2020 applicants

Dr John Mills

School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences
Dr John Mills



John Mills is a lecturer in Sport and Performance Psychology at the University of Essex and Director of the Team Research Lab. He received his B.Sc. in Psychology from the University of Suffolk and his Ph.D. from the the University of Birmingham. His research is funded by the British Academy and the World Anti-Doping Agency and focuses on how young people develop in and through sport. This includes research on values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, and the psychosocial mechanisms that combine to regulate both individual and group behaviour. He is the founder of SportRχiv (The Open Access Subject Repository for Sport, Exercise, and Health Research) and the Society for Transparency, Openness, and Replication in Kinesiology (STORK). He is also the Co-Editor in Chief at Registered Reports in Kinesiology. John teaches modules on Social Psychology in Sport and Exercise (Level 7), Teaching and Learning through Sport (Level 6), and supervises eight postgraduate research students (including five PhD candidates).


  • PhD University of Birmingham,

  • BSc University of Suffolk,


Other academic

  • Lecturer, University of Essex (10/7/2017 - present)

  • Senior Lecturer, University of Chichester (10/8/2015 - 9/6/2017)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Transformational Leadership

Open to supervise

Positive Youth Development

Open to supervise


Open to supervise

Moral Development

Open to supervise

Current research

Assessing the Effects of Permitted Forms of Performance Enhancement on Determinants of Doping in UK Student-Athletes

More information about this project

Examining the Influence of Skin Tone on Playing Position in Football

Ongoing project with the computer games studio, Sports Interactive.
More information about this project

Using Sport as a Vehicle to Enhance Teamwork Skills in Young People and Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can be defined as “persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction” and “restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests” (this includes sensory behaviour), to the extent that these “limit and impair everyday functioning” (APA: 2013). The disorder is more commonly identified in those under the age of 14 with somewhere in the region of 1:69 to 1:88 children diagnosed in the UK annually (Christensen et al. 2018; Bishop-Fitzpatrick, Minshew & Eack, 2013). Further, boys (23.4 per 1000) are also thought to be considerably more likely to display ASD characteristics than girls (5.2 per 1000). Those who experience ASD are also more likely to be excluded from school, suffer poor health and health care, underemployed, and be poorly served by the criminal justice system (The Autism Dividend, 2017: p.17). Despite the prevalence of the disorder, research examining the associated mechanisms and interventions attempting to improve the social skills and everyday functioning of those with ASD are scarce. The purpose of the present research is to examine the use of sport as a vehicle to develop social skills in young people diagnosed with ASD. Sport in an intrinsically motivating context for many young people, team sport is thought to support the development of verbal and non-verbal communication skills, and video feedback has been shown as an effective tool to enhance social skills in those with ASD (Boyd et al., 2015). To achieve this we propose conducting a qualitative grounded theory exploration of the personal, social, and environmental needs of those with ASD in a sports setting.

Examining the Role of Personal Ethics in Athlete and Stakeholder Perceptions of Anti-Doping

Whilst there has been a great deal of attention focused within the anti-doping literature on moral processes, existing evidence has primarily viewed morality through limited theoretical lenses and heavily influenced by Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory. Unlike moral pluralists such as James (1909/1987), Kohlberg (1971, p. 232) argued that “Virtue is ultimately one, not many [processes], and it is always the same ideal form regardless of climate or culture”. This absolutist view of morality argues that certain acts are inherently right or wrong, however, such a position has been heavily criticised. For example, Gilligan (1982) criticised Kohlberg’s view of moral development and suggested that an ethic of care could not be derived from an ethic of justice. Kohlberg’s theory of moral development has also been criticised for being androgenic (Gilligan, 1977) and for placing too great an emphasis on rational thought (Greene & Haidt, 2002). Haidt and Joseph (2004) have since built upon the theories presented thus far to develop a unified framework for studying morality across cultures (i.e., Moral Foundations Theory; MFT). As doping is a global issue and WADA a global organisation, the pluralistic approach to morality encompassed within MFT may help to capture a broader range of culturally sensitive moral processes related to doping than those previously adopted.

Developing Positive Classroom Behaviours and Attitudes Towards Learning through Sport

Sport is in many ways, a dress rehearsal for life; be it receiving feedback, learning about one’s roles, responsibilities, obligations, and expectations; developing discipline, organisation, and communication; or experiencing highs and lows, victory and defeat. However, sport in as of itself is not a teacher. Sport merely provides opportunities for teachable moments. Further, as an intrinsically motivating and concentration-inducing activity, sport may provide an important context to engage the disengaged (Petitpas, Cornelius, Raalte, & Jones, 2005). When the aim is to use sport as a vehicle for life skill development, Petitpas et al. (2005) suggest it is best organised around the principles of Positive Youth Development (PYD). That is, through appropriately structured environments, that utilise caring adult mentors, and a positive social group or community. Despite an abundance of research examining coaching and group dynamics, there is an absence of research exploring how best to structure the sporting environment to maximise life skill development or create opportunities to transfer said skills beyond sport. In addressing this important topic, the proposed research will investigate the use of sport to develop psychosocial competencies (e.g., leadership, teamwork, resilience) with a view of positively influences classroom behaviours and attitudes towards learning.

