The influence of athletic identity on cognitive appraisals and coping following underperforming among international track athletes

Jane McKay, David Lavallee, Ailsa G. Anderson, Alison White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Previous studies have demonstrated that strong and exclusive athletic identity is a risk factor for adjustment difficulties following major sport career transitions (e.g., Cecić Erpič, Wylleman, & Zupančič, 2004; Grove, Lavallee, & Gordon, 1997). However, research investigating the influence of athletic identity on adjustment to negative events that athletes encounter more routinely is scant. This study adopted a stress perspective (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) and qualitative method to examine the influence of athletic identity on athletes’ appraisal and coping responses to underperforming. Three male and three female UK international track athletes provided accounts of their experiences of underperforming in semi-structured interviews. Athletic identity was established with the Athletic Identity Measurement Scale (AIMS; Brewer, Van Raalte, & Linder, 1993), in addition to qualitative data. Case studies were constructed and cross-case comparisons revealed that athletes with strong and exclusive athletic identity appraised underperforming as a threat to their self-identities, experienced intense emotional disturbance and implemented emotionfocused and avoidance coping. These findings suggest that the risks of over-identification with the athlete role are more widespread than is currently recognized and highlight the need for intervention programs that encourage athletes to invest in non-sport sources of identification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-62
Number of pages15
JournalKinesiologia Slovenica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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