Meanings of athletic identity within the multidimensional self and social context

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jamian D. Newton (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Diane Gill

Abstract: The topic of athletic identity has garnered increased attention in recent decades. While there have been shifts in understandings, the majority of studies rely on the original conceptualization of the construct based on Brewer, Van Raalte, and Linder’s (1993) work (Ronkainen, Kavoura, & Ryba, 2016a). Little to no research has assessed athletic identity within a conceptual framework that depicts the overall self-concept and related context, which would display clearer connections to identity theories (Burke & Stets, 2009; Jones & Abes, 2013; Ronkainen et al., 2016a). Thus, the current investigation was guided and organized within the Reconceptualized Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity (RMMDI) framework, a comprehensive model depicting the multidimensional self as situated within the greater context that influences identity (Jones & Abes, 2013). The current study used a qualitative descriptive approach framed within a constructivist epistemology to explore and describe athletic identity as positioned within the holistic self and context. Participants included twelve NCAA Division I student-athletes across the following team sports: soccer, softball, and basketball. Participants completed individual semi-structured qualitative interviews which included an identity mapping activity consistent with the RMMDI framing. Three themes were generated using reflexive thematic analysis: Self and Athlete: Orientation of the Self; Lifelong Immersion in Sport Culture; and “It’s a Lifestyle”: Passion for the Game. Results indicate that athletic identity was one of the few most personally important identities within the multidimensional self. Participant accounts demonstrate that athletic identity can be positioned and described as a core identity (e.g., central; primary within self-view) or as a salient identity (e.g., important; on secondary-level within self-view). This positioning of athletic identity in relation to other identities (i.e., described in two orientation groups) seemed to be influenced by the broader sport context and connected with corresponding athletic lifestyle behaviors. Participant descriptions support that continued immersion in sport culture and engaging in athletic lifestyle decisions can reinforce the identification with the athlete role. Practical implications and related competencies for the fields of sport and exercise psychology, counseling, and student development are provided. These implications include, but are not limited to, the following: acknowledging and respecting the importance of athletic identity for individuals, working to facilitate self-reflection, striving to understand contextual factors that influence identity, and attending to these personal and contextual influences to work toward developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive practice.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2020
Athletic identity, Counseling competencies, Qualitative, Reflexive thematic analysis, Student-athletes
College athletes $x Psychology
Sports $x Psychological aspects

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