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Book Chapter

Social Support

Hartley C, Haslam SA, Coffee P & Rees T (2019) Social Support. In: Haslam SA, Fransen K & Boen F (eds.) London: SAGE Publications.

First paragraph: Flick through any autobiography of a celebrated athlete and you will find that one of its key themes is social support. Certainly there will be discussions of training and tactics, distress and disappointment, guts and glory. But the backdrop to all this is likely to be the support the athlete received from key individuals and groups along the way. The mother who drove them to training every day in the middle of winter, the coach who instilled a sense of self-discipline and pride, the backroom team who always had a kind word when things hadn’t gone quite to plan. This is beautifully exemplified by a legendary yet bitter-sweet moment from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where hot-favourite sprinter Derek Redmond from the United Kingdom tore his hamstring during the 400 meters semi-final. His father, Jim, jumped the balustrades and pushed past event officials to help his son cross the line and finish the race. We hobbled over the finishing line with our arms round each other, just me and my dad, the man I’m really close to, who’s supported my athletics career since I was seven years old. (Bos, 2017) Accounts such as this are also often filled with heroic examples of athletes going ‘above and beyond’ to provide support to others in their team — even to the extent of making personal sacrifices for the ‘greater good’. Consider the 2012 Tour de France, when Chris Froome gave up his opportunity to secure personal victory, instead opting to help his teammate Bradley Wiggins secure the coveted maillot jaune. Clearly, the role of socially supportive others, across both sport and life more generally, cannot be understated. For this reason, social support plays a key role in optimal functioning across a range of performance contexts — not only in sport, but also in the workplace, at school, or at home (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2012; Freeman & Rees, 2009; Sarkar & Fletcher, 2014). Indeed, work by the fourth author and his colleagues highlighted how supportive families, coaches, and networks are key to the development of super-elite athletes (Rees et al., 2016).

Output Status: Forthcoming

Author(s)Hartley, Chris; Haslam, S Alexander; Coffee, Pete; Rees, Tim
PublisherSAGE Publications
Place of publicationLondon
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