Dr. Svenja A. Wolf

Assistant Professor
Svenja A. Wolf

Contact Information


At the most basic level, I love anything that has to do with teams and emotions, and work to apply my research expertise on these topics in my supervision, teaching, and application.


More specifically, my current research centers on the intersection of group dynamics and emotions in sport and other performance contexts such as performing arts and high-pressure work-settings. Across all of my research, I aim to work from strong theoretical frameworks, employ a variety of designs (e.g., multilevel field studies, field, lab, and online experiments) and methods (e.g., questionnaires, GPS tracking, video observations, interviews), and ensure high ecological validity and relevance. I also strongly believe in quality over quantity and a collaborative approach to research.

Collective emotions. In my main line of research, I focus on the phenomenon of collective emotions. Here, I work to provide evidence for the existence of collective emotions in sport (e.g., statistical agreement of member responses, convergent non-verbal behaviors), their task-related and social consequences (e.g., team coordination, member identification), relevant boundary factors (e.g., discrete emotions, timely dynamics, emotion norms), and the underlying mechanisms that cause emotional congruence and convergence (e.g., emotional leadership, emotional mimicry, identification). 

With regard to the latter, a particular focus lies on emotional conformity, that is, the idea that team-members attend to and match their teammates' emotions (or at least their expressions) out of strategic, underlying motives to gain an accurate understanding of reality or to form and maintain social relationships, and that these motives determine, for example, through which mechanisms emotional convergence operates and which situational properties trigger it.

Social indispensability. In a secondary line of research, I combine literatures on social motivation and choking under pressure and investigate the possible ambivalent influences of social indispensability. Specifically, I hypothesize that social indispensability induces pressure (e.g., not to let the team down), which is an asset if it enhances effort and ultimately performance on effort-based tasks such as running, but which is a detriment if it enhances self-focus and ultimately reduces performance on fine-motor tasks such as target shooting.

To get some further insight into my work, the following might be some helpful references:

van Kleef, G. A., Cheshin, A., Koning, L. F., & Wolf, S. A. (2019). Emotional games: How coaches' emotional expressions shape players' emotions, inferences, and team performance. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 41, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2018.11.004

Wolf, S. A., Eys, M. A., Sadler, P., & Kleinert, J. (2015). Appraisal in a team context: Perceptions of cohesion predict competition importance and prospects for coping. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 37, 489–499. https://doi.org/10.1123/jsep.2014-0276

Wolf, S. A., Harenberg, S., Tamminen, K., & Schmitz, H. (2018). “‘Cause you can't play this by yourself” – Athletes’ perceptions of team influence on their precompetitive psychological states. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 30, 185–203. https://doi.org/10.1080/10413200.2017.1347965



In my supervision, teaching, and application, I try to actively implement my research knowledge and use group dynamics and emotion principles to ensure student motivation and success as well as effective knowledge transfer and intervention.

Supervision. In line with the principles of transformational leadership, I aim to be a role model to the master's and PhD students I supervise (also with regard to the necessity of a sound work-life balance). I expect my students to pursue innovative and impactful research projects and commit to mentoring and supporting them in ways that are necessary to achieve this. In addition, I hope to inspire my students to develop an intrinsic interest in their work and a drive to use this to make a difference in the field. Whereas it is a precondition for our collaboration that their interests fit with my general lines of research, I strive to balance direction and guidance with intellectual freedom and executive independence.

Current PhD projects under my supervision address the demand and resource appraisals and subsequent coping behaviors of goalkeepers, hence the broader notion of social indispensability within a team, and the understanding of athletic career termination as a process of grief for one's athletic identity, tying into the larger theme of social aspects of emotions.

For Fall 2021, I am looking to extend my research team with two motivated and topically fitting PhD students, and encourage you, if you think you fit this description and be interested to contact me for further information.

Teaching. Despite also applying transformational leadership in my course-based teaching, I strive particularly to harness the benefits of teamwork, for example, social motivation and backing up behaviors, and instigate a positive emotional climate, via respective leadership and structured student interactions. Further, I strive to teach students the ability to identify, source, and use high-quality research evidence and guide them through central sport psychology theories and empirical evidence because I strongly believe that these are the foundation of effective and sustainable applied work.

At the moment, I am teaching the first and second year master's courses "Sport Psychology" and "The Self in Sport and Exercise Settings", and will be teaching first year master's "Applied Sport Psychology" in the spring.

Application. In line with my dedication to ecologically valid and relevant research and evidence-based application, I am a strong proponent of research and practice integration and exchange. In line with my group dynamics background, I pursue a holistic approach to interventions, taking into account performance systems and organizations. Being certified with the German Association of Sport Psychology, I worked with sports organizations, coaches and other leadership personnel, athletes across the age spectrum, as well as industry and community stakeholders in the past, and I look forward to establishing a practice with a focus on knowledge translation and exchange in Tallahassee.  



I joined Florida State University and the Sport Psychology program this past summer. Currently, however, I am working remotely from Germany, my home country. Specifically, the Technical University of Munich is kind enough to host me as a Visiting Professor and ensure my prime access to the local mountainside. This, I missed terribly during my past five years working at the University of Amsterdam in the aptly named Netherlands. There, I spent the past two years as an Assistant Professor in the Work and Organizational Psychology program and the previous three years as a Postdoc with the Social Psychology program. Prior to moving to Amsterdam, I spent a year as a Postdoc with the School of Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and completed my PhD in Sport Science with the specialization of Sport Psychology at the German Sport University Cologne and as a visiting scholar at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada.