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Abstract

This consensus statement is the product of the Second International Think Tank on Athlete Mental Health, held on the initiative of the International Society of Sport Psychology. The purposes of the Think Tank were to engage international sport psychology societies and organisations in a discussion about athlete mental health as embedded in an Olympic/Paralympic cycle, and to develop practical recommendations for sport organisations. An invited group of designated experts discussed applied experiences working with athletes within an Olympic and Paralympic environment. The Games and mental health are interrelated, because athletes committing whole-heartedly to an Olympic/Paralympic pursuit are at increased risk of disappointment, identity foreclosure, and high life stress. Dividing the quadrennial into three main phases (i.e., pre-, during-, and post-Games) participants discussed three topics for each phase: (1) the key opportunities and challenges; (2) the sport environment, and how it can nourish or malnourish athlete mental health; and (3) collaboration and communication within expert support teams. Each phase of the quadrennium presents specific challenges and opportunities, and mental health screening and support should be administered across all phases. However, the post-Games period is one of increased vulnerability, while at the same time, the returning staff is oftentimes exhausted and unavailable. Ideally, a specialised collaborative team should handle the post-Games mental health support. Initiatives are needed to (a) improve the psychological safety of pre-, during-, and post-Games high performance environments, (b) reduce unnecessary stress, (c) optimise recovery, (d) de-stigmatize mental health issues, and (e) increase help-seeking.
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International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
ISSN: 1612-197X (Print) 1557-251X (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rijs20
Athlete mental health in the Olympic/Paralympic
quadrennium: a multi-societal consensus
statement
Kristoffer Henriksen, Robert Schinke, Sean McCann, Natalie Durand-Bush,
Karin Moesch, William D. Parham, Carsten Hvid Larsen, Karen Cogan, Amber
Donaldsen, Artur Poczwardowski, Franco Noce & Jason Hunziker
To cite this article: Kristoffer Henriksen, Robert Schinke, Sean McCann, Natalie Durand-Bush,
Karin Moesch, William D. Parham, Carsten Hvid Larsen, Karen Cogan, Amber Donaldsen, Artur
Poczwardowski, Franco Noce & Jason Hunziker (2020): Athlete mental health in the Olympic/
Paralympic quadrennium: a multi-societal consensus statement, International Journal of Sport and
Exercise Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/1612197X.2020.1746379
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/1612197X.2020.1746379
Published online: 07 Apr 2020.
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Athlete mental health in the Olympic/Paralympic
quadrennium: a multi-societal consensus statement
Kristoer Henriksen
a
, Robert Schinke
b
, Sean McCann
c
, Natalie Durand-Bush
d
,
Karin Moesch
e
, William D. Parham
f
, Carsten Hvid Larsen
a
, Karen Cogan
c
,
Amber Donaldsen
c
, Artur Poczwardowski
g
, Franco Noce
h
and Jason Hunziker
i
a
Institute of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, and Team Denmark,
Odense, Denmark;
b
School of Human Kinetics, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Canada;
c
United States
Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Colorado Springs, CO, USA;
d
University of Ottawa, and the Canadian
Centre for Mental Health and Sport, Ottawa, Canada;
e
Swedish Sports Confederation, and Department of
Psychology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden;
f
Loyola Marymount University, and the National Basketball
Players Association (NBPA), Los Angeles, CA, USA;
g
Graduate School of Professional Psychology, University of
Denver, Denver, CO, USA;
h
School of Physical Education, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy, Minas
Gerais University, Belo Horizonte, Brazil;
i
Department of Psychiatry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
ABSTRACT
This consensus statement is the product of the Second
International Think Tank on Athlete Mental Health, held on the
initiative of the International Society of Sport Psychology. The
purposes of the Think Tank were to engage international sport
psychology societies and organisations in a discussion about
athlete mental health as embedded in an Olympic/Paralympic
cycle, and to develop practical recommendations for sport
organisations. An invited group of designated experts discussed
applied experiences working with athletes within an Olympic
and Paralympic environment. The Games and mental health are
interrelated, because athletes committing whole-heartedly to an
Olympic/Paralympic pursuit are at increased risk of
disappointment, identity foreclosure, and high life stress.
Dividing the quadrennial into three main phases (i.e., pre-,
during-, and post-Games) participants discussed three topics for
each phase: (1) the key opportunities and challenges; (2) the
sport environment, and how it can nourish or malnourish
athlete mental health; and (3) collaboration and communication
within expert support teams. Each phase of the quadrennium
presents specic challenges and opportunities, and mental
health screening and support should be administered across all
phases. However, the post-Games period is one of increased
vulnerability, while at the same time, the returning stais
oftentimes exhausted and unavailable. Ideally, a specialised
collaborative team should handle the post-Games mental health
support. Initiatives are needed to (a) improve the psychological
safety of pre-, during-, and post-Games high performance
environments, (b) reduce unnecessary stress, (c) optimise
recovery, (d) de-stigmatize mental health issues, and (e) increase
help-seeking.
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 9 March 2020
Accepted 17 March 2020
KEYWORDS
Athlete mental health; sport
environments; responsible
elite sport; Olympic games;
Paralympic games
© 2020 International Society of Sport Psychology
CONTACT Kristoer Henriksen khenriksen@health.sdu.dk Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University
of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense, Denmark
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY
https://doi.org/10.1080/1612197X.2020.1746379
A consensus statement is a summary of the opinions relating to an emerging practical /
theoretical topic, derived from a well-informed panel of experts (e.g., De Boeck et al.,
2014). The present consensus statement is the product of the Second International
Think Tank on Athlete Mental Health, held on the initiative of the International Society
of Sport Psychology (ISSP), this time hosted by the United States Olympic and Paralympic
Training Center in Colorado Springs, during October 2019. The Think Tank was a non-pol-
itical and non-prot entity.
1
The purposes of the Think Tank were to (a) through their
representatives, engage international sport psychology societies and organisations in a
discussion about athlete mental health as embedded in an Olympic/Paralympic cycle,
and (b) develop practical recommendations and strategies for sport organisations. The
current statement represents consensus views of an invited group of designated
experts in the intersecting subject areas of sport psychology and athlete mental health.
Process and members of the Think Tank
A Think Thank is a small cooperative learning group where experienced practitioners and
researchers have the opportunity to discuss not only the science but also the artof a
topic. The intention to use this format to globally advance an important topic traces
back in sport psychology to the Redondo Beach Think Tank in 2003 on applying sport psy-
chology in competitive settings, from which the authors encouraged replications (Pocz-
wardowski & Lauer, 2006). The inaugural ISSP Think Tank on Athlete Mental Health was
hosted by Team Denmark and the University of Southern Denmark in 2018, and resulted
in the production of our rst consensus statement on improving the mental health of high
performance athletes (Henriksen et al., 2019), in which the authors outlined six prop-
ositions and associated recommendations for sport organisations and researchers. From
the inaugural 2018 Think Tank and consensus statement, we recognised that sport psy-
chology scholars and practitioners have come a long way in understanding athlete
mental health, but at the same time, much remains uncharted in comprehending the intri-
cate and complex interrelationship between mental health and sport performance. Our
discussants also felt that in relation to athlete mental health, many sport organisations
have begun to pave formalised practical strategies, as they go, in response to the chal-
lenges their organisations encounter. Consequently, athlete mental health in sport
requires further attention; the scope of assessments in research and preventive monitor-
ing should be broadened in terms of what is being examined and what methodologies are
used; the role of the sport environment in (mal-) nourishing mental health should be inves-
tigated; and the role of sport organisations, including the potential education, training,
and licensing/certication of a mental health ocer in particular, should be claried.
