Teaching Well-Being Within the Context of Sport: The What, Why, How and for Whom!

  • Diane E. MackEmail author
  • Philip M. Wilson
  • Caitlin Kelley
  • Jennifer Mooradian
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 79)


Burgeoning interest in the study of well-being as applied to sport has been evident in recent years. The purpose of this chapter is to detail pedagogical content tailored to teaching well-being within the context of sport through four evidence-based modules. Defining quality of life and well-being will serve as the focus of the first module (i.e., What). Once these key components are defined, consideration of subjective measures to identify how people experience their lives and are functioning are examined. The second module, will highlight Why consideration of well-being in sport are meaningful. Current research evidence linking sport participation to quality of life/well-being outcomes are highlighted. How well-being can be promoted (or thwarted) are examined in the third module through consideration of relevant psychological theories and interventions. Finally, the fourth module focuses on distinct groups of athletes (i.e., For Whom) including sport participants living with physical and intellectual disabilities, athletes undergoing injury rehabilitation and current/former athletes transitioning beyond sport.


Well-being Quality-of-life Sport Positive psychology Blended learning 


  1. Bar, J.-J., & Markser, V. Z. (2013). Sport specificity of mental disorders. The issue of sport psychiatry. European Archives of Psychiatry & Clinical Neuroscience, 263, s205–s210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bartholomew, K. J., Ntoumanis, N., Ryan, R. M., Bosch, J., & Thøgersen-Ntoumani, C. (2011). Self-determination theory and diminished functioning: The role of interpersonal control and psychological need thwarting. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 1459–1473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brewer, B. (2017). Psychological responses to sport injury. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from
  5. Chang, W. H., Chang, J.-H., & Chen, L. H. (2018). Mindfulness enhances change in athletes’ Well-being: The mediating role of basic psychological needs fulfillment. Mindfulness, 9, 815–823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cooke, P. J., Melchert, T. P., & Connor, K. (2016). Measuring well-being: A review of instruments. The Counseling Psychologist, 44, 730–757.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Côté-Leclerc, F., Boileau Duchesne, G., Bolduc, P., Gélinas-Lafrenière, A., Santerre, C., Desrosiers, J., & Levasseur, M. (2017). How does playing adapted sports affect quality of life of people with mobility limitations? Results from a mixed-method sequential explanatory study. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 15, 22. Scholar
  8. deCharms, R. (1968). Personal causation: The internal affective determinants of behavior. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  9. Diener, E. (2005). Guidelines for national indicators of subjective Well-being and ill-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 397–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Diener, E., & Suh, E. (1997). Measuring quality of life: Economic, social, and subjective indicators. Social Indicators Research, 40, 189–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Donaldson, M. (2018). In wake of Pedan and Heraf controversies it seems New Zealand sport model is now ‘outdated’. New Zealand Herald, Accessed 24 June 2018.
  12. Downward, P., & Rasciute, S. (2011). Does sport make you happy? An analysis of the well-being derived from sports participation. International Review of Applied Economics, 25, 331–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ferguson, L. J., Kowalski, K. C., Mack, D. E., & Sabiston, C. M. (2014). Exploring self-compassion and eudaimonic well-being in young women athletes. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 36, 203–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ferguson, L., Kowalski, K. C., Mack, D., & Sabiston, C. (2015). Self-compassion and eudaimonic well-being during emotionally difficult times in sport. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16, 1263. Scholar
  15. Fiorilli, G., Iuliano, E., Aquino, G., Battaglia, C., Giombini, A., Calcagno, G., & di Cagno, A. (2013). Mental health and social participation skills of wheelchair basketball players: A controlled study. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 3679–3685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2012). A grounded theory of psychological resilience in Olympic champions. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13, 669–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2013). Psychological resilience: A review and critique of definitions, concepts, and theory. European Psychologist, 18, 12–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2016). Mental fortitude training: An evidence-based approach to developing psychological resilience for sustained success. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 7, 135–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Foster, B. J., & Chow, G. M. (2018). Development of the sport mental health continuum – short form (sport MHC-SF). Journal of Clinical Sport Psychiatry.
