Identifying and preventing disordered eating among athletes: perceptions of track and field coaches


Objective: This study aimed to identify the strategies employed by coaches when identifying disordered eating (DE) among track and field athletes. Design: This was a qualitative study and an inductive thematic analysis was conducted. Method: Semi structured interviews were conducted with eleven track and field coaches, with experience of coaching at national and international level. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysis was conducted. Results: Track and field coaches reported using physical, social and performance indicators to identify disordered eating in their athletes. Coaches also monitored their athletes' eating attitudes and behaviors. Weight loss (both observed and objectively monitored) was considered to be a key indicator of disordered eating. Coaches placed a high level of importance on weight for performance, and an "ideal" female athlete body. Previous experiences of detecting disordered eating and a close relationship with the athlete facilitated the identification of disordered eating. Athlete secrecy and masking behaviors, difficulties in communication and coaches' stereotypical beliefs were found to complicate the identification process. Conclusions: This study highlights the need for additional information, advice and guidance for track and field coaches to improve their knowledge and confidence in identifying disordered eating among their athletes. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved

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