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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Canadian lean sports coaches’ role in eating disorders of female athletes Noel, Margaret


Female athletes who participate in lean sports, those in which a lean weight is favoured for improved performance, weight classes are present, or judgments are made aesthetically, are at an increased risk of developing eating disorders compared to the general population. Canadian varsity lean sports coaches are increasingly being asked to play a role in supporting athletes’ mental health yet, little information pertains to the knowledge these coaches have about the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder to be able to fulfill this role. Additionally, little information exists regarding their attitudes towards athletes who are experiencing an eating disorder to ascertain whether they are likely to support or feel comfortable supporting the athlete in accessing these resources. The present study used a survey design to understand Canadian varsity lean sports coaches’ knowledge, intervention methods, and attitudes towards managing eating disorders in their female athletes. Canadian varsity lean sports coaches (N=74) completed an online questionnaire measuring the knowledge that coaches have regarding athletes with eating disorders and coaches’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors regarding eating-related behaviors and their methods for identifying and responding to eating disorders. Results from a multiple linear regression model indicated that coaches’ attitudes about eating disorders have a significant influence on the intervention methods they take with their female athletes who appear to have an eating disorder, whereas coaches’ knowledge about eating disorders did not. Results from a descriptive statistics analysis indicated that the main types of existing support coaches are receiving to support them in managing eating disorders in their female athletes were reading materials provided by the sport’s governing body, information on referrals to appropriate eating disorder resources, and materials that were made available on the sport governing body’s website. The main difference in desired support was in the form of speakers coming to campus to talk with athletes. The present findings offer new knowledge directions for the development of educational supports for coaches. This study also informs future research investigating interventions that can produce more helping behaviors being taken by coaches in managing eating disorders in their female athletes.

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