Playful sport design: A game changer?

Sarina Verwijmeren, Juriena D. de Vries, Arnold B. Bakker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The aim of this paper is twofold. First, the concept Playful Sport Design (PSD) is introduced, based on play and proactivity theories. PSD is defined as a proactive cognitive-behavioral orientation that makes athletes incorporate fun and self-oriented challenges into training sessions. Second, we develop and test an instrument to assess PSD. In phase 1 (N = 562), the PSD instrument is tested on its reliability, factorial validity, and construct validity. In phase 2 (N = 131), the test-retest reliability and predictive validity of the PSD instrument is considered. Additionally, the nomological network of PSD is expanded. In phase 3 (N = 212), the predictive validity of PSD is further assessed. As hypothesized, the results of factor analyses show that PSD is best represented by two dimensions: designing fun and designing competition. The psychometric properties of the scale were shown to be satisfactory. Providing evidence for convergent validity, PSD was positively related to playfulness, competitiveness, fantasy proneness, personal initiative, openness to experience, achievement striving, and fun seeking. Specifically, designing fun showed more robust relations with fun-focused personality traits, while designing competition showed stronger relations with competition-focused traits. Providing evidence for divergent validity, PSD did not share variance with negative affect, procrastination, and perfectionism. Finally, in support of predictive validity, athletes who playfully designed their training sessions reported better subjective and objective sports performance. Lay summary: We introduce the concept Playful Sport Design (PSD), which refers to athletes’ proactive addition of play elements to their sports training. We present a scale that reliably and validly measures PSD. Further, we show that PSD is positively associated with immersion in sports training and sports performance.IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE Results of this paper could result in more awareness among adult athletes that play during sports training has beneficial sports outcomes. Athletes can use PSD to increase flow experiences during training sessions and enhance sports performance. The results of this paper open the door for practitioners to develop PSD interventions, through which athletes are taught how they can approach their training sessions in a more playful manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-74
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Applied Sport Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Playful sport design: A game changer?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this