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Professional Skills and Development 1 (SE101)

  • Sport and Exercise Psychology (SE104)

  • Introduction to Coaching (SE107)

  • Professional Skills 2 (SE201)

  • Exercise Physiology (SE203)

  • Sport and Performance Psychology (SE207)

  • Pedagogical Principles of Sports Coaching (SE209)

  • Strength and Conditioning: Application and Theory (SE210)

  • Issues in Sport and Exercise Science (SE305)

  • Research Project (SE309)

  • Teaching and Learning Through Sport (SE333)

  • Talent Identification and Recruitment in Sport (SE334)

  • Professional practice in sport and exercise psychology (SE741)

  • Applied techniques in sport and exercise psychology (SE742)

  • Social psychology in sport and exercise (SE743)

  • Cognitive Processes in Sport and Exercise Psychology (SE744)

  • Research Project (SE740)

  • Performance Analysis (SE308)


Journal articles (14)

Mills, JP., Authentic Arseholes and the Problem with Transformational Leaders

Caldwell, A., Vigotsky, A., Lahart, I., Tenan, M., Radel, R., Mellor, D., Kreutzer, A., Mills, J. and Boisgontier, M., (2020). Moving Sport and Exercise Science Forward: A Call for the Adoption of More Transparent Research Practices. Sports Medicine. 50 (3), 449-459

Zenko, Z., Mills, J. and Steele, J., (2020). Communications in Kinesiology: A new open access journal from the Society for Transparency, Openness, and Replication in Kinesiology. Communications in Kinesiology. 1 (1)

Mills, JP. and Ing, C., (2019). “Hey, look at me” An {auto}ethnographic account of experiencing ADHD symptoms within sport.. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise. 11 (2), 274-283

Mills, J., (2019). When the Managerial Merry-go-round Stops: A Case Study of how Disconfirming Episodes Affect the Identities of Expert Football Managers. The Psychologist-Manager Journal. 22 (1), 46-64

Mills, JP., Ing, C., Markham, T. and Guppy, F., (2018). It is Not Black and White: A Comparison of Skin Tone by Playing Position in the Premier League and English Football. International journal of Sports Science and Coaching. 13 (3), 398-404

Boardley, ID., Smith, AL., Mills, JP., Grix, J., Wynne, C. and Wilkins, L., (2018). Development of Moral Disengagement and Self-Regulatory Efficacy Assessments Relevant to Doping in Sport and Exercise. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 36, 57-70

Boardley, I., Smith, AL., Mills, JP., Grix, J., Wynne, C. and Wilkins, L., (2018). Development of Moral Disengagement and Self-Regulatory Efficacy Assessments Relevant to Doping in Sport and Exercise

Mills, JP. and Boardley, ID., (2017). Development and initial validation of an indirect measure of transformational leadership integrity. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 32, 34-46

Boardley, ID., Smith, AL., Mills, JP., Grix, J. and Wynne, C., (2017). Empathic and Self-Regulatory Processes Governing Doping Behavior. Frontiers in Psychology. 8 (SEP)

Mills, JP. and Boardley, ID., (2017). Advancing Leadership in Sport: Time to ‘Actually’ Take the Blinkers Off?. Sports Medicine. 47 (3), 565-570

Mills, JP. and Boardley, ID., (2016). Expert Premier League soccer managers’ use of transformational leadership behaviours and attitude towards sport integrity: An intrinsic case study. International journal of Sports Science and Coaching. 11 (3), 382-394

Mills, JP., (2015). An [AUTO]ethnographic account of constructing, deconstructing, and partially reconstructing a coaching identity. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health. 7 (5), 606-619

Mills, JP., (2015). A Review of “Social Psychology in Sport & Exercise: Linking Theory to Practice”. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action. 6 (2), 121-122

Books (1)

Mills, J., First-Time Sports Coach. 1916204503

Book chapters (1)

Mills, J., Values Based Coaching and the Coaches Role in Moral Development. In: Essentials of Exercise and Sport Psychology: An Open Access Textbook

Conferences (7)

Mills, JP. and Boardley, I., Expert Premier League soccer managers' use of transformational leadership behaviours, and attitude towards sport integrity: An intrinsic case-study.

Mills, JP., Measuring leaders’ implicit biases towards authentic and pseudo-transformational leadership values.

Mills, JP., Caliskan, G. and Winstanley, C., A retrospective exploration into the impact of career transitions on the identities of expert soccer managers.

Mills, JP. and Boardley, I., An auto ethnographic account of constructing, deconstructing, and reconstructing a coaching identity.

Mills, JP. and Boardley, I., Coach ethical virtues and integrity as predictors of amateur football participants sport commitment

Mills, JP., Zenko, Z. and Boardley, I., SportRχiv Hackathon

Mills, JP. and Boardley, I., Development and validation of indirect measures of athletes' attitudes towards controlled and uncontrolled forms of performance enhancement in sport

Reports and Papers (2)

Boardley, I. and Mills, JP., (2017). Response to: Cruickshank and Collins (2017) ‘Response to Mills and Boardley “Advancing leadership in sport: time to ‘actually’ take off the blinkers?”’

Mills, JP., (2017). When the managerial merry-go-round stops: An intrinsic case-study into how disconfirming experiences affect the managerial identities of expert football managers

Grants and funding


Enhancing Moral Character through Sport

University of Essex (GCRF)


Examining the Role of Personal Ethics in Athlete and Stakeholder Perceptions of Anti-Doping

World Anti-Doping Angency


Under the radar: Examining Sub-National-level athlete�s attitudes towards prohibited forms of performance enhancement

British Academy

Age Grade Rugby: Half Game Voluntary Role Out

Rugby Football Union

Attitudes towards higher education: An evaluation of the Jump Higher project

Make it Happen

Support in the development and piloting of a training programme to develop life skills

Football Beyond Borders


+44 (0) 1206 873619


ESA.3.11, Colchester Campus

More about me