The psychological wellbeing of male professional athletes: A qualitative study of workplace adversity factors and response tendencies

Ben Robbins, Jeffrey Pfeifer, Justin Trounson and Jason Skues

Swinburne University of Technology Melbourne, Australia

The psychological wellbeing of professional athletes is an issue that is gaining increasing recognition. However, until recently there has been little empirical research conducted in this domain. To address this gap in the literature, fourteen professional male athletes from Australian Rules football, rugby league, rugby union and soccer participated in semi-structured interviews designed to identify the factors within their workplace that they believed impacted on their psychological wellbeing. The participants also provided their perceptions of how athletes typically manage and respond to these factors. Results revealed that high levels of performance pressure, public and media scrutiny, career insecurity and sustaining physical injuries were perceived to most impact on psychological wellbeing. Participants also reported using both healthy (e.g. effective communication skills, help seeking behaviour) and unhealthy (e.g. avoidance, denial, alcohol abuse) tendencies in response to the identified workplace adversity factors. Implications of the study and directions for future research are discussed, including the development of intervention programs designed specifically for professional athletes.

Keywords: Psychological wellbeing, Workplace adversity, Response tendencies, Professional athletes, Qualitative