Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Coping and Psychological Distress in Elite Adolescent Soccer Players Following Professional Academy Deselection

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Coping and Psychological Distress in Elite Adolescent Soccer Players Following Professional Academy Deselection

Article excerpt

Comparable to elite athletes from other sport disciplines, elite soccer players have been found to experience heterogeneous reactions and outcomes following being released/ deselected from professional clubs. For example, while some players have reported increased psychological well-being (e.g., increased relaxation and enjoyment of life; Brown & Potrac, 2009), other players have been found to experience reduced transition quality. Examples of reduced transition quality found in media reports and empirical research include players needing a longer period of time to adjust to a post-soccer life, reduced well-being (e.g., having no purpose) and experiencing various forms of psychological distress such as anxiety, depression, humiliation, reduced self-worth, identity confusion, social dysfunction, and suicide (Blakelock, 2018; Blakelock, Chen & Prescott, 2016; Brown & Potrac, 2009; Conn, 2017).

Considering the heterogeneous outcomes following deselection and the notion that adverse outcomes are associated with decrements to health and well-being and social dysfunction (Moussavi, Chatterji, Verdes, Tandon, Patel & Ustun, 2007; Wells et al., 1989), there is a need to understand what (and how) factors may influence transition quality and outcomes following release/deselection in elite soccer players. Moreover, as it is considered rare for soccer players to restore their elite careers following release/deselection (Brown & Potrac, 2009), it is proposed that released/deselected players are faced with a realistic possibility that their elite playing careers and associated goals will be lost, harmed or threatened. This may consequently represent a critical life event or transition for some players and it is important to understand factors that may influence players' outcomes across time.

While some useful ideas may be drawn from existing theoretical frameworks (e.g., Taylor & Ogilvie, 1994) and research with other athletic populations when considering what influences outcomes following career termination (e.g., Park, Lavallee & Tod, 2012), a recent developing grounded theory constructed by Blakelock (2018) identified that a range of multi-dimensional factors influenced outcomes and transition quality following elite soccer career termination. Examples included (i) the nature and characteristics of career termination (e.g., voluntariness, choice and control, expectancy), (ii) individual characteristics, resources, activity, and processing, (iii) social resources, support, and activity, (iv) lifespan and developmental factors, (v) environmental, contextual, cultural, and locational factors, and (vi) institutional, organizational, professional support, and resources.

Although the developing grounded theory provided a useful insight into the range of multi-dimensional factors associated with outcomes, there remains a need to determine the nature and magnitude of influence that various factors have on outcomes (following career termination) across individuals and time. The current study examined the role of coping and whether certain forms of coping were associated with adolescent players' experience of psychological distress following deselection. The role of coping is considered to be pertinent for two reasons. Firstly, an understanding of coping responses and strategies that are associated with reducing or increasing the risk of psychological distress could be beneficial for players, practitioners, and clubs/organizations. Indeed, such understanding may lead to players engaging in self-directed actions and practitioners or clubs developing initiatives/ interventions, which have the capacity to correct maladaptive coping strategies, facilitate adaptive coping responses, and enhance outcomes.

Secondly, research has identified that coping is associated with adjustment and transition quality both outside of and within sport/soccer. For example, meta-analyses examining associations between coping and adjustment to stressors within the general population have been found to have small to moderate effect sizes (Clarke, 2006; Penley, Tomaka & Wiebe, 2002). …

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