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Seed Grant Awardee: Eric Legg

Eric Legg

The purpose of this study will be to explore male adolescent athletes’ perceptions of masculinity, with a specific focus on social influences on those views (e.g. coaches, parents, peers, media). The topic of masculinity, and especially “toxic masculinity,” has been a recent focus within popular news outlets. For example, a recent advertisement for Gillette that highlighted the concept of toxic masculinity sparked an onslaught of commentary that was both supportive and critical of the advertisement.

A wide body of research within sport has examined issues of masculinity, supporting the role of sports as an arena where boys learn the meaning of manhood, and more specifically ideas of hegemonic masculinity and heterosexual masculinity (see Coakely, 2017 for a summary of existing research). Though scholars have oft criticized the role of sport in promoting hegemonic masculinity and male dominance, these narratives have largely remained. Recent cultural shifts, however, present an opportunity to reexamine these narratives, and move beyond simply describing these narratives and towards a richer understanding of the various social influences. The growth of women’s sport participation since Title IX, issues and progress on gender equity (e.g. pay and resources), and a more nuanced understanding of gender as non-binary fluid construct demand a continued exploration of perceptions of masculinity. Further, it is essential to not only explore individual perceptions of masculinity, but also the social influences that help inform those views.

To meet this objective, this study will employ semi-structured interviews and focus groups with recreational male athletes between the ages of 14-18. Adolescent athletes represent an ideal population to address this research question as they are at a stage in life where issues of identity are forefront (McCormick & Scherer, 2018), and social influences are paramount in the development of those identities (Siegel, 2013). Interview questions will focus on individual perceptions of masculinity, and sensitivities to the views of key social influencers (e.g parents, coaches, peers). Interviews will be audio recorded and transcribed verbatim where qualitative themes will be developed. These themes will extend existing literature related to masculinity and sport and lead to practical implications for sport managers.

Last updated February 2020.

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