This study investigated how the experiences of two elite coaches contributed to and shaped their stories of burnout and withdrawal from high performance coaching. The coaches whose narratives we explore were both middle-aged head coaches, one in a major team sport at the highest club level, and one in an individual Olympic sport at international level. Through a thematic narrative analysis, based on in-depth interviews, the stories of the two coaches are presented in four distinct sections: antecedents, experiences of coaching with burnout symptoms, withdrawal from sport, and the process of recovery and personal growth. These narratives have implications for high performance coaching, such as the importance of role clarity, work-home inference, counseling, mentoring, and social support as means to facilitate recovery, and the need for additional research with coaches who have left sport, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the complete burnout-recovery process.
Peter Olusoga and Göran Kenttä
Carolina Lundqvist and Göran Kenttä
The purpose of this study was to psychometrically evaluate the Emotional Recovery Questionnaire (EmRecQ) and to describe athletes’ individual response patterns in five repeated assessments using the EmRecQ. Three samples were used. Samples 1 and 2 consisted of 192 and 379 (Mean age 16.4 years, SD = 0.7 and Mean age: 17.0 years, SD = 1.1) elite athletes from different sports. The third sample consisted of 20 (Mean age: 21.3, SD = 19.0) female elite basketball players. The EmRecQ is a 22-item questionnaire that assesses Happiness, Security, Harmony, Love, and Vitality. Results showed acceptable weighted omega reliability and construct reliability. Confirmatory factor analyses supported the a priori specified five-factor correlated model. Case profiles of repeated assessments revealed individual response patterns of the separate EmRecQ subscales that corresponded well with rated training load and total quality of recovery. The findings provide support for the EmRecQ’s psychometric properties and applied usefulness.
Thomas D. Raedeke, Victoria Blom, and Göran Kenttä
This study evaluated the relationship of perfectionism and self-perceptions with burnout and life satisfaction in aesthetic performers (N = 254) recruited in Sweden. Cluster analysis revealed four groups: perfectionistic with maladaptive self-perceptions, perfectionistic (parent-driven) with maladaptive self-perceptions, achievement-oriented with adaptive self-perceptions, and nonperfectionistic with adaptive self-perceptions. Performers in both maladaptive clusters reported characteristics suggesting they were perfectionistic compared to their peers. They also reported relatively high contingent self-worth and low basic self-esteem. In contrast, those in the nonperfectionistic with adaptive self-perceptions cluster scored relatively low on perfectionism and reported relatively high basic self-esteem and low contingent self-worth. The performers in the achievement-oriented with adaptive self-perceptions cluster reported average scores across most variables, moderately high personal standards, and higher basic self-esteem compared with contingent self-worth. Overall, performers in both maladaptive clusters reported the highest burnout and lowest life satisfaction. Study findings underscore the importance of perfectionism and self-perceptions when considering burnout and life satisfaction.
Marte Bentzen, Nicolas Lemyre, and Göran Kenttä
The purpose of the current study was to provide insights in how and why four head coaches in elite football experienced being either high or low in burnout symptoms (BS) during a competitive season. A longitudinal sequential quantitative-qualitative mixed method approach was used to enhance the understanding of coaches’ experiences. First, data were collected using online questionnaires at the start and at the end of the competitive season with all coaches working at the Norwegian Elite Football League level. Second, in-depth interviews were conducted with four head coaches who were purposefully selected based on having the two highest and the two lowest burnout scores across the season compared with the overall sample. A quantitative approach was used to explore whether these four coaches differed when compared with the overall population on the associated variables: performance, budget, quality of motivation, perceived workload, work-home-interference (WHI), and recovery. A qualitative approach helped gain more insight in the experiences these four coaches had with possible onset variables. Analyses comparing the two sets of coaches, indicated no difference related to performance, budget and workload. However, the motivational profile, WHI, and ability to meet recovery demands were variables that contributed to explain differences in coaches’ BS.
Peter Olusoga, Marte Bentzen, and Goran Kentta
Coaches’ experiences of burnout and stress have been popular topics for research within sport psychology, particularly over the last decade. The purpose of this scoping review was to provide an up-to-date and critical review of the coaching burnout literature, consolidate research findings, assess current methodological and conceptual trends, and identify avenues for research in this area. Five electronic databases were used to conduct the literature search up to September 30th, 2017 (PsycINFO, Web of Science, PubMed, SPORTDiscus, ORIA, Google Scholar). Initially, 65 papers, reviews, and books chapter were identified, but through an iterative process, 45 peer-reviewed, published articles satisfied the inclusion criteria, and the data from these studies was charted. Findings indicated that coach burnout literature is explored from a number of different theoretical perspectives, and shortcomings were identified regarding constructs and concepts used, and research quality. Based on consolidated findings, key challenges are identified, and recommendations for future research are suggested. Recommendations include the use of designs that fully capture the enduring nature of the burnout experience, further consideration being given to the measurement of coach burnout, and further research exploring the clinical treatment and prevention of burnout in coaching contexts.
