Men Athletes' Self-Compassion and Masculinities
Reis, Nathan Albert
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Self-compassion, a kind and understanding way of treating oneself, has gained traction as a useful resource for helping individuals adaptively deal with and manage the difficult or challenging situations they encounter (Neff, 2003a). However, despite a number of studies focused on ways that women athletes can benefit from self-compassion (e.g., Ferguson et al., 2014; Ingstrup et al., 2017; Mosewich et al., 2011), little research has been done with samples of exclusively men athletes. One unique consideration of men athletes’ self-compassion, due to its pivotal role in the sport-specific difficult experiences of men athletes, is masculinity. Thus, the overlying purpose of my dissertation research was to explore and better understand the potential role(s) of self-compassion as a resource for men athletes, with masculinity being an important consideration. To accomplish this goal, three studies were conducted that complement and build on one another. Study 1 was a quantitative study, with a focus placed on identifying key variables relevant to men athletes’ self-compassion, and exploring the role, if any, that masculinity plays in men athletes’ self-compassion and difficult experiences in sport. In sampling 172 men athletes (via an online survey) between 16 and 35 years of age from a variety of sports, we found that self-compassion was related to all variables but one (i.e., attitudes towards gay men) in hypothesized, healthy directions. Also, it appears that men athletes’ individual representations of masculinity (i.e., traditional or hegemonic masculinity; inclusive masculinity) may impact their likelihood of embracing and/or practicing self-compassion when they encounter challenges in sport. Study 2 was a qualitative study, looking at men athletes’ self-compassion through the lens of masculinity, with a focus on how self-compassion might be perceived, interpreted, and experienced by men athletes, with an in-depth exploration of the interplay between self-compassion and masculinity in the challenges that men encounter in sport. After interviewing 16 men athletes between 16 and 35 years of age at two time points, with a reflexive photography task (i.e., a qualitative research technique that enables participants to depict their environmental interactions and interpretations though reflection on images they captured; Amerson & Livingston, 2014) in between interviews, the findings suggest that self-compassion does appear to be a viable resource for the majority of our participants, though potential barriers to self-compassion may be rooted in representations of masculinity and include the language of self-compassion. Study 3 featured the examination of the feasibility of a previously administered athlete oriented one-week self-compassion intervention (i.e., Mosewich et al.’s 2013 self-compassion intervention, which featured a series of modules designed to enhance self-compassion levels, while providing sport-specific context to athletes), delivered to competitive men athletes between 16 and 35 years of age. Of the 83 men athletes that completed the Time 1, baseline measures, 43 started the intervention, and 38 finished the intervention. The men athletes completed the same series of online measures at two time points (i.e., pre intervention, one-week post intervention), with the one-week self-compassion intervention in between. After finishing the one-week post intervention survey, they engaged in a follow-up one-on-one semi-structured interview with myself. Our findings are encouraging for the self-compassion intervention’s feasibility in our sample of men athletes. While we did not include a control group, and thus cannot make any causal claims about intervention efficacy, the majority of outcome measures, including self-compassion, changed in conceptually healthy ways from pre-intervention to post-intervention, as did the outcome measures as a collective whole. In their follow-up interviews, the men athletes generally viewed the self-compassion intervention in a positive way, and suggested minor changes to the intervention (e.g., inclusion of an online small group session with other participants and the lead researcher) when asked how it could be improved. Additional analyses revealed that men athletes representing body-contact confrontational sports (e.g., football) had lower self-compassion levels than men athletes representing non body-contact confrontational sports (e.g., soccer), along with generally less healthy responses at baseline, so we encourage future researchers to further explore this trend. Importantly, we also encourage future researchers that plan to deliver the self-compassion intervention to men athletes to include an attention control group and a four-week follow-up test of measures, which would align with Mosewich et al.’s (2013) original approach. Ultimately, our findings are encouraging for the feasibility of a fully online one-week self-compassion intervention delivered to competitive men athletes.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorKowalski, Kent C
CommitteeFerguson, Leah J; Chilibeck, Phil; Lawson, Karen; Mosewich, Amber D; Farthing, Jon
Copyright DateApril 2022