“In the Boat” but “Selling Myself Short”: Stories, Narratives, and Identity Development in Elite Sport

in The Sport Psychologist
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  • 1 Leeds Metropolitan University
  • | 2 University of Bristol
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Through narrative methodology this study explores the processes and consequences of identity development among young elite athletes, with particular reference to the influence of sport culture. We focus on life stories of two elite male athletes, recounting significant moments from their lives analyzed through the lens of narrative theory. Our findings offer insights into three strands of sport psychology literature. First, responding to calls for a cultural sport psychology, our study reveals how elite sport culture shapes psychological processes of identity development. Second, it shows how the origins of a potentially problematic athletic identity are seeded in early sport experiences, shedding light on how athletic identity is developed or resisted. Finally, it extends previous narrative research into the lives of female professional golfers, documenting how comparable processes unfold among male athletes in other sports, deepening understanding of how cultural narratives influence behavior and life choices.

Carless is with the Institute of Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK. Douglas is with the University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

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