For the current 2019 Think Tank, a smaller working group narrowed the focus to the
specic context-driven topic (see Schinke & Stambulova, 2017) of athlete mental health
in relation to the Olympic and Paralympic Games (referred to as Gamesthroughout).
A group of experts was designated to join the Think Tank, represented diverse organis-
ations, and had extensive experience working with Olympic and Paralympic athletes
and travelling with them to the Games. The group was further diversied to account for
research expertise, global representation, and multiple disciplinary practical perspectives
(mental performance, clinical sport psychology, sport psychiatry, sport organisational
2K. HENRIKSEN ET AL.
psychology, and collaborative medical care). The group of experts represented key sport
psychology societies (the International Society of Sport Psychology [ISSP], the European
Federation of Sport Psychology [FEPSAC], the Association of Applied Sport Psychology
[AASP], Rede Sulamericana de Psicologia do Esporte [South American Net of Sport Psychol-
ogy]), as well as selected sport organisations (e.g., National Basketball Players Association,
U.S.A.) and national Olympic Committees. This process led to the selection of the following
panel of 11 experts, listed alphabetically. Collectively, the group has 167 years of experi-
ence working with Olympic / Paralympic athletes and has attended 43 Olympic/Paralym-
pic Games:
.Karen Cogan (PhD) is a sport psychology practitioner
2
with the United States Olympic
and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and resides in the United States.
.Amber Donaldsen is the Senior Director of Sports Medicine and Medical Director for the
Paralympics at the USOPC. She is a sports physiotherapist by licensure, and resides in
the United States.
.Natalie Durand-Bush (PhD) is a Full Professor at the University of Ottawa, a sport psy-
chology practitioner, and the co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Mental Health
and Sport. She presently serves as the President of the Association for Applied Sport
Psychology, and resides in Canada.
.Kristoer Henriksen (PhD) is an Associate Professor at the University of Southern
Denmark. He is a sport psychology practitioner for Team Denmark, a member of the
ISSP Managing Council, the inaugural and current Think Tank co-organizer, and
resides in Denmark.
.Jason Hunziker (MD) is an Associate Professor and the Chief of Division of Adult Psychia-
try at the University of Utah, Department of Psychiatry. He is also the consulting psy-
chiatrist to the Utah Jazz NBA Basketball team, and resides in the United States.
.Carsten Hvid Larsen (PhD) is an Associate Professor at the University of Southern
Denmark. He is also a sport psychology practitioner for Team Denmark, a co-organizer
of the inaugural Think Tank, and resides in Denmark.
.Sean McCann (PhD) is a sport psychology practitioner with the United States Olympic
and Paralympic Committee (USOPC). He represents AASP and resides in the United
States.
.Karin Moesch (PhD) is a sport psychology practitioner with the Swedish Sports Confed-
eration and a researcher at Lund University. She presently serves as a Vice-President of
FEPSAC, and resides in Sweden.
.Franco Noce is an Associate professor at Minas Gerais University. He works as a sport
psychology practitioner with various Paralympic sports, serves as a representative of
Rede Sulamericana de Psicologia do Esporte (South American Net of Sport Psychology),
and resides in Brazil.
.William D. Parham (PhD, ABPP) is a Professor at Loyola Marymount University, Interim
Associate Dean of his faculty, and the Director of Mental Health and Wellness
Program for the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), who resides in the
United States.
.Artur Poczwardowski (PhD) is a Professor at University of Denver and a sport psychol-
ogy practitioner working with Paralympic athletes as a subcontractor for the USOPC,
and resides in the United States.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY 3
Mental health and the Olympic/Paralympic cycle
For athletes in Olympic and Paralympic Sports, high calibre performance represents the
pinnacle of what they hope to achieve. Athletes as well as sport organisations often con-
ceive and plan their activities based on the four year Olympic/Paralympic Cycle, where
funding, talent selection, training programmes, and other practices are planned to
ensure athlete top performance at the Games. The aforementioned quadrennial is thus
a natural reference point to address preparation, performance, and recovery associated
with the Games (Wylleman & Johnson, 2012).
Athlete mental health must be considered a core component of any responsible culture
of excellence (Henriksen et al., 2019). Nonetheless, authors have recently demonstrated
that increasing competitive pressure and training loads in international sport lead to
increased pressure on elite athletes, representing a signicant threat to their mental
health. Over the last three years, a number of position and consensus statements on
athlete mental health have been published by the FEPSAC (Moesch et al., 2018), the
ISSP (Schinke et al., 2017), the IOC (Reardon et al., 2019), the Canadian Centre for
Mental Health and Sport (Van Slingerland et al., 2019), the American Medical Society for
Sports Medicine (Chang et al., 2020), and our inaugural 2019 ISSP Think Tank Consensus
Statement (Henriksen et al., 2019).
Alongside a series of scientic reviews and commentaries (Breslin et al., 2017; Gorc-
zynski et al., 2017; Küttel & Larsen, 2019; Poucher et al., 2019; Rice et al., 2016), the
current collaboration bears witness to an increased focus on the topic of athlete mental
health. Together these statements have spanned sub-clinical (Schinke et al., 2017) and
clinical (Moesch et al., 2018; Reardon et al., 2019) discussions. What these statements
share is a compelling recognition that high performance athletes seek to augment their
performances whilst also fortifying or maintaining their mental health. Balancing their ath-
letic career and mental health is taxing, and uctuations in athletesmental health are to
be expected. Some of these challenges are related to strenuous training, multiple
demands, increased performance expectations, and numerous transitional events (e.g.,
career advancement to a national team, injury, career decline, de-selection from an
Olympic/Paralympic cycle). Additional challenges, include, but are not limited to family
and other relational pressures, personal identity struggles, political and social issues and
concerns relative to country of origin, nancial stressors, and unacknowledged and unre-
solved past adverse childhood experiences (Felitti et al., 2019). The challenges above add
to the mosaic complexity of athletic preparation and performance. These challenges
though often kept private by athletes and intentionally hidden from teammates,
coaches, and even support personnel, nonetheless inuence their commitment, engage-
ment, and drive to be their very best. Though some of the focus in these discussions has
been about athlete mental ill health (i.e., mental illness/disorders), this view has been
counterbalanced with a proactive lens to promote athlete mental health (i.e., well-
being), and even the mental health of coaches and sta, illuminating the inuence of
healthy external support teams on athlete functioning (see Henriksen et al., 2019).
Although athlete mental health is rapidly gaining importance as a topic in the inter-
national sport psychology community, and the Games is recognised as the pinnacle
event in many sports (Gould & Maynard, 2009; Wylleman et al., 2012), the two intersecting
topics have not yet been considered in unison. Even the IOC consensus statement
4K. HENRIKSEN ET AL.
(Reardon et al., 2019), which presents an impressive state of the art review, neither con-
siders the Games nor the distinct phases of Olympic/Paralympic preparation. This is in
stark contrast to the practical experiences of many sport psychology practitioners who
work in the Olympic and Paralympic environment and who experience the specic
phases in the quadrennial cycle: pre-Games (i.e., preparation), during-Games (i.e.,
execution), and post-Games (i.e., recovery and evaluation). These distinct phases
present distinct mental health opportunities and challenges.
