The burden of the balance: Action-research examining the stress experienced by student-athletes at acadia


Reports indicate that university student-athletes are experiencing increased rates of stress. As a consequence, athletics departments have begun to consider and implement programs and services to help student-athletes cope with the demands placed on them. PURPOSE : The objective of this collaborative action-research was to examine factors contributing to student-athletes' stress and burnout in order to inform efforts to improve the student-athlete experience at Acadia University. METHODS: Using a cross-sectional design, student-athletes (N=81, Mage=20yrs) across six varsity teams completed measures assessing perceived stress, mental health, burnout, confidence, coping style, perceived pressure, and support, as well as measures examining the primary contributors to student-athletes' stress. RESULTS: Student-athletes identified coaches as the highest source of pressure, and parents as the strongest source of support. The three most frequently identified factors contributing to student-athletes' stress were schooling (95%), time pressures/not enough time (91%), and personal relationships (61%). Bivariate correlations revealed that higher perceived stress was related to worse mental health (r= -.70), higher burnout (r = .55), and lower confidence (r = -.53). A MANOVA revealed sex differences in that female student-athletes reported significantly higher levels of stress, pressure, and burnout, as well as lower team inclusion, and slightly poorer mental health compared to male student-athletes (all ps<.005). CONCLUSION: These preliminary findings highlight the impact balancing both academics and athletics has on student-athletes. Further they suggest that future initiatives aimed to improve the student-athlete experience should work to prepare student-athletes for their demanding schedules, focusing in particular on the concerns of female student-athletes.