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

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2.1 How athletic identity affects responses to transitions

Identity has a significant impact on the way athletes experience transition. As you learned in Activity 2, those with a high level of athletic identity may have more difficulty adjusting to transitions, in particular to unplanned (non-normative) experiences (Cosh et al., 2015). In the next activity you will hear first-hand about the impact an unplanned transition can have on athletic identity.

Activity 3 A changing stage: from football to Dr Who

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Listen to the short audio excerpt below from the BBC’s Desert Island Discs in which Matt Smith talks about his experience as a young footballer with the potential to turn professional. As you listen, note down the impact the transitional episode discussed had on both his identity and the identity of those around him.

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While Matt has gone on to have a hugely successful career in acting including a stint as Dr Who, he still remembers how tough the period was when he was dropped from Leicester City FC. Matt reflected on how hard he found it to tell people about being let go from his football club as he was always ‘Matt the footballer’. He remembers it being a time filled with uncertainty largely due to the fact that being a footballer was his only career plan at the time.

You will probably have also noted that the interviewer raises the impact this had on his father whose identity was as the father of a footballer. Those of you who are parents of athletes may empathise with this.

You will re-visit identity again in some of the later sessions. You will now look at the next of the factors affecting how an athlete responds to transitions – that is, the level at which they compete.