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Understanding experiences of, and influences on wellbeing in elite para-sport: a qualitative exploration of UK para-athletes

journal contribution
posted on 2023-12-06, 15:18 authored by Brodie MillerBrodie Miller, Jamie BarkerJamie Barker, Emily Hunton, Carolyn PlateauCarolyn Plateau

The wellbeing 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 wellbeing has been comparatively under-researched, and the nuances that may contribute to or inhibit wellbeing in this population are still poorly understood. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to explore elite para-athlete experiences of wellbeing, and to understand the unique aspects of the elite para-athlete environment that may impact upon their wellbeing. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 current UK para-athletes (13 Paralympians and 8 internationally competitive para-athletes; from 12 different summer para-sports; median age: 28.8years, range 22-47). Data were inductively thematically analysed. Four key themes were developed: (1) Understanding of para-athlete wellbeing, (2) A need for specialised support; (3) Navigating conflicting identities; (4) 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 centralised programmes, 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 emphasises the importance of the provision of tailored support to protect and enhance wellbeing 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)

Publisher statement

©American Psychological Association, [Year]. 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: [ARTICLE DOI]

Acceptance date

2023-12-04

ISSN

2157-3905

eISSN

2157-3913

Language

  • en

Depositor

Dr Carolyn Plateau. Deposit date: 5 December 2023

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