A qualitative process map of mental health promotion through the coach-athlete relationship in Canadian university sport


Flourishing is a way of understanding mental health as more than the absence of mental illness, and consists of emotional, psychological, and social well-being (Keyes, 2002). Given that Canadian university student-athletes and coaches appear to reciprocally impact each other's flourishing (Pankow et al., 2021a; 2021b), the purpose of this study was to identify how flourishing can be promoted through coach-athlete relationships in Canadian university sport. Thirteen student-athletes, six coaches, two administrators, and two support staff participated. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted iteratively alongside analysis, following Miles et al.'s (2018) pragmatic qualitative approach to generate a process map. The process map began with the creation of shared goals by the student-athlete and coach. Collaboratively developed goals were more likely to be meaningful to the student-athlete and coach, leading to the pursuit of goal-oriented growth. The student-athlete and coach had different roles in promoting goal-oriented growth. The student-athlete had to learn about and apply the available resources. The coach was responsible for providing resources, teaching the student-athlete about those resources, and providing the student-athlete opportunities (time and space) to use those resources. If the student-athlete and coach engaged with the resources in ways that promoted the student-athlete's goal-oriented growth, both were likely to experience flourishing outcomes (i.e., enhanced emotional, psychological, and social well-being). This process was influenced by the quality of the coach-athlete relationship along with individual, relational, and environmental facilitators. This process map provides a starting point for future research to examine the promotion of flourishing in Canadian university sport.