Athlete Concerns: What Can Coaches Do?

Marlene A. Dixon – Texas A&M University
Stacy Warner – East Carolina University
Christine M. Habeeb – East Carolina University

The growing need to support college athletes has increased drastically as many athletes are experiencing events outside their normal routine. Despite efforts from athletic administration to provide academic and social support for athletes, many athletes feel that more effort is needed to address their well-being. The purpose of this study was to identify the solutions athletes believe that their head coaches could provide to promote athletes’ willingness to seek help. Using a qualitative design approach, the researchers analyzed open-ended survey data from 288 current NCAA Division I athletes. Survey respondents indicated that Coach-Athlete Communication, Athlete Referrals, Education & Awareness of Resources, Healthy Open Environment, and Genuine Concern were the key themes that promoted athlete help-seeking. Results suggest practical implications for how sport organizations can work with coaches on moving towards de-stigmatizing mental health issues and both valuing and managing mental health and wellbeing. This work highlights the vital role that head coaches play in ensuring that mental health is embraced by sport individuals and organizations.