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Phenomenological interviews were conducted with nine collegiate student-athletes (M = 24.11 years; SD = 3.76), from a range of sports, to explore how they experienced the unexpected death of a teammate. Qualitative analysis of interview data revealed a total of 626 meaning units which were used to produce a final thematic structure consisting of six higher order themes: Emotional Response, Behavioral Response, Faith, Social Support, Team Cohesion, and Change of Life Perspective. The results suggest that student-athletes who experience the unexpected death of a teammate go through a wide range of emotional (e.g., shock, denial) and behavioral responses (e.g., deliberate isolation from others, tributes), which ultimately changed their perspective on life. The specific nuances of these experiences offer several practical applications for sport psychology consultants, coaches, and administrators wishing to provide support to this population during such a difficult time.
Simpson is with the IMG Academy, Bradenton, FL. Elberty is with the University of Miami, Miami, FL.