Authors: Krista M. Kezbers1, 2,*, Bridget M. Miller1, and Jamie C. Clark3

1School of Community Health Sciences, Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA
2School of Community Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Tulsa, OK, USA
3School of Kinesiology, Applied Health and Recreation, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA

*The primary author completed this work while affiliated with Oklahoma State University. The primary author is now affiliated with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Corresponding Author:
Krista M. Kezbers, PhD, DipACLM, ACSM-CPT, ACSM-EIM
4502 E. 41st Street
Tulsa, OK, 74135

Krista M. Kezbers, PhD, DipACLM, ACSM-CPT, ACSM-EIM is a Research Associate in the School of Community Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Tulsa, OK. Her research interests focus on the health and well-being of sports coaches, lifestyle medicine, and exercise is medicine. Krista has over 10 years of swim coaching experience ranging from high school teams to national-level club teams and athletes.

Bridget M. Miller, PhD is an Associate Professor, Joan Donelson Jacques Endowed Professor of Health Promotion, and Health Education and Promotion Program Direction at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK. Her research interests include: the prevention of obesity and other chronic diseases through the promotion of physical activity and the cognitive mediators within the exercise-mood relationship.   

Jamie C. Clark, MS has a master’s degree in Exercise Science and at the time of the study was a PhD student in Health and Human Performance at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK. Her research interest includes sport burnout, post-collegiate transition and sport support relationships with parents and coaches. Jamie has over 10 years of volleyball coaching experience.

Qualitative exploration of health and well-being perceptions of swim coaches


Purpose: The sports coach profession encompasses many non-traditional working characteristics, such as early morning and late evening hours. Literature regarding the health and well-being of sports coaches has been mostly limited to psychological components, such as stress and burnout, but little has focused on the physical health of coaches. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences on health and well-being within the coaching profession. Methods: A qualitative interpretative phenomenological analysis approach was used for this study. Six focus groups were conducted at a swim conference using a semi-structured question guide. Transcriptions of each focus group were used by a 3-person research team to individually code salient words and phrases. Researchers met to reconcile codes and determine themes. Results: Twenty-three swim coaches, mostly male (73.9%), participated in the focus groups. From the data, six themes were identified: 1) Health and well-being definitions, 2) Former athlete transition to coaching, 3) Coaching challenges, 4) Health correlates, 5) Healthy eating barriers, and 6) Reasons for coaching. Conclusions: Coaches identified a number of different components of the profession that impact health and well-being and potentially increase health risks. Of emphasis was the steady

decline in health experienced by athletes as they leave their sports and enter the coaching world. Despite the many challenges that coaching poses, coaches expressed a deep love for their profession. Applications in Sport: This research provides important information for those considering a career in coaching and the impacts, both positive and negative, on their health and well-being. Coaches, teams, and organizations can explore this data for future points of intervention and areas to provide training and education to coaches, not only improve their health and well-being, but also to minimize any potential negative aspects of the coaching profession.

Key Words: coach health, former athlete, health behaviors, job satisfaction, sport coach


Sports coaches face a unique, challenging, and constantly changing work environment. Most of the previous research on the health of sports coaches evaluated the components of mental health (ex. stress, pressure, burnout) as an outcome variable (6,7,10, 21,34,42) and not as a potential predictor of physical health outcomes (ex. blood pressure, body fat, number of doctor visits, cardiovascular incidences) or health behaviors (ex. physical activity, nutrition choices, sleep habits). The sports coach population can provide valuable insight into the challenges and benefits related to their health and well-being as it is seen through the lens of a sports coach. It is this unique viewpoint that will help researchers and others understand how health and well-being plays a role in the coaching profession.

There has been an increase in popular articles looking at health-related incidents in relations to sports coaches, specifically with high-profile football coaches (2,3,16,20,28). These articles have shown that coaches are experiencing heart attacks and strokes on the sidelines of games or are retiring or leaving the sport due to undisclosed health-related issues (8,20,26,39). This increase in popular media coverage of sport coaches and their health challenges shows a need for scholarly research to be conducted, along with looking at existing statistics, to try to understand what is occurring.

