Understanding Athlete Mother Transition in cultural context: a media analysis of Kim Clijsters’ tennis comeback and self-identity implications
McGannon, KR and McMahon, J and Schinke, RJ and Gonsalves, CA, Understanding Athlete Mother Transition in cultural context: a media analysis of Kim Clijsters' tennis comeback and self-identity implications, Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 6, (1) pp. 20-34. ISSN 2157-3905 (2016) [Refereed Article]
Although the presence of elite athlete mothers is growing in sport, these athletes have received less attention in sport psychology research. The purpose with this study was to extend understanding of elite athlete mothers in sociocultural context by examining how news media constructed elite athlete identities of 1 high profile athlete mother, tennis star Kim Clijsters. Ethnographic content analysis (Altheide, 1996) was used to explore motherhood and athletic identity in relation to an athletic comeback, as sociocultural creations shaped by media narratives, with psychological implications. Forty-five stories from North American and United Kingdom news media were collected between August 1, 2009, and September 30, 2009, covering the key media incident of Clijsters’ comeback to win the 2009 U.S. Open. Visual data analysis of 38 images further contextualized the meaning(s) of narratives identified within stories (Altheide & Schneider, 2013). A fairy tale come true narrative was identified as constructing comeback meanings linked to 2 identities: the super mum and the golden girl. These identities fed into a limited meaning of Clijsters’ tennis comeback, downplaying accomplishments in favor of normative ideals for female athletes, but also expanding possibilities for athlete mothers. These findings extend cultural sport psychology research exploring the social construction of elite mother athlete identities and athlete transition.