This research examined the experiences of eight Portuguese (former) elite athletes from a social scientificperspective. In so doing it attempted to move away from the tentacles of achievement sport and, in particular, theperformance efficiency model that dominates elite sport. Rather, it focused on the subjective and qualitativeexperiences of sportspeople themselves and gave them a forum to reflect upon the primary socializing agentsthat played a key role in their sporting success, and on the peaks and troughs on their journeys to sportingsuccess, nationally and internationally. The research design included semi-structured interviews with athletesthat excelled in athletics, handball, gymnastics, korfball and swimming. All eight had achieved outstandingresults nationally and internationally. A qualitative approach was adopted for data collection and analysis.Giving voice to the former athletes themselves revealed much about: the primary socializing agents for sport intheir lives, as young, teenage and adult athletes; those role models and mentors that influenced their initial andongoing involvement and specialization in sport, these being the family (usually parents), physical educationteachers and peers; and, finally, the peaks and troughs in their careers which usually hinged around sportingsuccess or defeat, failure to achieve expected results, and the onset and impact of injury. Taken together, thesefindings reverberate with those of other researchers beyond the Lusophone world. They also indicate theemergence and development of a sports ethic in Portugal despite the comparatively late entry of that country into the global sporting arms race.
Bibliographical noteReference text: Amorim, J. (2013). Manchester giants fighting over Sporting CP's Bruma,
[Accessed 12 Jan 2014].
Atkins, C. (2013). U-20 World Cup: The "new Ronaldo" making his own name for Portugal.
http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/thescoutsnotebook/id/491?cc=573. [Accessed 14 Jan 2014].
Baker, J., Côté, J. & Abernethy, B., (2003). Learning from the experts: Practice activities of expertdecisionmakers
in sport. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 74(3), 342-347.
Baker, J. & Horton, S., (2004). A review of primary and secondary influences on sport expertise. High Ability
Studies, 15(2), 211-228.
Baker, J., Horton, S., Robertson-Wilson, J., & Wall, M. (2003). Nurturing sport expertise: Factors influencing
the development of elite athlete. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2(1), 1-9.
Bouchard, C., & Rankinen, T. (2001). Individual differences in response to regular physical activity [online].
http://www.setantacollege.com/wp-content/uploads/Journal_db/Individual differences in response to
regular.pdf. [Accessed 14 May 2014].
Brackenridge, C., & Kirby, S. (1997). Playing safe: Assessing the risk of sexual abuse to elite child athletes.
International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 32(4), 407-418.
Brustad, R. J., Babkes, M. L., & Smith, A.L. (2001). Youth in sport: Psychological considerations. In R.N.
Singer, H.A. Hausenblas and C.M. Janelle (Eds.), Handbook of Sport Psychology (2 ed., pp. 604-635).
New York: Wiley.
Coakley, J. (2003). Sports in society: issues and controversies (8th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Coakley, J. (1983). Leaving competitive sport: Retirement or rebirth? Quest, 35(1), 1-11.
Coakley, J., & Pike, E. (2014). Sports in society: Issues and controversies (2 ed.) London: McGraw-Hill.
Côté, J. (1999). The influence of the family in the development of talent in sport. Sport Psychologist, 13(4), 395-
Côté, J., Baker, J., & Abernethy, B. (2003). From play to practice: A developmental framework for the
acquisition of expertise in team sport. In J. Starkes and K. Ericsson (Eds.), Recent Advances in
Research on Sport Expertise (pp.89-114).Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Côté, J., Salmela, J., Abderrahim, B, & Russel, S. (1993). Organising and interpreting unstructured qualitative
data. The Sport Psychologist, 7(2)127-137.
Cushion, C., & Kitchen, W. (2011). Pierre Bourdieu: a theory of (coaching) practice. In R. Jones et al., (Eds.),
The sociology of sports coaching (pp.40-53).London and New York: Routledge.
Ellis, C., & Bochner, A. (2000). Autoethnography, personal narrative, reflexivity: Researcher as subject. In N.K.
Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.), The handbook of qualitative research (pp.733-768).London: Sage.
Erickson, K., Bruner, M., MacDonald, D., & Côté, J. (2008). Gaining insight into actual and preferred sources of
coaching knowledge. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 3(4), 527-538.
European Commission (2010). Special Eurobarometer 334 – Sport and physical activity [online]. Belgium:
European Commission. Available from:
http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_334_en.pdf. [Accessed 22 April 2014].
Fairclough, S., Stratton, G., & Baldwin, G. (2002). The contribution of secondary school physical education to
lifetime physical activity. European Physical Education Review, 8(1), 69-84.
Fernandes, A. S., Tenreiro, F. J., Quaresma, L., & Maças, V. (2011). Sport policy in Portugal. International
Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 3(1), 133-141.
