Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Epistemologies of champions: A discoursive analysis of champions' retrospective attributions; looking back and looking within

Edward Kingsley Norris, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The intent of this research project was to achieve greater understanding of the developmental and psychological processes of tennis champions. Phenomenological research design, employing the qualitative in-depth interview was used. Constant comparative analysis, as applied to grounded theory, was used to guide data collection and analysis. Champions were asked to describe their processes toward championship achievement, and what facilitated their athletic and psychological development. Of particular interest was how they traced their development, which included the following themes: The roles of parents, teachers, coaches and mentors, conceptualizations of mental toughness, process versus outcome orientations to competition, the zone, triumphing when not in the zone, sportsmanship, regulation of emotion, self-talk, self-knowledge, self-complexity, motivation, confidence, dreams and childhood imaging, goal setting, acting skills when competing, humor, independent thinking, discipline, the history of their personal competitiveness, and their achievement of successfully contending with the psychological pressures of competition. Common to nearly all the participants was an enduring love of the game of tennis, the joy of competing, and a strong desire to do supremely well and work hard in whatever endeavor the champions pursued. Correlations with existent literature and previous research were present in the domains of family and social factors, most of the experiential characteristics of peak performance, and the importance attributed to having a coach or mentor who had the ability to relate well personally and professionally. In contrast to some previous research about champions and high achievers, most of these champions had not met an abundance of pain and trauma in their personal lives. How champions define champion was an area of this research new to the literature. Emergent from the interviews were three styles of definition: External, reflecting accomplishment; External--Internal, meaning accomplishment and exemplary self-conduct; and Internal, reflecting both model self-conduct--and the value that a champion is one who fully actualizes innate potential. Potential seeking is how most of the champions described their drive for championship development and their orientation to life.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Recreation|Physical education

Recommended Citation

Norris, Edward Kingsley, "Epistemologies of champions: A discoursive analysis of champions' retrospective attributions; looking back and looking within" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9841903.