The Sport Psychology Labs

Four youth soccer players sitting on a bench during a game..

About the Lab

Students and faculty in the KHS Sport Psychology Labs investigate the interplay of sport with psychological and social factors as they tie to sport performance, personal development, physical activity participation, and overall well-being.

Two closely aligned research groups at Utah State University (USU) and in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Science (KHS) are focused on sport psychology and are highly collaborative: The Social and Motivational Processes in Physical Activity Lab (SiMPL) led by Dr. Al Smith, and the Psychosocial Dynamics of Sport (PsyDS) Lab, led by Dr. Shannon Pynn.

The SiMPL Lab

The main objective of the SiMPL lab is to generate understanding of social and motivational processes within sport, physical education, and other youth physical activity contexts.

We are interested in how physical activity contributes to psychological and social development as well as how to promote physical activity motivation and behavior in young people. Our work draws heavily from developmental, social, and sport psychology perspectives and is multidisciplinary. 

If you are interested in joining the SiMPL lab, contact Dr. Al Smith.

Alan Smith

Alan Smith

Professor and Dean, Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services

A list of his publications can be found through Google Scholar.

The PsyDS Lab

The main objective of the PsyDS Lab is to understand the psychosocial aspects of sport and physical activity, especially among young athletes and their families.

With an emphasis on social, developmental and positive psychology, we are interested in finding innovative ways to help athletes of all ages have positive psychosocial experiences and achieve their sporting potential. Our research is conducted using a variety of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed research methods.  

If you are interested in joining the PsyDS Lab as an undergraduate or graduate student, please contact Dr. Shannon Pynn.

Shannon Pynn

Shannon Pynn

Assistant Professor

Kinesiology and Health Science

Office Location: HPER 145

A list of her publications can be found through Google Scholar.


The study of sport psychology within KHS at USU traces its roots back to the contributions of Dr. Richard Gordin, who joined the USU faculty in 1981. While Dr. Gordin didn't formally establish a research lab during his tenure, he made significant contributions to establishing the field at USU. His work encompassed research, practical applications, and active engagement with USU students, varsity athletes, the Logan community, and even professional athletes, including those affiliated with National and Olympic teams. Dr. Gordin's dedication played a pivotal role in advancing sport psychology at USU and more broadly. He retired from USU in 2015, yet remains involved in consulting work and with our sport psychology groups. Dr. Gordin’s legacy in the department remains steadfast with the establishment of the Dr. Richard & Colleen Gordin Sport Psychology Scholarship Endowment to support Kinesiology majors that wish to pursue sport psychology.

Following Dr. Gordin's retirement from the department, the USU Sport Psychology Lab was established and took shape under the leadership of Dr. Matthew Vierimaa, who assumed his faculty position within the USU KHS department in 2016. Dr. Vierimaa served as the lab's director until his departure from USU in 2019.

Dr. Al Smith brought the SiMPL Lab from his previous institution when he moved to USU in 2021 to become Dean of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services and a Professor of Kinesiology and Health Science. He advised doctoral students in HDFS and a space was developed within KHS for sport psychology work in that department. In the Fall of 2023, Dr. Shannon Pynn was hired as an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Health Science to rekindle sport psychology teaching and research in KHS. She directs the lab space in KHS, teaches sport psychology courses, mentors students, and established the PsyDS lab to advance our USU research profile in sport psychology.

Collaborators and Partners

Travis Dorsch

Travis Dorsch

Graduate Program Director, Associate Professor

Phone: 435-797-4565
Office Location: FL 111

Families in Sport Lab

The KHS Sport Psychology Labs collaborate closely with Dr. Travis Dorsch and his Families in Sport Lab housed in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.  The Families in Sport Lab advocates for strengthened family relationships and positive human development through sport by engaging in novel research, high-quality teaching, and meaningful community outreach.


Research Opportunities

SiMPL Lab Current Projects

Peer Relationships in Sport and Physical Activity

Projects examining youth peer relationships in sport and physical activity and their interface with athlete motivation and group dynamics.

Athlete Burnout

Various projects exploring social factors that mitigate and exacerbate burnout perceptions in young athletes.

Quality Youth Sport

Projects exploring youth sport as a context for psychosocial development, promotion of physical activity, and well-being.

PsyDS Lab Current Projects

The SPECS Program

The development and evaluation of online, sport-specific training programs to enhance sport parents’ emotional competence (see

Emotional Intelligence and Parenting Styles

Projects examining how sport parents’ emotional competence and parenting styles influence their behaviors in the context of youth sport.

Fierce Self-Compassion

Projects exploring how high-performance athletes use tender and fierce self-compassion strategies during high stakes competitive events.

Labs and Facilities

The Sport Psychology Labs are housed in HPER 110, which is outfitted with multiple student workstations and collaborative space. A weekly developmental sport psychology seminar for doctoral students and faculty is held in that space.


If you are interested in getting involved, contact Dr. Pynn. Please note that availability within the lab is determined by the needs of the current projects. Visit the Research Opportunities page for this lab to learn more.

Shannon Pynn

Shannon Pynn

Assistant Professor

Kinesiology and Health Science

Office Location: HPER 145