The Early Careers of International Athletes

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Christopher L. Stevenson University of New Brunswick

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From an interactionist perspective which sees socialization as identity formation and recognizes the importance of both the creation and confirmation of role-identities, the present research examined the early stages of the careers of international athletes (N=29). The athletes’ introductions to the sports in which they would eventually gain international status were “sponsored” by a variety of individuals: parents, siblings, peers, and others. Such introductions did not automatically create an immediate commitment on the part of the athlete to his or her sport. For 18 of the athletes, other contingencies had to occur before they became committed to their sports, and their commitment was based on the two considerations of (a) potential for success and (b) the people involved in the sport. The eventual commitments of the athletes were developed and deepened by the processes of entanglements, commitments, and reputations and identities. All of these developments in the athlete’s career were understood from the point of view of the athlete striving to appropriate desirable and valued role-identities from the options available and obtaining confirmation of these identities from significant others.

Christopher L. Stevenson is with the Faculty of Physical Education at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B., Canada E3B 5A3.

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