This chapter explores the role of informal sport in the development of top-level Icelandic athletes. The approach is explorative and intended to develop an empirically grounded theory. We conducted semistructured interviews with 10 Icelandic elite athletes. Our analysis suggests that the development of free play may be of central importance to the development of elite athletes. Free play offers the opportunity to foster intrinsic motivation, mastery of skills, flow, craftsmanship, and aesthetic experience. We suggest that these qualities are important in the development of top athletes, especially in their early sport career. Our analysis also highlights the importance of unsupervised informal peer interaction. A pool of unsupervised peer networks can serve as a prerequisite for the development of informal sport that may promote qualities that are desirable for the development of top-level athletes. Our analysis further suggests that the contribution of informal sport depends on how it interacts with other elements in the social context and its relationship to formal sport.
The study was supported by RANNIS (The Icelandic Centre for Research) and the University of Iceland Research Fund.
Halldorsson, V., Thorlindsson, T. and Katovich, M. (2014), "The Role of Informal Sport: The Local Context and the Development of Elite Athletes", Revisiting Symbolic Interaction in Music Studies and New Interpretive Works (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 42), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 133-160. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-239620140000042008Download as .RIS
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