Göran Kenttä, Stephen Mellalieu, and Claire-Marie Roberts
This paper presents a case study of an elite female coach and her career termination from a 20+ year career following a critical life incident. A novel autobiographical approach was adopted whereby the participant undertook expressive writing to describe her experiences before, during, and following coaching an athlete at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Thematic analysis indicated seven phases related to the participant’s experiences of the critical incident: Build up to the event, the event, the aftermath, recovery and reflection on the event, sampling of new avenues, enlightenment, and career rebirth. The findings reinforce the high demands placed upon elite coaches, the subsequent threats to physical and mental well-being, and the importance of having robust psychological skills and suitable social support to cope with these demands. Implications for preparing and supporting coaches for successful career transition are discussed.
Göran Kenttä, Marte Bentzen, Kristen Dieffenbach, and Peter Olusoga
High-performance (HP) coaching is a demanding profession. The proportion of woman HP coaches is reported to be in the range of 8.4–20%. Mental health concerns in elite sports have recently gained attention, but mainly focusing on athletes. Beyond coach burnout, limited attention has been given to coaches’ mental health. A recent coach burnout review included only one paper that focused exclusively on women. It has been argued that women HP coaches face greater challenges in a male-dominated coaching culture. The purpose of this study was to explore challenges experienced by women HP coaches and their perceived associations with sustainability and mental health. Thirty-seven female HP coaches participated by answering a semistructured, open-ended questionnaire. All responses were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis, which resulted in two general dimensions: challenges of working as women HP coaches and sustainability and well-being as women HP coaches. Overall, results indicate that challenges reported might be common not only for all HP coaches, but also highlight gender-specific elements. Consequently, coach retention and sustainability would benefit from more attention on well-being and mental health among HP coaches.
Henrik Gustafsson, Therése Skoog, Paul Davis, Göran Kenttä, and Peter Haberl
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between dispositional mindfulness and burnout and whether this relationship is mediated by perceived stress, negative affect, and positive affect in elite junior athletes. Participants were 233 (123 males and 107 females) adolescent athletes, ranging in age from 15–19 years (M = 17.50; SD = 1.08). Bivariate correlations revealed that mindfulness had a significant negative relationship with both perceived stress and burnout. To investigate mediation, we employed nonparametric bootstrapping analyses. These analyses indicated that positive affect fully mediated links between mindfulness and sport devaluation. Further, positive affect and negative affect partially mediated the relationships between mindfulness and physical/emotional exhaustion, as well as between mindfulness and reduced sense of accomplishment. The results point toward mindfulness being negatively related to burnout in athletes and highlight the role of positive affect. Future research should investigate the longitudinal effect of dispositional mindfulness on stress and burnout.
Krista Van Slingerland, Natalie Durand-Bush, Poppy DesClouds, and Göran Kenttä
There are few specialized mental health clinics to address the unique needs of high-performance athletes struggling with mental illness. The Canadian Centre for Mental Health in Sport (CCMHS) was recently created to fill this gap. It is the first center in Canada to offer collaborative sport-focused mental health care services designed to help athletes and coaches achieve their performance goals while prioritizing their mental health. This case study examines the process of providing mental health care to a female elite athlete through the CCMHS, including the referral, screening, and treatment process, as well as the outcomes of this care. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focused on exposure-response prevention was predominantly used to help the athlete improve and manage anxiety and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Both opportunities and challenges associated with providing collaborative care to the athlete via a telehealth platform were observed.
John Raglin, Sachi Sawamura, Serafim Alexiou, Peter Hassmén, and Goran Kenttä
Adolescent swimmers (N = 231) from Greece, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S. completed questionnaires on training practices, mood state, staleness prevalence, and symptoms. Contrasts were made across countries and between stale and healthy groups. Of the total sample, 34.6% reported having been stale, ranging from 20.5% to 45.1% across countries. The mean length of staleness episodes was 3.6 weeks. Stale swimmers had faster (p < .01) personal best times in the 100-m freestyle compared with healthy swimmers. Mood disturbance was elevated (p < .05) during peak training for all countries except Japan. Stale swimmers reported greater (p < .05) mood disturbance at all assessments compared with healthy swimmers. The pattern of staleness symptoms was similar across all countries, with perception of training effort being the most affected.