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The Presentation of Possible Selves in Everyday Life: The Management of Identity Among Transitioning Professional Athletes

In contrast to research, which privileges the notion of an exclusive athletic identity, we argue that the identity management of professional athletes is influenced by the expectations of audiences and the motivational weight of ‘possible selves’ in explaining career transitions from ‘sports work’. Qualitative vignette interviews were conducted with 10 male participants (ages 18–26 years) on three separate occasions (30 interviews). All interviewees had experienced a career transition from Premier League football in the UK. By integrating Goffman’s (1971) dramaturgical analogy and Markus and Nurius’s (1986) concept of possible selves we illustrate the way athletes manage their identities to explain how understandings of career transitions are linked to social audiences and whether they dramatically realize and legitimize future possible selves.