Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Rebecca A. Zakrajsek

Committee Members

Jeff L. Cochran, Sondra M. LoRe


Person-Centered Theory (PCT, Rogers, 1959) provides the understanding of how growth-promoting relationships facilitate holistic well-being through the provision of unconditional positive regard (UPR), genuiness, and empathy. Through coaches’ provision of UPR, athletes have reported experiencing an increase of motivation, enhanced performances, and greater trust in their coach (McHenry et al., 2022). Most intriguingly, athletes created a relationship with themselves (i.e., self-regard) that mirrored their coaches’ treatment of them (McHenry et al., 2021). While UPR has just recently been studied in the coach-athlete relationship, little to no attention has been given to the relationship an athlete has with themselves (i.e., self-regard). According to PCT theorists, the provision or thwarting of UPR builds or destructs an individual’s unconditional positive self-regard (UPSR; Iberg, 2001), an indicator of thriving (Brown et al., 2017). Using the lens of PCT, 11 former NCAA DI swimmers (8 females, 3 males) were interviewed about their experiences of UPSR and its influence on their well-being and performance success. Using Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR; Hill & Knox, 2021) procedures, the following domains were constructed: I) Relationship with self (self-regard) while competing experienced as a “rollercoaster”, II) Sport experiences shaped swimmer’s relationship with themselves (self-regard), III) ‘Hitting rock bottom’, IV) Perspective shift in the relationship between self and performance, V) Regarding self holistically increased performance and enjoyment, and VI) Important relationship influences on athlete self-regard. Participants discussed how their self-regard during their career was “like a rollercoaster”. Early sport experiences had an impactful influence on partiticipants development of their self-regard and they carried this self-regard into college. Findings of the current study revealed the importance of receiving UPR from several relationship sources. Mental performance consultants should consider integrating UPR training with coaches at the competitive club level, as this was as a critical time for the formation of athletes self-regard.

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