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Olympic Athletes’ Experiences of a Post Games Career Transition Program

Siobhain McArdle, Phil Moore, and Deirdre Lyons

Career pathways in high performance sport include a number of emotionally resonant transitions. Sport systems must be able to effectively support the athlete’s endeavors to negotiate such challenges. This study investigated qualitatively the experiences of Olympic athletes who took part in a three-tier, post-games career transition support program. The aim of the program was to increase athletes’ coping resources to successful negotiate the post-Olympic period. Ten athletes who participated in the program were recruited to participate in semi structured individual interviews. Directed content analysis was employed to identify key themes in the data. Athletes perceived two components of the program as particularly helpful, the normalization of the emotional and psychological challenge of the post Games period and the use of problem focused coping to redirect athlete focus to the future. The findings from this study provide a preliminary framework for the planning of future post-Games career transition support programs.

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Tackle Your Feelings: Experience of Help-Seeking for Mental Well-Being Concerns in Professional Rugby Union Players

Deirdre Lyons, Philip Clarke, and Robert C. Dempsey

Limited research into professional rugby union players’ experiences of seeking formal support for their mental health exists, despite comparable rates of mental health issues among elite rugby players with the general population. This qualitative study explored professional players’ actual experiences of accessing Rugby Players Ireland’s mental well-being service, via separate focus group discussions with professional players (n = 5) and player development managers (n = 4) who refer players into the service. An inductive reflexive thematic analysis identified three themes detailing players’ (a) journey to disclosure of their mental health difficulties, (b) their expectations and engagement with the well-being service, and (c) participants’ reflections on mental health experiences in a high-performance environment. Embedding mental health as a key component of player development in high-performance environments, improving mental health literacy, normalizing mental health experiences, and encouraging help-seeking would help promote player well-being and support holistic development alongside sporting performance.