A scoping review of self-compassion in sport


Self-compassion, described as the recognition of one's own suffering and a desire to alleviate it, has been an important focus in many research areas since the publication of Kristin Neff's seminal theoretical and measurement papers on self-compassion (Neff, 2003a, 2003b). This sport-focused review is an update and expansion of Röthlin and colleagues' (2019) scoping review and was deemed justifiable as the relevant body of research has grown three-fold in the three years since their original review. The purpose of this review was to summarize and synthesize all self-compassion in sport research, determine common research methodologies, and identify gaps in the literature. Using Arksey and O'Malley's (2005) scoping review framework, we found 69 articles that met the review inclusion criteria. Most research used quantitative methods (62.3%) and cross-sectional designs (83.3%), and was conducted by researchers residing in Westernized countries (81.2%). Most of the study participants (n = 10,025) were female/women (52.4%) collegiate athletes (42.1%). Common areas of research focus included gender- or sex-based differences, performance, well-being, mindfulness, striving for excellence, overcoming setbacks, negative thoughts and emotions, self-criticism, and interventions. Suggestions for future researchers include increasing theory development, concerns over measurement, exploring the role of self-compassion in sport performance, and tailoring the language of self-compassion to the sport domain. Overall, our review shows that the research output on self-compassion in sport has increased significantly over the last three years, though several questions still remain.

Acknowledgments: Danielle Cormier and Dr. Kent Kowalski were supported in their work on this project in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.