In reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictive policies altered student-athletes’ academic and athletic life. Sparse research has investigated the pandemic’s effect on student-athlete mental health in terms of both negative (e.g., depression, anxiety) and positive (e.g., well-being, quality of life) dimensions. This study explored the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on well-being and quality of life among National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I student-athletes at different stages of their collegiate career. Ninety-nine student-athletes (M age = 19.7 years, SD = 1.5) completed assessments on their mental health. Regression analysis revealed experiences directly related to COVID-19 did not affect general well-being or quality of life, but anxiety, depression, and significant insomnia did. Social well-being was lower for student-athletes closer to graduation (e.g., juniors, seniors), independent of reported anxiety and depression levels. These findings highlight the importance of psychosocial support, particularly in times of crisis, and indicate that tailored support might be beneficial at later stages of the collegiate years.
David P. Schary and Carolina Lundqvist
Mary D. Fry, Candace M. Hogue, Susumu Iwasaki, and Gloria B. Solomon
Psychological coping skills in sport are believed to be central to athlete performance and well-being. This study examined the relationship between the perceived motivational climate in elite collegiate sport teams and player psychological coping skills use. Division I athletes (N = 467) completed a questionnaire examining their perceptions of how caring, task-, and ego-involving their teams were and their use of sport specific psychological coping skills (i.e., coping with adversity, peaking under pressure, goal setting/mental preparation, concentration, freedom from worry, confidence/achievement motivation, and coachability). Structural equation modeling revealed positive relationships between perceptions of a task-involving climate and confidence/achievement motivation (β = 0.42) and goal setting/mental preparation (β = 0.27). Caring climate perceptions were positively associated with coachability (β = 0.34). These findings illustrate how encouraging athletes and coaches to create a caring, task-involving climate may facilitate athletes’ use of psychological coping skills and set athletes up to perform their best and have a positive sporting experience.
Lisa Chaba, Stéphanie Scoffier-Mériaux, Fabienne d’Arripe-Longueville, and Vanessa Lentillon-Kaestner
This article focuses on two popular sports that can put male athletes at risk of developing an eating disorder: bodybuilding and running. Bodybuilders concentrate on gaining muscle mass and runners on leaning body mass. Based on the trans-contextual model of motivation, this study aimed to better understand the psychological mechanisms underlying eating disorders in these athletes. In all, 272 male bodybuilders and 217 male runners completed measures of sport motivation, theory of planned behavior variables (i.e., attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, and intention to gain muscle mass/lean body mass), and eating disorders (dieting, control, and bulimia behaviors). The results revealed satisfactory fit indices for both samples. Autonomous and controlled motivations for sport were positively directly and indirectly related to eating disorders in these athletes. This motivational mechanism needs more in-depth investigation, and motivational profiles might help distinguish athletes with and without eating disorders.
Jessica Murphy, Karen A. Patte, Philip Sullivan, and Scott T. Leatherdale
The mental health benefits of physical activity may relate more to the context of the behavior, rather than the behavior of being active itself. The association between varsity sport (VS) participation, depression, and anxiety symptoms was explored using data from 70,449 high school students from the Cannabis use, Obesity, Mental health, Physical activity, Alcohol use, Smoking, and Sedentary behavior study. The model adjusted for potential covariates; interactions by sex and participation in outside of school sport (OSS) were explored. Overall, 70% and 24% of respondents met or exceeded cutoff values for depression and anxiety, respectively. Students participating in VS had lower symptoms of anxiety and depression compared with nonparticipants. Results were consistent regardless of OSS participation; associations were strongest among students who participated in both VS and OSS and males. Participation in VS may prove beneficial for the prevention and/or management of depression or anxiety symptoms, particularly among males. An additive beneficial effect of OSS on depression and anxiety scores may exist.
J.D. DeFreese, Samuel R. Walton, Avinash Chandran, and Zachary Y. Kerr
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.
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.