The Christian-Athlete: An Interactionist-Developmental Analysis

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Christopher L. StevensonUniversity of New Brunswick

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This investigation examined the ways in which, and the rationalizations with which, certain elite athletes juxtaposed the two role-identities of “Christian” and “athlete.” The data were obtained through in-depth interviews with current and former college and professional athletes associated with the Athletes-in-Action (AIA) organization in Western Canada (N=31: 23 males, 8 females). Initial analysis indicated considerable variability in the types of behavior that the athletes, as Christians, saw as acceptable in their sport environments, and yet the majority of these Christian-athletes did not appear to perceive any values-conflict between their Christian faith and their sporting practices. A more detailed examination using both a developmental and an interactionist perspective identified three more or less distinct types of accommodation to the normative expectations associated with the two role-identities (the segregated, selective, and committed types), each of which was associated with different consequences for the athletes’ own behaviors in sport, the values and attitudes they expressed, and the kinds of behaviors they perceived to be acceptable for Christian-athletes.

Christopher L. Stevenson is with the Faculty of Physical Education, University of New Brunswick, PO Box 4400, Fredericton, N.B., Canada, E3B 5A3.

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