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Abstract

Athletic identity is a common topic in research on athlete experiences and development. Many researchers rely on the understanding of athletic identity as conceptualized by Brewer, Van Raalte, and Linder (1993). This seminal work provided a foundational understanding for conducting survey research on athletic identity. However, the emphasis on survey approaches has resulted in an incomplete understanding of athletic identity as deeper meanings of the construct are taken for granted (Ronkainen, Kavoura, & Ryba, 2016a). To develop a more nuanced conceptualization of athletic identity, the current study used a qualitative descriptive approach to explore the meaning of athletic identity from the view of current collegiate student-athletes. Participants included nine Division I student-athletes (M_age= 19.8; 6 females and 3 males) across several sports. Participants completed individual semi-structured interviews (M_time= 47 minutes). Reflexive thematic analysis revealed three themes: Athletic Identity as “Part of Me”; Commitment to Identity through Athletic Journey; and Self-Recognition of Social Reinforcement. The construct of athletic identity is likened to an iceberg; the reflexive thematic analysis helps describe the complexity of the construct by going beyond the surface view to explore deeper understandings. Such findings are relevant for professionals aiming to more effectively connect with and support this population.

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