Female Collegiate Athletes’ Perceptions of Psychological Safety in Team Environments

Kelsie Saxe – University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Allison B. Smith – University of Massachusetts, Boston
Robin Hardin – University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The purpose of this research was to examine female athletes’ perception of psychological safety in the collegiate athletic team environment. This included identifying dimensions that both cultivate and deteriorate psychological safety. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 participants representing two NCAA Division I – Autonomous conferences. Four themes were constructed including: (a) interpersonal relationships, (b) consistency and accountability, (c) fostering vulnerability, and (d) athlete voice suppression. These findings further exposed the central role of the coach in cultivating a psychologically safe team environment for collegiate student-athletes. However, the results also provide practical insights into specific behavior and communication necessary to cultivate psychological safety within a team as well as behavior and communication that can deteriorate perceptions of psychological safety within a team.