Maintaining and managing athletic identity among elite athletes

Zoe Arts Poucher, Katherine A Tamminen


Researchers have studied athletic identity (AI) and explored the impact that having a strong AI can have on an athlete. Additionally, researchers have explored the maintenance of AI, but only among very specific athletic populations. Little is known about how different athletes manage their AI at various stages in their career (i.e., still competing versus retired). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore how both retired and non-retired elite athletes from a range of sports maintain and perpetuate their AI. Five male and eight female elite athletes were individually interviewed on two separate occasions. Participants were asked questions regarding their AI, their successes and failures in sport, and how their feelings of self-worth were related to their athletic achievements. An inductive data analysis process was used, and relevant themes were identified. It was also found that there are things athletes do, or that occur in their environment that maintain and perpetuate their AI. The current findings expand this body of literature by exploring the various strategies elite athletes use to support their AI.


Elite athlete; Athletic identity; Identity maintenance; Contingent self-worth

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