Sportopedia Glossary

Athletic Identity Loss

Athletic Identity Loss

Athletic identity is a psychological construct that refers to a role-based, self-related perception of how people view themselves in relation to their role as an athlete (Brewer, Van Raalte, & Linder, 1993). The salience of a person’s athletic identity is also malleable to an extent, exhibiting state-like properties (e.g., Benson, Evans, Surya, Martin, & Eys, 2015). Athletic identity is conceptualized as a multidimensional construct that entails: (1) athletic social identity, an individual’s self-concept regarding how someone thinks others view his/her athletic role; (2) athletic self-identity, a person’s self-concept based on self-referenced cognitions; (3) athletic identity exclusivity, the degree to which an individual identifies solely with his/her role as an athlete; and (4) negative affectivity, the uncomfortable emotions
associated with an inability to fulfill athlete role expectations (Brewer et al., 1993).

Notwithstanding this broader conceptualization, each individual’s construal of what it means to fulfill the expectations associated with an athletic role differs according to situational, contextual, historical, and cultural factors, and thus each person’s conception of his/ her athletic identity has an idiographic component (Ronkainen, Kavoura, & Ryba, 2016).


Benson, A. J., Evans, M. B., Surya, M., Martin, L. J., & Eys, M. A. (2015). Embracing athletic identity in the face of threat. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 4, 1 13.

Brewer, B. W., Van Raalte, J. L., & Linder, D. E. (1993). Athletic identity: Hercules’ muscles or Achilles heel? International Journal of Sport Psychology, 24, 237 254.

Ronkainen, N. J., Kavoura, A., & Ryba, T. V. (2016). A metastudy of athletic identity research in sport psychology: Current status and future directions. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 9, 45 64.

***Contributed by Michael Godfrey & Alex Benson for Hackfort, D., Schinke, R. J., & Strauss, B. (Eds.). (2019). Dictionary of sport psychology: sport, exercise, and performing arts. Academic Press.