Work-family conflict of collegiate and secondary school athletic trainers who are parents.

Mazzerole Singe S, Rynkiewicz KM, and Eason CM. J Athl Train. 2020. [Epub Ahead of Print].
Full Text Freely Available

Take-Home Message

Athletic trainers in the collegiate and secondary school setting often report time-based work-family conflicts (e.g., missing family events for work). Athletic trainers who reported better social support perceived less work-family conflict.


Work-life balance concerns and burnout among athletic trainers are well documented. If we better understood how social support and time conflicts between work and family impacted athletic trainers in secondary schools and colleges, then progress could be made to offer better working environments for athletic trainers. Therefore, the authors completed a cross-sectional observational study to examine work-family conflict and social support among collegiate and secondary school athletic trainers who were parents. Researchers distributed a web-based survey to athletic trainers in the secondary school setting through contact information in the NATA’s Athletic Training Location and Services (ATLAS) Project database. They also shared the survey with collegiate athletic trainers through professional networks and online searches of collegiate athletic training staff listings. Overall, 1,474 collegiate and 2,219 secondary school athletic trainers received an invite to participate, and 879 (348 from collegiate and 531 from secondary school) athletic trainers responded. The study team then screened the data for eligible participants: (a) 90% of the survey completed, (b) practiced clinically > 50% of their time, and (c) had at least 1 child. This screening yielded 474 responses (205 from collegiate and 269 from secondary school). The survey included scales to quantify work-family conflict (The Work-Family Conflict scale) and social support (social provisions scale).

Athletic trainers reported working ~56 hours during an in-season and ~35 out of season. Ninety-two percent of athletic trainers were married. Time-based work-family conflicts (e.g., missing family events for work) played a more prominent role in work-family conflicts than two other types of conflict (strain- and behavior-based conflict). The authors found no differences in work-family conflict between males and females or work settings (collegiate vs. secondary school). Better social support was related to less work-family conflict.


The results of this study present a complex interaction between social support and work-family conflict. As demonstrated, the less an athletic trainer perceives social support, the more likely they are to report work-family conflict. Studies that follow athletic trainers over time may help clarify how this relationship evolves. For example, work-family conflict (e.g., missing family events for work) may contribute to a sense of less social support. Alternatively, feeling less social support  (e.g., thinking no one needs care or help from the athletic trainer) may worsen the work-family conflict. Addressing these concerns can be challenging since growing one’s social support requires time outside of work to build relationships. Multiple stakeholders – such as family, friends, administrators, coaches, and coworkers – may need to work together to foster social support for athletic trainers. The authors noted that “it takes a village’” is a common quote used to encourage people to ask for help and manage their workloads at home and at work.

Questions for Discussion

How comparable is your current working environment to the data reported in this study? If you have successfully addressed the work-family conflict in your career, what strategies were particularly effective in helping address this?

Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

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