Stories of success: cultural narratives and personal stories of elite and professional athletes

David Carless*, Kitrina Douglas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Using a narrative methodology to explore the stories Olympic and elite athletes tell about success, we identified three alternatives to the dominant conception of success as the achievement of performance outcomes. In these alternatives, success is storied as: (1) ‘I did the best that I could’ – a controllable and sustainable story of effort and application; (2) ‘It’s the closest thing you can get to flying’ – a story where success relates to embodied experience and discovery; (3) ‘People I made the journey with’ – which prioritises relationships and connection between people. We reflect on three key insights: (1) success is a multidimensional concept, broader than the singular conception encapsulated within the dominant performance narrative; (2) through various narrative strategies, experienced athletes resist cultural pressures towards a singular conception of success; (3) for long-term performance and well-being, it is necessary to work towards multiple forms of success over time and across contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-398
Number of pages12
JournalReflective Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • elite sport
  • identity
  • narrative
  • story
  • success
  • well-being


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