A survey of elite and pre-elite athletes' perceptions of key support, lifestyle and performance factors

BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2022 Jan 3;14(1):2. doi: 10.1186/s13102-021-00393-y.


Background: Success at the elite level in sport is often attributed to physical prowess, technical skill, and mental attitude. However, underpinning these factors are various lifestyle, support and social factors that may contribute to successful performance, but which may be absent from athlete development programs.

Methods: An online survey was used to investigate athlete perceptions of lifestyle practices and support services amongst 135 Australian Olympic, Paralympic, National, and state-level athletes across 25 Olympic sports.

Results: International athletes perceived psychological skills and attributes, along with strong interpersonal relationships as vital to their success, and they also rated 'Recovery practices' as very important and made extensive use of available support services. These athletes also indicated that they would have liked access to these services earlier in their careers, a wish that was reiterated by the sub-elite athletes. Furthermore, athletes wanted greater knowledge, mentoring, and autonomy earlier in their careers, and the importance of 'athlete wellbeing' as well as 'athletic performance' was evident in a number of contexts.

Conclusions: An athlete development system into which these are included may assist in generating an environment that facilitates athlete success, repeated podium performances, retain athletes in high-performance sport for longer, encourage human-flourishing, wellbeing and smooth transitions for retiring athletes.

Keywords: Athlete; Holistic; Olympic; Paralympic; Psychology; Sport; Wellbeing.