Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Transition Experiences out of Intercollegiate Athletics: A Meta-Synthesis

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Transition Experiences out of Intercollegiate Athletics: A Meta-Synthesis

Article excerpt

Upon termination of participation in intercollegiate sport, most student-athletes will make a transition to a life outside of sport (Brown, 2003). When retiring from sports in general, some athletes might experience emotional and psychological difficulty (Bailie, 1993, Blinde & Stratta, 1992; Taylor & Ogilvie, 1994) while others might experience a sense of relief and freedom (Coakley, 1983). Owing to these differences in experiences, various explanatory models have been formulated to explain the phenomenon of athletic retirement. Earlier frameworks of athletic retirement included thanatological models, which likened retirement from sports to a social death (Blinde & Stratta, 1992; Rosenberg, 1982), and social gerontological models, which emphasized aging and life satisfaction with respect to retiring (Greendorfer & Blinde, 1985; Rosenberg, 1981).

However, a critique of both the thanatology and social gerontology views of athletic retirement is that retirement is viewed as a single incident (Taylor & Ogilivie, 1994). Yet, most athletes do not merely retire from sports in a single moment (Coakley, 2009). Instead, they gradually disengage from their sports while realigning their priorities and life goals. As a result, researchers are now characterizing retirement as a transition process involving development through life rather than a lone event. In doing so, certain factors have been identified that are believed to be integral to the quality of the transition process (Taylor & Ogilvie, 1994).

Factors believed to influence disengagement from sport and realignment of priorities and life goals include athletic identity (i.e., the degree to which an individual identifies with the athlete role), social support, pre-retirement planning, mode of exit, and the loss of special/preferential treatment (Adler & Adler, 1991; Bailie, 1993; Blinde & Greendorfer, 1985; Brewer, Van Raalte, & Linder, 1993; Taylor & Ogilvie, 1994; Wooten, 1994). However, Taylor and Ogilvie (1994) suggested that the transition process might differ based on the highest level of competition attained by the athlete (e.g., college vs. professional or Olympic). That is to say, while there are common themes between athletes retiring from the professional, amateur, and college ranks, there are also aspects of the retirement process that are unique only to college athletics.

Most professional and Olympic athletes retire from sports within their own timeframe (except those with career-ending injuries, not making a team, etc.). In contrast, college athletes have a finite number of years to compete. When their eligibility expires, the overwhelming majority of college athletes must navigate the intricacies of life apart from college athletics. This combination--the likelihood of a non-professional sports careers and finite eligibility--makes the transition process unique for college athletes when compared to retirement from professional or amateur levels of a sport.

Although disengagement from college sports might have its own unique intricacies, studies have focused exclusively on the retirement process of college athletes using qualitative research methods. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to conduct a qualitative meta-synthesis of the athletic retirement literature on college athletes. The researcher did this to inform intercollegiate sport practitioners (e.g., sport psychologists, academic counselors) and researchers of the experiences of college athletes' transitions out of intercollegiate athletics, while being cognizant of the potential that certain factors of the process might be unique to college athletics.


Research Design

This study used a qualitative meta-synthesis approach (Noblit & Hare, 1988). The researcher picked this design because a meta-synthesis allows for an analysis of an aggregate group of studies in which the themes of each are discovered and the end product "transforms the original results into a new conceptualization" (Schreiber, Crooks, & Stern, 1997, p. …

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