1 Department of Public Health - Sport Science, Department of Public Health, Health, Aarhus University2 Liverpool John Moores University3 University of Jyväskylä4 Department of Public Health - Sport Science, Department of Public Health, Health, Aarhus University
Although a growing number of theoretical works and applied sport psychologists have acknowledged the importance of spiritual worldviews and experiences of athletes, empirical research on the topic remains relatively limited (Parry et al., 2007). Moreover, the existing empirical research has mainly represented American, Christian participants. With the anecdotal evidence of importance of spirituality in the sport world and the attention to the relationship between these two in popular culture, this research was designed to gain insights to the spiritual meanings athletes attach to their sport in two Northern European countries, England and Finland. Our inquiry was grounded on existential-narrative framework and a broad existentialist definition of spirituality (Webster, 2004). The empirical data was collected through essay writing. Eight elite athletes were invited to write a reflective story about their athletic careers, including both difficult and rewarding moments, meanings assigned to the practice, and on personal worldviews and values. Participants’ sports included golf, football, Nordic combined skiing, Finnish baseball and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Preliminary analysis of the athletes’ stories revealed mainly, but not exclusively, humanistic dimensions of spirituality. The emerging themes included transcendence, movement as a way of being and experiencing, love for the sport, wonder and awe. We suggest that although many people in Northern European countries may not identify their experiences as spirituality, the dimensions associated with it may nevertheless be an important aspect of their experiences. Therefore, sport psychology practitioners should be more sensitive to hearing also those dimensions of experience which do not easily fit the disciplinary discourse, strongly shaped by social-cognitive theorizing. References Parry, J., Robinson, S., Watson, N. and Nesti, M. (2007). Sport and Spirituality: An Introduction. London: Routledge. Webster, R. (2004). An Existential Framework of Spirituality. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality 9: 7–19.