Cultivating resilience in the face of "not enough": exploring shame and shame-coping in U.S. college sport
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When self-worth and belonging in sport is based on the win column, the scoreboard, or the judges’ table, athletes may inevitably face ‘not enough,’ shame-inducing experiences in their sport (Coakley, 2016; Lazarus, 2000; Ryall, 2019). Shame is a destructive psycho-socio-cultural experience of psychological isolation that can lead to performance deficits and even withdrawal from sport (Elison & Partridge, 2012; Hofseth et al., 2015). An already vulnerable population to shame-proneness (DeFreese & Smith, 2013; Miller & Hoffman, 2009), research needs to better understand how US college student-athletes respond to shame in ways that promote their efficacy and well-being. Given no study has explored shame resilience in college student-athletes, this study aims to be the first (to this author’s knowledge) to explore shame resilience for college student-athletes. Through a parallel-databases, convergent mixed-methods design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2017), quantitative data was collected (online survey) and analyzed (descriptive, Pearson correlation, regression analyses) from 40 college student-athlete participants, and qualitative data was collected (semi-structured interviews) and analyzed (thematic analysis, Braun, Clarke, & Weate, 2016) from 15 college student-athlete participants. Despite limitations of generalizability and transferability by methodological design, sample size, and sample demographics, synthesis of the quantitative arm and qualitative arm of this study revealed the following convergent findings: (1) sport-based shame may negatively impact sport competence and experience, (2) the internalization of the performance ethic (i.e., worth based on outcome success) may lead to sport-based shame, and (3) self-compassion may represent an intrapersonal shame-coping strategy for sport-based shame. In addition, one qualitative-dominant divergent finding revealed that interpersonal support (empathic accuracy, situational feedback, and task/mastery team climates) might lead to intrapersonal shame resilience for college student-athletes. Study findings hope to generate not only scholarly significance through expanding the empirical base on shame resilience in sport, but also practical significance inspiring future development of sport-based shame resilience interventions to enhance optimal experience and well-being in US college sport participants.