Locke, Abigail (2001) Being in the zone : notions of agency in athletic performance. Proceedings of the British psychological society, 9 (1). p. 83. ISSN 1350-472X

This paper provides a discursive examination of a notion within sports psychology called the
zone. The zone is referred to as a mystical state
whereby the athlete performs effortlessly,
successfully and automatically. The paper utilises
data taken from sports interviews provided by the
Equinox programme Losing It (Channel 4,
Autumn 1997) and the data was transcribed
according to conversation analytic conventions. I
examine how accounts of being in the zone are
constructed by the participants to perform certain
interactional business. It is proposed that on a
basic level the zone provides athletes with an
absence of agency for their performance and in
this sense it enables the athletes to ‘do modesty’,
in that they discuss their performances as
something that happened to them, rather than
through their own doing. In addition the zone is
always used as part of a narrative of success
even if the athlete may fail, as failure whilst in
this state is attributable to other uncontrollable
factors. This paper offers a different approach
from traditional sports psychological analysis in
that it does not begin by treating the zone as a
‘real’ phenomenon, or athletes’ narratives as
‘actual’ descriptions of events. Instead, it treats
their accounts of being in the zone as situated
talk, performing specific interactional business.

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