Sex Roles

, 60:81 | Cite as

Deconstructing the Myth of the Monolithic Male Athlete: A Qualitative Study of Men’s Participation in Athletics

  • Andrew Schrack-Walters
  • Kathleen A. O’Donnell
  • Daniel L. Wardlow
Original Article


A qualitative study using field-based methods examined motivations for participation in collegiate team sports, the psychological and emotional rewards of team membership, and the dynamics of relationships with teammates among male athletes. Previous cross-disciplinary research largely reinforces clear and consistent gender differences within communal and agentic domains. In-depth, oral bibliographic interviews with 11 varsity athletes from basketball and soccer teams were conducted at a university in the USA. Participants spoke freely about multiple dimensions of their experiences as athletes—experiences frequently dichotomized by researchers as masculine or feminine. Analyses document that male athletes rated the importance of interpersonal and emotional relationships with teammates as valuably as they did instrumental needs. Results are discussed in terms of cultural imperatives that polarize domains presumed to be highly gender based and sex-segregated.


Male athletics Masculinity Male intimacy 



We thank Michael Messner for commentary on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Schrack-Walters
    • 1
  • Kathleen A. O’Donnell
    • 2
  • Daniel L. Wardlow
    • 2
  1. 1.Northern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  2. 2.San Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA

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