Understanding identity and psychosocial functioning through the lived experiences of African American collegiate athletes participating in revenue producing sports: A hermeneutic phenomenological approach

Date of Completion

January 2007


Black Studies|Education, Educational Psychology|Psychology, Developmental|Education, Higher|Recreation




This study explored the topic of identity development and psychosocial functioning in sport through the lived experiences of African American male collegiate athletes who participated in a Division IA revenue-producing sport. The impetus for this dissertation emerged from psycho-educational research involving psychosocial development in sport and sport sociological literature, which have suggested that the sport environment, particularly high level collegiate athletics, is not necessarily conducive to promoting the construction of a competent sense of self...the foundation of healthy identity formation (Erikson, 1968). However, much of this theory and analysis has been rooted in and has relied upon common, decontextualized concepts that have tended to constrict how African American men in sport are understood. An interpretive phenomenological approach was used to guide the inquiry. Five African American, male, former student-athletes (mean age = 26.8) who participated in either a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division IA football or basketball program were asked to describe their lived experiences in sport. Three separate, iterative, in-depth interviews (Seidman, 1998) were employed focusing on each participant's sport career. Both Van Manen's (1990) method for thematic analysis and phenomenological writing and Drew's (2001) approach to elucidating the researcher's subjective experience, "synthesis of intentionality" provided the framework for data analysis. ^ Using Van Manen's (1990) existential categorical guides: lived space, live time, live body, and lived relationships ten major themes emerged out of the dialogues. The first thematic category, Lived Body, involved three essential themes: (a) embodiment of a sense of social competency through the athletic experience (b) embodiment of race in sport, and (c) embodiment of a double consciousness; a dual identity conflict. The second thematic category, Lived Space, involved one essential theme, the embodiment of the conflict between creativity or freedom and conformity in sport. The third thematic category, Lived Relationship, included essential themes involving the participants' realization of self through experiences of self in relation to others, which included (a) sport (b) family (c) coaches, and (d) community. The final thematic category, Live Time, comprised two essential themes that involved the embodiment of (a) sport as possibility and (b) sport as opportunity. ^