Examining identity, personality, stress and social support among varsity student-athletes


Identity, stress, and social support have been shown to be related outside of sport settings (Haslam et al., 2005). To better understand the experiences of student-athletes, this study explored the relationships between athletic and student identity, perceptions of stress and social support, and personality factors among varsity student-athletes. Participants (N = 153; M = 20.61 years, SD = 3.06; 57.5% females) completed an online survey including measures of athletic and student identity, personality, athletic and academic social support, perceived school and sport stress, and support-seeking tendencies. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and multiple regression analyses. Student-athletes' experiences of stress were negatively predicted by emotional stability and perceived esteem support, while athletic identity positively predicted sport-related stress. Agreeableness and emotional stability were negative predictors of school-related stress, while student identity and perceived academic esteem support were positively associated with academic stress. Support-seeking tendencies for sport-related issues were predicted by greater perceived esteem support and greater sport-related stress. Support-seeking tendencies to deal with school-related stress were predicted by conscientiousness and perceived academic esteem support. The findings indicated that personality factors, identity, and perceived support contribute to athletes' perceptions of stress and to their support-seeking tendencies in sport and school contexts. Strikingly, perceived esteem support was positively associated with school-related stress but negatively associated with sport-related stress, suggesting that experiences of support and stress operate differently across these two contexts. Having a stronger athletic and student identity may be a risk factor for perceiving greater stress among varsity student-athletes.