RESET : a brief self-compassion intervention with NCAA student-athletes




Kuchar, Ashley Lynn

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Student-athletes often believe that self-criticism is necessary to avoid complacency, but this response can lead to anxiety and stress. Research shows that self-compassion is an adaptive way to cope with mistakes and adversities (see Ferrari et al., 2019; Röthlin et al., 2019 for review). Although there are many benefits of self-compassion, fear that self-compassion harms performance may discourage athletes from adopting this approach (e.g., Ferguson et al., 2015). This study developed and tested an online self-compassion intervention called Resilience and Enhancement in Sport, Exercise and Training (RESET) designed specifically for NCAA student-athletes, seeking to help athletes respond more effectively to mistakes, failures, and adversity. RESET was designed for a broader student-athlete population and is the first to adapt the Mindful Self-Compassion program (MSC; Neff & Germer, 2013) for athletes. Within-group analyses (paired t-tests) and between-group analyses (multilevel modeling) were used to assess the effectiveness of the intervention on athletes’ ability to cope with failure, improve well-being, and increase perceived sport performance. Compared to the waitlist control (n = 102, 70% women), athletes who participated in the RESET training (n = 148, 90% women) experienced significant increases in self-compassion from Time 1 to Time 2 as well as significant decreases in fear of self-compassion and state self-criticism. They also displayed improvements in perceived performance (i.e., athlete-rated performance, coach-rated performance) compared to the waitlist control. Despite observing significant improvements on well-being (reduced depression, anxiety, stress) in the within-group analyses, no statistically significant changes were found for any of the well-being measures in the between-group analyses. Notably, a main effect of gender was found for athlete-rated performance indicating that men athletes reported higher performance than women athletes. Program evaluation measures, including participant testimonials, extend the quantitative findings and demonstrate that through this accessible online intervention, student-athletes and coaches learned adaptive coping skills that are applicable to sport and other life domains. Future research should explore long-term benefits of the RESET training on various coping, well-being, and performance measures.


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