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Understanding experiences of and influences on well-being in elite para-sport: a qualitative exploration of U.K. para-athletes

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posted on 2024-03-15, 11:39 authored by Brodie MillerBrodie Miller, Jamie BarkerJamie Barker, Emily Hunton, Carolyn PlateauCarolyn Plateau

The well-being of elite athletes has been an important focus of research in recent years, with a view to identifying the specific stressors they experience and thus inform effective mechanisms of support for those competing at an elite level. However, para-athlete well-being has been comparatively underresearched, and the nuances that may contribute to or inhibit well-being in this population are still poorly understood. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to explore elite para-athlete experiences of well-being and to understand the unique aspects of the elite para-athlete environment that may impact upon their well-being. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 21 current U.K. para-athletes (13 Paralympians and eight internationally competitive para-athletes; from 12 different summer para-sports; median age: 28.8 years, range 22–47). Data were inductively thematically analyzed. Four key themes were developed: (a) understanding of para-athlete well-being, (b) a need for specialized support, (c) navigating conflicting identities, (d) access to (some) opportunities. Para-athletes highlighted a need for more specific, tailored support from within the elite sport context (e.g., in relation to transitions into centralized programs and the day-to-day support offered by athlete support personnel). Classification processes were experienced as highly stressful events, which many para-athletes felt underprepared to navigate. Para-athletes struggled to manage their identity as an elite sports person, fighting against media “superhuman” discourses and pressures from national governing body (NGB) staff that failed to acknowledge them as “person first, athlete second”. Our study emphasizes the importance of the provision of tailored support to protect and enhance well-being in this specific population.

History

School

  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology

Publisher

American Psychological Association

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© American Psychological Association

Publisher statement

©American Psychological Association, 2024. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. The final article is available, upon publication, at: https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/spy0000342

Acceptance date

2023-12-04

Publication date

2024-02-01

Copyright date

2024

ISSN

2157-3905

eISSN

2157-3913

Language

  • en

Depositor

Dr Carolyn Plateau. Deposit date: 5 December 2023

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