Athlete Social Responsibility (ASR) : a grounded theory inquiry into the social consciousness of elite athletes
Sport in Canada is struggling to demonstrate that it is accountable, value-based, and socially responsible. Simultaneously, there is a growing consciousness among elite athletes to use the power and appeal of sport to affect meaningful social change. Through in-depth interviews, I sought to understand which values and experiences motivated 15 elite Canadian athletes to become involved in social and political activities. I employed a grounded theory approach to analyze interview data and to develop the Athlete Social Responsibility (ASR) framework. My results show that ASR is grounded in identity and existential development. The research participants indicated that, early in their careers, sport provided discipline, direction, and purpose, but through the maturation process, they indicated that becoming socially and politically active was instrumental to their personal development, performance, and continued participation in elite sport. They voiced frustration that the current sport system does little to encourage such engagement and offered a number of innovative ways in which the current system could adopt an ASR perspective. These ideas included: developing a resource to help athletes find their cause and link with related organizations, companies, or charities; helping athletes find ways to connect to their local communities; and restructuring the Canadian Athlete Assistance Program to include both performance and ASR criteria.