Elite athletes experience a unique range of stressors that may potentially increase their vulnerability to mental health problems. Key factors include the psychological impacts of injury, overtraining and burnout; public and media scrutiny; and managing ongoing competitive pressures to perform. For the assessment and management of the mental health needs of elite athletes’ to be on a par with their physical needs, more high-quality epidemiological and intervention studies are needed. Ideally, where possible and appropriate, the results of these should be disseminated beyond the organization or sporting code. To this end, researchers at UBC and beyond are undertaking leading-edge investigations that aim to develop a better understanding of the factors that affect the mental health of athletes and how their mental health needs can be optimally met.

Research at UBC

Athletes in Transition

Athletes in Transition, a 1.5-hour workshop, was created to educate retiring athletes on the influence of athletic identity on psychological functioning. A formal partnership with AthletesCAN, The Association of Canada’s National Team Athletes, was established to develop and disseminate evidence-informed best-practices to promote adaptive transitions from elite sport. This project will evaluate the effectiveness of Athletes in Transition on identity awareness, mental health literacy, and attitudes towards help-seeking. Results are expected to provide an innovative and practical solution for retiring athletes and sport organizations, contributing to enhanced athlete resilience.

If you would like to learn more about this project or are interested in participating, please contact Zarina Giannone ([email protected]).

A Possible-Selves Intervention for Sport Career Transition

Exceptional demands of high-performance sport can limit athletes’ engagement in an array of developmental tasks, including those needed to develop an integrated and cohesive sense of self, pursuits that primarily occur in emerging adulthood. The extant literature has consistently suggested that sport career termination is one of the most significant and potentially traumatic experiences for athletes; however, minimal sport transition interventions are in place to address its impact on athlete adaptation to post-retirement, particularly the effects on identity.

We are currently conducting a study to investigate the effectiveness of a novel group psychotherapy intervention, Identity Matters, which seeks to influence athletes’ sense of future possibilities. Results are expected to inform further theorizing about athletes’ identity tasks during young adulthood, as well as the extensibility and development of future possible-selves that can contribute to more robust career transition outcomes. While serious psychosocial and health conditions have been documented in the literature among retiring athletes, it remains imperative to investigate ways of better supporting them throughout this complex and challenging life transition.

If you would like to learn more about this project or are interested in participating, please contact Zarina Giannone ([email protected]).

Research from Around the Globe