Critical life events, which can be small or large, intended or unintended, have the potential to impact an individual’s sense of self, mental health, and more widely their ability to function and perform within their personal and professional roles. Such events perhaps became more prevalent during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which presented significant physical and mental health risks to the population, as well as a range of extraordinary social and economic demands that have affected the way that individuals go about their lives.
Within sport specifically, critical life events can include (but are not limited to): career transition, deselection, the illness or death of a loved one, moving to a new country, injury, and of course, events linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the pandemic resulted in the cancellation and postponement of key sporting competitions that caused serious physical and emotional disruption to athletes, coaches, and support staff, who would have spent a significant amount of time and resources preparing to compete.
The potential consequence of such critical life events could, therefore, be long-term adversity given the levels of occupational stress that accompany such moments, which are likely to take a toll on performers’ mental health. There is currently a lack of rigorous research that explores the prevalence and management of athletes’ and coaches’ mental health. This has arguably resulted in a shortage of evidence-informed support mechanisms available to these individuals as they seek to manage and adapt to the impact of the critical life events they experience.
In response to these issues, Professor David Shearer, Professor Brendan Cropley, Dr Ross Hall, and Kristin McGinty-Minister of the Sport Psychology research theme, have developed the “Human Thriving Project”.
Through original, empirical research, designed to explore the impact of critical life events on sport performers’ mental health, well-being, and ability to function and perform, our aim is to develop appropriate support mechanisms for elite athletes and coaches that account for the unique demands they face and assist their quest to thrive through difficult moments. To achieve this aim, we are currently engaged in two, simultaneous activities:
The Human Thriving Project is being supported by the Welsh Institute of Performance Sciences and Sport Wales who see value in establishing evidence-informed approaches to helping performers at all levels manage the demands they face by refocusing the spotlight onto mental health, well-being, and thriving.
If you would like to contribute to the development of this essential and exciting resource, or know of any performers who might be interested, please put them in touch with Kristin Minister at [email protected].