Think Tank Methodological approach
The two-day Think Tank was hosted by the USOPC. The meeting began with our partici-
pants introducing each other, and then, we reviewed and agreed upon the overall
Think Tank objectives. Following this, our working group set out by dening mental
health within the Games perspective as the key focus of the two-day meeting. To structure
discussions, we discussed applied experiences working with athletes within an Olympic
and Paralympic environment during a quadrennial, and subsequently identied
common themes. From the list of themes, we developed three topics: (1) the key oppor-
tunities and challenges for Olympic and Paralympic athletes, as well as for expert support
teams; (2) the sport environment, and how it can nourish or malnourish Olympic and Paral-
ympic athlete mental health; and (3) collaboration (including coordination and communi-
cation within and outside of expert support teams), and how it is and should be structured.
Furthermore, we divided the Olympic/Paralympic quadrennial into three main phases (i.e.,
pre-, during-, and post-Games).
We discussed the three identied topics in small groups, using the three-phase Games
approach, one phase at a time. We started with the pre-Games phase, whereby one
group was in charge of key opportunities and challenges, another one was in charge
of the sport environment, and a third group discussed collaboration. Each group brain-
stormed and noted their thoughts, ideas, and main points on ipchart paper, and then pre-
sented these points to the larger group. A general discussion ensued, where participants
could share additional ideas, which were added on the ipchart paper. Once we were all
satised with the breadth and depth of information provided, we concluded the discus-
sion and moved to the following phase. During the nal afternoon of the Think Tank,
we reviewed all of the ideas shared on the ipchart paper, and generated recommen-
dations. We concluded the meeting by dividing the work amongst each other to transcribe
the content on the ipchart paper and prepare a comprehensive document that was
shared.
Below we present the ndings derived from our experiences and knowledge shared
during the 2019 Think Tank. We recognise that athletes, expert support teams, and cultural
contexts signicantly dier based on several factors that cannot be comprehensively
addressed in this paper. For example, there are dierences between full time professional
athletes and amateur athletes, who often have dual careers; between athletes who are
starting their athletic career and those nearing the end of it; between athletes who
compete in a sport in which repeated Games participation is the norm and those
whose sport only aords them to participate once; between athletes who compete in a
sport in which there are multiple pinnacle events and those participating in a sport in
which the Games are essentially the sole pinnacle event; between athletes living in a
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY 5
country and doing a sport in which there are high medal expectations and those living in a
country or doing a sport in which participation at the Games is seen as a victory in and of
itself; between male athletes and female athletes; between Olympic and Paralympic ath-
letes; and between athletes living in a country in which there is a well-developed and pro-
fessionalized support system and those living in a country in which they have to
compensate for an underdeveloped support system. While accounting for all of these
factors and dierences is beyond the scope of this statement, we believe that the
ndings and recommendations will be applicable to several sports and contexts across
countries.
The Pre-Games phase
The pre-Games phase stretches from the initial decision that athletes make to aim for the
Games until the onset of the Games. During our discussions, it became apparent that this
phase comprises sub-phases: The early phase is comprised of roughly the rst two or three
years of preparation prior to the Games; the late phase covers the intense preparation over
approximately the last year before the event. Each of these sub-phases are associated with
unique and challenges and opportunities.
Opportunities and challenges
We recognise that the early preparation phase will look very dierent for athletes who
transition into this phase from previous Games participation than for athletes who have
not yet been to the Games and for whom this phase is a continuation of their normal train-
ing and athletic development. In terms of opportunities, ideally and particularly for ath-
letes who have attended an Olympic or Paralympic Games, the early phase represents a
time for recovery and a time for taking care of physical issues (e.g., injuries, disability)
and mental factors (e.g., anxiety, emotional exhaustion) that they may have neglected
for a long time as a result of their athletic pursuits. This is also when athletes can exper-
iment and develop new ways of training or test new equipment. During the pre-Games,
holistic well-being can be prioritised (i.e., focus on the person rather than just the
athlete, see Stambulova et al., 2020) by staand athletic programmes (e.g., for dual
career athletes), and athletes are often able to settle into an everyday schedule with
(albeit limited) time for family, friends, and parenthood. These opportunities are important
to restore or maintain mental health.
With regards to challenges in the early phase, everything is still open, which can lead
to considerable uncertainty. Athletes can be pondering, Should I go for another Olympic/
Paralympic run? Should my life be about more than sport? Should I start/continue an edu-
cation? Should I get a real job?The challenge is that this openness and uncertainty can
lead to stress, particularly for athletes who have focused solely on their sport leading
up to the previous Games. Some athletes face an expectation from their interpersonal
circles that life should be about more than sport now that the Games are behind them.
Many athletes also experience nancial challenges during this phase. Sport organisations
frequently have less money in this period (or the same amount of money but many more
athletes to support), which may mean that athletes receive signicantly less nancial
support than during the lead-up to the Games. Athletes with high athletic identity may
6K. HENRIKSEN ET AL.
suer a signicant loss, if this is the end of their career. Finally, a key challenge relates to
team / stauncertainty, because coaches and other stamay be considering whether or
not to pursue another cycle, or their contract may not be renewed by their sport organis-
ation. The latter case has implications for athletes continuing for another cycle, leaving
them to deal with the loss of their support system. All of these are potential threats to ath-
letesmental health.
In the late Pre-Games phase, athlete selection is a priority, nal preparations are under-
way, and team rosters are reduced to those who will attend the Games. For athletes who
are selected, opportunities include additional resources and more individualised and tai-
lored support. This period also gives athletes a chance to learn about performing under
pressure and strengthen resilience, due to increased participation in more high-level
competitions.
Challenges in the late Pre-Games phase, related to athletic preparation and more per-
sonal struggles, are signicant. During national trials, there is an expectation for athletes to
be 100% t, and athletes may hide injuries, and minimise personal struggles. Some ath-
letes are deselected and suer a loss of identity, support, friends, and life purpose. Athletes
who are selected oftentimes lose friends within the team (athletes who are not selected).
Athletes talk of high performance expectations, increased stress from an awareness of the
Games as a potential life-changing event, and the burden of representingtheir country
and all of the athletes who did not make it. For many athletes, this period comprises a long
period of high competitive demands (e.g., qualications, trials, specic preparations such
as heat habituation), lack of recovery and self-care, injuries, fear of failure, weight manage-
ment, extensive travelling, and team or coach conicts. All of these challenges can com-
promise athletesmental health. Although coaches are key sources of support who are
often on the road with athletes, they often do not have the resources or training to
handle mental health challenges. Many coaches have recognised this, leading them to
advocate for more guidance to manage situations surrounding mental health, particularly
when they are on the road away without access to typical or adequate resources.
The sport environment
To create and promote an appropriate environment that fosters mental health, we need to
understand the environments in which athletes train and compete. Because athletes can
be training in multiple environments (e.g., a club, national team, international training
group), we must be aware of multiple and intersecting larger environmental systems. Fur-
thermore, due to the demands of Olympic training within the Pre-Games phase, particu-
larly in the latter part of it, athletes are typically removed from their home environments,
thus apart from direct support of family and friends. Aside from social support, we need to
consider athletesage or developmental level as well as trends within their generation,
including the use of social media and technology. Overall, we need to be cognisant of
the inuence that the sport environment has on athletesmental health, as they
prepare to perform at the Games.
Relating to the organisational structure of the sport environment in the Pre-Games
phase, there are often limited nances to support athletes with mental health needs,
unclear structures for help-seeking, and limited access to mental health support. Stigma
around mental health remains evident, and conversations relative to better understanding
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY 7
its origin and factors that fuel the shame, guilt, and embarrassment often associated with
the experience, are encouraging. Relatedly, cultures of abuse and collusion (Stirling & Kerr,
2009,2013) continue to exist, and ongoing dialogue and research leading to exposing
these practices are required. Environments with toxic cultures, abusive behaviours, and
poor mental health literacy in which coaches and staneglect athletesmental health
and self-care, as well as their own, can seriously impede athletesfunctioning and ability
to thrive during this period.
