Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Rebecca Zakrajsek

Committee Members

Leslee Fisher, Johannes Raabe, Sonya Hayes


In National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I (NCAA DI) athletic departments, athletic trainers (ATs) must navigate an array of stressors in the workplace, and are effectively performers themselves (Estock & Simon, 2018, Mazerolle et al., 2013). While ample research has been conducted on the stressors that ATs experience (see Oglesby et al., 2020) there has been limited work surrounding how ATs can best navigate this environment. Therefore, the purpose of the current investigation was to explore NCAA DI ATs’ perceptions of and experiences with the personal use of psychosocial strategies and sport psychology services to manage their stress, improve their well-being, and enhance their performance. Twelve NCAA DI ATs participated in a series of two semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) resulted in the construction of eight themes. It was found that the stress and pressure that ATs experienced stemmed from a “pressure culture” that is associated with athletic training in the NCAA DI environment. Participants reported using a variety of psychosocial strategies to manage their stress, improve their well-being, and their enhance performance; however, the use of these techniques was inconsistent and, in some cases, incomplete. While ATs did not formally use sport psychology services, some did reflect on their learning of psychosocial strategies to improve their well-being and performance during informal interactions with an MPC. Participants recognized that they could experience personal benefits from more consistent interactions with MPCs, such as learning more complex psychosocial strategies and reducing the incidence of burnout. Unfortunately, participants recognized that certain factors were impeding interaction between ATs and MPCs, most notably limited access to MPCs. It was believed that multiple factors, including fully integrating MPCs into athletic departments, would encourage more interaction between ATs and MPCs. Overall, it is important to reframe the scope of sport psychology services and recognize that informal interactions (e.g., “friendly talks”) between professionals can be powerful. Additionally, it is essential that NCAA DI programs not just hire MPCs but adhere to an organizational structure that allows for consistent interaction and collaboration between professionals.

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