Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Leslee A. Fisher

Committee Members

Joy T. DeSensi, Lars Dzikus, Allison A. Anders

Abstract

In this experiential sport ethnography, I examined the experience of former NCAA college tennis players competing on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Men’s Pro Futures Tour, the entry level of professional tennis. Limited research has focused on players competing on this tour, especially former top-level NCAA players transitioning from collegiate to professional tennis. The contributions of ethnographic studies are gaining greater recognition in sport psychology literature, and I conducted a year-long experiential ethnography in which I entered the field as a participant and researcher. I gained access to Futures tournaments and players by participating in the qualifying rounds and collecting data through a combination of participant observation, field notes, informal conversations/interviews, and semi-structured interviews with 10 participants. Five overall themes emerged from the data—impact on life, uncertainty, mental discipline, support, and urgency—with sub-themes varying according to the three transitional periods players were experiencing. In the initial transition from college to professional tennis, players felt an urgency to play on the Futures Tour, found the experience to be life-defining, faced uncertainty about their success, understood the need to be self-reliant, and depended on the emotional support of others. In the second transitional period, which involved competing full-time on the Futures Tour, players felt an urgency to continue competing on the Tour, became consumed by the lifestyle, faced uncertainty about the many arrangements they had to make, realized they needed to develop consistency in their performance, and relied on structural support to remain on the tour. In the third transitional period, a time when players either had to move up to the next level of professional tennis or move on to other things, players felt an urgency to get off the Tour one way or another, found this period to be life-changing, faced uncertainty over their future plans, needed to overcome adversity, and depended on material support. I used selections from an autoethnography of my research experience and a thematic analysis of the three transitional periods to capture the complexity of experiences and psychological processes players went through as they transitioned to and competed on the Futures Tour.

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