chapter  5
42 Pages

Identity in Sport: A Psychological and Theological Analysis

ByNICK WATSON

Sports philosophers, such as Howard Slusher (1967), Scott Kretchmar (1998) and Heather Reid (2002), have argued that we need to think more philosophically about the meaning of sport participation and competition. Kretchmar has recently suggested that in studying sport ‘to do ethics in vacuo,’ without some sort of metaphysical (i.e., religious) basis, is a questionable endeavor. He sees athletes as ‘meaning-seeking, story-telling creatures’ who can encounter real drama, experience excellence and self-discovery in healthy sporting contests. In relation, a small number of sport psychologists have also challenged the current dominance within their discipline of positivistic research and cognitive-behavioral consultancy techniques advocating the need for more holistic, philosophical (Corlett, 1996a, 1996b; Martens, 1987; Ravizza, 2002), existential (Dale, 1996, 2000; Nesti, 2004) and spiritual and religious approaches (Berger, Pargman & Weinberg, 2002; Salter, 1997; Schinke & Hanrahan, 2009; Watson & Nesti, 2005).2 The dominant

schools of mainstream 20th-century psychology (the parent discipline of sport psychology)—experimental, behaviorist, cognitivist and clinical-have also adopted mainly secular theories of human identity based on scientifi c and positivist philosophy. There are, however, some notable psychologists in the past 70 years who accommodated existential and spiritual ideas in their work, and thus provided a valuable resource for understanding the complexities of human identity in life and sport.