  20. Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of Londone (Series B), 359, 1367–1377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gardner, F., L., & Moore, Z. E., (2012). Mindfulness and acceptance models in sport psychology: A decade of basic and applied scientific advancements. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 53, 309–318.Google Scholar
  22. Gardner, F. L., & Moore, Z. E. (2017). Mindfulness-based and acceptance-based interventions in sport and performance contexts. Current Opinion in Psychology, 16, 180–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Germer, C. K., Siegel, R. D., & Fulton, P. R. (2005). Mindfulness and psychotherapy. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  24. Glidden, L. M., Bamberger, K. T., Draheim, A. R., & Kersh, J. (2011). Parent and athlete perceptions of Special Olympics participation: Utility and danger of proxy responding. Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, 49, 37–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gulliver, A., Griffiths, K. M., Mackinnon, A., Batterham, P. J., & Stanimirovic, R. (2015). The mental health of Australian elite athletes. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 18, 255–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Houston, M. N., Hoch, M. C., & Hoch, J. M. (2016). Health-related quality of life in athletes: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Athletic Training, 51, 442–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huppert, F. A. (2014). The state of wellbeing science: Concepts, measures, interventions and policies. In F. A. Huppert & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Wellbeing: A complete reference guide (Vol. IV, pp. 1–50). Oxford: Wiley.Google Scholar
  28. Huppert, F. A., & So, T. T. C. (2013). Flourishing across Europe: Application of a new conceptual framework for defining wellbeing. Social Indicators Research, 110, 837–861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. International Olympic Committee. (2018). Athlete365 Career+. Accessed at: Scholar
  30. Jaarsma, E. A., Dijkstra, P. U., Geertzen, J. H. B., & Dekker, R. (2014). Barriers to and facilitators of sports participation for people with physical disabilities: A systematic review. Scandivivian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport, 24, 871–888.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Joy, E., Kussman, A., & Nattiv, A. (2016). 2016 update on eating disorders in athletes: A comprehensive narrative review with a focus on clinical assessment and management. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50, 154–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Keyes, C. L. M. (2005). Mental illness and/or mental health? Investigating axioms of the complete state model of health. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 73, 539–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Knights, S., Sherry, E., & Ruddock-Hudson, M. (2016). Investigating elite end-of-athletic-career transition: A systematic review. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 28, 291–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lavallee, D. (2005). The effect of a life development intervention on sports career transition adjustment. The Sport Psychologist, 19, 193–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lindert, J., Bain, P. A., Kubzansky, L. D., & Stein, C. (2015). Well-being measurement and the WHO health policy health 2010: Systematic review of measurement scales. European Journal of Public Health, 25, 731–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Linton, M.-J., Pieppe, P., & Medina-Lara, A. (2016). Review of 99 self-report measures for assessing wellbeing in adults: Exploring dimensions of well-being and developments over time. BMJ Open, 6, e010641. Scholar
  37. Lonsdale, C., Hall, A., Murray, A., Williams, G. C., McDonough, S. M., Ntoumanis, N. (2017). Communication skills training for practitioners to increase patient adherence to home-based rehabilitation for chronic low back pain: Results of a cluster randomized controlled trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 98, 1732–1743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lu, F. J. H., & Hsu, Y. (2013). Injured athletes’ rehabilitation beliefs and subjective well-being: The contribution of hope and social support. Journal of Athletic Training, 48, 92–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mack, D. E., Wilson, P. M., Oster, K. G., Kowalski, K. C., Crocker, P. R. E., & Sylvester, B. D. (2011). Well-being in volleyball players: Examining the contributions of independent and balanced psychological need satisfaction. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 12, 533–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mahoney, J. W., Gucciardi, D. F., Gordon, S., & Ntoumanis, N. (2017). Psychological needs support training for coaches: An avenue for nurturing mental toughness. In S. T. Cotterill, G. Breslin, & N. Weston (Eds.), Sport and exercise psychology: Practitioner cases (pp. 193–213). London: Wiley.Google Scholar
  41. Marin-Urquiza, A., Ferreira, J. P., & Van Biesen, D. (2018). Athletic identity and self-esteem among active and retired Paralympic athletes. European Journal of Sport Sciences, 18, 861–871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Martin, J. (2017). Persons with disabilities and quality of life: The role of physical activity. In Mitchell (Ed.), Physical disabilities: Perspectives, risk factors and quality of life (pp. 1–15). Hauppage: Nova Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  43. Markser, V. Z. (2011). Sport psychiatry and psychotherapy. Mental strains and disorders in professional sports. Challenge and answer to societal changes. European Archives of Psychiatry & Clinical Neuroscience, 261, 182. Scholar
