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The athlete’s journey: transitions through sport
The athlete’s journey: transitions through sport

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4 What does the research say about transitions?

Your exploration of the athletic career transition model has shown you how an athlete’s experience of transition can be influenced at several points and that they need to manage different emotional and psychological challenges at various stages.

In recent years, researchers have started to move towards a more holistic approach to understand how athletes experience and cope with transitions. However, it is worth noting that much of the research still focuses on the impact of the final athletic transition, retirement (Ekengren et al., 2018). Table 1 introduces a variety of studies into a range of career transitions which illustrate not only why this is an important area to study but also several of the topics you will look at later in this course.

Table 1 Research into career transitions in sport
Study Main findings
Samuel and Tenenbaum (2011) Athletes experience a variety of change events and the way they react can be influenced by factors such as the level of competition and their identity. These would be known as ‘individual responses’.
Fairlie et al. (2019) Maintaining a sport/life balance is important if transitions are to be positive especially retirement.
Park et al. (2013) Readiness for retirement is a key factor in how well an athlete will cope with the transition, and by selecting the right interventions at the right time experiences will be positive.
Knights et al. (2016) There are potentially positive outcomes in relation to transitions within and out of sport and the experience is not always negative.
Brown et al. (2018) Social support remains fundamental to positive transitions but athletes can often find it hard to ask for support.
Giannone et al. (2017) Higher athletic identity was a potential risk factor for developing certain psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
Torregrosa et al. (2015) A study with elite swimmers found the voluntary nature of retirement and available social support were all precursors of a positive retirement experience. In contrast, involuntary termination, lack of planning, and a one-dimensional identity could result in a more problematic transition.

The findings discussed in Table 1 all link closely to the topics you will cover in the rest of this course.