Flow in FD & BJJ

Published: 14 June 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/k7kxh9sb59.1
Ben McIlroy


A phenomenon which links peak performance with intrinsic reward and athlete satisfaction, could in turn lead to improved coaching, training, and preparation methods, especially if there are some clear markers on how to attain flow state, or how to avoid inhibiting flow. This study aimed to add to depth of knowledge in the area by investigating the perceptions of flow state in two differing sports with no prior research in the subject matter. Of particular interest was the attitude towards risk of physical harm by the participants. The influence of risk on flow state has not been studied in great depth (Jackman et al., 2016) and it is possible that athletes experiencing flow may have strategies to manage or minimize any risk of physical harm in their sport. An attempt was made to answer the following four specific research questions: 1. Do these two groups of athletes experience flow? 2. Does the description and perception of the state of flow by freedivers and BJJ practitioners differ in any essential manner that can be related to their sport? 3. What strategies do these two groups employ to attain or maintain a state of flow? 4. Does either group feel that the risk of physical harm associated with their sport influences their ability to achieve a state of flow? • Each group commonly associated immediate feedback, intrinsic for the freedivers and extrinsic for the BJJ athletes, with the attainment of flow state. Athletes and coaches should consider specific strategies to enhance the level of feedback athletes can receive, encouraging practices such as body scanning, which can be utilized by athletes who are perhaps unable to receive external feedback. • Both groups reported the use of variable goals as beneficial to the attainment of flow state. Athletes and coaches could benefit from matching outcome and elite performance goals with basic process goals which support the act of intrinsic feedback, such as body position and technique specific goals. • Both groups reporting a lack of anxiety, and no fear of harm when competing, neither group considered risk of harm as a disruptor of flow state. This was due to high levels of confidence in the safety processes in place in each sport. Sports practitioners could therefore increase the likelihood of attaining flow state by ensuring the safety practices involved in their respective sports are of a high enough standard as to remove anxiety and fear of harm from the participants. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 11 elite sports athletes.


Steps to reproduce

A qualitative research approach was chosen, where individual, semi-structured interviews were used. Individual interviews were chosen. Data was analyzed using an abductive content sorting method based primarily on the concept of flow state and then searching for novel data. This method offers relevance due to the study objectives being clearly oriented towards flow state. A pilot interview was conducted to estimate interview length and check for biases or leading questions, and as a result the opening question was adjusted. Participants Participants had to have a minimum of four years of competitive experience in their sport. Additionally, they had to have experience of competition at national or international championships. They had to be able to speak fluent English. There were no restrictions based on age, gender, location, or current competitive status, allowing for the inclusion of retired athletes, several of whom had a history of world records and world titles. To enhance trustworthiness in the study, a clear description of participant selection criteria was provided, and clear data collection and analysis guidelines were established. Elite level required that the participant had a minimum of four years of competitive experience in the selected sport having also competed at national or international championship standard competitions. Recruitment began with initial enquiries with the national governing bodies for each sport and an enquiry to the respective sports teams. An invitation email was provided, with an outline of the study and requesting that any interested parties should communicate directly with the authors via email. In addition, twenty high-level performers were contacted directly through their personal websites, using the same invitation email. Eleven participants were included; six participants from freediving, three males and three females, with between six and 21 years of experience (mean 12.5 years), all with international championship experience, and two with world records, and five participants from BJJ, two males and three females, with between six and 11 years of experience (mean 8.2 years), all but one had international championship experience, all had national championship medals, and three were world championship medalists. The Interview The first author conducted all interviews remotely via Skype video conference software. Interviews were recorded digitally and subsequently transcribed using OTranscribe software. Interviews were designed using a semi-structured format based on the recognized requirements and components of flow state. The questions were organized into broad categories, labelled ‘domains’, examining the participants’ views of their sports as a whole, the culture surrounding the sport, their history within the sport and more specific questions related to a self-selected, single instance of positive experience within their sport. Each interview lasted 40-60 minutes.


Mittuniversitetet Campus Ostersund


Semi-Structured Interview