Masters sport participation is continually increasing, and although much research has uncovered masters participation motives, it has been noted that an understanding of community among masters athletes was also necessary. Online communities of sport participants have been examined only minimally, with research uncovering correlations between new-media use and sport-participation frequency. Using uses and gratifications theory, this study sought to examine masters gymnastics participants to develop a better understanding of athletes’ use of online communities in relation to their sport participation and examine differences in online community use based on demographics. Online survey results from 164 international participants revealed they used new media primarily for fanship, information, and technical knowledge, and online masters gymnastics communities were most often extensions of in-person training groups and communities. These findings and their implications are discussed in the article.
Andrea N. Geurin
Today’s elite athletes face increasing demands to develop a new media presence in order to build their personal brand and connect with a wide variety of stakeholders. Myriad studies have focused on athletes’ new media use by examining content posted online; however, few studies have examined new media usage from the athletes’ perspectives. Using the theoretical framework of self-presentation theory to uncover athletes’ new media perceptions, goals, and strategies, semistructured in-depth interviews were conducted with six elite female athletes training for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Findings revealed that although athletes had goals for sharing their lives, developing connections, sponsorship, and self-promotion, they did not employ specific strategies to meet these goals or attempt to measure whether their goals were met. Gender-related findings included feeling pressure to post sexually suggestive images and receiving unwanted private communications from male fans. The implications are discussed within the paper.