of my paper will be centered on the principles and structures of the
Interactionist Theory, focusing on the area of sport. The Interactionist theory
emphasizes issues pertaining to “meaning, identity, social relationships, and
subcultures in sport” (Coakley, 2009, p. 41). The theory explains that based on
our ability to form actions and relationships, as well as reflect on them,
helps us develop a sense of identity – a consciousness of who we are, and how
we fit in the world. Our identities are subjectable to change as we build new
relationships and face new situations.
Interactionalist try to define and give meaning to people’s actions, how
they make choices, and develop identities. Thus, in sport we can ask how do
people become athletes and develop their identity as athletes, as well as how
are they identified by others as athletes? My paper will focus on how athletic identities
are developed, how social pressures affect them, and what changes in an
athlete’s identity once they retire from their sport and make that transition.
To begin, I
would like to discuss the determinates that produce an identity, specifically
an athletic identity – when do people start saying “I am a runner” or “I am a
football player” vs “I enjoy running” or “I enjoy playing football”. How does
one go from merely doing an activity to allowing it to defines you? I also want
to discuss how an athlete’s identity is split into private and public
identities. The private identity refers to how they see themselves, with no
public scrutiny and public identity refers to how others portray them, it
involved judgement. Then I would like to touch on how social pressure can influence
the strength of an athletic identity. I would then like to discuss the future;
the pros and cons of athletic identity; having a strong athletic identity could
improve social relations and increase discipline, but a too strong athletic
identity can result in dysfunctional practices like over training, and use of
performance enhancement drugs.
I would like to explain how our identities are heavily influenced by our social
relationships, for example the relations formed with siblings and friends.
Furthermore, I would like to show that developing an athletic identity from a
young age based on influence from grade school coaches etc… could produce a
narrow self-concept. This concept explains that when building a strong athletic
identity from a young age, it could close off other possible identities from
developing, restricting the formation of a multi-dimensional self. Becoming completely obsessed with this one
dimension of identity can result into social problems such as social isolation.
Moreover, once the athlete retires from their sport, they could enter a phase
of depression, because they can no longer connect with their athletic identity.
An example of this is Ian Thorpe, at 17 he participated in the International
Debut, and he is a 5-time Olympic champion (Wikipedia, 2018). Thorpe retired at
age 24 and had severe post retirement depression, he got heavily involved in
alcohol and drug abuse, and now at age 33 is on ‘suicide water’ (Wikipedia,