The experiences of Springbok Women’s Sevens rugby players regarding identity and perceived on-field performance
Du Plessis, Amori
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The study explored identity and on-field performance from a social constructionist perspective, where identity is interpreted as largely determined by the context in which it occurs. Interactions within a specific group or social setting are seen as a crucial determinant of identity configuration. In addition to the social setting, norms are also an essential facet affecting identity configuration at an internal level and, ultimately, the expression of identity. Understanding the mutually influential nature of internal and external factors enables interpretations of behaviours characterised as non-normative, such as those evident in females engaging in predominantly male sports like rugby, as this sport is still largely associated with behaviours considered normative for men. Throughout the study, an exploration of identity and on-field performance amongst Women’s Sevens rugby players is presented to determine identity configuration and expression as influenced by the situational demands of the high-performance environment. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with eleven members of the elite sporting group of female Sevens rugby players. Traditionally the realm of rugby has been associated with the male gender and interpreted as a platform for male identity expression and formation. While this realm is becoming more open to accepting women, findings reveal predominantly masculine ideals associated with the sport, which could affect the individual and social identities of female rugby players. Data from the interviews was transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Themes informed the findings and discussion. The first theme centres on the internal factors affecting identity configuration and on-field performance, whereas the second theme focuses on the external factors affecting identity configuration and on-field performance. Within the first main theme, there are three identified subthemes that include: conscious adaptation and other necessary mental characteristics, the required physical attributes, and beneficial experiences within the Sevens environment. The second theme hosts four subthemes, including: structural difficulties, team dynamics and coaching, comparison to better performing teams, and expectations, perceptions and stereotypes. The themes indicate that the aim of exploring identity and on-field performance amongst Springbok Women’s Sevens rugby players, was successfully achieved. The findings from this research will contribute to an enhanced understanding of how identity configuration and expression affect – and are affected by on-field performance amongst this elite sports group. This study may also catalyse other studies regarding females in sports perceived as being predominantly male such as cricket or soccer.
- Health Sciences