Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Athletic buoyancy is the ability of an athlete to effectively handle the daily setbacks and challenges they face during training and competition. Although buoyancy has received ample research in the academic domain, a dearth of information exists regarding buoyancy in the athletic domain. Therefore, the overall purpose of this dissertation was to investigate athletic buoyancy’s independent contribution to sport psychology while also exploring antecedents and outcomes in adult athletes.

Study 1 compared athletic buoyancy to other cognate constructs, or similar constructs, to determine their conceptual boundaries. A one-time, online questionnaire was distributed to 294 recreational athletes (M age = 42.49 years, SD = 14.94, 81.3% male) from six sports. The questionnaire assessed responses on athletic buoyancy, mental toughness, grit, and coping. Exploratory factor analysis investigated conceptual overlap and uniqueness for each term. Results suggested that athletic buoyancy, grit, and coping are related but distinct factors. Mental toughness was ill defined, suggesting inadequate measurement and/or potential conceptual overlap.

Study 2 examined interpersonal and intrapersonal factors for their relationships with athletic buoyancy, as well as a potential outcome variable, intentions to continue sport participation. An online questionnaire was distributed to 239 collegiate club sport athletes (M age = 19.91 years, SD = 1.94, 58% male) from 24 sports. The questionnaire assessed fear of failure, sport anxiety, sport enjoyment, and enthusiastic commitment as predictors, athletic buoyancy as a mediator, intentions as the primary outcome variable, and social support as a moderator between the predictor variables and both athletic buoyancy and intentions. Results indicated that anxiety and fear of failure significantly predicted athletic buoyancy. Athletic buoyancy did not mediate any relationships with intentions. Social support moderated the relationships between fear of failure and athletic buoyancy, and enthusiastic commitment and intentions.

Overall, findings indicate that athletic buoyancy contributes unique information to sport psychology literature, and that fear of failure and social support are both important factors to consider in future research on athletic buoyancy. The findings of this dissertation open opportunities for meaningful research exploring athletes’ abilities to effectively navigate setbacks and challenges, as well as factors affecting psychological wellbeing and athletic performance.

Committee Chair

Garn, Alex