How elite athletes balance motherhood and elite level sport

Lingam-Willgoss, Candice (2018). How elite athletes balance motherhood and elite level sport. In: BPS DSEP 2018 Conference, 3-4 Dec 2018, Belfast.


Objectives: Current research exploring the experiences of elite athletic mothers has developed in recent year. However there is still a significant gap in studies focusing on how these athletes manage the demands of motherhood and career and whether type of sport has any impact. The study aimed to examine the lived experience of the transitional episode of motherhood and how athletes successfully balance these two identities.
Design: The study was informed by the qualitative traditions of phenomenology and narratology in order to gain a deep and holistic understanding of the way each athlete has experienced and managed the demands of motherhood and elite level performance.
Methods: Six elite athletic mothers from a range of sports were purposively sampled. Semi structured interviews were conducted with each athlete. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using an inductive approach whereby patterns, themes and categories were identified.
Results: Several similarities were found between the narratives of each athlete in relation to how they coped with managing their different roles: time management, planning, social support and flexibility. It was also recognised how these factors that made the experience manageable were those that created challenges when they were not in place or appropriate.
Conclusions: Findings of the study suggest that support is a key factor when it comes to sporting mothers maintaining their relationship with sport and sporting identity and how unrealistic expectations and poor planning tended to lead to more unmanageable and negative experiences.

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