Men varsity athletes' experiences of self-compassion and masculinity


Self-compassion is an adaptive coping strategy which can be used by athletes to facilitate the management of stressors and can foster high sport achievement and high levels of well-being. Adherence to traditional masculine norms impacts how men athletes are able to manage emotions in relation to sport-related challenges and can affect the benefits of self-compassion amongst this population. Previous self-compassion research attending to the sport domain has focused primarily on women athletes and created a lack of knowledge regarding how men athletes experience and implement self-compassion to cope with sport-related challenges. The purpose of this research was to examine men varsity athletes' perceptions and experiences of self-compassion in relation to sport-related challenges and explore how masculinity shapes experiences of self-compassion. Data from a series of two semi-structured interviews with 11 men varsity athletes (20 interviews total) from individual and team sports were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis. A theme of balance was constructed from the athletes' stories pertaining to the relationship between self-criticism and self-compassion. Participants expressed that while being self-critical is imperative for improvement in sport it should be countered with self-compassion to maintain motivation, mental well-being, and self-confidence. A theme of reluctance was also present within the men's accounts with participants denoting that self-compassion may promote complacency. Thusly, participants embodied dominant masculine narratives of emotional stoicism. These findings highlight how men varsity athletes perceive, experience, and implement self-compassion to cope with sport-related challenges and can inform coaches and sport-psychology practitioners in providing beneficial coping resources for men athletes.