Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Environmental Science (MS)

Degree Level



General Human Environmental Sciences


Amanda Terrell

Committee Member

Ben Houltberg

Second Committee Member

Jennifer Becnel


Elite athletes, humanitarian intervention, identity development, purpose


Elite athletes face numerous personal and professional pressures and high-stress experiences; however, there is a gap in the literature connecting identity development with these life experiences. Using narrative inquiry analysis with six emerging adult athletes competing at professional and Olympic levels, this study identified self-narratives they created from life experiences within the context of sport and analyzed when these meanings were formed. Athletes described experiences causing great psychological disturbances as a normal risk within their sport and needing to regulate or compartmentalize their emotions to get through those experiences. Participants discussed various roles they play within their team but lacked identifying roles outside of sport context. Results from these interviews suggest potential psychological benefits from participating in humanitarian activities. Following a humanitarian intervention, athletes were able to identify characteristics within themselves that could be labeled as performance-based identity attributes. Additionally, athletes described how volunteerism gave them an opportunity to satisfy their individual needs for purpose. Findings are relevant for applied work with athletes, coaches, and parents, as well as prioritizing athlete identity work as an important research focus.