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Publication Date

Fall 2010

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




jay A. johnson

Subject Areas



Although death and the grieving process that follows are natural parts of life, death during an athletic competition has been rare, and literature on the effects of such a death on the sporting community has been sparse. The purpose of this study was to research the impact of the sudden death of Ryan Shay, an athlete competing at the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2007, on the training communities with which he was associated as a professional runner. Seven elite and professional runners were interviewed using a variety of qualitative research interviewing techniques, including semistructured phone interviews and e-mail interviews. This study found that although no formal counseling services were offered at the time of Ryan's death, most participants were able to process the grief felt by his loss individually and within the community structures in which they trained. Four themes emerged from the data; all themes are discussed in relation to literature from a variety of academic fields. Themes include (a) grief and loss, (b) individual coping mechanisms, (c) community coping mechanisms, and (d) individual risk in athletics. Recommendations for further research and implications of the study are also discussed.