The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in changes to the structure of sport and the experiences of athletes. In this commentary, we consider how these changes, including schedule disruptions and the early termination of careers, have contributed to a reconsideration of how athlete transition should be defined, examined, and intervened upon. We outline our rationale for this proposed reconfiguration, including implications for researchers and practitioners working with athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. For researchers, we recommend updating the transition definition, reconsidering the measurement of salient transition-related variables, and utilizing study designs/methods that best facilitate this work. For practitioners, we recommend considering the dynamic nature of transition within holistic athlete care, building momentum on mental health destigmatization achieved during the pandemic, athlete transition education, and clinician advocacy for transition-related resources for athletes. Ultimately, we hope this work will spark continued innovations in athlete transition research and practice moving forward.
J.D. DeFreese, Samuel R. Walton, Avinash Chandran, and Zachary Y. Kerr
Victoria Sanborn, Lauren Todd, Hanna Schmetzer, Nasha Manitkul-Davis, John Updegraff, and John Gunstad
Anxiety and depressive symptoms are prevalent in athletes. The pandemic of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) may increase risk for symptoms due to fear of exposure during competition or uncertainty regarding participation. The current study examined the prevalence of COVID-19 anxiety in 437 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I student-athletes and its association with psychological symptoms. Only 0.2% of participants endorsed COVID-19 anxiety symptoms above cutoff. COVID-19 anxiety did not change after postponement of fall sports or differ between persons competing in different seasons. However, higher levels of COVID-19 anxiety were significantly associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. Though student-athletes generally reported low levels of psychological symptoms, females endorsed significantly higher levels than males. Low levels of COVID-19 anxiety in student-athletes may reflect protective factors (e.g., health knowledge, emotion regulation) or the tendency for this population to minimize psychological symptoms. Further investigations on the psychological impact of COVID-19 in athletes is needed.
Sarah Deck, Brianna DeSantis, Despina Kouali, and Craig Hall
In team sports, it has been found that team mistakes were reported as a stressor by both males and females, and at every playing level (e.g., club, university, national). The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of partners’ play on performance, emotions, and coping of doubles racquet sport athletes. Seventeen one-on-one semistructured interviews were conducted over the course of 6 months. Inductive and deductive analysis produced the main themes of overall impact on performance (i.e., positive, negative, or no impact), negative emotions (i.e., anger), positive emotions (i.e., excitement), emotion-focused coping (i.e., acceptance), and problem-focused coping (i.e., team strategy). These athletes acknowledge that how their partner plays significantly affects not only their emotions but also their own play and their choice of coping strategies. Future research should try to understand which forms of coping reduce the impact of partners’ play.
Karin Weman Josefsson
Sweden has adopted a somewhat different approach to handle the corona pandemic, which has been widely debated both on national and international levels. The Swedish model involves more individual responsibility and reliance on voluntary civic liability than law enforcement, while common measures in other countries are based on more controlling strategies, such as restrictive lockdowns, quarantines, closed borders, and mandatory behavior constraints. This commentary aims to give a brief overview of the foundations of the Swedish model as well as a discussion on how and why it has been adopted in the Swedish society based on Swedish legislations, culture, and traditions. Finally, perspectives on how the Swedish model could be connected to the tenets of self-determination theory will be discussed.
Julie Freedman, Sally Hage, and Paula A. Quatromoni
Male athletes are underrepresented in eating disorders research. This phenomenological study investigated the experiences of male athletes who self-identified as having an eating disorder, disordered eating, or compulsive exercise behaviors. Eight male collegiate athletes were interviewed, and qualitative analysis identified factors associated with the onset and maintenance of disordered behaviors. Among the novel findings was the salient influence of social media as a driver of body dissatisfaction and disordered behaviors. The participants described a perceived sense of control and feeling of pride associated with the use of behaviors, cultural norms in a male sport environment that sustained these behaviors, and a shared belief that, until they experienced a loss of control over their use of behaviors, they would not likely ask for help or seek treatment. These findings have implications for additional research, as well as individual and systems-level strategies for the prevention, screening, and treatment of eating and exercise disorders in male sport.
Matthew D. Bird, Eadie E. Simons, and Patricia C. Jackman
Mental toughness has been associated with factors related to psychological well-being, but little is known about its relationship with stigma toward mental health and mental health help-seeking. This study investigated the relationship between mental toughness, sport-related well-being, and personal stigma toward mental health in a sample of 154 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I student-athletes. The moderating effect of mental toughness on the relationship between public stigma and self-stigma toward mental health help-seeking was also explored. Mental toughness was significantly and positively associated with sport-related well-being, but not significantly related to personal stigma toward mental health. Moderation analysis indicated that mental toughness was not a significant moderator of the relationship between public stigma and self-stigma, but higher levels of mental toughness were significantly associated with lower levels of stigma toward mental health help-seeking. Building mental toughness may be a way to increase well-being and to reduce stigma toward help-seeking in student-athletes.
Richard Tahtinen, Hafrun Kristjansdottir, Daniel T. Olason, and Robert Morris
The aim of the study was to explore the prevalence of specific symptoms of depression in athletes and to test differences in the likelihood of athletes exhibiting these symptoms across age, sex, type of team sport, and level of competition. A sample of Icelandic male and female team sport athletes (N = 894, 18–42 years) was included in the study. Of the athletes exhibiting clinically significant depressive symptoms on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, 37.5% did not exhibit core symptoms of depression. Compared with males, females were significantly more likely to exhibit depressed mood, feelings of worthlessness/guilt, and problems with sleep, fatigue, appetite, and concentration. Within males, differences were mostly related to neurovegetative aspects of depression (sleep and appetite), whereas in females, differences were related to cognitive/emotional aspects (e.g., depressed mood, guilt/worthlessness). The findings underline the importance of exploring specific symptoms of depression to provide a richer understanding of depressive symptomology in athletes.