Sports coaching and scouting, the job category as broken down by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, continues to see steady growth and is expected to increase at a faster than average rate (11% compared to 5%) from 2018-2028, with an expected gain of 30,000 jobs (41). Xu and colleagues (44) have analyzed data related to obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, and other health risk levels for sub-areas of the United States. Similar data analysis needs to occur for the coaching profession to add to the work completed from the 1970’s-2000’s. As far back as 1978, Porter and Allsen (27) singled out the coaching profession and made proactive suggestions toward the health of coaches, such as annual cardiovascular check-ups and routine participation in a cardiovascular exercise program. Rhea and Lunt (30), who studied heart rates of high school and college coaches, also recommended coaches work on their cardiovascular systems and, more broadly, recommended coaches increase the volume of exercise to help alleviate the negative health impacts of a stressful occupation.

Griffin and Harris (15) studied coaches’ personal experiences controlling their weight and also mentioned a lack of research related to the health of sports coaches. This study showed the average BMI for male coaches as 27.67 (overweight) and female coaches was 22.89 (normal weight), which is the first known study reporting BMI in sports coaches. Within the same study, 74% of coaches believed they “needed to lose weight (15).” While concrete health data on coaches is limited and dated, the results thus far have given strong indications that the coaching population may require different and specific health monitoring and interventions when compared to other occupations.

Research related to work/life balance, job-related stress, burnout, and coach/athlete relationships has been plentiful (6,7,10,14,31,38). Coaches often experience high levels of strain on their work/life balance and see the effects trickle into family and social relationships (14,17). This is relevant to understanding health outcomes as stressors, both occupational and personal, have been shown to negatively impact health behaviors (1,32,35,40). Research related to coaches as an avenue to athlete success has also been studied extensively (4,18).

The coaching profession is unique compared to other professions because of the number of coaches who are former athletes themselves (12,23,34,43). Many coaches exceeded the recommended daily amount of physical activity during their competitive years. It is possible this level of activity can have implications on the health and well-being of coaches beyond the completion of their competitive training. Research shows that athletes have lower rates of metabolic syndrome and longer life expectancy than the non-athlete population (11,13,26), but the findings on overall health of former athletes is mixed (5). It is currently unknown if sport coaches are at risk for health problems and unknown if they are experiencing any physical health problems on a regular basis. It is also unknown how the health of former athletes is impacted by their present occupations. However, comparing the coaching population to other professions without taking former athlete status into account could possibly skew results or show a link where deeper research should have been done to untangle the true meaning.

The purpose of the study was to explore the experiences, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of sports coaches about health and well-being within their profession and their personal lives. It also aimed to create an open dialogue within the sporting world about health among coaches.



A qualitative interpretative phenomenological approach (IPA) was taken in order to explore this topic broadly (36). This research design does not focus on how or why, but purely on lived experiences and perceptions without making generalizations (37). It was found during a review of the literature that deep exploration into this topic had not previously been conducted, therefore leading the researchers to believe a qualitative approach would be best. In keeping with the IPA design, in-person focus groups were utilized to gather data related to thoughts, attitudes, and viewpoints of coaches and their personal journey with health and well-being within the coaching profession. The IPA focus group design allowed for more in-depth and varied responses than would normally be gained from a quantitative survey. Focus groups were chosen over interviews in order to tap into the openness of the coaching profession and their tendency to share ideas and concerns. This format allowed for deeper discussion among coaches that may not have been gained from individual interviews. Focus groups also allowed for a larger number of overall study participants due to time constraints of conducting the study during a professional conference. The institution’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved this study and all participants signed informed consent documents. The organization hosting the conference also approved the study.


The population of interest was sport coaches, specifically within the sport of swimming. The sample consisted of 23 swim coaches who attended an annual international conference for swim coaches in 2016. Recruiting was done in advance of the conference via e-mail and social media posts, as well as at the on-site registration table during the first two days of the conference. The only exclusion criteria was age, as all coaches were required to be at least 18 years old.


Prior to the focus groups, three individuals experienced with qualitative research methods reviewed the 15 focus group questions and provided feedback, resulting in minor adjustments to wording. This review ensured neutral questions that focused on the lived experiences of the coaches. The questions started broad, asking about participant’s definitions of health and well-being, and became more focused, asking about specific times that personal health crossed the participant’s mind when coaching. All questions were designed to engage the participants in meaningful discussion and to open dialogue with coaches about their individual experiences. The primary researcher asked additional questions in order to gain clarity of a participant’s response or to ask for additional information as needed. At the beginning of each focus group, participants were asked to fill out a short demographics sheet, which consisted of age, gender, height, weight, educational attainment, and years in coaching.


