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

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1 The need for a life outside sport

As you saw in Session 2, research has shown that having a strong athletic identity can make some career transitions such as retirement or injury more difficult (e.g. Murdock et al., 2016). It was suggested that athletes should develop aspects of their life outside sport to help them cope with future transitions. You will explore this further in the next activity.

Activity 1 Life outside sport

Timing: Allow about 25 minutes

Watch the two videos below in which Hannah Cockcroft (athletics) and Nekoda Smythe-Davis (judo) talk about the importance of developing a life outside sport. As you watch, make a note of the areas of their lives they developed beyond competing in their sports and the benefits they felt they gained from doing so. Then think about how this might impact on you or any athletes you support – what might you do differently having watched these videos?

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Discussion

Hannah felt that it was important to develop her life outside sport and spoke about education, media work and socialising as examples of areas she had developed. She felt that these have helped her grow as a person and allow her to switch off from the pressure of sport. She also felt that this would help her to be better prepared for retirement in the future.

Similar to Hannah, Nekoda spoke about the importance of developing her education and broadening her life experiences. She discussed several benefits of this including preparation for life after sport and skill development. She also noted the importance of being able to switch off from sport and stated that she ‘would go stir-crazy’ without other things in her life!

As you saw in previous sessions, there is evidence to support the perspective of these athletes. Research such as Brewer and Petitpas (2017) and Torregrosa et al. (2015) suggest that athletes who develop a ‘multidimensional identity’ cope better with transitions and tend to perform better than athletes who have a ‘unidimensional identity’. In a multidimensional identity, athletes develop different aspects of their identity − such as athlete and student − whereas those with a unidimensional identity concentrate on developing only their athletic identity.

If you are an athlete yourself or involved in supporting athletes, it is important to take note of this. For example, if you are a coach you might find it useful to talk to your athletes about developing their identity beyond sport and encourage them to develop other interests.

The videos you have just watched are part of the English Institute of Sport (EIS) #More2Me campaign [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] launched in 2019 to help athletes develop a better sport–life balance. This campaign is part of their performance lifestyle programme. You will explore performance lifestyle next.