A look at the future of qualitative methodology through the prism of athlete career research

Authored by: Natalia B. Stambulova

Routledge Handbook of Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138792487
eBook ISBN: 9781315762012
Adobe ISBN: 9781317646914


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In our minds the future is embodied by various constructs, including goals, plans, dreams, anticipations, and broader visions that combine anticipation and wishful thinking (where we would like to be) with the reality check (where we are now). In this chapter I take on a challenge to present a future-oriented vision of qualitative research through a prism of the athlete career topic. Being a qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method researcher of athletes’ careers for about 25 years, I have witnessed an increasing contribution of qualitative methodology to this topic, and I think that this growth trend will continue in the future. One of my departure points is that the career topic (although studied a lot quantitatively) has an inherent qualitative “nature,” because there are as many careers with various pathways, contexts, and personal meanings of career experiences as there are athletes. Only qualitative research is capable of grasping these diversities, deepening our knowledge about how athletes’ identities are constructed and reconstructed, become imbedded into the developmental processes, and also how they influence these processes. Besides being used in research projects, qualitative methodology has an important function in structuring and restructuring research areas through review papers. A number of review papers on athletes’ career development and transitions (see references in the next section) have been useful in summarizing our understanding of athletes’ careers (where we are) and setting future challenges (where we would like to be). The aim of this chapter is to consider multiple roles of qualitative methodology in enriching and structuring athlete career knowledge in sport psychology. I am also writing with a hope that my reflections might inspire other sport psychology researchers to consider the future of their respective areas in a similar vein.

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