoted, hopefully to perpetuity, where members from the ISSP’s leadership can venture into countries where sport psychology is in its infancy and offer personal resources, including attendance and materials underwritten by our society. Capacity is at the core of the ISSP, though not nearly as much as it can, or should be. We are placing legs on the ground in countries starving for sport and exercise psychology as often as we can each year through invited keynote presentations and opportunities. We are also integrating editorial board members into our flagship journal from a breadth of countries so that these people can become active contributors and international representatives, each with a diverse perspective.

Layered into what is now transpiring is the launch of a new website that we are quickly adding to. The estimated time of completion for this much improved and more attractive window into the ISSP is December 15, 2017. In 2018, we will also launch our ISSP Registry status ISSP-R. The ISSP needs to enter into the accreditation world, and extend beyond its scholarly origins into practice – we are a helping profession after all. We need to be as much about the trade and practice of sport and exercise psychology, as its theoretical and empirical roots. Countries that meet the minimum threshold, soon to be finalized, will be able to apply at a societal level for their members to gain this ISSP-R status and recognition. What is expected is that each candidate meeting the basic requirements, will also gain a formalized course in ethics and a formalized course in cultural diversity / cultural safety so that our registered practitioners can become even more astute to the diverse needs and perspectives of their clients, in addition to their own reflexive backgrounds and how these add complexity to the client – practitioner exchange.

There are also concerns in the ISSP that need to be stemmed, and quickly. The ISSP is known for its well-regarded congress, which happens every four years as a landmark event on the international calendar. Our next such congress will be in Taipei, in 2021. These events must continue to happen, and recently we sent out the first ever satisfaction survey from our congress in order to better understand where the foot traffic and desires of our members are, as we seek to centralize the wills of our paying, voting members. This single offering, the congress, is not ample to sustain and advance the ISSP, otherwise we will continue to sit on our laurels and bask in our rich history. More regular regional conferences are coming forward and we will be positioning in 2020 to have a world student congress, with a particular focus on student needs, such as how to develop an external funding application, begin one’s consulting practice, gain and then expand one’s capacities in an academic position, how to balance scholastics with practice, and other pressing issues that the student body will soon be canvassed to help decide and formalize. Additionally, our initiatives will need to expand and venture into distance education opportunities, especially as a result of issues relating to member access. People attracted to the ISSP do not all come from affluent countries, and fewer members than we dare to recognize are able to venture to our conferences due to fiscal restraints, mobility concerns, and further reasons that we might not even be recognizing here. This society needs to move into the present and anticipate the near future by making many more overtures to a membership that drops off far too rapidly after each and every quadrennial congress since this society’s inception. Retention is important to the ISSP and that means our leadership must dare to be bold and receptive to the needs of our members, including those from Canada and every corner of the world. We must look to justify our society’s membership as a must have. The gaining of our journal as a membership benefit adds further justification to this belief, especially now that the release is six issues per year.

In the coming months, there will be open calls for active ISSP members to engage in a series of ad hoc committees, including those focused on our web and social media, issues relating to students and young professionals, new technology projects, and emerging countries initiatives. In fact, you can write me now, and I will pass on your interest to the various projects leaders currently in place, within a clear organizational structure. There is a place for each of us as opposed to the select few, and our fervent hope is that entry will begin early in our prospective members’ careers and then continue onward through to succession planning opportunities, meaning eventual leadership by women and men alike. We are now seeking to open the floodgates, and you, the reader, is being asked to engage with us. This ISSP, you will find, can become your ISSP – one that will be driven by the membership, for the membership.

Transparency will also be at the heart of this society, so that each and every decision, be it related to accreditation, the selection of site locations, entry into the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, and access to leadership opportunities, will be understandable and forward thinking, in accordance with what is already a vibrant and transformational field. You will find ISSP moving quickly so that this society sets a much quicker pace forward. If you are ready for an active and ambitious society, then we are ready for you.

Robert Schinke, ISSP President
Laurentian University, Canada
Canadian Sport Psychology Association Member