The role of informal sport: The local context and the development of elite athletes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRevisiting Symbolic Interaction in Music Studies and New Interpretive Works
PublisherJAI Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)9781783508372
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NameStudies in Symbolic Interaction
ISSN (Print)0163-2396

Other keywords

  • Elite athletes
  • Informal sport
  • Local context


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