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Psychological safety in elite sport settings: a psychometric study of the Sport Psychological Safety Inventory

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posted on 22.06.2022, 04:47 authored by Simon Rice, Courtney C Walton, Vita Pilkington, Kate Gwyther, Lisa S Olive, Michael Lloyd, Alex KountourisAlex Kountouris, Matt Butterworth, Matti Clements, Rosemary Purcell
Objectives: Effectively supporting the mental health of elite athletes and coaches requires validated tools that assess not only individual-level factors but organisational-level influences. The aim of this study was to develop a bespoke scale assessing perceived psychological safety within high-performance environments. Methods: 337 elite athletes (M=24.12 years) and 238 elite-level coaches and high-performance support staff (HPSS; M=41.9 years) identified via the Australian Institute of Sport provided data across a range of mental health and well-being domains. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA; n=169 athletes) with parallel analysis identified the Sport Psychological Safety Inventory (SPSI) factor structure. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) validated the identified structure in separate validation subsamples of athletes (n=168) and coaches/HPSS (n=238). Results: EFA identified the 11-item, 3-factor SPSI. Factors assessed domains of the Mentally Healthy Environment, Mental Health Literacy and Low Self-Stigma. All scale items loaded strongly on their specific domain. CFA model fit indices validated scale structure for athletes and coaches/HPSS. Internal consistency and convergent and divergent validity were evident. Logistic regression indicated that incrementally higher Mentally Healthy Environment scores reduced the likelihood of athletes scoring in the 'moderate' range of general and athlete-specific distress, with a stronger endorsement of the Low Self-Stigma subscale reducing the likelihood of being identified for athlete-specific distress. Conclusion: Psychometric properties of the SPSI support scale utility among athletes and coaches/HPSS in elite sports settings, though further psychometric efforts are needed. This brief measure may support benchmarking efforts across elite sporting contexts to improve mental health culture and broader well-being among athletes and coaches/HPSS.


Australian Sports Commission, Australian Institute of Sport. Grant number not applicable.


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BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine





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BMJ Publishing Group



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© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. Re- use permitted under CC BY- NC. No commercial re- use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY- NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non- commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non- commercial. See: