Finding one's footing on foreign soil: A composite vignette of elite athlete acculturation

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Objectives:The focus of this manuscript is the challenges associated with newcomer athlete acculturation within a sport system. The research question was as follows: What acculturation challenges do immigrant athletes have to work through as they attempt to integrate into new sport environments and facilitate their athletic careers within shifting cultural dynamics?Design:The research was framed as a critical acculturation project (see Chirkov, 2009a, 2009b). The project aligns with broader calls in sport research for innovative qualitative approaches that reveal the complexity and multifaceted aspects of acculturation. Using creative non-fiction (e.g., a composite vignette), this project sought to illustrate the fluidity of acculturation, based on athletes' stories.Methods:Conversational interviews were gathered and an interpretive thematic analysis was performed. The data were then developed into a composite vignette to illustrate the fluidity of the athletes' acculturation experiences.Results:The acculturation vignette revealed four major themes: (a) navigating the Canadian Sport System without local support, (b) adjusting to new sport programs and training approaches, (c) dealing with cultural differences in Canadian athletes' mindsets, and (d) searching for balance.Conclusions:This project reveals how immigrant elite athletes experience continuous acculturation. These fluidities are best captured through emerging methodological approaches, where acculturation can be storied as non-linear.HighlightsExamines the acculturation challenges of elite athletes in relation to a national sport system.Draws upon creative analytic practices in the form of a composite vignette to reveal athlete acculturation.Four themes, each revealing a facet of immigrant athlete acculturation.

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