Different Strokes: an Exploration of the Experience of Gay Athletes as Members of a Master's Swim Team

Date of Award


Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Jessica Bartley

First Committee Member

Scotty Hanley


Gay athletes, swimming, LGB, minority stress theory


This study aims to explore the experiences of gay male swimmers, specifically by identifying the various factors that make up both positive and negative sport experiences, as well as examining what may influence these experiences for these athletes. Although the history of LGB involvement in sports has been predominantly negative (Krane, 2001; Rankin, 2003), there is recent evidence in literature that sport may in fact be a protective factor for the overall psychological wellbeing of this group. Further literature suggests that gay athletes are becoming more accepted by their teammates and even thriving in sport environments (Magrath, Anderson, & Roberts, 2015; Anderson, 2011). However, there is limited understanding from previous research of what precisely some of these protective factors may be, which is what the present study attempts to better understand. In the current study, researchers interviewed 12 members of a masters swim team that specifically caters to the LGB population to better understand the athlete’s overall experience in sport. Utilizing content analysis, researchers identified four major themes including: positive experiences, negative experiences, motivations to swim, and generational differences. These themes and their subthemes are used to explore the potential protective factors among the gay athlete population. Ultimately, researchers conclude that swimming, and possibly sport participation in general, serves as a protective factor for gay athletes and can lead to better psychological wellbeing and more positive sporting experiences later in life.


Copyright is held by the authors. Permanently suppressed.


24 pages

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