People Helping People? Examining the Social Ties of Athletes Coping with Burnout and Injury Stress

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
  • 2 University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • 3 US Olympic Training Center
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It is often assumed that important others can play significant roles in reducing stress among athletes. However, little attention has been given to (a) what specifically these important others say or do to reduce stress (empathize vs. motivate), and (b) how prevalent various types (positive vs. negative) of interactions are. This investigation attempted to fill this void. In-depth retrospective interviews were conducted with athletes who experienced burnout (n = 10) or season-ending injuries (n = 21). Inductive analysis revealed that athletes’ evaluations of the specific behaviors of important others tended to vary according to the stress (burnout vs. injury) experienced. Additionally, frequency analysis revealed that athletes described their interactions with important others as negative more often than as positive. The findings are discussed in relation to current conceptualizations of social interactions.

Eileen Udry is with the School of Physical Education at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN 46202-5193. Daniel Gould and Dana Bridges are with the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27412-5001. Suzie Tuffey is with the US Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO 80909.

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