Sport Psychology PLAYS Research Group

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PLAYS Research Group

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The PLAYS blog is written by Veronica Allan, PhD Candidate. For general inquiries, ideas, comments, or suggestions, please contact Veronica at

PLAYS Blog Post #3

Reflecting on ECSEPS 2018: Extending the Reach of the ECSEPS Community

Since its inception in 1996, the Eastern Canada Sport and Exercise Psychology Symposium (ECSEPS) has been an annual event that brings together undergraduate and graduate-level student-researchers, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members from across a range of disciplines within the field of sport and exercise psychology. Each year, the student-founded conference is hosted by a new group of graduate students at a different university in Eastern Canada. ECSEPS has grown considerably over the past 22 years, and this year McGill University had the pleasure of hosting a record-breaking 167 student presenters over two days at the Delta Hotel by Marriott Montreal.

In 2018, ECSEPS was affiliated with the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) as an AASP international regional conference. This affiliation, along with several other initiatives implemented by the ECSEPS 2018 organizing committee, were the result of a forward-thinking approach to the conference intended to serve the best interests of not only students and their supervisors, but also the broader community of knowledge users – in this case, individuals who use research results to make informed decisions about programs, policies, or practices related to sport, exercise, and health – that may benefit from past, present, and future research by ECSEPS presenters. During the opening ceremony on Friday March 23rd, ECSEPS 2018 co-chairs Jordan Lefebvre and Emilie Michalovic, PhD Candidates at McGill University, welcomed attendees to the conference and presented their mission statement:

  1. To provide students in the field of sport, exercise, and health psychology the opportunity to present their proposed, ongoing, and completed research projects within a high quality, inclusive, safe, and respectful environment.
  2. To promote networking and collaborations with peers and prospective supervisors.
  3. To foster an environment conducive to growth and development.

With the 22nd annual conference in the books for another year, I had the opportunity to speak with Jordan and Emilie about their vision for ECSEPS, what knowledge users can take away from ECSEPS 2018, and how future ECSEPS can include knowledge users to optimize the potential for collaboration, partnerships, and pragmatic research. But first, let me tell you a little bit about this year’s conference co-chairs.

Both Jordan and Emilie have been a part of the ECSEPS community since their first ECSEPS experience at the University of Ottawa in 2015. After completing his Master’s degree in sport psychology at Queen’s University, Jordan moved to McGill University to complete his PhD under the supervision of one of the original ECSEPS founders, Dr. Gordon Bloom. In his own words, Jordan describes himself “as someone who researches leadership and mentoring but uses coaching as a vehicle to study and understand it, rather than seeing [himself] as a coaching researcher who studies leadership and mentoring.” Whereas Jordan has the sport psychology aspect of the conference covered, Emilie’s interests lie in exercise and health psychology. Emilie’s undergraduate research focused on physical activity planning using the Canadian physical activity guidelines; however, since beginning her Master’s degree at McGill University (and continuing on with her PhD), her research has explored participation in daily and social activities among individuals with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Emilie is supervised by Dr. Shane Sweet (“His dance moves aren’t the only reason he’s my supervisor…he has other strengths as well”). While Emilie hasn’t always felt like she fit into the ECSEPS community, she explained that she likes ECSEPS “because it doesn’t really matter that I’m the only person presenting on [COPD]. People care and people are interested.”

While ECSEPS may have meant something different to Jordan and Emilie prior to coming together as co-chairs for the 2018 event, they were able to collectively employ their experiences and strengths to put together an innovative vision for the future of ECSEPS. In addition to the threefold mission statement presented above, the organizing committee had initially envisioned a fourth component: They wanted to include knowledge users in this year’s conference. The idea behind this objective was that knowledge users would benefit not only from the results and practical implications of completed studies presented by student-researchers, but that proposals and ongoing work could also be used as an avenue to foster future partnerships and collaborations. In some cases, organizations and practitioners would be able to directly apply research findings within their practice. In other cases, prospective knowledge users would have opportunities to learn more about the research process and see how they could partner with researchers to meet the needs of their organization using an integrated knowledge translation or community-based participatory action research approach. 