Six semi-structured focus groups were conducted in a private conference room in order to preserve confidentiality and ensure adequate audio recording. Each focus group had a minimum of two participants and a maximum of six participants, with a total sample size of twenty-three participants. The focus groups lasted a minimum of seventy-five minutes and a maximum of ninety minutes. A ten-dollar discount to a conference vendor was made available to each participant.

Data was collected during focus groups by way of two audio recording devices, one primary and one back up, as well as researcher notes. The primary researcher maintained a journal throughout the process to allow for reflexivity, which helps a researcher understand personal opinions and potential biases that could influence the data analysis. Once consent forms were signed and collected, participants were asked to select a pseudonym to be used for the duration of the study in order to increase confidentiality. A paper copy of the demographics survey was given to the coaches and they were given as much time as needed to complete survey. All paper surveys were collected as they were completed, kept confidential, and at the completion of the focus groups were stored in a locked box in a locked room. From there, the audio recording devices were started, and the primary researcher initiated the question protocol. Participants were told that all questions were voluntary and that they could leave the focus group at any time.

Data Analysis

All focus groups were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim by the primary researcher. Based on the IPA deign, the sample of twenty-three participants was of ample size to manage verbatim transcription while still allowing for rich, in-depth information to be collected (29). All potential identifying information was removed from the transcripts. The primary researcher along with two other researchers separately coded all six focus group transcripts using Saldana’s exploratory coding style (33). Working independently, each researcher read line by line through the focus group transcripts and identified words or segments that gave meaning and context to a participant’s words. They then created a label, also known as a code in qualitative research, to use as a future identifier. All coding was done in Microsoft Word. After coding was complete on the first two focus groups, the primary researcher merged the three researchers’ codes for each focus group and imported the documents into Atlas.ti (2016, Version 1.5). The three researchers met and went line-by-line through the transcripts to evaluate codes, discuss chosen codes, and come to consensus on final codes. This process generated a code list with definitions, which was then used for subsequent focus group coding. As new codes emerged from the data, they were added to the list. After the final four focus groups were coded and merged, meetings were held to determine final codes for those transcripts. The three researchers met for a final time to determine themes for the data and select quotes to demonstrate thematic meanings. Demographics were analyzed using SPSS (Version 21). Descriptive statistics were calculated for gender, age, height, weight, body mass index (BMI) and years in coaching.


Table 1 provides a summary of demographic information of the 23 participants. The participants were mostly male (73.9%), almost all had obtained at least a bachelor’s degree or higher (91.3%), and a majority had been in the profession for more than 10 years (65.2%).

TABLE 1: Demographics

Characteristic Number Percent Mean (SD)
Age, range: 23-70 45.26 (15.04)
21-34 7 30.4  
35-49 5 21.7  
50-64 9 39.1  
65-79 2 8.7  
Female 6 26.1  
Male 17 73.9  
Body Mass Index (BMI), range 21.87-48.61 28.95 (5.93)
Underweight (<18.5) 0 0  
Healthy Weight (18.5-24.9) 5 21.7  
Overweight (25.0-29.9) 10 43.5  
Obese (>30) 8 34.8  
Highest Educational Attainment
High School Degree 1 4.3  
Associate’s Degree 1 4.3  
Bachelor’s Degree 12 52.2  
Master’s Degree 9 39.1  
Years in Coaching, range: 3-46 20.43 (13.20)
0-10 8 34.8  
11-20 5 21.7  
21-30 2 8.7  
31-40 6 26.1  
41-50 2 8.7  

Six salient themes arose from the data: 1) Health and Well-being Definitions, 2) Former Athlete Transition to Coaching, 3) Coaching Challenges, 4) Health Correlates, 5) Healthy Eating Barriers, and 6) Reasons for Coaching. All of the themes were discussed within the context of health and the coaching profession. Themes, theme overviews, and representative quotes are shown in Tables 2 and 3.

