C. ZUCCHERMAGLIO ET AL.
alle volte (.) noi non riusciamo a giocare- voi non riuscite a
giocare come sapete (.)
23 ALL1: [but I go back to when there were ten of us when
there were ten of you against Palermo (0.8) there were ten of
you and they didn’t get a single chance even playing (0.2) half
an hour: (.) From the attack=in practice (.............) (0.5) it’s not
that we had- it’s not that you had to work hard back there.
23 ALL1: [e ma io rivado a quando eravamo in dieci eravate
in dieci col Palermo (0.8) là eravate in dieci quelli non hanno
avuto un occasione pur giocando (0.2) mezzora: (.) all’attacco=in
pratica (.............) (0.5) non è che abbiamo- non è che avete
faticato là dietro.
These (very frequent) examples signal that the manager’s
identity constantly oscillates between being ‘a team member’
(and thereby closely identifying with the group as a whole, the
players and the coaching staff) and being a member with a par-
ticular status able to detach himself from the team in order to
furnish efficacious guidance and supervision – a distinction
reiterated shortly afterwards during Meeting T3 (see excerpt
21 ALL1: : [e (…) me as the manager (.) and I hope (0.2)
you as the players, (.) have different points of view. (…)
21 ALL1: : [e (…) io che faccio l’allenatore (.) e mi auguro
(0.2) che anche voi che fate i giocatori, (.) facciate un discorso
Adoption of a cultural perspective and a conversational
methodology has enabled us to describe how the rhetorical
manipulation of identity is a situated and social practice closely
interconnected with other processes and activities and per-
formed mainly through interactive discourse (i.e. by using lan-
guage, this being the most powerful instrument of cultural me-
Our findings show that identity was a negotiated, rhetorically
oriented and emergent outcome of the sport group’s socio-
discursive interactions, and that it was used to achieve specific
goals and to perform specific actions.
In pursuit of their rhetorical goals, the members of the team
segmented their social world by allocating themselves and oth-
ers to identity groups or categories functional to the presenta-
tion and sharing of a particular representation/interpretation of
past, present and future events. Examples are provided by the
manager, who “taught” a certain attitude by discursively creat-
ing a group of older players (as opposed to the younger ones);
by the player who gave salience to a group corresponding to a
section of the team in order to emphasise its responsibility for
errors; by the manager, who marked the characteristics of spe-
cific players in order to imagine their role in forthcoming
matches; and by the team, which analyzed itself in order to
determine its strengths and weaknesses.
It has thus been shown that the identity game served to create
a shared landscape in which the team members could meaning-
fully perform actions, take decisions, ask questions or make
One of the primary exigencies of social—and individ-
ual—life is to ensure the continuity of identities and interpreta-
tions of reality while also being able to introduce novelties and
to cope with desired or imposed changes. For groups, and sport
teams as well, this entails the constant sharing of information
about the past and the planning of new courses of action, while
respecting the complex array of roles, responsibilities and spe-
cialist practices unevenly distributed among the various team
members and in the socio-physical setting in which they act.
The ‘embeddedness’ of identity negotiation practices in the
characteristic and meaningful activities of a sport group (rather
than its existence as a cognitive and individual phenomenon) is
visible only if we adopt a sequential analysis of interactive data
such as those presented here. Were we instead to adopt iden-
tity-focused interviews or standardized scales, we would more
easily find clearly-defined borders of an abstract and general-
ized identity (identity construct), but we would necessarily be
unable to determine how identity construction and manipulation
emerge from, and are continuously shaped by, the ongoing
construction of a group’s situated social-discursive practices.
Our results consequently confirm the usefulness of primary
conversational data (transcripts of the discourse of social actors)
for analysis of the evolution and moment-by-moment construc-
tion of identity rhetoric. We believe that such an epistemologi-
cal and methodological choice may be applied to investigate,
besides the theme of identity negotiation, how other psycho-
logical phenomena in sport groups emerge interactively.
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