Team Environments Influence Student-Athlete Mental Health Through Mesolevel Interactions: An Ecological Systems Perspective

Kelsie Saxe – University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Lauren Beasley – Georgia State University
Reem Abdulhussein – University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Mental health in sport has come to the forefront of NCAA initiatives amid repeated instances of diminished mental health among athletes. As student-athletes spend many hours in their team environments, it is important to consider how the team environment influences their mental health. Therefore, a qualitative research design was implemented using semi-structured interviews with 12 female student-athletes from NCAA Division I institutions to explore their mental health experiences within their team environments. Three themes were constructed from the data analysis: words matter, mental integration, and culture. The findings, interpreted through the lens of ecological system theory, suggest that mesolevel interactions, or interactions between individuals, can create a team environment that prioritizes or ignores student-athlete mental health. These findings have practical implications for coaches, administrators, and sport stakeholders regarding additional steps that need to be taken to inform the holistic care of student-athletes.