The Socialization of Elite Tennis Players in Sweden: An Analysis of the Players’ Backgrounds and Development

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Rolf Carlson College of Physical Education, Stockholm

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This study analyzed the process of socialization of elite tennis players, thereby contributing to an explanation of the success experienced by Swedish tennis players in recent years. The top five male and top five female Swedish players, along with parents and coaches, were interviewed regarding background, early life sport experiences, and development. All five males held ranking positions among the 15 best in the world. The control group was chosen by matching pairs regarding age, sex, and junior ranking. Results indicated that both groups at the ages of 12 to 14 were equal, but after puberty the development of the groups diverged. As teenagers, some elite players were ranked among the world’s top players while the control group players did not experience success. The results clearly indicate that it is not possible to predict who will develop into a world-class tennis player based on individual talent alone. Personal qualifications and early life experiences in combination with social structures, tradition of sport, and tennis culture all worked together in an optimal way, particularly the local club environment and the players’ relationships to coaches.

Direct all correspondence to Rolf Carlson, Sport Educational Research Group, College of Physical Education, Lidingövägen 1, S-114 33 Stockholm, Sweden.
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