Emotion and Sport: A Case Study of Collegiate Women Gymnasts

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Eldon E. Snyder Bowling Green State University

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Previous studies of emotion in sport have examined team sports. The present research focuses on an individual sport—women’s collegiate gymnastics. Data were gathered during the gymnastics season of 1988-89 from 10 members of the team and its coach and trainer. The methodology included the use of photo-elicitation interviews and observations of women’s gymnastics. The emotion-work and categories of emotions described were displayed when the gymnasts were off stage, when preparing to compete, between events, and after competition. Discussion focuses on the control and management of emotions according to the “feeling rules” (i.e., the socially constructed subcultural norms of the sport). The gymnasts did display individual variations in their adherence to the feeling rules. Categories of emotion included nervousness, fear of pain and injury, frustration, and disappointment. Emotional social experiences included social psyching up and the happiness and joy associated with a successful performance. Consideration is given to some advantages and qualifications of the photo-elicitation technique.

Eldon E. Snyder is with the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403.

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