This paper explores one individual’s life history to examine how he overcame adversity, his reactions and coping strategies, and the subsequent effects. Data were collected through multiple semi-structured interviews and discussions and analysed using performative and structural narrative analysis. The researchers took the role of storyteller to shape the story into a thematic chronological life history and then switched roles to story analysts to interrogate the story’s meanings and interpretations using social theory. Contrary to previous research on adversity and growth, the participant has learned to accept failure as his pathway for growth. He perceives’ adversity as a natural part of his life; through challenge and distress comes success. The life history presented illustrates this narrative with a particular focus on his sporting and military experiences. More specifically, we identify the presence of two dominant sporting narratives: the performance narrative and the Merry-Go-Round narrative. This account provides an in-depth, disturbing, and heart-breaking insight into one man’s experiences of multiple adversities in two social institutions, sport and the military, and how he subsequently makes sense of life. The participant found the process reflective, enabling him to identify previously inaccessible areas of growth and resilience. It also presented him with the opportunity to make peace with past behaviours and actions, confront weaknesses to move forward and address them to better his present circumstances. We conclude by reflecting on how this story challenges current ideas around adversarial growth, post-traumatic growth and the development of resilience.
Adversity, growth, life history, military, narrative, resilience, sport, trauma
Frances Palmer is course lead for Sports Coaching and Development at Weston College, and a Level 2 British Triathlon coach working with athletes of all ages and levels. She has experience as a competitive Age Group Athlete at the junior and senior levels. Her primary interest is in supporting athletes and individuals returning to competitive sports; this has led to a research interest in adversarial growth and resilience.
Karen Howells is a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at Cardiff Metropolitan University and a Chartered Sport Psychologist working with athletes from individual sports at all levels. As a researcher, her interests lie in exploring the experiences of adversity in sports and high-performance environments, and more specifically in adversarial growth and post-Olympic blues.
David Brown is a Professor in the Sociology of Sport and Physical Culture at Cardiff Metropolitan University. His research addresses changing body-self-society relationships in sporting and physical cultures. Areas of current focus include Eastern movement forms as body-self transforming practice in the West and changing relationships between physical cultures and sustainability.