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On the Frontline of Athlete Mental Health: The Mental Health Literacy of NCAA Coaches

Kelzie E Beebe and Trent A. Petrie

Coaches’ knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about mental health—or mental health literacy (MHL)—affect teams’ mental health climates and the detection, referral, and treatment of athletes’ mental health concerns. Thus, assessing collegiate coaches’ MHL, and factors related to its presence, is critical. Using the Mental Health Literacy Scale, 1,571 NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) coaches were surveyed regarding their MHL and demographic and mental health experience factors. Overall, 99.9% of the coaches surveyed believe that athletes’ mental health affected their sport performances. Through hierarchical regression analyses, coaches’ exposure to mental health treatment, perceived helpfulness of mental health treatment, gender (i.e., woman), years coaching (i.e., fewer years), and current NCAA division (i.e., Division III) were significantly related to their MHL, explaining 15.5% of variance. However, coaches’ race/ethnicity did not reach significance. Recommendations regarding increasing coaches’ MHL and hiring appropriately trained and licensed mental health and sport psychology professionals are offered.

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Collegiate Athletes’ Perceptions of the Connection Between Mental Health and Sport Performance: A Qualitative Investigation

Kelzie E. Beebe, Trent A. Petrie, Heather R. Kiefer, Lindsey E. Slavin, and Macey L. Arnold

Prevalence of mental health (MH) concerns among young adults is high and continues to increase. As a specific subset of young adults, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes seem to experience these concerns at a similar or greater prevalence rate than their nonathlete, age-matched peers. Yet, how MH affects sport performance has not been robustly studied, and existing studies have not included the diversity of identities present in the collegiate athlete population. Thus, via online survey, this study explored the beliefs of 249 collegiate athletes representing diverse identities and sports regarding how MH affects sport performance. Regardless of demographic variable, 96.4%–100.0% of participants believed that MH affects sport performance. Three themes were identified: (a) collegiate athletes affirm that MH affects sport performance, (b) collegiate athletes’ perceptions of how MH affects sport performance, and (c) collegiate athletes believe that being a collegiate athlete exacerbates their MH concerns. The universality of endorsement and the themes represent novel findings that warrant further exploration of the MH–sport performance connection.