Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Craig A. Wrisberg

Committee Members

Patricia A. Beitel, Joy T. DeSensi, Nancy M. Goslee, William J. Morgan


Female athletes participating in non-traditional ("masculine") sports often find that society's expectations of what is or is not "feminine" pose conflicts and raise gender-typed issues regarding their sport participation. Moreover, the very nature of questioning an athlete's choice of sport participation reflects perceptions and/or fears of homosexuality. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to provide a description of the sport participation experiences of women as they relate to: (a) the participants' perceptions of societal expectations of women and their influences; (b) the participants' definitions of "femininity," "masculinity," and "homophobia" and (c) to understand the ways in which both personal definitions of these terms along with perceptions of society's definitions have affected their sport experiences.

This study used the qualitative methodology of the dialogic interview from a feminist perspective analyzed within an interpretist framework. Six Caucasian female athletes ranging in age from midtwenties to late sixties were interviewed. Interviews lasted between one and two hours. Participants participated in a variety of sports within both organized school and community leagues and recreation and physical education settings. Differences in opportunities regarding sports played and competitive levels reflected the diversity in ages and accompanying historical context within which the participants' perceived experiences existed.

A thematic analysis of the data produced themes in the categories of: (a) "family matters" discussed as the crucial role that the women's families played in the participants' involvement in sport regarding both support and concerns; (b) "participatory restrictions" that reflect inaccessibility to a particular sport or competitive level as participant; (c) discrimination and/or marginalization reflecting "inequities" within participants' experiences; (d) participant views and personal definitions of "femininity" describing attempts to harmonize personal definitions with societal expectations; (e) understanding of the term "homophobia" and reflections of one's own perceptions of it as well as those of family, fans, administration and fellow athletes; and (f) participant "determination" that prevailed within their experiences. Each theme was discussed separately. Differences between participants were also noted regarding the extent to which various themes did or did not affect their participatory experiences as well as the unique and individual approaches each used to contend with them.

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