Date of Award

5-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Craig A. Wrisberg

Committee Members

Leslee A. Fisher, Sandra P. Thomas, Joe Whitney

Abstract

Globalization in the sports world is a phenomenon that has received considerable attention in the sport studies literature (Maguire, 1994, 2004). A significant aspect of globalization is labor migration in professional sports, which has been investigated extensively in recent years (e.g., Magee & Sugden, 2002; Takahashi & Horne, 2006). Basketball is one sport that has been discussed in this context (Falcous & Maguire, 2005). The sports encounters of athletes in foreign cultures are often diverse and entail differing pressures, rewards, and interdependencies (Falcous & Maguire, 2005). Players may deal with significant stressors such as performance expectations as is typical of professional sport settings, while simultaneously adjusting to organizational and cultural differences. In light of the various challenges of sport participation in an unfamiliar culture, the purpose of this study was to investigate US professional basketball players’ experiences of playing overseas using an existential phenomenological interview approach (Thomas & Pollio, 2002). Ten current and former professional male players, ages 24 to 55, participated in the study. The diverse sample of this study included six Black and four White players who had competed in a total of 26 different countries. Thematic analysis of the interviews revealed eight major themes, four of which pertained to athletes’ personal lives (Learning Local Mentality, Experiencing Isolation, Connecting with Others, Exploring Physical Environment) and four that dealt with basketball-specific aspects of the participants’ experiences (Dealing with “The Business,” Adjusting to Team Resources, Managing Team Dynamics, PlayingThe Game”). It was concluded that while playing overseas required these players to manage difficult stressors (e.g., organizational pressures) it also afforded them with unique opportunities for personal (e.g., learning about foreign cultures) and professional (e.g., gaining a different perspective on the game of basketball) growth. In contrast to previous literature (e.g., Cronson & Mitchell, 1987; Kroll, 1979), co-participants in the current study emphasized the positive aspects of their experiences overseas rather than focusing solely on the pressures and obstacles they encountered. Both the positive and negative aspects of their overseas experience seemed to contribute to the self-actualization (Cochran & Cochran, 2006) of these players, as athletes and as people.

Comments

The author, Rainer J. Meisterjahn, completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Kinesiology and Sport Studies with a Concentration in Kinesiology and a Specialization in Sport Psychology and Motor Behavior at the University of Tennessee in May 2011.

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