TABLE 2: Qualitative Themes (#1-#3), Keywords, and Representative Quotes

Theme Overview
Representative Quotes
Theme 1: Health & Well-being Definitions
Health keywords included: physical, nutrition, traditional, medical measurements, and well-rested. Well-being included keywords such as: balance, happiness, peace, and mental/emotional. “Health is obviously mostly physical.”
“I think for me, health would just go as far as…your blood pressure, like what the doctor thinks.”
“Overall, well-being I feel like is just like are you genuinely happy in your job and life.”
“I would consider well-being the non-physical, the mental aspects of being healthy.”
Theme 2: Former Athlete Transition to Coaching
Coaches described their athlete to coach transition with keywords such as: steady decline, lack of knowledge, nutrition, physical body changes, motivation “It’s like a steady decline. It gets worse and worse. You just, you don’t really notice.”
“As you’re getting older as a coach, well, you start letting those things go because it’s the path you’ve chosen.”
“As a former athlete, I took very good care of myself and then moved away from all my extracurricular life, got married, had 5 children, and long hours and then your health just starts to decline if you’re not taking care of it.”
Theme 3: Coaching Challenges
These quotes encompass challenges within coaching that impact health, such as: finances, education, inability to use free time, protecting personal time, parents, stress, and work/life balance. “You got all the stresses from the job and then to come home and try to figure out how to best not work…and how to flip that switch and how to juggle at that and make yourself not be stressed…and balance all that stuff, to me, is the hardest thing.”
“You have parents telling you, why do we pay you money? What do you do anyways except the two hours of coaching in the afternoon when I see you, when I’m standing outside?”
“I think that juggling act has had moments with me where I’ve gone to the emergency room to get my heart checked out to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack and things like that because there’s so many pressures like that.”

TABLE 3: Qualitative Themes (#4-#6), Keywords, and Representative Quotes

Theme Overview
Representative Quotes
Theme 4: Health Correlates
Positive keywords mentioned included: alternative activities, proper nutrition, having current goals, and knowledge and awareness of health needs. Negative keywords included: aging, air quality, indifference, low energy, and physical activity barriers. “[There] would be the times when I walk on to a deck and think, man this is hard to breathe.”
“I go in waves, either I’m working out tremendously hard or I don’t workout at all. There’s not really much of a middle ground for me. I find it hard to keep that balance. I don’t, so I either go one way or another. So currently I’m in the bad stage I guess you could say, where I do nothing and I eat bad. It’s okay, in another year or so I’ll be back in the good stage.”
“I like swimming because I have knee problems so it’s like one of the only things that can really, if you’re gonna [sic] action pack an hour of exercise, what better way to do it.”
Theme 5: Healthy Eating Barriers
These quotes encompass healthy eating barriers, such as: swim meets, schedules, finances, and convenience. “Every time I go into hospitality, I’m feeling a crash. It’s just like sodas over here, water is over here. A little caffeine kick will help, but I definitely don’t want my kids to see me slamming down my third coke…Every time I go to hospitality, at least where I am, it’s not ideal.”
“The reasons I got to the point where I’m at is you go home late, you don’t feel like cooking, so what do you do? Well, McDonald’s, Burger King, some place like that and you just eat that because, and that’s the killer and you are doing it late at night.”
“I never [realized] how expensive healthy eating was. I find that very insane, like it is very expensive to just eat healthy…I literally had to change my spending habits just to eat healthy.”
Theme 6: Reasons for Coaching
Coaches put caveat statements on a lot of the statements made related to challenges or struggles saying they love what they do. “I’ve never had a day in my coaching career where I didn’t look forward to going to work.”
“It’s a fun profession, it really is…and we’re just the luckiest people in the world because we don’t work for a living…I fell in love with it.”
“I love it. This is the one place that I feel like I’m supposed to be here.”

Theme 1 – Health & Well-being Definitions

Individual definitions of health and well-being were explored to understand differing thoughts and how participants’ definitions compared to scholarly definitions. Each individual expressed a different perception and experience with these terms in their own lives. Of note, many of the participants put qualifiers on their definitions, most commonly saying, “for me,” either before or after their explanation. Along with the representative quotes in Table 2, one participant, a 58-year-old female with 30 years of coaching, defined the intersection of health and well-being in this way: “I don’t think they’re the same thing, but I think they’re connected because if you’re healthy you’ll have that well-being and if you’ve got that well-being you’ll tend to be more healthy but it’s not always the case.”

Theme 2 – Former Athlete Transition to Coaching

Many coaches transition to the coaching profession following an athletic career within that given sport. Therefore, it is expected that the sport coaching profession is made up of more former athletes than most other occupations. The current sample confirms this perception and adds to the knowledge base, as 22 of 23 (95.65%) participants were former competitive athletes. One of the most resounding quotes during one focus group came from a 46 year old male who had been coaching for 31 years: “That’s what I would think, is I’d never would [have] looked in the mirror when I was eighteen and said, hey you’re gonna [sic] be looking like this when you’re forty-six.” Coaches acknowledged this steady decline along with the lack of understanding proper nutrition and physical activity outside of the competitive sport arena (See Table 2).

