Go soft or go home? A scoping review of empirical studies on the role of self-compassion in the competitive sport setting

Röthlin, Philipp; Horvath, Stephan; Birrer, Daniel (2019). Go soft or go home? A scoping review of empirical studies on the role of self-compassion in the competitive sport setting Current Issues in Sport Science 10.15203/CISS_2019.013

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Self-compassion describes a supportive attitude towards oneself. Research outside the sport context suggests that self-compassion might be beneficial in terms of psychological processes that are helpful for athletic performance. At the same time, there are reasons to assume that athletes may fear a negative influence of SC on their self-improvement motivation. Therefore, it seemed worthwhile to clarify the role of self-compassion in the competitive sport setting by reviewing the current research. The aim of this scoping review is to give an overview of the current literature on SC in competitive sports and to answer the question, whether SC is helpful for competitive athletes. A literature search was conducted using PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PSYNDEX, and SPORTDiscus. Eligibility criteria were peer-reviewed publication, publication in English, original research and research investigating self-compassion in competitive athletes. From 17 publications that met the inclusion criteria, we identified 19 studies, most of which were quantitative, employing a cross-sectional design. Additionally, we found only one intervention study, one experimental study and four qualitative studies using interviews. We provided an integrative narrative description of the study aims, hypotheses, methodological characteristics and study results. Based on the reviewed findings we concluded that in the future more intervention and longitudinal studies are needed. Furthermore, a comprehensive theoretical framework should be developed, which explains how SC is beneficial for athletes. Thus far, qualitative studies highlight the potential ambivalence of athletes towards SC (i.e., they expect benefits after failures but fear that too much SC leads to mediocrity). Quantitative research indicates that SC is beneficial for athletes’ well-being and their ability to deal with adversities in sports, whereas the role of self-compassion for self-improvement motivation remains unanswered.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Review Article)


Swiss Federal Institute of Sports Magglingen SFISM > EHSM - Leistungssport > Sportpsychologie


Röthlin, Philipp;
Horvath, Stephan and
Birrer, Daniel




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Date Deposited:

18 Aug 2020 10:36

Last Modified:

12 Oct 2021 02:18

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Self-compassion self-worth competitive sport self-improvement motivation athlete Sportpsychologie





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