The purposes of this exploratory study were to examine athletic body image and social body image among former competitive female athletes. Additionally, the perceived influence of past competitive experiences on current body image was explored. In-depth interviews were conducted with six former competitive collegiate athletes. The participants ranged in age from 23 to 31, with a mean age of 26. Common factors reported as influencing how participants felt about their bodies as athletes included uniforms, teammates, appearance, fitness, and coach attitudes and behaviors. Participants’ experiences and feelings about their bodies in athletic and social settings varied. Participants recognized some conflict between their athletic body and social ideals, however this incongruence did not seem problematic for most of the participants. Across participants, their current feelings and thoughts about their bodies were based on their former competitive athletic bodies.
Christy Greenleaf and Karen Collins
This paper presents our experiences, thoughts, and struggles in working toward understanding, embracing, and implementing feminist perspectives in our scholarship and practice. Mentors, through their encouragement, guidance, and support, have played key roles in our growth as feminist sport and exercise psychology professionals. It is through our work with mentors that we have moved closer toward understanding and identifying with being feminist scholars. In our research, we place women as the central focus of our work, take into account contextual factors, and look toward creating social change. The struggles we have faced as young professionals include countering stereotypes of feminism, integrating feminist methodologies and epistemology into a traditionally logical positivist field, and moving from research findings to creating social change. Looking toward the future, we hope that feminist sport and exercise psychology scholars continue to build a community to share and discuss the issues and struggles of feminist researchers.
Gretchen Paulson and Christy Greenleaf
This study explored the association between physical activity and the experience of embodiment among women aged 40 years and older. Women (n = 112; M age = 63.55, SD = 9.36) who reported engaging in physical activity at least twice per week completed an online survey including the Experiences of Embodiment Scale, Embodied Physical Activity Questionnaire, International Physical Activity Questionnaire, and an open-ended item. Multivariate analysis of covariance indicated significant differences in embodiment between different levels of activity, and follow-up univariate analyses revealed that high active women reported higher scores on two Experiences of Embodiment Scale subscales (positive body connection and agency and expression) than low active women. Significant differences were also seen in Embodied Physical Activity Questionnaire scores across groups, with higher active women reporting stronger experiences of embodiment during exercise. The findings suggest a positive relationship between physical activity and experiences of embodiment and highlight the need to further explore ways to cultivate these experiences.
Vikki Krane, Jeannine Snow, and Christy A. Greenleaf
The present investigation is a qualitative case study of a former elite gymnast. The social cognitive approach to achievement motivation has been applied to understand and explain the behavior of this gymnast, her coaches, and her parents. The gymnast participated in three unstructured interviews which were grounded in a feminist view of sport and research (cf. Harding, 1991; Krane, 1994). The data analysis resulted in three dimensions: Motivational Climate, Evidence of an Ego Orientation, and Correlates of Ego Involvement. An ego-involved motivational environment was developed and reinforced by the gymnast’s coaches and parents. Her ego-involved goal orientation was revealed through her reliance on social comparison, emphasis on external feedback and rewards, need to demonstrate her superiority, and acting out behaviors in the face of adversity. This gymnast practiced and competed while seriously injured, employed unhealthy eating practices, overtrained, and refused to listen to medical advice in order to continue her quest towards the Olympic team. All of these behaviors are discussed within the framework of goal orientation theory.
Christy Greenleaf, Trent Petrie, Justine Reel, and Jennifer Carter
Petrie and Greenleaf (2007) presented a psychosocial model of disordered eating for female athletes. Based upon the 2007 model, the present study examined four key psychosocial variables: internalization, body dissatisfaction, restrained eating, and negative affect, as predictors of bulimic symptoms among NCAA Division I female athletes. Two hundred four women (N = 204) participated and were drawn from three different universities and competed in 17 different varsity sports. After controlling for the effects of body mass and social desirability, hierarchical regression analysis showed that the psychosocial variables explained 42% of the variance in bulimic symptoms. In the full model, higher levels of body dissatisfaction, more dietary restraint, and stronger feelings of guilt were associated with bulimic symptomatology. Internalization of the sociocultural ideal as well as feelings of fear, hostility, or sadness were unrelated.
