Student-athletes’ beliefs about athletic ability: A longitudinal and mixed method gender study

by Joakim Ingrell, Marie Larneby, Urban Johnson
& Susanna Hedenborg

Vol. 10 2019, pages 117–138
Published June 10, 2019


The overall aim of this paper is to study and discuss student-athletes’ beliefs about athletic ability. Specifically, the aim is to analyze and problematize athletic ability longitudinally and with a gender perspective as it is perceived, discussed, and valued by student-athletes. A three-year and six-wave study was conducted on 78 student-athletes (30 females and 48 males; Mage at T1 = 12.7, SD = 0.44) attending a compulsory school with a sport profile. Additionally, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 27 of the student-athletes (16 female and 11 male) during their second and third school year. Based on a parallel mixed-data analysis with cross-talks and meta-inferences, the two main results of this study are as follows: (1) entity beliefs increase and incremental beliefs decrease during the three-year period, and (2) gender add a further understanding of the student-athletes’ beliefs about athletic ability. 

The findings are discussed in terms of their implications for the potential influence of the socialization processes on beliefs of athletic ability, and suggestions for future research are provided.

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About the Authors

JOAKIM INGRELL is currently a PhD student at the department of sport sciences, at Malmö University, Sweden. His main research interests are: motivation, motivational climate, youth sport and competitive sport.

MARIE LARNEBY is currently a PhD student at the department of sport sciences, at Malmö University, Sweden. Larneby’s main research interests are youth sport and physical activity in school and during leisure time. Her ongoing PhD-project has a gender theoretical perspective.

URBAN JOHNSON is a Professor of psychology and sport at the center of research on welfare, health and sport, at Halmstad University, Sweden. He has foremost focused on studying psychosocial risk factors during rehabilitation of long-term injured competitive athletes. Significant keywords in his research are: intervention, prevention, psychosocial risk factors, rehabilitation, coaches and competitive sport.

SUSANNA HEDENBORG is a professor in Sport Science, Malmö University. Hedenborg has an academic background in social and economic history. In her sport research she has focused on childhood and youth studies, gender, and equestrian sports. She is the author of numerous articles and text books in sport science. Hedenborg is affiliated to the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and president of the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science.