Mental health and performance support in Canadian varsity sport: Current trends and promising practices


University varsity athletes face multiple role demands in their efforts to balance school, life, and sport – a potentially stressful mix. To varying degrees, universities provide student-athletes with resources to prevent, protect, and handle the negative mental consequences that may be associated with student-athlete stressors. However, our understanding of the nature of resources and the extent to which they are making a difference is limited. To provide an overall picture, this research investigated mental health (MH) and performance (MP) resources offered to varsity athletes across Canada, comparing what is offered at various institutions. This subject was investigated by conducting semi-structured interviews with key informants from universities with established varsity athletic programs across Canada. Themes around resourcing and supports relate to navigation, accessing services, capacity building, and practical usage. Concerning barriers to MH and MP supports, financial, motivational, and communicational themes were identified. We offer suggestions to raise the quality of MH and MP resources offered to this population, including a community of practice among varsity support programs to innovate, develop, and share resources.