A1 Journal article (refereed)
“She is where I’d want to be in my career” : Youth athletes’ role models and their implications for career and identity construction (2019)

Ronkainen, N. J., Ryba, T. V., & Selänne, H. (2019). “She is where I’d want to be in my career” : Youth athletes’ role models and their implications for career and identity construction. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 45, Article 101562. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2019.101562

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Ronkainen, Noora J.; Ryba, Tatiana V.; Selänne, Harri

Journal or series: Psychology of Sport and Exercise

ISSN: 1469-0292

eISSN: 1878-5476

Publication year: 2019

Volume: 45

Article number: 101562

Publisher: Elsevier

Publication country: Netherlands

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2019.101562

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/65408



While role models have been documented to play a vital role in adolescents’ career development and identity exploration, in sport psychology they remain an untapped resource. The present study drew on narrative inquiry to explore the patterns of role model selection by adolescent student-athletes and the narrative maps these role models provide for self-construction. As a second objective, the study sought to understand the impact of gender on the selection and meaning of role models.

Eighteen Finnish student-athletes (10 women, eight men) aged 17-18 participated in conversational interviews. We analysed the data with thematic and structural narrative analyses.

The participants identified two types of role models: elite athletes and family members. Whereas young men were more likely to select the most well-known athlete superstars, young women were more concerned about the relationship and similarities between the role model and the self, engaging in more exploration to find a role model that matched their needs. Most of the youth athletes rejected the totalitarian ideologies of elite sport and chose role models who could have other identities and do other things alongside sport.

Finnish youth athletes are inspired by athlete role models whose lives are not completely constituted by performance narratives of elite sport. From an applied perspective, role models could be incorporated into career counselling with athletes to support identity development and exploration of future selves.

Keywords: young people; athletes; identity (mental objects); role models; gender; narrative analysis

Free keywords: adolescent athletes; narrative inquiry; dual career; athletic identity; gender; elite sport

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Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2019

JUFO rating: 1

Last updated on 2021-17-09 at 16:16