Moving into the elite level: What can be expected by female athletes?

Lars Lagergren & Jesper Fundberg
Dept. of Sport Sciences, Malmö University


The purpose of this paper is to highlight how masculine hegemony is expressed in female sports, and the consequences of this.  The ‘gatekeeping perspective’ is utilized to illustrate how masculine hegemony is manifested, and what possible consequences this may have in the development of female elite athletes.  A gatekeeping process is understood here as the elements of expectation and confirmation, the influence of leaders and parents on the young promising athletes’ everyday life, development and vision of a possible future as elite athletes. Empirical data was collected through interviews and observations on two separate occasions, during the periods 2002–2004 and 2011–2013. The findings from this project are presented in three case studies: football, tennis, and classical ballet. The conclusion of the study highlights that the gatekeeping process takes place in a ‘void’ in football, whereas this is not the case in tennis and classical ballet. In contrast to the latter cases, there seems to be no expectations at all surrounding the girl’s participation and/or performance in football. Football players’ quest to become affirmed is met neither by leaders nor by parents. Only girls who set up their own targets, and thereby put up resistance by accepting the sport, with its male hegemony and its norms and values, ​​can feel at home in football.


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JESPER FUNDBERG has a PhD in Ethnology and is Associate Professor of Sport Sciences at Malmö University. His research focuses on gender and diversity aspects of sports.

LARS LAGERGREN has a PhD in Technology and social change and is Associate Professor of Sport Sciences and Leisure Studies. Research interests are adult organisation and governance of youth sports and youth work.

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