Youth sport as a context for supporting mental health: Adolescent male perspectives



Publication Details

Swann, C., Telenta, J., Draper, G., Liddle, S., Fogarty, A., Hurley, D. & Vella, S. (2018). Youth sport as a context for supporting mental health: Adolescent male perspectives. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 35 55-64.


The prevalence of mental health problems among adolescents is alarmingly high. With lower rates of accessing services than young women, young men and boys represent a group at high risk of developing mental health problems. Organised sport represents one important, but under-studied, avenue for supporting mental health. This study aimed to explore adolescent males' perspectives on sport as a context for supporting mental health. Design Interpretivist qualitative design. Method Participants were 55 adolescent males aged 12–17 years (M = 14.73; SD = 1.67) who were currently participating in organised basketball, soccer, Australian Rules Football, swimming, cricket, or tennis. Sixteen focus groups were conducted which lasted, on average, 48 min (SD = 9.25). Data were analysed inductively and thematically, with strategies employed to enhance rigour and trustworthiness. Results Findings indicated that these adolescent males perceived sport to be an engaging vehicle for supporting mental health, particularly in teams, and through interest in elite athletes' mental health. They considered coaches and parents/family to be key support individuals. In addition, these adolescents expressed a need to know how to help individuals close to them who may be struggling with a mental health issue. Finally, the participants perceived the need for resources to prevent and cope with mental health issues. Conclusion This study suggests that sport is a promising, and potentially engaging avenue for supporting mental health. Adolescents perceive need for clubs, parents, and coaches to develop knowledge around mental health, and in particular, desire strategies for providing help.

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