Preferred Name


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Robert Harmison

Kelly Atwood

Anne Stewart


Recent research examining the antecedents to success in elite sport have led to claims that trauma is necessary to reach the highest levels of sport. Researchers have utilized theories of post-traumatic growth, stress-related growth, and related terms to elucidate the relationship between trauma and sport success, but have been inconsistent in how they define trauma and growth. The purpose of this study was to explore coaches’ perceptions regarding the relationship between trauma and sport success and how their perceptions may influence their coaching behaviors. An interpretivist phenomenological analysis framework was utilized for the study design and analysis. Ten NCAA Division I coaches were interviewed using semi-structured interviews. Six themes and 10 subthemes emerged from the data analysis: (a) the relationship between trauma and sport is nuanced; (b) coaching philosophy influences how coaches view the relationship between trauma and sport success; (c) hard things, including trauma, adversity, and challenge, are inevitable; (d) trauma is intense, more so than obstacles/challenges/adversity; (e) hard things lead to growth and development; and (f) hard things are not sufficient for growth; other pieces to the puzzle are needed. Coaches largely indicated that trauma is not necessary for athletic success, but that it is important to experience challenges to develop skills needed for athletic success. The coaches provided examples and context for when and how challenging things lead to success, indicating that there is a great deal of nuance in how trauma and hard things influence success. This study has implications for how coaches and sport organizations thoughtfully impact athlete well-being and success.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.