Theme 3 – Coaching Challenges

This theme shows a number of different challenges that coaches face that they believe could lead or had already led to adverse health and well-being outcomes or difficulty in maintaining ideal health and well-being (See Table 2). One 37-year-old male coach, with 17 years of coaching experience, gave a whole-life overview of his concerns with the coaching profession:

“I wonder too sometimes with being on a pool deck for twelve hours for three days in a row on my feet and then back up at 4:30 for practice. What am I doing to myself 35 years from now? How much time am I taking off of [life], and then you add on the stress of it, the mental stress and/or anxiety of it on top of that. It just makes me wonder about down the line.”

Theme 4 – Health Correlates

The theme of Health Correlates refers to specific positive or negative things that coaches felt caused a direct impact on their health. The researchers identified a clear positive or negative direction for each comment. Positive correlates aided in maintaining or achieving a new health and well-being goal, while negative correlates distracted from or discouraged health and well-being or current goals. These positive and negative health correlates, coupled with a coach’s knowledge and awareness that something within a coach’s health and well-being needs to change, led coaches to determine feasibility of making a health-related behavior change (See Table 3).

Theme 5 – Healthy Eating Barriers

Barriers to healthy eating were mentioned often by coaches during the focus groups. Coaches described everything from their unconventional work schedules, to limited food choices at swim meets, preference for convenience, and the pressure they felt to eat unhealthy foods when they were hanging out socially with other coaches and friends. Many coaches expressed the need for energy at swim meets, so they explained they often reach for caffeinated drinks and sugary snacks. Coaches also mentioned the food options available at swim meets are limited due to both budget and lack of kitchens at aquatic centers that can be used for hospitality (See Table 3).

Theme 6 – Reasons for Coaching

An unexpected theme arose from the data related to the reasons coaches chose the profession. Throughout all six focus groups, coaches would express their thoughts, opinions, concerns, challenges, and successes, and often follow it up with a statement saying despite the challenges, they love what they do (See Table 3). Coaches had an overall affinity towards the coaching profession despite challenges and struggles related to their health and well-being potentially tied to being a coach.


When looking into evaluations of health and well-being, it became clear through this data that it is important to know an individual’s definition of health and well-being. Some definitions for health given by coaches aligned with the Center for Disease Control’s definitions of well-being (9).Health can mean something different to every individual and what looks and feels healthy to one coach may be vastly different from another coach. This mirrors the general population and the notion of health being operationalized differently for each individual. Many coaches indicated the overlap and relationship of health and well-being and acknowledged the mind/body connection.

While it was predicted and expected that the majority of the coaches would be former athletes, the level of agreement about the steady decline following the end of their competitive career was surprising. There was a clear disconnect between leaving athletics, whether that was high school, college, or another time, and how to transfer those habits into a professional working situation. Now, more than ever, the United States is placing more emphasis on nutrition, physical activity, and overall well-being. This could be an interesting avenue to explore as the current crop of athletes retires and moves on to their professional career. They may retire out of athletics with a larger knowledge base and understanding of how nutrition and physical activity interact with the body to create change. It is a large shift from coaches who retired from sport prior to the age of internet and social media.

While the younger coaches in this study also expressed a steady decline and lack of knowledge, the increased instant availability of information cannot be ignored and should be taken into consideration in any future work within this area. With the discussion among a few coaches that weight loss is more difficult due to advanced age, this natural physical decline may not seem like it is of a great deal of importance until one considers the unique nature of coaching. It is a profession that rarely consists of long blocks of sedentary time sitting at a desk. Coaching involves walking, moving, lifting, and other physical movements, often times in a hot and humid environment, or, in the case of swimming, on a wet pool deck. Positive health correlates related to the coaching profession need to be taught, encouraged, and reinforced in order to protect a coach’s body and subsequently decrease or slow any age-related declines in health.

