The Influence Of Athletic Identity

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The process of finding out who we are and where we fit in this ever-changing world is an unending and complicated dance of discovery. Through family influence, social norms, experiences and interaction with our environment, we define ourselves. However, this definition is not one that stays the same forever. Our identity develops, changes, strengthens and solidifies as we reflect on our lives. Through exploring the athletic identity of two individuals I will reflect on the differences in expectations and meanings attached with the shared identity type. I examined the development of two different athletic identities—a basketball player turned track and field runner (myself) and a male basketball player (Rick)—by looking at the influence of significant others and the social and institutional forces at play. The greatest influence on my life has been my family. Thirty-eight family members over four generations have graduated from Cal, fourteen as athletes, with two in Cal’s Hall of Fame. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life when I was little, and that desire never changed. My athletic identity started to form at a very young age due to my family’s strong influence and their athletic connections. According to Mead, young children form their initial self-image based on engagement with their significant others. I grew up with athletic parents and grandparents, two older brothers and all guy cousins. With a very close-knit family, living only 5 to 10 minutes away from each other door to door, all I did when I was young was go to sporting events. From these individuals, “we learn the basic knowledge of our society, and we internalize this knowledge as a coherent set of expectations, feelings and attitudes” (O’brien,... ... middle of paper ... ...te because the extent to which I feel and think like an athlete will never change. Additionally, I will always be known and recognized by others as an athlete. Although our situations were different, the process and interaction to reach our final decision and destination was the same. Our sense of who we are, and our development into identifying as an athlete strongly solidified through our respective environments. From an early age the identity of an athlete begins to form and is heavily influenced by significant others. Social interaction, social norms and institutional frameworks provide different areas of discovery and meaning for two athletic identities. The development and maintenance of the identity differed due to the relationship with their social and physical environment, but ultimately was the driving force in solidifying their athletic identity.
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