This study explored high-performance athletes’ and coaches’ experiences of unexpected transitions caused by COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Olympics with the aim of identifying their available resources to cope with such unexpected transitions. A total of 23 high-performance athletes (n = 18) and coaches (n = 5) who were preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games participated in the study between June and October 2020. Semistructured interviews were conducted via both video (e.g., Microsoft Teams meeting) and phone calls. Thematic analysis of interview transcripts revealed that participants experienced a range of negative emotions; however, they adapted to the changes and challenges experienced after accepting the uncertainty of the circumstances. The participants’ main challenges were the changes and limitations to training. To cope with the challenges that the unexpected transition led to, the athletes and coaches employed a range of coping skills and strategies, including commitment to training, setting a short-term goal to focus on training, positive distraction, and seeking social support. Further, the importance of social and organizational support was highlighted as external resources. The findings extend our understanding of nonnormative transitions to include explanation of the mechanisms of coping using Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) transactional theory of stressors and coping. Practical implications on what types of support (e.g., informational, emotional, and psychological support) that key stakeholders may need to consider when establishing support schemes/systems are also discussed.


The version of this paper is in the University of Stirling Repository is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. The final article is available, upon publication, at: https://doi.org/10.1037/spy0000306.

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Hong, H. & Allen, J. 2022, 'An exploration of the resources of high-performance athletes and coaches to cope with unexpected transitions', Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/spy0000306

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Last updated: 22 September 2022
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