Adversarial growth in Olympic swimmers: constructive reality or illusory self-deception?
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Previous research suggests that adversarial growth is a real and constructive phenomenon that occurs in athletes who compete at the highest level of sport. In this study, however, we adopt a critical stance on the veridicality of growth by exploring Olympic swimmers’ experience of constructive and illusory growth. Semistructured interviews, complemented by timelining, were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Despite the inherently negative aspects of adversity, it was evident from the swimmers’ interpretations that they also perceived positive consequences of their experiences. Analysis revealed that some of these positive outcomes were indicative of illusory aspects of growth, and other positive outcomes were more indicative of constructive aspects of growth. It appears that earlier phases of the growth process were characterized by more illusory aspects of growth, whereas when the temporal proximity from the adversity increased, more constructive aspects of growth were apparent.
Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology;
Howells, K. and Fletcher, D. (2016) 'Adversarial growth in Olympic swimmers: constructive reality or illusory self-deception?', Journal of sport and exercise psychology, 38(2), pp.173-186
Article published in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology in April 2016 available at https://doi.org/10.1123/jsep.2015-0159
- Sport Research Groups 
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