Current Projects | Center for Sport Psychology and Athlete Mental Health

Current Projects

The UNT Center for Sport Psychology and Athlete Mental Health's faculty and graduate students maintain active research programs. Areas of research by the Center's staff include: physical and psychological health of adolescents; eating disorders and body image; psychological antecedents and consequences of athletic injury; influences of parents, peers, and coaches in youth sport; to name a few. Whether a prospective graduate student or an athlete or coach, we invite you to learn more about our ongoing research projects.


NCAA International Student-Athletes' Psychological Wellbeing During COVID-19

Researchers: Cachet Lue, B.S., Trent Petrie, PhD, Whitney E. Moore, PhD

APA Proposal

In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, international collegiate student-athletes (ISAs) experienced cultural adjustments, language barriers, isolation, and psychological distress related to their status as students and athletes in the U.S. (Charitonidi & Kaburakis, 2022). Thus, we examined the prevalence of depression, psychological distress, sleep disturbances, and problematic drinking among 509 ISAs (Mage = 20.39 years, SD = 1.52; women = 63.1%) drawn from NCAA Division I (77%), II (15.3%), and III (7.7%) institutions; data were collected April/May 2020. Clinical point prevalence rates were: 27.9% (depression), 9.2% (psychological distress), 2.4% (sleep disturbance), and 12.4% (risky drinking). We examined each mental health concern by athletes' gender (men and women), academic year (1st year versus all other years), and country of citizenship (English as an official language vs. not). For distress, a gender by year interaction was significant (F(1, 501) = 7.33, p = .007, ηp2 = .014); women, regardless of year, reported higher levels than men in 2nd year or above. Compared to men ISAs, women reported higher levels of depression (F(1, 501) = 12.55, p < .001, ηp2 = .024) and sleep (F(1, 501) = 20.59, p < .001, ηp2 = .039). ISAs from official English-speaking countries reported higher levels of psychological distress (F(1, 501) = 7.07, p = .008, ηp2 = .014) and sleep disturbance (F(1, 501) = 6.53, p = .011, ηp2 = .013) than non-English speaking countries. Athletic departments should continue to facilitate dialogue and provide resources about how psychological struggles may present themselves for ISAs.

College Student-Athletes' Depression and Anxiety: Intersection of Gender, Race, and Sexual Orientation

Researchers: Cachet Lue, B.S., Julian Yoon, M.S., Carmyn Hayes, M.S., Trent Petrie, PhD

AASP Proposal

College student-athletes face multiple academic, physical, and social stressors, to name a few, which can contribute to mental health concerns (Edwards &amp; Froehle, 2021). Mental health prevalence appears to vary by gender, race, and sexual orientation (SO; e.g., Kroshus & Davoren, 2016; Neal et al., 2013; Tran, 2021; Wolanin et al., 2016). Although such concerns are likely to differ based on athlete identities, limited research examines their intersection. Thus, we (a) determined the overall prevalence of depression (PHQ-2) and anxiety (GAD-2) among 388 collegiate athletes [68.8% women; 52.8% athletes of color (AOCs), 83.5% heterosexual] drawn from two NCAA institutions, and (b) examined the relationship of each mental health concern to athletes' gender (men; women), race (White; AOC), and SO (heterosexual; LGBQ+). Clinical point prevalence rates were: 7.2% depression and 23.7% anxiety. For depression scores, we found a significant gender by SO interaction, where LGBQ+ women athletes scored higher than all other groups (F (1, 380) = 7.51, p = .006, ηp2 = .019), and a main effect of gender (women scoring higher), F (1, 380) = 14.60, p < .001, ηp2 = .037. For anxiety, we found significant main effects for gender, F (1, 380) = 11.18, p < .001, ηp2 = .029, with women reporting higher than men, and for SO, (F (1, 380) = 4.05, p = .045, ηp2 = .011) such that LGBQ+ athletes had higher scores than heterosexual athletes. That two historically marginalized groups, women and athletes who identified as LGBQ+, reported experiencing higher levels of anxiety and depression suggests there potentially remains underlying structural and institutionalized discrimination. AOCs, another historically marginalized group, reported levels of anxiety and depression that were similar to all others. Given our findings, sport psychologists and researchers must attend to athlete identities to better understand their mental health concerns.

