“I hate it when that happens too!”: observed and perceived exchanges of social support between university student-athletes during discussions of stressors

Jeemin Kim, Katherine A. Tamminen, James E. Bissett, Chad Danyluck, Svenja A. Wolf, Carolyn McEwen, Christopher R. D. Wagstaff

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Receiving social support is often related to adaptive outcomes for athletes, such as reduced stress and greater wellbeing. Nevertheless, in some cases, receiving social support may not reduce, or even heighten, stress reactions. Thus, research is needed to better understand the complex dynamics of social support processes among athletes. Though substantial research has examined social support in sport, the majority of these studies relied on self-report measures; there is a lack of information about the actual interactions that constitute social support exchanges among teammates. This study sought to fill this gap by observing athletes’ discussions of stressful experiences, with a focus on understanding the types of social support behaviours that are displayed. University athlete dyads (N = 46 dyads, Mage = 20.2 years, SD = 1.9) were asked to complete surveys and engage in a conversation regarding stressors in a lab setting. The conversations were video-recorded and analysed along with self-reported survey data. Results showed that in addition to emotional, esteem, and informational support, athletes commonly engaged in co-rumination – collective discussions of stressful experiences with a persistent focus on negative feelings associated with the experience. Correlational analysis revealed that observed informational support was positively associated with perceived emotional and informational support, and co-rumination was positively associated with perceived stress. Emotional, esteem, and informational support did not relate to stress perceptions. The findings were interpreted to highlight the importance of considering co-rumination and we suggest potential avenues for future research on social support in sport that might further illuminate this salient component.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Early online date17 Jan 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 17 Jan 2023


  • coping
  • sports
  • observation
  • emotion regulation
  • co-rumination

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