There is no doubt that coaches are key stakeholders in any sporting environment and
are instrumental in building and maintaining safe and healthy organisational cultures. The
culture of a sport, team, or club plays an important role in maintaining or breaking down
stigma around mental health, and the environment that coaches create can aect athletes
seeking and accessing mental health resources. Furthermore, all professionals including
management, support experts (e.g., mental performance consultants, psychologists,
sport medicine providers, nutritionists, strength and physical conditioning trainers) can
perpetuate or diminish stigma. The early Pre-Games phase lends itself well to establishing
environments that nourish mental health, as there is typically more time and energy to do
this. Nourishing environments can then be maintained during the late part of the pre-
games phase.
However, due to more limited staand resources during the late part of the pre-Games
phase, mental health crises can create signicant strain within service provision teams,
particularly when they are travelling and managing multiple job responsibilities. Sta
are themselves under considerable pressure, may experience trouble balancing life
demands, and be more or less skilled at self-care, which in turn, can aect their ability
to support the nourishment of athlete mental health.
Coordination and communication
One of the ways that sport environments and mental health can be optimised is through
eective coordination and communication. A well-balanced system for providing immedi-
ate and follow-up mental health services throughout the Pre-Games phase demands a col-
laborative care approach through Mental Health Care Teams (i.e., interdisciplinary and
collaborative mental health care teams integrating certied/registered/licensed prac-
titioners with knowledge and experience in sport, psychology, and psychiatry, see Van
Slingerland et al., 2019). These teams should help establish comprehensive and clear
sport-focused mental health plans for all parties involved (on site and on the road).
They should also be involved in performing baseline mental health screening against
which athletesuctuating mental health levels can be compared across all phases of
the quadrennial. Finally, these teams can be involved in facilitating or delivering rst aid
training for all parties so that there is a certain level of competency and comfort in addres-
sing mental health challenges. The early Pre-Games phase is an ideal time to embark on
the eective coordination of resources.
There are several structural challenges to coordination and communication regarding
mental health promotion and treatment in the Pre-Games phase. These include but are
not limited to: (a) the size of the country and number of individuals involved in
dierent sports and Mental Health Care Teams (b) coordination and communication
within internal team members (e.g., athletes, coaches, support experts, NGBs and other
8K. HENRIKSEN ET AL.
administrative sta); (c) coordination and communication with external individuals, prac-
titioners, and stakeholders in the community; (d) coordination and communication while
on the road with teams; and (e) formal regulations and restrictions regarding the means
through which stacan communicate with athletes. These challenges to coordination
and communication should not, however, stand in the way of building an integrated col-
laborative care system to manage athletesmental health, particularly as stressors and
pressure increase from the early to late parts of the pre-games phase.
A Mental Health Ocer (MHO) can help establish, communicate and coordinate activi-
ties with Mental Health Care Teams, including mental health literacy and rst aid training.
The MHO would be involved in performing administrative duties, assessment, and/or
treatment tasks as necessary, including but not limited to: screening for eligibility criteria
and mental health needs; triaging and referring athletes to appropriate practitioners; and
redirecting athletes who do not meet eligibility criteria to community resources. The MHO
should be part of the athletesMental Health Care Team. The education, training, and
experience of the MHO are important (e.g., should have knowledge/experience working
in high performance sport, have education and training in sport sciences and clinical/
counseling psychology). The roles and responsibilities of the MHO should be well
dened, and coordination and communication with all parties should be clear and
ongoing throughout the Pre-Games phase.
Recommendations for the Pre-Games phase
Based on the opportunities and challenges, the sport environment, and the coordination
and communication tasks identied above, we provide the following overall recommen-
dations for taking care of athlete mental health in the years leading up to the games.
(1) Establish a collaborative Mental Health Care Team, headed by a Mental Health Ocer,
with organisational clarity for eciently and eectively managing athletesmental
health (e.g., condentiality, eligibility criteria, and referral resources).
(2) Perform mental health screening early on in the quadrennial with proper follow-up for
athletes screening positive for mental health struggles.
(3) Provide mental health literacy programmes for athletes as well as coaches and all
expert support staand management in order to reduce stigma, increase early
help-seeking, and minimise risk.
(4) Promote self-care, resiliency and recovery training for athletes as well as coaches and
expert support staand management.
(5) Establish healthy, sustainable, compassionate, and psychologically safe sport environ-
ments that emphasize support, allow time for recovery, and reduce unnecessary stress.
During-Games phase
The During-Gamesphase spans the period of participation at the Games (i.e., between
which athletes arrive at and depart from the Olympic/Paralympic Games). Participating
at the Games is not only a rewarding and exciting experience, it is also one of intense
stress, high expectations, and performance pressure (Schinke et al., 2015). Although a
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY 9
healthy sport environment, sound planning, and eective promotion, screening, and treat-
ment initiatives during the Pre-Games phase reduce the potential problems that can arise
during the Games, there are nonetheless inevitable signicant challenges occurring during
the Games phase. It is important to recognise that everything is a performance issue at the
Games (McCann, 2008). Helping athletes manage mental health issues is a moral, ethical,
and professional obligation, as well as a performance enhancement strategy.
Opportunities and challenges
We recognise that the experience of the Olympic/Paralympic event is deeply contextua-
lised and will depend largely on whether or not athletes are rst-timers, medal hopefuls,
and successful. With the proper support, the Games can stimulate growth and become a
signicant positive life experience. Athletes can strengthen their resilience, rene their
attention regulation skills, and develop an increased understanding of performing
under pressure. For media-exposed athletes, a successful appearance at the Games can
enhance post-Games career opportunities.
However, despite extensive preparation, mental health issues will emerge during the
Games, and practitioners who have travelled with athletes to the Games have experienced
a series of challenges that can arise during this time. The challenges can pertain to an
increased sense of pressure and expectations, intense media scrutiny, increased social
media engagement, heightened emotional volatility, strained relationships, conicts
within the team, unhealthy comparisons to others, and a decreased ability to sleep. The
Games are like a magnifying glass for both positive and negative thoughts and emotions,
and they are often experienced as an emotional rollercoaster. Athletes often stay prolonged
periods in the Olympic/Paralympic village and experience fatigue managing all of these
thoughts and emotions, and sometimes a decreased capacity for regulating stress due to
cognitive and emotional depletion. Such problems are augmented in the case of sport inju-
ries, lost opportunity to compete or not qualifying for a team or a relay, or learning suddenly
about a family, friend, or other life-related adverse circumstance.
Aside from these common issues experienced at the Games, there can also be more
clinical issues such as panic attacks, depressive episodes, exacerbation of an eating dis-
order or OCD, cutting/self-injurious behaviours, overuse of substances such as alcohol
or sleep medication, and in extreme cases, suicidal ideation and attempts. This under-
scores the importance of having appropriate Mental Health Care Teams at the Games.
The Games environment
From the outside, the Olympic/Paralympic village may seem like an idyllic oasis reserved
for likeminded athletes. However, in reality, athletes often experience life in the village as
stressful, and so, often not conducive to positive mental health. For example, athletes live
in close quarters and have diculties nding space to be alone. Dining areas, meeting
spaces, buses, and training areas are always crowded. Transportation can be unpredictable
and there is extended security with long wait lines for credential and bag checks. Athletes
who are no longer competing engage in extensive partying and sexual activities. Regard-
less of a seemingly wide array of menu options, some athletes struggle to nd food they
like. Athletes also often experience being asked by family and friends about directions,
10 K. HENRIKSEN ET AL.
access to tickets, help with planning their trips, and other logistical demands. Paraly-
mpians, additionally, have varying special needs that quite possibly position them to
experience heightened stress and emotional discomfort.
