Date of Award

1-1-1995

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Dr Jennifer Browne

Abstract

Sport has long been regarded as a masculine domain. In the past the literature has tended to focus on male athletes with respect to sensational or noteworthy performances, however little attention has been placed on the reasons why men participate in sport and the subsequent underpinning sociological implications of masculinity. This research investigated the lives of 12 elite level athletes competing in the three individually-oriented sports of triathlon, surf lifesaving and bodybuilding to attain a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between male identity and sport, and the process of masculinisation experienced by men throughout the lifecourse. Further, it explored the notion that sport is becoming one of the primary sites for the construction of masculinity for men in contemporary Western society. During childhood these men quickly realised that athletic competition meant far more than merely winning or losing. Sporting success was interpreted as being accompanied by peer recognition, family attention and general acceptance by society. Future acknowledgment was therefore perceived as being contingent upon continued success. However, placing emphasis on sporting success can influence a man's development throughout the lifecourse as he undergoes changes during the transition from boyhood, through adolescence and on to adulthood. It is with respect to such changes that some of these men experienced crises in their lives. As young male athletes, they based their self-image and masculine identity largely around success-derived appreciation from others. Therefore, when failing to live up to the expectations of these people their self-perception was affected and they were faced with problems relating to self-image, masculine identity and relationships with others, both intimate and family-oriented. On the other hand, sport can offer its young male participants numerous pleasurable experiences and the opportunity to change various aspects of their lives. It is with respect to this element that the athletes' lives were explored to determine their motivation for participating in their particular sport and its subsequent relationship with masculinity. It was the subcultural environment of each sport which appealed to the men because it provided them with a support network and a form of safety mechanism in the event of a crisis. Therefore, feeling secure in their own subcultural environment had a positive impact on their masculine identity. Utilising lifecourse theory within a social-psychological perspective, this research was able to identify some of the changes that emerge throughout sportsmen's lives and the role that sport plays in the social construction of masculinity for these men. By using sport to identify the problems associated with masculine identity it provides a looking glass for the problems associated with the social construction of masculinity for contemporary men in Western society.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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