Collegiate Athletes’ Use and Perceptions of Institutional Sources of Support for Role-Related Stressors

Sarah J. Hatteberg – The College of Charleston

Scholarship shows that in managing role-related strains, collegiate athletes have access to a wide range of institutional sources of social support, yet few studies have examined college athletes’ use or perceptions of these institutionally-based sources. Drawing on qualitative interviews conducted with a sample of athletes participating in a big-time collegiate athletic program, this study examined the extent to which athletes solicited social support from various institutional sources in coping with their role-related stressors. Findings suggest that while the majority of athletes solicited aid from institutional sources and appreciated the specialized support those sources were able to provide, athletes also believed there to be several barriers to obtaining effective social support from within the institution. Athletes’ most salient concerns were that institutional support staff members did not always act in athletes’ best interests, that athletes’ discussions with support personnel would not necessarily be kept confidential, and that support staff members were either unable or unwilling to provide the support necessary to change athletes’ stressful circumstances. These findings have important implications for improving the structure of institutionally-based support, more effectively addressing athletes’ stress experiences, and more comprehensively protecting athlete mental health and well-being.