Recreational athletes' experiences of adversity


Kelsey S. Wright, Tara-Leigh F. McHugh, Amber D. Mosewich Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation; University of Alberta Sport involvement can be a both a stressor and a protective factor for elite athletes' well-being (Arnold & Fletcher, 2012; Sarkar & Fletcher, 2014; Secades et al., 2016), but the relationship between adversity and recreational sport participation is unknown. As a means of understanding the potential coping strategies associated with recreational sport participation, this study addressed how recreational athletes experience adversity. Ten recreational athletes (Mage = 24.2 years, SD = 2.71) participated in one-on-one semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed using an interpretive phenomenological analysis (Smith, 2004; Reid, Flowers, & Larkin, 2005). Participants were asked to describe their definitions of "recreational athletes" as a basis for interpreting their experiences. Through interpreting the findings, it appears that recreational athletes use their sport participation as a means of coping with adverse life events. Through social support, distraction, reaffirmation of their athletic identity, and goal setting, the recreational athletes of this study found coping strategies within sport. Notably, participants described that their coping efforts were more successful when their personal goals matched the goals of others around them in sport. Social support within and outside of sport provided athletes with opportunities to resolve their emotions, while at other times sport distracted from negative emotions. Greater investment in their athletic identities provided more sport coping opportunities, bettering recreational athletes' responses to adversity. Further exploring successful coping strategies within sport could help to inform future sport policy involving recreational athletes.

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Dr. Amber Mosewich and Dr. Tara-Leigh McHugh for their guidance with this study.