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

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1 What factors influence transitions?

While the potential psychological impact of career transitions depends to some extent on the type of transition and on the individual athlete concerned, there are several key factors that reoccur when studying what may influence an athlete’s response. You are introduced to these in the next activity.

Activity 1 Transitions and the psychological impact

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes

Watch Video 2 below where you will hear five athletes talk about their experiences of having their careers cut short and going into retirement. Note down what you think could have influenced their experiences.

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As you watched the video, you will probably have noted several themes discussed by the athletes. Both Clarke Carlisle (football) and Alex Scott (football) discuss the challenge of no longer being footballers and recognise they suffered a loss of identity. This loss of identity links closely to the level at which these athletes competed, as they potentially have much more at stake − something Ollie Phillips (rugby) alludes to when discussing the loss of adulation and income.

What nearly all of the athletes recognised was the importance of preparing for a life after sport. Alex Scott, Luke Harvey (jockey) and Matt Machan (cricket) all highlighted how a career in sport is relatively short so having a plan for a second career is crucial. Having the right support around you to do this is also key.

A final point links to the different sports that each athlete was involved in and whether that had an influence on their reactions to retirement.

Activity 1 clearly identifies five factors that can influence an athlete’s experience of transition and these are illustrated in Figure 1.

Influencing factors on athlete transitions in sport: athletic identity, level of participation, chosen sport, preparation and support.
Figure 1 Influencing factors on athlete transitions in sport

These factors will form the focus of the rest of this session.

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