Rice S, Walton CC, Pilkington VGwyther K, Olive L, Lloyd M, Kountouris A, Butterworth M, Clements M, Purcell R. Psychological safety in elite sport settings: a psychometric study of the Sport Psychological Safety Inventory. 

The full article can be found here

Tell us more about yourself and the author team.

My name is Simon Rice, and I am an Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist. I work in the Elite Sports and Mental Health research stream and lead the Gender and Social Psychiatry research stream at Orygen and the Centre for Youth Mental Health at The University of Melbourne. The co-authors in this paper also work at both Orygen and The University of Melbourne (Dr Courtney Walton [Research Fellow and Registered Psychologist], Vita Pilkington [Research Assistant], Kate Gwyther [Research Assistant], Dr Lisa Olive [Senior Research Fellow and Clinical Psychologist], and Professor Rosemary Purcell [lead of Orygen’s Elite Sports and Mental Health stream, Chief of Knowledge Translation and Registered Psychologist]), as well as at Cricket Australia (Michael Lloyd [Senior Sport Psychologist] and Dr Alex Kountouris [Sports Science & Sports Medicine Manager]), and the Australian Institute of Sport (Matt Butterworth [Mental Health Manager and Clinical Psychologist] and Matti Clements [AIS Director and Sport Psychologist]).



What is the story behind your study?

Our team is interested in promoting mental health and wellbeing across all levels of high-performance sports systems. This includes ensuring that the environments in which athletes, coaches and high-performance support staff operate are safe, inclusive, and meet their psychological needs. We identified a sparsity of evidence focusing on psychological safety in high-performance sports settings from a mental health perspective, including how to measure this construct. This led to our development of the Sport Psychological Safety Inventory.


In your own words, what did you find?

We developed the Sport Psychological Safety Inventory, which includes 11 items that assess perceived psychological safety in high-performance sporting environments from a mental health perspective. We found support for three subscales: (i) mentally healthy environment (the supportiveness of the disclosure environment), (ii) mental health literacy (level of perceived knowledge about mental health) and (iii) low self-stigma (non-endorsement of stigmatising attitudes regarding mental health). Findings also supported a relationship between psychological safety and mental health outcomes. Higher scores on the ‘mentally healthy environment’ and ‘low self-stigma subscales were associated with a lower likelihood of distress.


What was the main challenge you faced in your study?

The biggest challenge in this study was a lack of consistency in defining psychological safety. This construct is attracting increasing attention in elite sports in relation to mental wellbeing, and we hoped that by developing the SPSI, we could start to better define what constitutes psychological safety in sports settings.


If there is one take-home message from your study, what would that be?

Environments and workplaces characterised by high psychological safety are also associated with better mental health and wellbeing. The Sports Psychological Safety Inventory offers a tool for elite sporting organisations to assess perceived psychological safety, against which they can benchmark or track progress to improve mental wellbeing.

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