As athletes invest their time and energy into sport and it becomes a meaningful part of their self-concept they simultaneously develop an athletic identity. This chapter discusses psychological and sociological research on athletic identity development. One robust finding throughout the literature is that often athletes see themselves as athletes more strongly than the public does. The public’s reluctance to acknowledge that athletes with disabilities are real athletes reflects how disability sport is often marginalized. Research shows that sometimes former able-bodied athletes decline to participate in disability sport or seek out a sport different from the one they engaged in when able-bodied. Some athletes claim to be elite disability sport athletes in order to have an “elite” athletic identity. Other athletes with disabilities do not acknowledge disability sport and embrace an elite athlete identity. Within this context, the chapter incorporates relevant theory and psychological processes to identify plausible mechanisms underlying athletes’ decisions about whether to participate in sport and what to call themselves when they do.
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