International Collegiate Athlete's Self-Compassion, Social Support, COVID-19 Worry and Psychological Distress: A Mediational Analysist-Athletes

Researchers: Cachet Lue, B.S., Trent Petrie, PhD

AASP Proposal

In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and cancellation of NCAA sports, international student-athletes (ISAs) were affected in two important ways. Along with the loss of sport, ISAs had to decide whether to remain in the U.S. or return home, without knowing the health and sport eligibility ramifications of their decisions (Charitonidi & Kaburakis, 2022). Thus, we examined ISAs' psychological distress in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 and the roles that their COVID worry, self-compassion, and social support played. ISAs (N = 514; women = 63%; 74 countries; 22 sports) drawn from NCAA Division I, II, and III institutions completed measures of these constructs in April/May 2020. Through the PROCESS macro, we found that worry (b = .646), self-compassion (b = -.367), and social support (b = -.128) were related directly and significantly to their psychological distress, explaining 44% of the variance. Self-compassion (b = -.029, 95% CI [-.048, -.013]) and social support (b = .018, SE = .008, 95% CI [.003, .036]) also were related indirectly to distress through athletes' reported worry about COVID. The ISAs used both internal and external psychological resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. ISAs who were self-compassionate experienced less worry about COVID and were less distressed. Although ISAs' social support was directly related to less distress, it indirectly increased their distress through more worry. Being connected to others is a buffering resource for athletes (Simons & Bird, 2022), but in the face of COVID, and all the associated health risks, such connections also may have raised the ISAs worries about how they and their loved ones might be affected. Thus, these psychological resources appear to have played a key role in how ISAs coped in the immediate aftermath of COVID, suggesting that they should be taught to athletes in the future.

The Relationship of Division I Collegiate Athletes' Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation to Their Mental Health Help-Seeking

Researchers: Lindsey Slavin, M.S., Briana Wallace, M.S., Kasey Chambers, M.A., Megan Drew, M.S., Derek Sokoloff, M.S., Trent Petrie, Ph.D.

AASP Proposal

Despite relatively high levels of mental health (MH) concerns, collegiate student-athletes generally underutilize the psychological services that are available to them (e.g., Davoren & Hwang, 2014). Prior literature has shown gender differences in collegiate athletes' help-seeking and use of MH counseling, with male, compared to female, athletes being less likely to seek or use individual counseling services (e.g., Moreland et al., 2018; Slavin et al., 2023). However, less is known about how other identities, specifically race and sexual orientation, relate to athlete help-seeking. Thus, we determined the overall prevalence of help-seeking among 391 Division I and II athletes and examined how help-seeking might vary by race (Athletes of Color [AOC] = 206; White = 185), sexual orientation (LGBQ+ = 67; heterosexual = 324), and gender (women = 267; men = 121). As part of their annual MH screening, athletes provided information on their identities and indicated (YES/NO) if they were interested in seeking individual counseling services for personal or mental health concerns from their schools' sport psychologists. Overall, 88 student-athletes (22.8%) expressed interest in MH services. Due to small cell sizes (i.e., n < 5), we could not analyze interactions. However, in regard to main effects, gender was significant, χ2(1) = 21.15, p = < .001; women athletes (29.4%) were more likely to request MH counseling compared to men (8.3%). No statistically significant differences existed for MH help-seeking between AOC (25.0%) and White athletes (20.3%), or between LGBQ+ athletes (30.2%) and heterosexual athletes (21.4%). Our results corroborate extant research that has documented this gender effect (e.g., Moreland et al., 2018). Furthermore, although not significantly different, athletes with marginalized identities reported more help-seeking, which may be related to greater distress or need. Athletic departments and sport psychology professionals must continue to increase their efforts to destigmatize counseling services.

NCAA Student-Athletes Comfort Making Mental Health Disclosures: Implications of Gender, Race, and Who They Are Telling

Researchers: Isabella Franks, Dafina Imani Chisolm-Salau, Jessica Renteria, Trent Petrie, Ph.D.

AASP Proposal

Collegiate athletes experience mental health (MH) concerns, yet their comfort in seeking care is limited (Guillver et al., 2012). Further, such help-seeking may vary based on athlete race and gender (Wang et al., 2005), though research on such disclosure is limited. Thus, we examined athletes' gender and race in relation to their comfort telling different individuals about seeking counseling. Participants were 391 collegiate athletes (Athletes of Color (AOC): n = 199; 52.4%; Women: n= 258, 68.3%). During annual MH screening, athletes were presented with seven key individuals (e.g., head coach, family) and asked if they would be comfortable sharing that they had a MH concern or were seeking counseling (YES/NO). Athletes' frequencies of disclosures were: families (81.5%), athletic trainers (57.1%), strength coaches (47.1%), and academic advisors (38.4%). The athletes' rates of disclosing differed by race and gender, but only for head coaches, assistant coaches, and teammates. Female AOCs reported higher frequencies of sharing with their head coaches, χ2(1) = 10.51, p = .001 and assistant coaches, χ2(1) = 5.92, p = .015 than male AOC. Further, independent of race, women athletes were more likely to share with their head (χ2(1) = 18.08, p = <.001) and assistant (χ2(1) = 5.73, p= .017) coaches. For teammates, women athletes again shared more frequently than men athletes, χ2(1) = 4.78, p = .029, regardless of race. Overall, the percentage of athletes who were comfortable disclosing was based on gender and race. Women athletes generally, and women AOC specifically, feel more comfortable talking to their coaches about help-seeking, which is consistent with past research suggesting women are more likely to disclose about MH than men (Woodhead et al., 2021). Continued work needs to be done within athletic departments to develop more comfort in disclosing, particularly with individuals who hold power over the athletes.

