Throughout the history of sport, men have played a leading role in its organization, function, purpose, and exposition (Hargreaves, 2000). Women’s sport participation has drastically risen over the past 40 years and ample new opportunities have emerged within the sport realm for women, which are attributed to a collection of incentives, but chiefly resulting from the passage of Title IX (Coakley, 2009). Women are allowed to participate in physically intense, aggressive, and violent sports, often referred to as power and performance sports (Coakley, 2014), however, the occurrence of this form of sport involvement appears to run counterintuitive to traditionally accepted societal norms. Consequently, the intent of this research was to explore how female athletes experience, interpret, accept, tolerate, and or resist the presumed contradictory role adopted through participation in power and performance sports. For the purpose of this study, existential phenomenological interviews were conducted that yielded in-depth personal accounts of the lived experience of 12 female athletes ranging in age from 21 to 50, representing a variety of power and performance sports (i.e., rugby, ice hockey, jiu-jitsu, kenpo, muay thai, kendo, boxing, and mixed martial arts). Analysis of the transcripts revealed a total of 381 meaning units that were further grouped into subthemes and major themes. This led to the development of a final thematic structure revealing four major dimensions that characterized these athletes’ experiences of power and performance sports: Physicality, Mentality, Opportunity, and Attraction & Alliance.
The authors are with Sport & Exercise Sciences, Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida.