Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Sociology and Rural Studies

First Advisor

Abdallah M. Badahdah


thletic-identity, COVID-19, Identity hierarchy, Identity navigation, Identity threats


This thesis attempted to answer how collegiate student-athlete runners navigated their running identity through the COVID-19 pandemic. This international health crisis served as an identity threat to the participants in this study as it cancelled outdoor track and field season in the spring of 2020. The main goal was to investigate how student-athlete runners navigated their athletic identity during COVID-19 and the social and psychological costs associated with said navigation. Utilizing in-depth semi-structured interviews, I collected data from five male and five female collegiate distance runners, from the same university. With grounded theory approach and identity theory as a theoretical framework, I discovered six themes concerning navigation of identity. These themes are Immediate Reactions, Negotiation of Identities, Emotional and Mental Health Responses, Formation of Running Identity, Social Support, and Return to Running. These six themes created the basis for the proposed model I titled this model “Navigation of Athletic Running Identity through COVID-19”. In general, the participants found COVID-19 to be a temporary identity threat that created a need for identity work during the pandemic. This negotiation of identity led to some emotional and mental health responses. Eventually, the athletes’ restore their running identities with slightly different meanings with the return to practice. Throughout the process, the commitment to running identity and social support influenced the process of navigation. This study showed how a group of homogenous student-athletes’ running identities were navigated and altered through the temporary identity threat of COVID-19.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Runners (Sports) -- Psychology.
Track and field athletes -- Psychology.
College athletes -- Psychology.
Identity (Psychology)
COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020-



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University

Included in

Sociology Commons



Rights Statement

In Copyright