Development of Athletic Identity in Elite Adolescent Athletes
Dr. Vijayanthimala Kodali
Approximately 3/4ths of American children participate in organized sport. The large majority of these children quit by age 13, but those that stay are left with a much stronger athletic identity than their non-athletic counterparts. Many of these athletes stay for various reasons-- the benefits of sport are numerous--- but the most prominent reason athletes continue to compete when their counterparts do not is athletic success. Athletic success has a high correlation with the formation of identity. At elite levels, the athletic identities of adolescents becomes increasingly connected with their respective personal identities, and as such, become more exclusive.
An exclusive athletic identity has many drawbacks. Adolescents who base their identities primarily around athletics run the risk of practicing dangerous behaviours, such as overtraining or using performance enhancing drugs. In comparison to their counterparts, elite athletes spend considerably less time engaging in social behaviors within the framework of general society. Instead, much of their social interaction occurs in elite, exclusive athletic subcultures. This limited exposure to classical society stunts the behavioral development of adolescents. This paper looks to determine the extent to which exclusive athletic identities stunts social growth among adolescents, if it does at all.