Daniel Gould, Christy Greenleaf, Diane Guinan, and Yongchul Chung
As part of a larger project to examine variables perceived to influence performance in Olympic competition, this manuscript was designed to (a) report coaches’ perceptions of variables influencing Olympic athlete performance, (b) triangulate findings from surveys and interviews with Olympic athletes, and (c) examine coaches’ perceptions of variables influencing Olympic coaching effectiveness. Surveys were completed by 46 U.S. Atlanta Olympic coaches (46% of all U.S. coaches) and 19 U.S. Nagano coaches (45% of all U.S. coaches). A large number of variables were perceived by coaches to have influenced athlete performances and included having plans for dealing with distractions, strong team chemistry and cohesion, loud and enthusiastic crowd support, high levels of athlete confidence, and fair and effective team selection. Variables perceived to have influenced coaching effectiveness included markedly changed coaching behaviors, the inability to establish trust with athletes, the inability to effectively handle crisis situations, staying cool under pressure, and making fair but decisive decisions.
Daniel Gould, Diane Guinan, Christy Greenleaf, Russ Medbery, and Kirsten Peterson
This study was designed to examine if mental skills and strategies such as high confidence, commitment, and the use of cooperative routines, as well as previously unexamined physical, social, and environmental factors affect Olympic performance. Athletes and coaches from 8 Atlanta US Olympic teams were interviewed. Four teams met/exceeded performance expectations and 4 teams failed to perform up to performance predictions. Focus group interviews were conducted with 2 to 4 athletes from each team. Individual interviews were conducted with 1 or 2 coaches from each team. Each interview was recorded, transcribed, and analyzed by three trained investigators using hierarchical content analyses. Differences existed between teams that met/exceeded performance expectations and teams that failed. Teams that met/exceeded expectations participated in resident training programs, experienced crowd and family or friend support, utilized mental preparation, and were highly focused and committed. Teams that failed to meet expectations experienced planning and team cohesion problems, lacked experience, faced travel problems, experienced coaching problems, and encountered problems related to focus and commitment. Results indicated that achievement of peak performance at the Olympic Games is a complex and delicate process influenced by a variety of psychological, physical, social, and organizational factors.
Scott B. Martin, Christy M. Polster, Allen W. Jackson, Christy A. Greenleaf, and Gretchen M. Jones
The purpose of this investigation was to explore the frequency and intensity of worries and fears associated with competitive gymnastics. These issues were initially examined in a sample of 7 female college gymnasts using a semistructured guided interview. From the themes that emerged and relevant literature, a survey including parallel intensity and frequency of worry questions was administered to 120 female gymnasts competing in USA Gymnastics sanctioned events. Results indicated that even though gymnasts worry about attempting and performing skills on the balance beam and uneven bars, more of them experienced a greater number of injuries on the floor exercise. Analysis of covariance for intensity and frequency using age as the covariate revealed that advanced gymnasts had more intense worries about body changes and performing skills and more frequent worries about body changes than less skilled gymnasts (p < .05). Advanced gymnasts also reported using more strategies to modify their worries than did less skilled gymnasts.
Trent A. Petrie, Christy Greenleaf, Jennifer E. Carter, and Justine J. Reel
Few studies have been conducted examining male athletes and eating disorders, even though the sport environment may increase their risk. Thus, little information exists regarding the relationship of putative risk factors to eating disorders in this group. To address this issue, we examined the relationship of eating disorder classification to the risk factors of body image concerns (including drive for muscularity), negative affect, weight pressures, and disordered eating behaviors. Male college athletes (N= 199) from three different NCAA Division I universities participated. Only two athletes were classified with an eating disorder, though 33 (16.6%) and 164 (82.4%), respectively, were categorized as symptomatic and asymptomatic. Multivariate analyses revealed that eating disorder classification was unrelated to the majority of the risk factors, although the eating disorder group (i.e., clinical and symptomatic) did report greater fear of becoming fat, more weight pressures from TV and from magazines, and higher levels of stress than the asymptomatic athletes. In addition, the eating disorder group had higher scores on the Bulimia Test-Revised (Thelen, Mintz, & Vander Wal, 1996), which validated the Questionnaire for Eating Disorder Diagnosis (Mintz, O’Halloran, Mulholland, & Schneider, 1997) as a measure of eating disorders with male athletes. These findings suggest that variables that have been supported as risk factors among women in general, and female athletes in particular, may not apply as strongly, or at all, to male athletes.