Understanding Sport Expertise through a Cultural Perspective: An Exploratory Study

Elmer A. Castillo1, Jean-Charles Lebeau2, Seongkwan Cho3, Camilo Sáenz-Moncaleano4 and Graig M. Chow5

1 Saint Francis University – Loretto, PA
2 Ball State University – Muncie, IN
3 Texas A&M International University – Laredo, TX
4 Private Practice – Malmö, Sweden
5 Florida State University – Tallahassee, FL

Cultural sport psychology has emerged as an important area within the field of applied sport psychology, but little research has been done on the cultural factors impacting sport expertise development. Employing Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system theory as a guiding framework, the present study examined the development of sport expertise through a cultural lens. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten elite athletes who had represented their respective countries in major international events. Our findings permeated three layers of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of development: microsystem (family and coach-athlete relationship), mesosystem (sport culture), and macrosystem (country culture), and indicate that culture is a salient factor that influences the development of elite athletic performance. Culture was found to be a multifaceted phenomenon ranging from broad cultural layers such as values and norms within a country to more specific layers such as the sport culture within a family, the community atmosphere within the sport, and customs in the coach-athlete relationship. These findings contribute to the growing body of research in cultural sport psychology and enhance cross-cultural understandings of talent development in sport.