Moreover, athletes are constantly reminded of the importance of the Games and that
they are there to perform. Everywhere they turn, there is a television screen showing ath-
letes in what is likely the most important competition of their lives. There is a lot of
exposure to other athletes winning and losing and wearing medals or looking disap-
pointed, as well as to star athletes and celebrities. In the village, venues, and in the over-
whelming mixed-zone, athletes experience increased media attention and often from
media people who do not normally cover sports and who may ask unusual and politi-
cally-charged questions.
Finally, athletes may struggle to navigate the Games as the most important competition
of their lives (i.e., requiring full focus and recovery) and the greatest experience of their
lives (i.e., taking in the atmosphere and enjoying the aorded opportunities). They experi-
ence this dilemma, for instance, when they are asked to decide whether or not they will (a)
participate in the opening ceremony where they will stand for hours, which could deplete
them if they are competing the following days; (b) go cheer for teammates and see other
athletes compete; and (c) attend some of the many by invitation onlycoveted events
such as receptions with attendance from royalty or political dignitaries.
Coordination and communication
For many countries and teams, there is typically a high level of support and resources at
the Games. Athletesperformance is prioritised, sometimes at the expense of their mental
health. Ensuring eective coordination and communication is not easy. Credentials are
scarce, and many expert support stamay not be staying in the village and may only
be able to enter the village and venues on preselected days. Some athletespersonal
coaches, with whom they are used to talking about how they feel, cannot access the
village and venues. Security and access issues can challenge typical operations of
expert support systems. Furthermore, many people in the Olympic/Paralympic environ-
ment (e.g., coaches, support sta) are themselves under increased stress and pressure
and experience a lack of sleep and recovery, and could be at risk of being less attentive
to athletesmental health, especially as the event proceeds. Nevertheless, a high level
of coordination and communication between athletes, coaches, and all support sta
and management is key to successfully minimising and handling mental health issues
at the Games. At a minimum, there should be a qualied Mental Health Care Team
present at the Games, and protocols for identifying needs and providing mental health
care during the Games should be established and clearly communicated. Ideally athletes
should receive care from practitioners with whom they have already developed rapport
and trust during Pre-Games phase.
Recommendations for the during-Games phase
During the Games, coaches, expert support sta, and Mental Health Care Teams should
remind athletes to trust the extensive preparation they have done, focus on the control-
lables, and normalise heightened experiences of stress and pressure. Based on the
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY 11
aforementioned opportunities, challenges, the uniqueness of the Games environment,
and the importance of coordination and communication, we provide the following rec-
ommendations for addressing athlete mental health during the Games:
(1) Develop a clear support structure and protocol for coordination and provision of
mental health care, ensuring job descriptions and roles are clearly dened for all
staand athletes. Clarity and coordination includes clear lines of referral to medical
and mental health sta, as well as on-site polyclinics provided by the IOC/IPC and
local hospitals. A crisis protocol should also be integrated that everyone in the del-
egation knows with systematic and condential record keeping that meets mental
health care regulations.
(2) Ensure that the staselected has appropriate credentials and a high level of mental
health literacy. When possible, there should be a MHO in attendance at the Games
with a working knowledge of the Games environment. Provide adequate and
sucient resources for mental health support, and ensure there are frequent oppor-
tunities to check-in and that information is being disseminated to all team members.
(3) Provide physical spaces suitable for mental recovery, as well as condential and
private spaces for mental health care that meet safe sport requirements.
(4) Teach coaches and expert support stato be intentional with staself-care, because
they are themselves under considerable pressure and at risk of unintentionally apply-
ing unnecessary added pressure on the athletes.
(5) Help athletes develop a friends and family planand inform their social circles about how
they wish tobe approached at the Games. Athletes shouldalso be assisted with the devel-
opment of a social media plan that recognises the need to capitalise on the Games while
protecting them from the unnecessary added stress of feeling obliged to post all the time
and helping them avoid reading irrelevant or unsupportive comments.
Post-Games phase
The Post-Games phase comprises the period immediately following the Games and
extends to the time when athletes decide to either continue for another quadrennial
cycle (i.e., at which point they re-enter the Pre-Gamesphase) or completely transition
out of sport, should they decide to retire. We share the classic adage You never run to
the nish line you run through itto highlight the importance of Post-Games mental
health support. We should not see the Games themselves as the end of the road, and
instead, include mental health support for the critical time period following it. Whether
athletes have been successful or not, the period following the Games is a challenging
one that can create new or exacerbate existing mental health challenges and illnesses.
Not surprisingly, the post-Games period involves coming to terms with the Games experi-
ence and outcomes, and the time spent away from loved ones. For some athletes, it can
also mean an unwelcome invitation to resume the management of complex and dicult
sport and life experiences that will not simply disappear.
Many national Olympic committees invest extensive eort, resources, and time in the
Pre-Games and During-Games phases. This is in shocking contrast to the very little strate-
gized attention that is often allocated to the post-Games time period. With the multiplicity
12 K. HENRIKSEN ET AL.
of issues and the high vulnerability of athletes to experience the commonly referred post-
Olympic blues, the after Gamesphase in the quadrennial cycle must be targeted as a
unique and extremely important time for mental health support.
Opportunities and challenges
Athletes will experience the post-Games period very dierently, depending on whether or
not the Games was a successful and/or positive experience, and whether or not they will
continue to pursue their sport, or voluntarily or involuntarily end their career. During the
period immediately following the Games (rst days up to several weeks), many athletes
will experience being the centre of attention, being invited as celebrities to attend
events and do media appearances. This can be a stressful but also enriching experience.
During this time, opportunities include capitalising on the Games (e.g., making money
from public speaking, increasing recognition and personal branding, obtaining sponsor-
ships). After this initial period of time, however, the interest often diminishes. Competitive
pressure is usually absent and athletes have opportunities for recovery, self-care, sleep,
personal activities with signicant others, debrief and reection on the quadrennial, and
new or previous hobbies/activities to expand their non-sport identity. Athletes may also
use the time to deal with injuries they have been ignoring, and when required, have
surgery. This period further allows athletes the time to plan for their future career, and
decide whether or not they want to aim for the next quadrennial, go back to school or
work, or perhaps start or expand family. Some athletes nd it meaningful in this period
to give back to their sport, for example by coaching, mentoring, organising charity or fun-
draising events, or giving talks to younger athletes.
However, for many athletes, the post-Games period is lled with challenges, and
decreased mood (or the blues) is common. Immediately following the Games, athletes
can experience intense emotions and mood uctuations resulting from winning medals
and/or underperforming (e.g., disappointment, shame, anxiety, depression, euphoria).
After the hypewears o, athletes often experience a loss of identity, including a loss
of purpose, meaning and direction. They can experience isolation, loss of daily structure
and routine, and decreased social support and communication. For example, when the
team dissolves and athletes come home ready to re-engage with family and friends,
they are sometimes confronted with the reality that these people have continued living
without them and are busy with their own lives.
