The Role of Secondary Control in Fostering Psychosocial Wellbeing for Athletes During Setbacks

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  • To date, empirical evidence on the function of secondary control (SC; e.g., adjusting the self to the environment) in sport is lacking. Previous control research shows SC in health and achievement settings can be adaptive for individuals facing setbacks when primary control (PC; e.g., acting on the environment) is limited. Our study objective examined the impact of athletes’ perceptions of control (PC and SC) on important psychosocial outcomes. Using a cross-sectional design, postsecondary athletes from the USA and Canada who indicated experiencing a past setback (N = 129; Mean age = 20.89) responded to an online Prolific survey. We tested the interaction effects of athletes’ SC and PC beliefs—when reflecting about a past setback (e.g., interruption to sport)—on setback-related anxiety, rumination, and positive and negative affect. When competitive athletes’ PC beliefs were low, their SC beliefs were related to lower setback-related anxiety about being perceived weak, experiencing pain, and letting others down. Further, SC beliefs were associated with lower negative affect and rumination regardless of PC levels, but had no relationship with positive affect in sport. Our findings reveal SC may serve an adaptive function for various setback-related anxiety outcomes, particularly when PC is low, as well as help to attenuate negative affect and harmful rumination. The implications of the findings are important in light of the many setbacks experienced in athletes’ careers and the rising reported levels of mental health problems in sport. Promoting SC beliefs through possible control-enhancing interventions are a direction for future research. Funding: SSHRC.

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    Conference/Workshop Poster
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International