Coaches expressed frustration with the inability to make healthy nutrition choices, stating it was expensive, unavailable, and hard to maintain with current working hours. Coaches often work during mealtimes making it difficult to keep what is viewed as a “normal” meal schedule. With regards to expenses, it is important to know that the 2018 median pay for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s job category of coaches and scouts was $33,780 (41). Given this average salary, and adding in any additional components, such as having a spouse, children, or other dependents eating at different times than the coach due to non-standard working hours, it is easy to see how coaches do not always have an option to pursue healthy nutrition choices. With many coaches working over 40 hours a week and carefully trying to preserve an adequate work/life balance, coupled with their love for their coaching career, a challenging situation is created that could cause difficulty in maintaining optimal health. Swim coaches are also placed in a unique position with regards to nutrition and dietary eating habits. Although coaches are adults who can prepare their own meals, they often work in environments where they are at the mercy of whatever food is available at swim meet hospitality. If a coach is on deck all day at a swim meet, they must select food that is available within the facility. While it may be possible for a coach to bring a cooler of healthier food options to the meet or for parents to bring food to the coach, the complex nature involved makes it very difficult to sustain such a behavior, and often times facilities do not allow outside food and drink.

We need to consider the idea that coaches, who train athletes to compete at optimal levels, may have blinders on when it comes to applying the same physical activity, nutrition, stress reduction, and sleep habits to their own lives. This may stem from an incredible ability to compartmentalize and detach their personal life from their coaching life, or it may be that they view the work they are doing with their athletes as more important than their own health. It was clear from the data that coaches love what they do and some are aware that their health has taken a backseat. In order to develop successful interventions along the lines of sport coach health, it is important to untangle this complex dynamic.

As an interesting fact, the word ‘stress’ was only used 32 times throughout hundreds of pages of transcripts and only by a few participants. Many coaches described stressful situations and used other phrases that could be interpreted to mean stress, but very few ever correlated coaching to the stress they were describing. It is in this one perception that coaching separates itself from many other professions. Coaches take an alternative view to the stressful situations that encompass their coaching profession. They choose to focus on the positive aspects of their profession and view the hard and stressful aspects as normal, expected occurrences. Coaches exchanged their stories of parent stress, work stress, and other stressful situations with laughter and relatable nods of their heads. It would appear that there is a common understanding of the stress level involved in swim coaching, so as a group it appears to have minimized the experience of stress. Their passion and love for coaching outweighed the stressful situations. A large-scale evaluation of coaches’ stress could provide very valuable information on the coaching profession. Similar studies have been conducted on other groups within a population (22,24).

Strengths and Limitations

One major strength of this study was the interpretative phenomenological approach, which allowed for rich, in-depth exploration of the topic of the health and well-being of sport coaches, which had not been done prior to this study. The social dynamics of the swim coaching population was another strength of the study. It is a very open profession that communicates often and is known to voluntarily share ideas and science among its members. This led to a lot of insightful focus group discussions, and potentially limited the concept of ‘group think.’ While group think may have been limited, we do believe that this is a potential limitation. Any time a group of individuals speaks about a topic, there is the possibility that the thinking converges together and divergent opinions may be withheld by an individual. From the view of the researchers, the many shared experiences of the coaches seemed to strengthen, not divide, the groups. It is also possible that the focus group nature may have limited the depth of responses compared to a one-on-one interview setting. Finally, care should be taken when interpreting results of the study as exploratory qualitative research is not meant to generalize, but merely to explore. While this is a limitation, qualitative research is an important and necessary step prior to diving deep into quantitative studies.


This interpretative phenomenological analysis of swim coaches explored their lived experiences, opinions, thoughts, and beliefs on the health and well-being within the coaching profession. Results show that coaches may be at high risk for health-related incidents due to a variety of factors, but their perception of these risks is relatively low. Even though most coaches are former athletes, they still expressed struggling with regular physical activity, nutrition, motivation, and other common barriers to health, despite being former athletes. A potential protective factor against the rarely mentioned concept of stress may be the overarching theme of a coach’s love for what they do. This passion for the coaching profession was woven throughout every focus group discussion and is a vastly important concept to include in future research.


While much of the discussion around sport coaches has been about burnout and stress, the results of this study highlight many other issues that potentially impact a sport coach’s health and well-being. This research also provides important information to those considering a career in sport coaching. Data from this study indicated that coaches did not expect the ‘steady decline’ that they experienced after their athletic career was over. If an individual started a coaching profession knowing this information, more could be done to keep it from happening or to slow the decline as much as the individual is able. The coaching profession can use the current and future research to develop programming and interventions with the goal of helping coaches learn how to achieve their optimal health and well-being while progressing through their coaching career.


The research team would like to acknowledge Suraj Vadhul Sivakumar for his assistance in data collection during the focus groups.
Funding: The $10 swim shop gift card for participants was donated by D&J Sports, Inc.
Competing Interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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