From an organisational perspective, a key challenge relates to the lack of specic post-
Games protocols, and extended and ongoing support. Coaches, support experts, and
other staare themselves tired or even burnt out after the Games, and will often focus
on their own recovery or new tasks, which leaves athletes with little access to professional
support. For many athletes, the Games are not only the pinnacle but also the nal event of
their sport career. The end of the Games represents the end of their life as high perform-
ance athletes and the beginning of a potentially dicult career transition. There may be a
lack of funding for mental health support or unclear pathways to this support. Athletes
may feel they are no longer entitled to draw from the sport system (e.g., to access to facili-
ties, support sta, and nancial support through assistance programmes). Retiring athletes
may have to move out of a training centre or sport housing system. For Paralympic ath-
letes, the intense focus on sport and being a top level athletemay be replaced by a
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY 13
focus on disability challenges and the notion of being disabled. This is often combined
with limited employment opportunities (e.g., compared with able-bodied athletes). Ath-
letes who transition into education or work often talk about the diculties of starting
at the bottomwhile seeing themselves as skilled and dedicated winners. Some athletes
make the decision to stay in sport, not out of motivation to train and perform, but simply
because all the major life changes seem unmanageable, but these athletes eventually
decline in their athletic abilities, and persistence beyond ones peak can lead to forced
de-selection (see Sinclair & Orlick, 1993) and athletic identity problems.
The post-Games environment
Unlike life in the Olympic/Paralympic village, there is no common environment after the
Games; athletes go in all directions. Some go back to their local training centres or
clubs to continue life as athletes, while others go on extended holidays travelling the
world, or enter school or the workplace. These environments each have their opportunities
and challenges. Athletes who continue their sport often describe their sport environment
after the Games as very dierent from before. Returning athletes commonly reference
changes in and expansion of teams of athletes at local and national training centres. Struc-
tures (e.g., expert services, nancial support) change or disappear. Coaches may resign or
get red, and new ones get appointed. Additionally, many athletes may be surprised to
nd that it is hard to leverage and make an income based on winning an Olympic
medal, a pathway to nance they initially planned upon.
Coordination and communication
There is no doubt that the post-Games period is one of increased vulnerability and need
for mental health support. Follow-ups are necessary and sport organisations and sta
should be extra attentive to athletesmental health. Returning statypically requires
rest and recovery and time to take care of their personal needs. This creates a void
and lack of resources to execute wide scale screenings and attend to athletes in need.
Ideally, dedicated people within the Mental Health Care Team are available during the
Post-Games phase. They, along with the support of sporting organisations, can use mul-
tiple strategies to monitor athlete mental health (e.g., surveys, dialogue with athletes,
families, and coaches). Communicating with existing or new expert support sta(e.g.,
medical doctors, physiotherapists, strength and conditioning coaches) about athletes
status and needs is paramount for the early identication of mental health struggles
and the timely provision of care. Finally, establishing and communicating clear protocols
for accessing both internal and external mental health resources is important, especially if
resources have been reduced during this period.
Recommendations for the post-Games phase
Recognising that the post-Games period is one of added athlete vulnerability and chal-
lenges to a coordinated supportive environment, we provide the following
recommendations:
14 K. HENRIKSEN ET AL.
(1) Consider the post-Games period as the nal (and an equally important) part of the
quadrennial such that the four years are really a 4 + 1 quadrennial, with the last
year equally requiring mental health support. At a minimum, mental health screening
and services should be available to athletes for 12 months after the Games even if they
are retiring, to augment healthy career transitions.
(2) Develop a system to monitor athlete mental health through multiple methods that are
sensitive to a variety of unique post-Games challenges. Assuming that mental health
literacy training was provided during the Pre-Games phase, it also includes reiterating
and reminding staand family members of warning signs, symptoms, and available
resources. Mental health support providers should reach out to athletes and not
await their requests.
(3) Make specic plans for post-Games debrieng and assistance with sport re-entry or
career termination. These programmes should ideally be administered by speci-
cally-prepared support experts, with a dedicated budget, in collaboration with more
long-term support experts. Recognising that the sport environment after the Games
will inevitably change, put in place structures for maintaining some familiarity of exist-
ing daily sport processes (e.g., provide opportunities for continued light training and
team gatherings).
(4) Develop clear policies for accessing mental health support during the post-Games
phase, and clearly communicate these to all parties. These should specify support
rights and access for specic groups of athletes (e.g., medal winners, athletes who con-
tinue or retire), and a deadline by which retired athletes need to ask for assistance
before they are no longer covered by the sport system. These policies should
outline clear referral guidelines and ways to access external resources for those who
do not meet eligibility criteria.
(5) Normalise the emotions associated with the post-Olympic/Paralympic experience, for
example by using past athletes as spokespersons for mental health issues or post-
Olympic experiences, and by communicating the benets of reaching out for help
and the courage required to do so. Normalisation includes breaking stigma by inviting
athletes to discuss their post-Games experiences and challenges as part of peer-
support groups.
Conclusion
The purposes of this ISSP Think Tank were to (a) engage international sport psychology
societies and organisations in a discussion about athlete mental health, embedded in
the Olympic/Paralympic cycle, and (b) develop practical recommendations for sport
organisations. The current statement represents the collective view of an invited
group of designated experts in the areas of sport psychology and athlete mental
health. Until now, the Olympic/Paralympic games have not been examined from a
specic mental health lens. The present consensus statement is intended to inform
and inspire future initiatives focused on athlete mental health in relation to the
Olympic/Paralympic quadrennial. We would like to conclude this statement with ve
postulates that build onto the rst ISSP Think Tank consensus statement (Henriksen
et al., 2019):
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPORT AND EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY 15
(1) Athlete mental health is a core component of any culture of excellence. As the career
pinnacle for many athletes, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are not only the most
important event to show excellence but also a potentially life-changing event. When
athletes commit whole-heartedly to an Olympic/Paralympic pursuit, they are vulner-
able and at increased risk of disappointment, identity foreclosure, and high life
stress, which can lead to poor mental health. Thus, the Games and mental health
are interrelated, and understanding this intricate relationship will help sport organis-
ations provide adequate and tailored resources and services. Specialised collaborative
and sport-focused Mental Health Care Teams, led by a qualied MHO, should oversee
and provide mental health services across all phases of the quadrennial.
(2) While stress levels remain high throughout the quadrennial, stress comes from
dierent sources, and each phase of the Olympic/Paralympic cycle presents specic
challenges and opportunities. Mental health screening and support should be admi-
nistered across all phases of the quadrennial while taking into account the unique
aspects of the specic phases.
(3) The post-Games period is one of increased vulnerability and need for mental health
support. However, immediately post-Games, the returning stais oftentimes
exhausted and unavailable, and there is a void in support as well as a lack of resources.
The Olympic/Paralympic quadrennial should therefore be extended to a 4 + 1 quad-
rennial. The post-Games mental health screening and support should ideally be
handled by a specialised team with a dedicated budget.
(4) The mental health of athletes is everybodys business but should be somebodys dis-
tinct responsibility. Mental health transcends professional boundaries of interdisciplin-
ary elds (i.e., psychology, counselling, psychiatry, medicine, and mental
performance), and a collaborative approach is key to ensuring comprehensive,
timely, and ecient mental health care. There are inherent dilemmas in maintaining
condentiality when working within a collaborative support team, and structural bar-
riers for coordinating care (e.g., extended travelling commitments in the pre-Games
period, limited credentials during the Games, and limited resources post-Games) for
which solutions must be developed.
(5) Mental health prevention and promotion should complement mental health care (i.e.,
treatment) across all phases of the quadrennial. Sport psychology practitioners should
teach athletes mental / self-regulation skills to optimise resilience and their ability to
cope with stressful, high pressure environments. However, this strategy should be sup-
plemented by putting in place initiatives to (a) improve the psychological safety of
pre-, during-, and post-Games high performance environments, (b) reduce any
unnecessary stress, (c) optimise recovery, (d) de-stigmatize mental health issues,
and (e) increase help-seeking.