  44. McDougall, H., O’Halloran, P., Shields, N., & Sherry, E. (2015). Comparing the well-being of Para and Olympic sport athletes: A systematic review. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 32, 256–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McDougall, H., O’Halloran, P., Shields, N., & Sherry, E. (2017). Putting the athlete first: A comprehensive assessment of elite Para-athlete well-being. Journal of Well-Being Assessment, 1, 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Michalos, A.C., Smale, B., Labonté, R., Muharjarine, N., Scott, K., Moore, K., Hyman, I. (2011). The Canadian index of wellbeing. Technical Report 1.0. Waterloo, ON.Google Scholar
  47. Mihovilovic, M. (1968). The status of former sportsmen. International Review of Sport Psychology, 3, 73–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Moesch, K., Kentta, G., Kleinert, J., Quignon-Fleuret, C., Cecil, S., & Bertollo, M. (2018). FEPSAC position statement: Mental health disorders in elite athletes and models of service provision. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 38, 61–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mosewich, A. D., Crocker, P., E, R., Kowalski, K. C., & Delongis, A. (2013). Applying self-compassion in sport: An intervention with women athletes. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 35, 514–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Murray A., Hall A., Matthews, J., Williams G. C., McDonough S. M., Ntoumanis, N … Lonsdale C. (2018). Assessing clinicians’ communication skills for promoting patient autonomy for self-management: Development and evaluation of the Communication Evaluation in Rehabilitation Tool. Disability and Rehabilitation, 27, 1–7.Google Scholar
  51. NCAA. (2014). Understanding life outcomes of former NCAA student-athletes. The Gallup-Purdue Index Report. Accessed 10 July 2018
  52. NCAA. (2018). After the game: Former student athlete experience. Accessed at: Scholar
  53. Neff, K. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self & Identity, 2, 85–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nolte, K., Steyn, B. J. M., Krüger, P. E., & Fletcher, L. (2016). Mindfulness, psychological well-being and doping in talented young high-school athletes. South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education & Recreation, 38, 153–165.Google Scholar
  55. Noon, M. R., Hames, R. S., Clarke, N. D., Akubat, I., & Thake, C. D. (2015). Perceptions of well-being and physical performance in English elite youth footballers across a season. Journal of Sport Sciences, 33, 2016–2115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Patel, D. R., Yamasaki, A., & Brown, K. (2017). Epidemiology of sports-related musculoskeletal injuries in young athletes in United States. Translational Pediatrics, 6, 160–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Podlog, L., Lochbaum, M., & Stevens, T. (2010). Need satisfaction, well-being, and perceived return-to-sport outcomes among injured athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22, 167–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Pope, J. P., & Wilson, P. M. (2014). Testing a sequence of relationships from interpersonal coaching styles to rugby performance, guided by the coach–athlete motivation model. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 13, 1–15.Google Scholar
  59. Popper, K. (1963). Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific knowledge. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  60. Puce, L., Marinelli, L., Mori, L., Pallecchi, I., & Trompetto, C. (2017). Protocol for the study of self-perceived psychological and emotional well-being of young Paralympic athletes. Health & Quality of Life Outcomes, 15, 219. Scholar
  61. Reardon, C. L., & Factor, R. M. (2010). Sport psychiatry: A systematic review of diagnosis and medical treatment of mental illness in athletes. Sports Medicine, 40, 961–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Reinboth, M., & Duda, J. L. (2006). Perceived motivational climate, need satisfaction and indices of well-being in team sports: A longitudinal perspective. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 7, 269–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rice, S. M., Purcell, R., De Silva, S., Mawren, D., McGorry, P. D., & Parker, A. G. (2016). The mental health of elite athletes: A narrative systematic review. Sports Medicine, 46, 1333–1353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. New York: Guilford Publishing.Google Scholar
  66. Ryan, R. M., & Frederick, C. M. (1997). On energy, personality and health: Subjective vitality as a dynamic reflection of well-being. Journal of Personality, 65, 529–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sarkar, M., & Fletcher, D. (2013). How should we measure psychological resilience in sport performers? Measurement in Physical Education & Exercise Science, 17, 264–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sarkar, M., & Fletcher, D. (2014). Psychological resilience in sport performers: A review of stressors and protective factors. Journal of Sports Sciences, 32, 1419–1434.Google Scholar
  70. Sarkar, M., Fletcher, D., & Brown, D. J. (2015). What doesn’t kill me…: Adversity-related experiences are vital in the development of superior Olympic performance. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 18, 475–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Schaal, K., Tafflet, M., Nassif, H., Thibault, V., Pichard, C., Alcotte, M., Guillet, T., El Helou, N., Berthelot, G., Simon, S., & Toussaint, J.-F. (2011). Psychological balance in high level athletes: Gender-based differences and sport-specific patterns. PLoS One, 6, e19007. Scholar
