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Ashley Gibson Bowers, Christina L.L. Martin, John Miller, Brent Wolfe and Nancy Magee Speed

The purpose of the study was to examine female athletes’ perceptions of their body image as a result of comparing themselves to others. Social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954) was used as the theoretical basis for understanding the effects of body image among intercollegiate female athletes. Using a qualitative analysis, the authors individually interviewed 20 female collegiate athletes attending a Division I university and thematically coded their responses. The findings suggest that coaches and teammates significantly contribute to body image pressures in female athletes, as participants were sensitive to the comments and perceptions of these groups. Finally, athletes perceived that the external population (those outside of coaches and teammates) evaluated athletic talent based on actual body image.