Notes
1. We recognise that the intricate relationships between mental health and Olympic and Paral-
ympic Games preparation, performance, and recovery are too complex a topic for any group
of experts to grasp in their nuanced entirety during a two-day think tank. We also recognise
that, as a result of procedures for selection and invitation, the Think Tank mostly represented
organised systems in modernised societies. Future think tanks on the topic will integrate a
16 K. HENRIKSEN ET AL.
broader diversity of experts. We acknowledge that this consensus statement reects the Think
Tank participantscollective dialog based on knowledge available at the time the statement
was written.
2. The dierent represented countries use dierent titles, including mental performance consult-
ant, sport psychologist, and sport psychology consultant. Fpr simplicity, we here use the title
of sport psychology practitioner as a collective name to describe a person who practices sport
psychology (i.e. consults with athletes). All participants are registered or licensed within their
national systems.
Acknowledgements
The Think Tank that led to this Consensus Statement was supported by grants from the US Olympic
and Paralympic Committee
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author(s).
Funding
This work was supported by United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
ORCID
Kristoer Henriksen http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2966-7469
Carsten Hvid Larsen http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3309-9417
Franco Noce http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6751-0871
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18 K. HENRIKSEN ET AL.
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This research note aims to present the potential benefits of mental training for elite judo athletes and advocates the implementation of mental training policies and programmes within judo organisations as a key organisational factor that can be controlled for the benefit of health and performance of elite judo athletes and in favour of the international sporting success of nations. Five key benefits are presented, demonstrating the challenges that elite athletes face and then how mental training can contribute to solving these challenges based on existing studies and theories. These five benefits can inform the decision-making of managers of judo organisations and the formulation of management policies associated with mental training. In addition, the benefits presented can also be considered as testable hypotheses for future research. In the context of elite judo, mental training has the potential to (1) increase athletes' control over mental health; (2) teach athletes to self-generate positive emotions, thereby broadening their repertoires of thoughts-actions to task-oriented coping strategies, building resilience, thus leading athletes to an upward spiral dynamic characterised by the optimisation of health, well-being and performance; (3) undo the effects of negative emotions; (4) mitigate the debilitating physiological effects of critical moments of competition; (5) reduce perceived exertion and increase resilience to mental fatigue in training and competitions. Finally, the research note concludes by calling managers of judo organisations and coaches to action, mainly encouraging the implementation of mental training policies and programmes for the benefit of judo athletes' development.
... Within the Charter, the fundamental principles of Olympism are described as being rooted in an ethical commitment to athlete well-being through the promotion of a balanced whole, while tasking leaders in sport with the social responsibility to understand and address well-being by putting athletes at the core of the Olympic Movement (International Olympic Committee, Olympic Charter (IOC), 2021). However, recent consensus statements and position pieces have highlighted that Olympic athletes struggle with balancing the demands of their career in sport (Henriksen et al., 2020), are more susceptible to a host of mental health problems (Reardon et al., 2019), and may compete in a sport environment rife with abuse and irresponsible leadership (Burke, 2021). ...
... Increasingly, researchers have highlighted that the culture pervading elite sport may be a primary factor in thwarting athlete well-being (Henriksen et al., 2020;Mountjoy et al., 2016). Coakley (2015) emphasized that Olympic athletes are often under pressure to conform to the prevailing cultural norms of elite sport including seeking performance perfection, prioritizing results above all else, and accepting that there are no limits in the pursuit of excellence. ...
Article
The purpose of our study was to examine the perspectives of Olympic coaches and national performance directors regarding factors they felt influence athlete well-being (both positively and negatively), and to explore their perceived roles in contributing to the well-being of their athletes. Coaches (n = 12) and national performance directors (n = 12) participated in semi-structured interviews, that were subjected to reflexive thematic analysis. We adopted a critical interpretivist research paradigm for this study. The findings included three higher-order themes, each of which encompassed two lower-order themes. These higher-order themes included the relentless pursuit of results (i.e., lack of opportunities outside of sport, the focus on results as harmful), the influence of the coach (i.e., the coach as a relationship builder, the coach as a gatekeeper of well-being), and financial uncertainty (i.e., financial uncertainty of the program, financial uncertainty for the athlete). When taken together, the findings highlight that coaches and performance directors were often aware of threats to athlete well-being but were also uncertain how to support athlete well-being or of their role in potentially thwarting the well-being of their Olympic athletes. These findings are discussed within the broader context of the pervading culture of elite sport, and consideration for future research and knowledge mobilization. Lay summary: In this study, we queried Olympic coaches and performance directors regarding factors they felt influence elite athlete well-being, and what they felt their role is in contributing to the well-being of the athletes with whom they work. The findings within our study provide new insight into elite athlete well-being, including potential negative consequences related to the relentless pursuit of results, the impact of the coach, and the effects of financial uncertainty for Olympic athletes.
... The psychological aspect, however, was the most mentioned during the interview. The psychological demands in high-level sports settings can be related to the elevated competitive pressure, high training load, increased performance expectations, and numerous transitional events that can represent a significant threat to athletes' mental health (Henriksen et al., 2020). The pressure to perform a highquality kata routine could trigger mental health impairment in the athletes. ...
... Indeed, all athletes highlighted the necessity of a psychological follow-up during the process, to minimize the demand of the training and the stress of the competition. The recent literature has discussed and recommended strategies during the preparation process (pre-games phase) to take care of mental health issues in athletes, and promote self-care for the athletic population as well as coaches and staff to reduce unnecessary distress (Henriksen et al., 2020). Thus, the present study highlights the importance of mental health intervention in the kata discipline as well. ...
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... Elite athletes seek to improve performance while maintaining and strengthening mental health (Henriksen et al., 2020). However, with mental health services focused on treatment rather than promotion (Barry et al., 2019), judo athletes may not know what to do in daily life to maintain and strengthen mental health. ...
... Moreover, elite sport presents several risk factors that can favour the development and/or maintenance of mental health challenges (Prior et al., 2022;Rice et al., 2016). In this sense, Henriksen et al. (2020) listed the potential mental health challenges that athletes may experience specifically in each phase of the Olympic/Paralympic quadrennial cycle. Thus, elite athletes may be at maximum risk of developing mental health challenges during the peak of their competitive years (Prior et al., 2022). ...
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... Lockdowns also distance athletes from their daily training and competition routines and increase uncertainty about the future. Lack of training and loss of performance capacity reduces their future competitiveness, undermines physical, technical capacity, and increases psychological stress (Andreato et al., 2020;Henriksen et al., 2020). Physiological side effects of isolation include increased levels of body fat and decreased muscle mass, impaired immunity, loss of mental acuity and toughness, insomnia, and depression (Bosquet et al., 2013;Chen et al., 2020b). ...
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This study aims to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the training patterns of seated volleyball athletes for the Indonesian national team. All members of the Indonesian seated volleyball national team participated in filling out a questionnaire consisting of sports participation, exercise intensity and volume, the impact of COVID-19 on exercise patterns, and training support infrastructure. A total of 11 athletes who were all male with an average age of 31.91 (± 7.43) had completed the questionnaire in the period July to August 2020. Most of the athletes practiced 5 times per week (73%) which was carried out in the morning and evening. in the afternoon (36%), they do exercises with direct guidance from online trainers both synchronously and asynchronously (82%). Athletes also feel that they experience a reduction in exercise volume and intensity (45%) compared to when they were at the national training center. Most athletes (82%) felt that they had experienced a decline in their physical condition. it is very clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on the training patterns of seated volleyball athletes, they must focus more on maintaining their training to maximize their fitness so that they perform optimally when competition resumes.
