Beyond the Game: Examining Health Attitudes from a Collegiate Student-Athlete Perspective

Lucille Segal head shot

Name: Lucille Segal
Major: Psychology
Minor: Education
Advisor: Bryan Karazsia; Meredith O. Hope (second reader)

The mental well-being of collegiate student-athletes is often overlooked by the prioritization of physical health, which impacts athletes’ perceptions of mental health. Previous studies have shown that mental health is underrepresented in athletics; however, questioning about mental health stigma from the student-athlete perspective has not been as widely documented in the field. For this reason, I designed an experimental interview technique to examine the health attitudes in a sporting context from the voices of student-athletes. Participants (N = 25) engaged in a semi-structured one-on-one interview and were given 4 scenarios depicting a hypothetical teammate of high skill or low skill needing to miss an important competition due to a physical health concern or a mental health concern. Participants were asked to elaborate on sources that influenced their responses. I hypothesized that athletes would have different perceptions of mental and physical health depending on the athletic skill of the player in question. Language perceptions were investigated through thematic and sentiment analysis of interview transcriptions. Sentiment and thematic analysis were conducted over several interview themes. The results from the thematic analysis showed that student-athletes express high levels of support to their teammates, regardless of skill level or health concern, with teammates and coaches being reported as the main sources of influence for these perceptions. Results from the sentiment analysis showed that student-athletes had high variation in responses across different themes, demonstrating that perceptions of health are personalized and can be influenced by varying sources. These results highlight the importance of discussing mental health in athletics to decrease stigma, as shown through variation and uncertainty in participants’ responses when health concerns directly impact their team. This project interests me because, as a student-athlete, I have been exposed to common experiences and challenges in the athletic community. By participating in this research, I have had the opportunity to contribute to the collective knowledge of the student-athlete community and address some of the health-related issues that affect this population.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2023 on April 14, 2023.

3 responses to “Beyond the Game: Examining Health Attitudes from a Collegiate Student-Athlete Perspective”

  1. Bryan Karazsia says:

    Lucy – You developed a creative methodology to center student experiences concerning such an important and timely topic. Thanks for sharing your work with us, and have a great symposium day!

  2. Ann Agurkis says:

    What are some of the health related issues you discovered and did the athletes have means to address them, specifically provided by The College of Wooster or did they seek out support on their own? Do you have suggestions for colleges/universities to assist their student athletes, in perhaps a different way than other students?

  3. Jillian Ness says:

    Lucy!! What an accomplishment! Congratulations, I miss you lots 🙂

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