1 Department of Public Health - Sport Science, Department of Public Health, Health, Aarhus University2 Department of Public Health - Sport Science, Department of Public Health, Health, Aarhus University
In this paper, we critically examine the existing theorization of athletic career and how the existing models construct aging and reaching the limits of physical development. We argue that the ‘ontology of aging’ as proposed by Wainwright and Turner (2003) underpins the definition of athletic career and its developmental stage models. A commonly used definition of an athletic career as a pursuit aimed at achieving the person’s peak in athletic performance carries a prescriptive assumption of career discontinuation when the athlete no longer has ‘objective’ possibilities of development. Sport is a subculture in which the physical dimension arguably plays a central role. Professional athletes lose their job when no longer performing within high physical standards. Therefore, a radical constructivist position on aging has been criticized as implausible in sports studies (Wainwright and Turner 2003). Cultural beliefs of decline also infiltrate our mind through media representation of aging athletes as ‘sad falling stars’. Yet there is a growing movement of ‘lifestyle sports’ which offer an alternative culture to dominant sporting practices. For example, the Veteran movement, alternative/extreme sports and Eastern physical cultures resist reducing sport participants to measurable physical capabilities. Moreover, in our research on Finnish endurance athletes we found that even in these sports many athletes resisted the ‘ontology of aging’ and the normativity of athletic retirement (Ronkainen et al, under review). Therefore, instead of reproducing dominant relations of power in sports, a more nuanced view is needed in order for career theories to reflect the lived experiences of athletes and to endow athletes with new trajectories in their career development. References Ronkainen, N., Ryba, T.V. & Nesti, M. (under review). ‘The engine just started coughing!’ – Limits of development, aging and career continuity in elite endurance sports. Journal for Aging Studies. Wainwright, S. P., & Turner, B. S. (2003). Aging and the dancing body. In C. Faircloth (Ed.), Aging bodies: Images and everyday experiences (pp. 259-292). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.