Fleurance, P., & Cotteaux, F. (1999). Construction de L’Expertise Chez les Entraîneurs Sportifs D’Athlètes de
Haut-Niveau Français, Avante, 5(2), 54-68.
Gibbons, T. (2002). The path to excellence: A comprehensive view of development of U.S. Olympians who
competed from 1984-1998. http://physed.otago.ac.nz/sosol/v1i1/v1i1a8.htm. [Accessed 22 April 2014].
Golafshani, N. (2003). Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research. The Qualitative Report,
Guedes de Carvalho, P., & Nunes, P. (2012). Non-linear relationship between number of clubs and participants
in sport. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 5(1), 133-144.
Hemery, D. (1986). The pursuit of sporting excellence. A study of sport´s higest achivers London: Willow
Hickey, C., & Kelly, P. (2008). Preparing to not be a footballer: Higher education and professional sport. Sport,
Education and Society, 13(4), 477-494.
Hill, M. (2007). In pursuit of excellence. A study to elite sports development London: Routledge.
Holt, N., & Morley, D. (2004). Gender differences in psychosocial factors associated with athletic success during
childhood. The Sport Psychologist, 18(2), 138-153.
Iglesias, D., González, L., Calvo, T., Barco, B., & Álvarez, F. (2010). Expertise development in sport:
Contributions under cognitive psychology perspective. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 5(3),
Johnson, M., Tenenbaun, G., Edmonds, W., & Castillo, Y. (2008). A comparison of the developmental
experiences of elite and sub-elite swimmers: similar developmental histories can lead to differences in
performance level. Sport, Education and Society, 13(4), 453-475.
Kay, T. (2000). Sporting Excellence: A family affair? European Physical Education Review, 6(2), 151-169.
Kerr, G., & Dacyshyn, A. (2000). The retirement experiences of elite, female gymnasts. Journal of Applied Sport
Psychology, 12(2), 115-133.
Leite, N., Baker, J., & Sampaio, J. (2009). Paths to expertise in Portugese national team athletes. Journal of
Sports Science and Medicine, 8(4), 560-566.
Leite, N., & Sampaio, J. (2012). Long-term athletic development across different age groups and gender from
Portugese basketball players. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 7(2), 285-300.
Lewontin, R. (2000). The triple helix: Gene, organism, and environment Cambridge, MA: Harvard, University
Lidor, R., & Lavyan, N.A. (2002). Retrospective picture of early sport experiences among elite and near-elite
israeli athletes: developmental and psychological perspectives. International Journal of Sport
Psychology, 33, 269-289.
Liston, K., Gregg, R., & Lowther, J. (2012). Elite sports police and coaching at the coalface. International
Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 5(3), 341-362.
Liston, K., & Moreland, E. (2009). Sport and National Identity in Northern Ireland. New Hibernia Review,
Lorenzo, A., & Sampaio, J. (2005). Reflexiones sobre los factores que pueden condicionar el desarrollo de los
deportistas de alto nível. Apunts Educación Física y Deportes, 2º Trimestre, 63-70.
Macphail, A., Gorely, T., & Kirk, D. (2003). Young people's socialisation into sport: A case study of an athletics
club. Sport, Education and Society, 8(2), 251-267.
Maguire, J. (2014). Introduction. In J. Maguire (Ed.), Social sciences of sport (pp.1-6). Champaign, Il: Human
Maguire, J., Jarvie, G., Mansfield, L., & Bradley, J. (2002). Sport worlds. A sociological
perspective. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.
Makopoulou, K. & Armour, K.M., (2011). Physical education teachers' career-long professional learning:
Getting personal. Sport, Education and Society, 16(5), 571-591.
Malcolm, D., (2011). Sport Medicine, injured athletes and Norbert Elias's sociology of knowledge. Sociology of
Sport Journal, 28(3), 282-304.
Malina, R., Peña Reyes, M., Eisenmann, J., Horta, L. & Miller, R. (2000). Height, mass and skeletal maturity of
elite Portugese soccer players aged 11-16 years. Journal of Sports Sciences, 18(9), 685-693.
Massa, M., Uezu, R., & Böme, M. (2010). Judocas olímpicos brasileiros: Fatores de apoio psicossocial para o
desenvolvimento do talento esportivo. Revista Brasileira Educação Física e Esporte, 24(4), 471-481.
Massuca, L., & Fragoso, I. (2011). Study of portugese handball players of different playing status: A
morphological and biosocial perspective. Biology of Sport, 28(1), 37-44.