  72. Schalock, R. L., Borthwick-Duffy, S. A., Bradley, V. J., Buntinx, W. H. E., Coulter, D. L., Craig, E. M. (2011). Intellectual disability: Definition, classification, and systems of supports (11th ed.). Washington, DC: American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.Google Scholar
  73. Schuring, N., Kerkhoffs, G., Gray, J., & Gouttebarge, V. (2017). The mental wellbeing of current and retired professional cricketers: An observational prospective cohort study. Physician & Sportsmedicine, 45, 463–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. SCI Action Canada. (2018). Spinal cord injury and physical activity. Scholar
  75. Stambulova, N., Alfermann, D., Statler, T., & Côté, J. (2009). ISSP position stand: Career development and transitions of athletes. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7, 395–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Suldo, S. M., & Shaffer, E. J. (2008). Looking beyond psychopathology: The dual-factor model of mental health in youth. School Psychology Review, 37, 52–68.Google Scholar
  77. Sutherland, L. M., Kowalski, K. C., Ferguson, L. J., Sabiston, C. M., Sedgwick, W. A., & Crocker, P. R. E. (2014). Narratives of young women athletes’ experiences of emotional pain and self-compassion. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise & Health, 6, 499–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tamminen, K., Holt, N., & Neely, K. (2013). Exploring adversity and the potential for growth among elite female athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14, 28–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Thompson, R. W., Kaufman, K. A., De Petrillo, L. A., Glass, C. R., & Arnkoff, D. B. (2011). One year follow-up of mindful sport performance enhancement (MSPE) with archers, golfers, and runners. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 5, 99–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Tint, A., Thomson, K., & Weiss, J. A. (2017). A systematic review of the physical and psychosocial correlates of Special Olympics participation among individuals with intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 61, 301–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Tonkin, B. L., Ogilvie, B. D., Greenwood, S. A., Law, M. C., & Anaby, D. R. (2014). The participation of children and youth with disabilities in activities outside of school: A scoping review. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81, 226–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Udry, E., Gould, D., Bridges, D., & Beck, L. (1997). Down but not out: Athlete responses to season-endng injuries. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 19, 229–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. UK Government. (2018). Mental health and elite sport action plan. Accessed at: Scholar
  84. Vella, S. A., Cliff, D. P., Magee, C. A., & Okely, A. D. (2014). Sports participation and parent-reported health-related quality of life in children. Longitudinal associations. Journal of Pediatrics, 164, 1469–1474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 54, 1063–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Weiss, J. A., Burnham Riosa, P., Robinson, S., Ryan, S., Tint, A., Viecili, M., MacMullin, J., & Shine, R. (2017). Understanding special olympics experiences from the athlete perspectives using photo-elicitation: A qualitative study. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 30, 936–945.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. White, R. W. (1959). Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence. Psychological Review, 66, 297–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Wilson, P. E. (2002). Exercise and sports for children who have disabilities. Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 13, 907–923.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Wilson, P. M., Gregson, J. P., & Mack, D. E. (2010). The importance of interpersonal style in competitive sport: A self-determination theory approach (Sport psychology: Coping, performance, and anxiety) (pp. 259–276). Hauppauge: Nova Publishers.Google Scholar
  90. World Health Organization. (2001). The international classification of functioning. Disability and health. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  91. World Health Organization. (2004). Promoting mental health: Concepts, emerging evidence, practice (summary report). Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  92. World Health Organization. (2011). World report on disability. Retrieved from
  93. Yazicioglu, K., Yavuz, F., Goktepe, A. S., & Tan, A. K. (2012). Influence of adapted sports on quality of life and life satisfaction in sport participants and non-sport participants with physical disabilities. Disability & Health Journal, 5, 249–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Zessin, U., Dickhäuser, O., & Garbade, S. (2015). The relationship between self-compassion and well-being: A meta-analysis. Applied Psychology: Health & Well-Being, 7, 340–364.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane E. Mack
    • 1
    Email author
  • Philip M. Wilson
    • 1
  • Caitlin Kelley
    • 1
  • Jennifer Mooradian
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioural Health Sciences Research Lab, Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health SciencesBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada

Personalised recommendations