Athlete Monitoring in Rugby League: a focus on the conceptualisation, implementation and utilisation of a wellness questionnaire.

Quinn, Mark Elias (2020) Athlete Monitoring in Rugby League: a focus on the conceptualisation, implementation and utilisation of a wellness questionnaire. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Wellness questionnaires are often used to monitor athletes to gain an understanding of the responses to training and gameplay. This thesis presents original information concerning the conceptualisation, implementation and use of wellness questionnaires with a focus on the sport of rugby league. The overall aim of the thesis was to investigate the use and implementation of a wellness questionnaire with the goal of developing a framework for successful implementation.

Whilst wellness questionnaires appear to be a popular method for evaluating the response to training and readiness to perform, there are limited details on the type of questionnaires used by practitioners. Study 1 investigated the use and implementation of current wellness questionnaires across a range of high- performance sports. The study examined if there is commonality amongst the use of wellness questionnaires with regard to customised designs,
scales, items and the levels of implementation achieved. Based on a review of the literature and practical experience of the research team, an online survey was constructed consisting of 23 questions. 122 participants recruited through the network of the research team completed the survey. Analysis of the responses indicated that customised wellness questionnaires were prevalent and used by the majority of respondents (74%) each training day. These questionnaires differed in the types of scale, items and analysis techniques used. With regard to implementation, the majority reported completion rates above 75%. However, issues associated with the questionnaire, team resources, issuing reminders and generating buy-in were evident. In a follow up to the main survey, practitioners identified five key themes needed for successful implementation which were labelled the Implementation Outcomes. These outcomes can be used to evaluate the success of the implementation and use of wellness questionnaires.

Following on from study 1 it was necessary to give an in-depth focus on the implementation and use of wellness questionnaires within a rugby league context. Previous research has identified factors associated with the measure and the social environment that influence questionnaire use in a range of different sports (Saw, Main, & Gastin, 2015b). Therefore, study 2 interviewed players and staff (n = 20) within a European Super League team to examine the factors that were relevant within their context. Reported Implementation Factors were identified across the organisation (e.g. team resources), the measure (e.g. mode and accessibility of the wellness questionnaire), inter-personal (e.g. reminders), and individual level (e.g. player buy-in).
The factors were consistent with previous research into implementation and several novel higher order factors were identified residing within the organisation (context, process, personalisation and coaching staff).
Twenty-three original lower order themes specific to a rugby league environment were identified. Implementation factors manifested across data collection, analysis and decision-making. The findings lend support to the use of a social ecological model to identify factors influencing wellness questionnaire use in rugby league.

The customised wellness questionnaires which have been used within rugby league research give limited insight into the questionnaire development and validation. No wellness questionnaire exists that has been thoroughly validated and tested within a rugby league environment. Study 3 subsequently sought to develop and validate a new wellness questionnaire for use in rugby league. This study involved four phases of development to examine face, content and concurrent validity in addition to the reliability of the questionnaire. The construction of the new questionnaire also concerned the appraisal as to the ecological fit of using wellness questionnaires within the host setting. Taking into account the findings of studies 1 and 2, consideration was given to implementation in the construction of the questionnaire. Aligned with current guidelines, assessments were made to determine the purpose of using the wellness questionnaire, if there was buy-in from the stakeholders and if it was feasible to implement. The newly developed 9-item wellness questionnaire was deemed valid, reliable and acceptable to use within rugby league environments. The study comprehensively demonstrates the process of developing and validating a wellness questionnaire above and beyond other previously used and published questionnaires.

Study 4 used the newly developed questionnaire to assess player wellness in conjunction with external and internal load in a European Super League team. There
is a lack of normative wellness data, including details on how to monitor, analyse and interpret this data at team and individual levels. Players completed a wellness questionnaire across 68 consecutive days of the rugby league season (Super 8s to Grand Final).
Global positioning system data and session rating of perceived exertion was recorded for training and games. Results indicate the new wellness questionnaire is sensitive to detect change and identifies a high variation in wellness data the day after game-play. This questionnaire is recommended to collect data at matchdays +1, +3, +4, and +6. Results support the findings of previous studies which suggest that it takes at least 4 days post-game to recover to pre-game levels of wellness. Wellness questionnaires should be used in conjunction with training load data and results found that post-game wellness strongly correlated with the number of tackles in rugby league games, r(6) = 0.80 p= 0.17. Furthermore, when tackles were combined with high speed running metres wellness was significantly predicted post-game, F(2, 5)
= 17.760, p = .005, adj. R2 = .83. Wellness scores showed high inter and intra individual variability. The study provides case study examples analysing team and individual player wellness, suggesting the use of z- scores and visualisations using statistical process control charts and radar plots.

The findings of this thesis lend support to the use of wellness questionnaires in rugby league and high- performance sport, providing they are appropriately developed, validated and implemented. The final written chapter presents a conceptual model named the Successful Implementation Framework which aims to guide practitioner implementation of wellness questionnaires. The framework brings together aspects established in this thesis including the Implementation Considerations (study 3), Implementation Areas (study 2), Implementation Factors (study 2), Implementation
Outcomes (study 1) and recommendations for use (study 4).

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