Workshop: Athlete welfare | Clarke Willmott LLP, 1 Georges Square, Bristol, Monday 23 November 2015

Kitrina Douglas, who’s latest book Life Story Research in Sport: Understanding the Experiences of Elite and Professional Athletes through Narrative (with David Carless) is available from Routledge and soon will be reviewed on

Insights from narrative research: Taking seriously transitions, welfare and identity development among professional and performance athletes.

Venue: Clarke Willmott LLP, 1 Georges Square, Bath St, Bristol BS1 6BA


  • Professor Sue Backhouse
  • Professor David Carless
  • Dr Kitrina Douglas
  • Kelsey Erickson

Why would an athlete who has a new born baby, a loving husband, and a seemingly thriving sport career try to end her life by attempting suicide? Why might another successful athlete, who regularly wins international championships, experience life as a roller coaster, where mood swings cause them to self-harm? Why are transitions, such as retirement, often problematic, and why do many athletes find it so difficult to talk about, ask for help or admit they may be experiencing anxiety or depression?

This one-day workshop draws on recent research to explore motivation, mental health and well being among high performance athletes. As well as the above questions we present research that helps illuminate why an athlete may cheat or break the rules and why some sports people might use performance-enhancing drugs even when they know they can be physically harmful? Drawing on research in a variety of sports including rugby, swimming, hockey, golf, track and field athletics, judo and rowing we explore how the culture of sport interacts with the mental health, values, aspirations, identity development, and life trajectories of high performance sports people in pressurised and sometimes unhealthy environments. By casting light on a previously under-researched, taboo or silenced aspect of sport the workshop provides a more comprehensive picture of the behind the scenes problems many athletes experience in the course of their sport career. Along with providing answers we make a number of suggestion for how governing organisations might identify ‘at risk’ young athletes and how support can be tailored across the sport career.


10:00 Registration and coffee

10:30 Welcome address Dr Kitrina Douglas: Our aims for the day

10:45 Presentation: ‘The potential of stories to support identity development, motivation and wellbeing of professional sports people,’ Professor David Carless & Dr Kitrina Douglas

11:15-12:15 Workshop One: Organisational taboos

12:15-12:30 Feedback from each group

12:30-1:30 Lunch and networking

1:30-2:00 Presentation: ‘It’s not just about performance: a different story about doping in sport?’ Professor Sue Backhouse & Kelsey Erickson

2:00-3:00 Workshop two: ‘Your role in supporting healthier choices, transitions, & motivations’

3:00-3:15 Refreshment break

3:00-4:00 Feedback from groups and final questions

Cost £140. Course fee includes: morning coffee afternoon tea, lunch, research papers and notes. Places are limited and allocated on a first come first serve basis.

To book or for additional information:

Presentation of presenters

Professor Susan Backhouse
Sue is an active researcher, applied practitioner, teacher and leads a team of researchers committed to the development of effective anti-doping policy and practice in the Carnegie Faculty at Leeds Beckett University. She was the lead author on two World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) reports on the social science of doping, and prevention of doping through education. She also served as a member of the European Commission Ad-hoc expert group on the prevention of doping in recreational sport and played a lead role in the European Commission funded Study on Doping Prevention. She is the Education representative on the UK Athletics Anti-Doping Policy and Support Team Sport and a UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD) National Trainer.

Professor David Carless
David is a professor in the Research Institute of Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure at Leeds Beckett University. For two decades David has been conducting research into identity development and mental health in sport and physical activity settings. His work prioritizes developing rich understandings of different individual’s experiences through qualitative approaches such as narrative interviews and ethnographic fieldwork. Since 2000, David has worked in partnership with Kitrina Douglas researching both sides of the sport/mental health coin: the benefits of recreational physical activity and sport for people with diagnosed mental health problems and the threats to mental health of long-term involvement in elite and professional sport. Across his research, David tries to use and develop accessible forms of presentation to enable the public to engage more fully with social science research that may be relevant to their lives, work and performance. David has shared his research internationally through numerous journal articles and invited book chapters; keynotes and conference presentations; audio CDs and films; lectures and CPD workshops. He is co-author, with Kitrina Douglas, of two books: Sport and Physical Activity for Mental Health (Wiley-Blackwell) and Life Story Research in Sport (Routledge).

Dr. Kitrina Douglas
Kitrina played on the women’s professional golf tour between 1984-1996 during which time she won a dozen tour events, was Rookie of the Year, twice European Masters Champion, English Open Champion, won the Hennessy Women’s Cup and played on the first winning European Solheim Cup Team. For over a decade she contributed to the BBC’s award winning Radio Five Live outside broadcasting team before completing first a BSc. (hons) in Exercise & Sport Science and then a PhD studying motivation in professional tour golfers. Since completing her doctorate Kitrina has carried out research for a variety of organization as an independent researcher, these include UK Sport, the Women’s Sport and Fitness Association, the Addiction Recovery Agency and the Department of Health and she has also carried out research as a member of faculty at Leeds Beckett University where she has a part-time contact. In 2014 she was awarded Leeds Beckett Researcher of the year. Since 2012 she has been a member of the National Anti-doping Panel for Sport and she is an ambassador for the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

Kelsey Erikson
Kelsey Erickson is a final year PhD student, Research Assistant and Part-Time Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University (UK). Her principal research interest is the use of performance enhancing substances (PES) within sport, while her PhD focus is on exploring the interplay between risk and protective factors amongst cross-national (UK and US) university level track and field athletes with regards to performance enhancing methods in sport. As such, her programme of research is being partially funded by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). Following the completion of her PhD, Kelsey will be commencing a two-year postdoctoral research position funded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in cooperation with Leeds Beckett University.  The project, an extension of her doctoral research, will involve designing and implementing an intervention to promote clean sport within university student-athlete populations.

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