Exploring men athletes' self-compassion and representations of masculinity


Recent trends in self-compassion research suggest that the construct is a useful resource for athletes, particularly when they encounter difficult experiences in sport (Mosewich et al., 2011; Ferguson et al., 2015). However, the majority of athlete-centered self-compassion research has focused on women athletes, so less is known about men athletes' experiences of self-compassion. While women athletes' difficult experiences in sport are often rooted in appearance-based negative evaluations (Reis et al., 2015), men athletes' sport-specific difficult experiences are typically related to masculinity (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). Thus, men athletes' self-compassion might be inherently linked to their varying experiences of masculinity. To explore the potential of self-compassion for men athletes, we conducted 30 semi-structured interviews with men athletes (16-30 years old), across two phases (16 at Phase I; 14 at Phase II). Phase I interviews were focused on masculinity, sport, and an introduction to self-compassion. At completion of Phase I interviews, participants were given approximately four weeks to complete a reflexive photography task, where they were asked to take five photographs representing their experiences of masculinity and self-compassion in sport. When they returned for Phase II interviews, their photographs were initially discussed in depth. The Phase II interviews then concluded with discussion on the potential intersection of masculinity and self-compassion in sport. This study will feature a narrative analysis, which has not currently been completed. However, preliminary analysis suggests that self-compassion resonated with the majority of men athletes interviewed, though language surrounding self-compassion and the role of masculinity are important considerations.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.