A bit of background on identity…
If we start with the wider idea of self-identity, it is a clearly delineated self-definition…comprised of those goals, values and beliefs which the person finds personally expressive and to which he/she is unequivocally committed (Waterman, 1985). Take a moment to think about this idea, what are the goals, values and beliefs that you are committed too? Are they just in sport or do they link to other areas too?
Most young athletes will find that they have some level of athletic Identity which is the degree to which an athlete identifies with the athlete role (Sinclair and Orlick, 1993). As we look more closely at identity there is a concept called identity foreclosure, this is the commitment of one’s identity to one area without exploration of alternatives (Murphy, Petitpas and Brewer, 1996). This can mean that some young people have an ‘Exclusive’ athletic identity and derive their self-identity exclusively from the athlete role (Brewer, Van Raalte & Linder, 1993).
Identity and adolescence…
Adolescence is a transitional period between puberty and adulthood which extends mainly over the teen years. It has been Identified as a stage in life during which individuals form a true self-identity (Chickering, 1969; Erikson, 1968).
If we look more specifically at adolescence and identity, for those involved in high level participation in one sport this comes with a lot of sacrifice & dedication. This can lead to two potential challenges for these individuals:
Athletic Identity Positives
There have been positives linked to athletes having a high or strong athletic identity:
Exclusive Athletic Identity potential risks
However, there are some potential risks to be aware of:
How can we support young people in their identity development?
And for those thinking that this may take their focus away from their sport I would argue it’s quite the opposite.