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

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1 Combining parenthood and elite sport

Research within this field has predominantly focused on the experiences of female athletes as often the implications for them can be more far-reaching than for male athletes. However, it is important to recognise that having children can impact the sporting careers of both mothers and fathers. You will look at this in the first activity.

Activity 1 Parenthood and tennis – the challenge of being an athletic parent

Timing: Allow about 40 minutes

Read the blog article ‘Parenthood and tennis – the challenge of being an athletic parent [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ and answer the questions below:

  • What are the main challenges of being an athletic parent?
  • Are there different challenges for mothers and fathers?
  • What are some of the benefits mentioned connected to having children and maintaining a career in sport?


A range of challenges was discussed in the article, from the logistics connected to travel, balancing family life and sport, and the management of multiple identities.

In the case of female athletes, the challenges are connected to the physical implications associated with pregnancy and the time they have to take out of sport. However, male players also have to adapt to a new way of life, balancing family life with elite sport.

There were several benefits noted by the athletes in the article, but the overriding theme was that being a parent could make the athletes ‘better’ by giving them a stronger focus and enhancing their motivation and drive. For example, Djokovic felt becoming a father gave his tennis a deeper, more intrinsic value.

While Activity 1 touched on the challenges both men and women experience during the transition into parenthood, it is clear that the experience can be somewhat more significant for female athletes. You will focus on the athletic mother in more detail next.