May, T. (2001). Social research: Issues, methods and process (Tird Ed.). Maidenhead and New York: Open
Mellalieu, S., Hanton, S., & Fletcher, D. (2009). A competitive anxiety review: recent directions in sport
psychology research. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
Morton, K.L., Keith, S.E., & Beauchamp, M.R. (2010). Transformational teaching and physical activity: A new
paradigm for adolescent health promotion? Journal of Health Psychology, 15(2), 248-257.
Mota, J., & Sallis, J. (2002). Actividade física e saúde. Factores de influência da actividade física nas crianças e
adolescentes Porto: Campos das Letras.
Neuman, W. (2003). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches Boston: Pearson
Penney, D., & Jess, M. (2004). Physical education and physically active lives: A lifelong approach to curriculum
development. Sport, Education and Society, 9(2), 269-287.
Pérusse, L., Gagnon, J., Province, M., Rao, D., Wilmore, J., Leon, A., Bouchard, C., & Skinner, J. S. (2001).
Family aggregation of submaximal aerobic performance: The HERITAGE family study. Medicine and
Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(4), 597-604.
Quivy, R., & Campenhoudt, L. (1998). Manual de Investigação em Ciências Sociais (2ª ed.). Lisboa: Gradiva
Ramos, A., Vale, P., Salgado, B., Correia, P., Oliveira, E., Seabra, A., Rebelo, A., & Brito, J. (2010. Physical test
performances of elite Portuguese junior soccer players according to positional roles. In B. Drust, T.
Reilly and A. M. Williams (Eds.), International Research in Science and Soccer. First World
Conference on Science and Soccer (pp. 7-11). Oxon: Routledge.
Riewald, S., & Peterson, K. (2003). Understanding and influencing the road to success. High-Performance
Coaching, 5(4), 1-4.
Roderick, M. J. (2012). An unpaid labor of love: Professional footballers, family life and the problem of job
relocation. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 36(3), 317-338.
Roderick, M. J. (2006). The work of professional football: a labour of love?. London: Routledge.
Salmela, J. (1996). Great job coach! Getting the edge from proven winners Ottawa, Canada: Ed. Potentiun.
Schempp, P. (1998). The dynamics of human diversity in sport pedagogy scholarship. Sosol sociology of sport
online. http://physed.otago.ac.nz/sosol/home.html. [Accessed 30 April 2014].
Sharp, E., Caldwell, L., Graham, J., & Ridenour, T. (2006). Individual motivation and parental influence on
adolescents’ experiences of interest in free time: a longitudinal examination. Journal of Youth and
Adolescence, 35(3), 340-353.
Shields, D., & Bredemeier, B. (2009). True competition. A guide to pursuing excellence in sport and society
Champaign: Human Kinetics.
Silva, M., & Rubio, K. (2003). Superação no esporte: Limites individuais ou sociais? Revista Portuguesa de
Ciências do Desporto, 3(3), 69-76.
Smith, B., & Caddick, N. (2012). Qualitative methods in sport: A concise overview for guiding social scientific
sport research. Asia Pacific Journal of Sport and Social Science, 1(1), 60-73.
Torregrosa, T., Boixadós, M., Valiente, L., & Cruz, J. (2004). Elite athletes' image of retirement: The way to
relocation in sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 5(1), 35-43.
Tranckle, P., & Cushion, C. (2006). Rethinking giftedness and talent in sport. Quest, 58(2), 265-282.
Van Vugt, M. (2014). The talent myth in sports (football) and business. Psychology Today.
business. [Accessed 10 Jan 2014].
Vieira, L., & Vieira, J. (2001). Talentos esportivos: Estudo dos atributos pessoais dos atletas paranaenses do
atletismo. Revista de Educação Física/ UEM, Maringá, 12(1), 7-17.
Waddington, I. (2000). Sport, health and drugs - a critical sociological perspective. London and New Yorl:
Weiss, M., & Petlichkoff, L. (1989). Children's motivation for participation in and withdrawal from sport:
Identifying the missing links. Pediatric Exercise Science, 1(3), 195-211.
Wilmore, J. H., Stanforth, P., Gagnon, J., Rice, T., Mandel, S., Leon, A., Rao, D., Skinner, J., & Bouchard, C.
(2001). Heart rate and blood pressure changes with endurance training: The HERITAGE Family Study.
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(1), 107-116.
Woods, R. (2008). Social issues in sport. London: Human Kinetics.
Young, K. (2004). Sports-Related pain and injury: Sociological notes. In K. Young (Ed.), Sporting bodies,
damaged selves(pp. 1-25).Oxford: Elsevier.
Zaar, A., Reis, V. and Pereira, A., 2012. Excelência no atletismo: A história de vida de Fabiano Peçanha.
EFDeportes.com, Revista Digital, 17(175), 1-13.
- sports ethic
- elite sport
- critical moments
- qualitative research