“We tried to go from 0 to 100 with this idea,” stated Jordan, but unfortunately the organizing committee faced a number of challenges that prevented them from meeting the fourth objective of their mission statement. Nonetheless, the 2018 co-chairs feel that they have laid the foundation for what could be an exciting and fruitful contribution to the future of ECSEPS. In order to get the ball rolling on this initiative, Jordan and Emilie have the following advice for future conference organizers (shout-out to York University – the hosts of ECSEPS 2019):

  • Ensure that the organizing committee is fully committed and prepared to execute the vision you lay out for ECSEPS,
  • Approach knowledge users early to inform them about ECSEPS (e.g., in the summer months when several sport and physical activity programs are running),
  • Maintain contact with knowledge users via e-mail or social media to keep them informed and get them excited in the months leading up to the conference, and
  • Consider a conference theme (e.g., “theory to practice”) that would encourage presenters to highlight the practical implications of their research.

To further support this initiative, the ECSEPS 2018 organizing committee is currently in the process of creating reports to outline the steps they took and the challenges they faced while organizing the conference.

Although they weren’t able to fully integrate knowledge users at ECSEPS 2018, there were still a number of important takeaways for practitioners, policymakers, and other individuals who may benefit from sport, exercise, and health psychology research at this year’s conference. On the sport psychology side, the conference featured a prominent focus on coaching and leadership, as well as youth development research. Three sessions were dedicated to coaching and leadership, and several presentations featured important implications for coach development and education. In terms of youth development, three sessions covered topics ranging from optimizing and evaluating sport programming to positive youth development and the transfer of life skills in sport contexts. Among the presentations focused on exercise and health psychology, Emilie reflected on how behaviour change theories have become commonplace at ECSEPS – meaning that established theories such as Self-Determination Theory have become generally accepted as important and useful tools for research and practice. “If you want to change behaviour, you should use a theory to do it,” explained Emilie, suggesting that ECSEPS may reflect a useful learning environment for community-based organizations or health practitioners who are new to theory, but unsure of why it is important or how to use it.

Across the conference as a whole – and reflecting broader societal conversations surrounding sport and exercise – mental health featured as a dominant theme among conference presentations. Several sessions put the spotlight on mental health in physical activity and sport, as well as mental health predictors and specific conditions such as concussions. On the other hand, a notable absence from this year’s program was research on the topic of disability and physical activity or parasport. Of the 36 presentation sessions, only two covered research on disability – a number that has been significantly higher in previous years. In contrast, Jordan and Emilie did note an increase in the number of presentations focused on research with indigenous populations at this year’s conference.

All in all, 2018 was a big year for the ECSEPS community. With rapidly increasing growth and the introduction of several new initiatives, ECSEPS will likely see many more changes in the years to come. However, I think we can all agree that with the passion, innovation, and motivation that new students bring to the organizing committee each year, and the continued support, experience, and guidance of the faculty members who have their roots in the ECSEPS community, the future of ECSEPS is certainly a bright one.

Feedback Survey:

To provide feedback on ECSEPS 2018 and have your say in the future of ECSEPS, click on the link below to complete the survey.


Jordan and Emilie would like to acknowledge all 19 other members of the organizing committee, with a special mention to Rebecca Steins, Laura Hallward, Kathleen Belanger-Finn, and Erin Berry for their pronounced contributions. They would also like to thank their supervisors, Drs. Gordon Bloom and Shane Sweet, along with ECSEPS founder Dr. Natalie Durand-Bush, who informally served as their advisory committee. The success of ECSEPS 2018 would not have been comparable without their valuable input regarding several important decisions and the overall vision of the conference.


22nd ECSEPS Organizing Committee

McGill University