... Based on her twenty years of research, she explained that psychological safety is essential to learning, engagement and performance in volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) contexts just like competitive sport. The appeal of psychological safety has found its way into the sport-related literature as researchers search for safe (as opposed to harmful and fearful) environments that enhance learning, engagement and performance (Fransen et al., 2020;Gosai et al., 2021;Smittick et al., 2019) while protecting athletes' (and coaches') health and wellbeing (Henriksen et al., 2020;Reardon et al., 2019;Rice et al., 2022). Only a handful of studies have empirically examined psychological safety in sport thus far, and these are briefly discussed next. ...
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In this study, we investigated the notion that giving voice to athletes is an important aspect to creating a psychologically safe environment which can then feed into maintaining good quality coach-athlete relationships where every athlete feels heard, valued, and connected. 379 athletes completed a multi-section questionnaire that assessed their (a) capacity to be open and manage conflict with their coaches, (b) perceptions of psychological safety within their team or group, and (c) perceptions of the coach-athlete relationship quality. Structural equation modelling revealed that openness and conflict management positively predicted psychological safety which, in turn, positively predicted coach-athlete relationship quality. Psychological safety was found to explain the association between athletes’ communication (i.e., capacity to be open, honest and transparent as well as manage interpersonal conflict effectively) and coach-athlete relationship quality regardless of athletes’ gender. These findings highlighted that if athletes have the capacity to have candid discussions and can navigate conflict with their coaches, then it is possible to feel psychologically safe and thus able to engage in risky interpersonal interactions (e.g., raise concerns, admit mistakes) within their group context without fear of intimidation and humiliation. Furthermore, it was revealed that such a psychologically safe group environment fostered athletes’ trust and respect, as well as commitment and cooperation with their coach. The discussion provides links to theory, research and practice.
... The initial cancellation of the whole sports calendar, including the most significant sports event -the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020, the restrictions in the training and competitive activities, the subsequent adaptation to the regular sports-competitive activity, the fear of being infected and its consequences affected every link in the chain of sports activities -athletes, teams, sports-technical teams, media, business, and sports education. The physical and psychic consequences in the field of sport related to pandemics have been described in a lot of documents (Association for Applied Sport Psychology; International Society of Sport Psychology: Henriksen et al., 2020). ...
Conference Paper
Introduction. The Olympic weightlifting training methodology is a powerful tool for developing motor abilities and overall fitness. In addition, it is well established that these activities have a positive effect on the physical development of adolescents. It is important that the preparation is conducted under professional coaching in sports clubs to guarantee the achievement of good sports performance without injuries. Methodology. The goal of this study is to identify the changes that occur in the physical performance of 13-15-year-old cadets (boys), under the influence of specialized training with the means of Olympic weightlifting. 30 weightlifters aged 14 on average participated in the experiment. The study was conducted in September 2021. Results. Based on the results, we can conclude that overall the structured specialized Olympic weightlifting training protocol positively affects explosive strength, speed, and flexibility in 13-15-year-old cadets. However, the results show significant between-group variability when stratified by age. Discussion and conclusions. Habitual Olympic weightlifting training is not a very popular activity among children and adolescents. It is generally considered risky and not appropriate for youngsters. However, our results painted a different picture, and based on them and our practical experience, in our opinion, if the methodology is properly modified, Olympic weightlifting is a powerful tool for the development of motor abilities in trainees of different age groups.
... The initial cancellation of the whole sports calendar, including the most significant sports event -the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020, the restrictions in the training and competitive activities, the subsequent adaptation to the regular sports-competitive activity, the fear of being infected and its consequences affected every link in the chain of sports activities -athletes, teams, sports-technical teams, media, business, and sports education. The physical and psychic consequences in the field of sport related to pandemics have been described in a lot of documents (Association for Applied Sport Psychology; International Society of Sport Psychology: Henriksen et al., 2020). ...
Conference Paper
The pandemic COVID 19 and the related restrictions regarding sports activities, social isolation, unclear prospects, and fear of being infected led to an abrupt change in athletes’ rhythm of life and the need to adapt. The aim of this study was to investigate Psychological Capital and Perfectionism as an essential personal resource, their influence on the domineering psychic states, and athletes’ preferred coping strategies during the pandemic COVID-19, and to outline their specificity depending on gender, kind of sport, and level of qualification. The research was done among 119 athletes aged between 18 and 35 years, divided into groups according to their gender (54 men and 65 women), kind of sport, and level of qualification. The research methods included: 1) Psychological Capital Questionnaire (Luthans, Youssef, Avolio, 2007); 2)Multidi-h mensional Perfectionism Scale (FMPS, Frost, Marten, Lahart, Rosenblate, 1990), adapted for Bulgarian conditions by T. Iancheva, 2009; 3) Profile of Mood States (McNair, Lorr, Droppleman, 1971); 4) Approach to Coping in Sport Questionnaire (ACSQ-1; Kim 1999; Kim, Duda, 1997). There are significant differences depending on gender and the kind of sport. The specific role of adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism and psychological capital was viewed in relation to the dominant psychic conditions during social isolation and the preferred coping strategies.
... The initial cancellation of the whole sports calendar, including the most significant sports event -the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020, the restrictions in the training and competitive activities, the subsequent adaptation to the regular sports-competitive activity, the fear of being infected and its consequences affected every link in the chain of sports activities -athletes, teams, sports-technical teams, media, business, and sports education. The physical and psychic consequences in the field of sport related to pandemics have been described in a lot of documents (Association for Applied Sport Psychology; International Society of Sport Psychology: Henriksen et al., 2020). ...
Conference Paper
Introduction. One of the main goals of the Olympic weightlifting training process is to ensure a healthy motor training regime. Those activities are aimed at achieving tangible positive effects on the body, as well as providing adequate conditions for the physical development of trainees. Preparation under professional coaching in sports clubs guarantees the achievement of good sports performance. Methodology. The goal of this study is to identify the changes that occur in the physical performance of children (boys), under the influence of specialized training with the means of Olympic weightlifting. Eighteen (18) weightlifters aged 13 participated in the experiment. The study was conducted in two stages: the baseline data were collected in June 2020, and the final measurements were in June 2022. Results. Based on the results, we can conclude that the structured, specialized Olympic weightlifting training protocol positively affects explosive strength of lower limbs, speed, and flexibility in 13-year-old children. Discussion and conclusions. Habitual Olympic weightlifting training is not a very popular activity among children. It is generally considered risky and not appropriate for youngsters. However, our results painted a different picture, and based on them and our practical experience, in our opinion, if the methodology is properly modified, Olympic weightlifting is a powerful tool for the development of motor abilities in children.
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Being involved in major sporting events, such as the Olympic Games, is a known stressor. A growing body of evidence has found the post-Olympic period to be a particularly difficult time for athletes, leading to depression-like symptoms. The impact of major sporting events on coaches’ and support staffs’ wellbeing is relatively unknown. The purpose of this study was to examine the experience of wellbeing for coaches and support staff post-Olympic Games. This included pre-Olympic Games and during-Olympic Games experiences that may contribute to post-Olympic challenges. Eight coaches and support staff who attended the Olympic Games completed semi-structured interviews and visual timelines to describe their wellbeing throughout the Olympic Games. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis, themes and timelines were generated that reflect the participants’ wellbeing experience. Participants described the Olympic experience as a “rollercoaster ride” of emotions, including feelings of excitement, exhaustion and low mood. The post-Olympic period was a time of particular difficulty. Suggestions to improve the wellbeing for individuals who attend the Olympic Games were identified.
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