Athletic Identity Work: A Systematic Review of the Literature


While athletes’ degree in which they identify with their athletic identity have received much attention, the process of developing, maintaining, and revising their self-perceptions (i.e., identity work) has only been broadly acknowledged. Given the importance of identity work in reducing identity threats, a thorough assessment of the concept can help athletes navigate between conflicting roles, recover lost selves following injuries, and reform their identity upon retirement from sports. Therefore, this systematic review provides an assessment of the literature on athletic identity work and discusses future direction of studies. Under the PRISMA guidelines, this review identified 54 international studies from the Web of Science, APA PsychNet, and PubMed. Studies underwent full-text reviews for data extraction. With the data, the following are analyzed and discussed. First, an overall characteristics of the literature is provided, including publication years, theoretical frameworks, population, and methodological approaches. Second, a bibliographic coupling analysis was performed to provide the overall structure of the literature and how connected research on athletic identity has been thus far. Third, a sum code classification on quantitative studies was performed to accumulate empirical findings on the relationship between athletic identity and relevant predictors and outcomes. Lastly, analysis on identifying triggers and identity work modes (activities) that are involved with athletic identity work provides in-depth overview of the literature. Overall, the review discusses the how the athletic subcultures influence the development of athletes’ identities and how they impact their holistic development.


Yoonki Chun
Student, Ph.D., University of Florida, Florida, United States

Elodie Wendling
Adjunct Professor, Department of Sport Management, University of Florida, United States

Michael Sagas
Professor, Sport Management, University of Florida, Florida, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2023 Special Focus—The Impact of Professional Sport on Community


Athletic identity, Identity work, Systematic review, Athlete development

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