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Elite athletes as mothers: Managing multiple identities


  • Palmer, Farah R.
  • Leberman, Sarah I.


Mothers' voices are often silent in the sports literature, especially as elite athletes. This research used a symbolic interactionist approach and semi-structured interviews to explore the experiences of nine elite female athletes in New Zealand who were also mothers at the time of competing. The specific objectives were to explore how motherhood impacted on the identity of elite athletes, how they negotiated their multiple identities and roles, and how support systems were utilized to encourage and retain elite athletes as mothers. The women managed their multiple identities and negotiated constraints such as guilt, lack of time and limited organizational support by emphasizing how integral sport was to their sense of self. They highlighted the mutual benefits of motherhood to their sport aspirations and vice versa, by utilizing time/space management strategies, and by creating and accessing strong support networks which sometimes included organizational support. There was a move towards the integration of multiple identities and a focus on how women's choices in leisure and sport were realized for future research and theory development. Sport management practices and policies that create opportunities for mothers to achieve and maintain elite athlete status are also mentioned.

Suggested Citation

  • Palmer, Farah R. & Leberman, Sarah I., 2009. "Elite athletes as mothers: Managing multiple identities," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 241-254, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:spomar:v:12:y:2009:i:4:p:241-254

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dixon, Marlene A. & Bruening, Jennifer E., 2005. "Perspectives on Work-Family Conflict in Sport: An Integrated Approach," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 227-253, November.
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