Understanding the experiences of endurance athletes: A phenomenological study
Young, William N.
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Little, if any, research exists that looks into the relational impacts of endurance athletes from a systemic lens. The purpose of this dissertation is to fill this gap in the literature and understand the individual and relational experiences of endurance athletes and their spouses. This qualitative study takes a unique look at the perspectives of endurance athletes, their spouses, and their couple interaction. A sample consisting of 16 individuals, made up of eight couples, with one member of the couple identifying as an endurance athlete. Either engaging in cycling, long distance running, long distance swimming, and/or triathlon (all three sports together) the athletes included in the study engaged in training and competing ranging in experience of 9-25 years. These married couples ranged in years of marriage from 7-35 years. Participants were interviewed individually, athletes separately (n=8) and spouses separately (n=8), and then the couple was interviewed together, athlete and spouse. All qualitative data (recorded audio files or athlete interview, spouse interview, and couple interview) were transcribed and analyzed according to the guidelines outlined by Moustakes (1994). Themes emerged across interviews with the athletes, spouses, and couples. The categories: experiences of athletes, experiences of spouses, and relational experiences, were developed based on the interview type to provide structure for the themes. A central theme of support emerged across interviews and described the support offered and support expected from athletes and their spouses. The theme, the dark side of endurance sports, emerged from the category, the experiences of endurance athletes, describing difficulties and hardships experienced because of participation in endurance sports. The concluding chapter presents discussion on how the study offers unique perspective from both athlete and spouse to examine the categories and themes, which supported the small amount of literature available and informed further research based on the findings of this study. Additionally, clinical implications and the limitations of the study conclude the document.