College Athletes’ Perceptions of Social Support and Athletic Trainer-Coach Conflict
Objective: Athletes engage in a cognitive evaluation following an injury to determine if resources are present to manage any potential stress attributed to being injured. This evaluation determines both behavioral and emotional responses to the injury and can be influenced by a number of factors, including social support. Interpersonal conflict could be another factor that influences an injured athlete’s cognitive evaluation. Interpersonal conflict may be present in athletics in the form of athletic trainer-coach conflict. The purpose of this study was to describe the levels of social support and conflict collegiate athletes perceive following an injury, and determine relationships between those perceptions and other variables.
Methods: NCAA Division I, II, and III athletes (N=246) from five institutions reported perceptions of social support from their athletic trainer, and the presence of conflict between their athletic trainer and head coach following an injury through a web-based survey. Demographics, such as type of sport, level of competition, and status on the team, were also collected.
Results: Athletes perceived athletic trainers as quality sources of social support. Revenue sport athletes perceived higher levels of modeling social support from their athletic trainer when compared to non-revenue athletes (p<0.001). Injured athletes perceived low levels of athletic trainer-coach conflict with no differences based on demographic variables. Additionally, no group differences were found between perceptions of social support or conflict based upon the athlete’s status on the team or level of competition.
Conclusions: These results indicate that athlete’s perceptions of social support from athletic trainers, may vary depending on the type of sport in which they participate. Understanding variables that influence how an athlete perceives support from their athletic trainer could improve rehabilitation outcomes by way of influencing the cognitive appraisal injured athletes make leading to both positive behavioral and cognitive actions.