Athletic Identity and Psychological Distress: The Moderating Roles of Social Support and Self-Compassion.

Researchers: Carmyn Hayes, M.S., Trent Petrie, Ph.D., Whitney Moore, Ph.D.

Peer- Reviewed Publication, Accepted in the Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics

Despite research having examined athletic identity (AI) and psychological outcomes, few studies have fully considered how the effects of AI may be moderated by race/ethnicity, gender, social support, and self-compassion. College athletes (N = 4,116; Mage = 19.84; women = 66.9%; White = 78.2%) participated from mid-April to mid-May 2020 in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of collegiate sports. Through a three-way ANOVA, we found a significant gender by race interaction; Black men reporting stronger AIs compared to White male and female athletes. Through a series of regression analyses, we found that when self-compassion and social support were low, AI was related to more psychological distress for the White women. There were also significant compassion by support interactions for the Black women and White men; psychological distress was highest when SS and SC were low. During times of transition, when AI may be disrupted, athletes' self-compassion and social support may help ameliorate the otherwise negative effects on psychological well-being that would be expected. Thus, sports medicine professionals might focus on helping their athletes develop these psychological resources.

NCAA College Coaches' Attitudes and Perceptions of LGBQ+ Student-Athletes: A Qualitative Analysis

Researchers: Kasey Chambers, M.S., Trent Petrie, Ph.D., Macey Arnold, M.S

Master's Thesis Defended

Over the last 20 years, there has been a growing acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer (LGBQ+) individuals in the United States (Pew Research Center, 2020; Witeck, 2014) as well as within sport (Kavoura & Kokkonen, 2021). Despite such progress, heterosexist attitudes and behaviors continue to exist within NCAA athletic departments and sport teams (Turk et al., 2019). One major stakeholder within the collegiate athletic environment that influences student-athletes is coaches. Due to their influential roles in the lives of their players, understanding coaches' attitudes and perceptions toward LGBQ+ student-athletes is essential for assessing how safe collegiate sport environments are for LGBQ+ athletes. However, the research in this area has been limited. The present study aims to address this gap by investigating coaches' perceptions to inform policy and education for promoting inclusive sport environments for LGBQ+ athletes. Participants were 1,533 collegiate coaches (Mage = 39.65 years; women = 41.3%; White = 83.7%; non-Hispanic = 86.4%; heterosexual = 74.9%) drawn from all three NCAA Divisions. Coaches were asked to identify the extent to which they would support and accept athletes on their teams being open about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and to describe the reasoning for their beliefs. Through reflexive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2016), six higher order themes regarding the coaches' reasons were identified: (a) Levels of Acceptance, (b) I coach, therefore I am…, (c) Supportive Environments are Essential, (d) As a queer coach…, (e) Limiting Queerness, and (f) Sexual Orientation Does Not Provide a Competitive Advantage. Analyses illuminate avenues for LGBQ+ athlete inclusion policies and training for coaches.

Race, Gender, Competition Level, Athletic Identity, and Psychological Distress: The Moderating Roles of Social Support and Self-Compassion

Researchers: Carmyn Hayes, M.S., and Trent Petrie, Ph.D.

Master's Thesis Defended

The COVID-19 global pandemic resulted in the cancellation of all sports thus disrupting the careers of collegiate student-athletes. Despite several studies examining athletic identity, competition level, race, gender, self-compassion, and social support, there is a lack of literature that has fully examined how disruptions to athletic identity may relate to psychological distress through the interactions of race and gender. The current study consisted of 4,116 student-athletes (Mage = 19.84; women = 66.9%; White = 78.2%) to achieve two purposes when considering the disrupting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of collegiate sports. First, I examined the relationship between gender, race/ethnicity, competition level, and athletic identity. Though there were no significant differences across NCAA Divisional levels, I found a significant gender by race interaction with Black male athletes reporting stronger athletic identities compared to White male and female athletes as revealed by post-hoc analyses. Second, I examined the relationship between athletic identity and psychological distress and found that when social support and self-compassion are both low, there is a moderate, positive relationship between athletic identity and psychological distress for the White female athletes. Additionally, there were main effects for self-compassion and social support where higher levels were related to lower psychological distress among the White female athletes and Latino/a athletes. For the Black male athletes, there was a main effect for only self-compassion. There was a significant self-compassion by social support interaction for the Black female athletes and White male athletes, suggesting that when self-compassion is low, or high, there are higher levels of psychological distress experienced when social support is low. Implications of the findings, limitations, and future directions are discussed.