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Life as a Carded Athlete

In 2001 the Ministerial Taskforce for Sport, Leisure and Fitness presented the Graham Report to the New Zealand government. The authors of this document had been invited to assess the state of sport within New Zealand and provide recommendations for the future direction of wider sport initiatives. One of these initiatives involved restructuring the process for developing New Zealand’s elite athletes, which led to the establishment of the New Zealand Academy of Sport (NZAS) and the carded athlete system. This research project investigated the impact that the carding system has had on both the career and identity development of New Zealand’s elite athletes. In particular it examined athletes’ perspectives of this system as they explored how being part of the carding system has impacted their lives, both in and outside of the sport experience. Additionally, it addressed the impact that athlete carding has had on individuals’ role identities. In so doing, this investigation has allowed for a previously silenced, yet growing population of elite athletes to share their experiences of life as a carded athlete. Semi-structured interviews conducted with a purposeful sample of 17 male and female carded athletes from eight different sports were used to explore these insights. The interviews revealed that while athletes experienced increased levels of funding and support upon becoming carded, they were also subjected to decreased levels of autonomy and perceived increases in external pressure as a result of their involvement within the carding system. Furthermore, the potential for participants to become engulfed within the athlete role was evident throughout each of their narratives. These results suggest the carded athlete system it is not currently meeting its potential of developing world class ‘holistic’ athletes. As such, it is important that individuals working within New Zealand’s elite sport environment explicitly encourage carded athletes to explore a more balanced approach to their daily lives. Differences in athlete readiness to embrace activities outside of the sport context however, suggests that career development programmes may also need to consider the stage of an athlete’s career in order to best meet individual athlete needs and motivation.
Type of thesis
Ryan, C. (2014). Life as a Carded Athlete (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8556
University of Waikato
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