“I Feel Pressure:” Exploring the Phenomenon of Body Image Formation in Collegiate Female Athletes Within the Context of Social Comparison Theory

in Journal of Coaching Education

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.

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Ashley Gibson Bowers is an assistant professor of Sport Management at Southeastern Louisiana University. Christina Martin is an assistant professor of sport and fitness management at Troy University. John Miller is an associate dean and professor of sport and fitness management at Troy University. Brent Wolfe is an associate professor of recreation and tourism management at Georgia Southern University. Nancy Magee Speed is an assistant professor of human performance and recreation at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to Ashley Gibson Bowers, Southeastern Louisiana University, SLU Box: 10845, Hammond, LA 70402; Email: abowers@selu.edu