The Impact Retirement Transitions has on an Athletes Identity and Wellbeing
University of Wales
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This study arrived to highlight the impact retirement from elite sport can have on an athlete’s identity and wellbeing. The study presents data from one elite gymnast, who retired voluntarily from gymnastics at the age of fifteen. The reason behind the decision to retire was to be relieved of the stress placed upon her as a gymnast. Also to explore other identities outside the gymnastic subculture. A qualitative approach was adopted, where one to one in-depth interviews were conducted, with the gymnast. Interviews lasted for approximately one hour which allowed exploration of the gymnast’s experiences from life as a gymnast through to retirement and life today. Raw data was recorded, transcribed and analysed using the constant comparative method outlined in Maykut & Morehouse (1994). Data is presented as realist tales as suggested by Sparkes (2002), which allows the athletes experiences to be illuminated. Findings reveal that after engaging in a significant amount of hours of training in the gym, a strong athletic identity surfaced. This resulted in the emergence of a disciplined body (Frank, 1995), where the body became regimented and treated as a machine to produce desired outcomes. The pressures of life as an elite gymnast lead to the decision of retirement, which was found a beneficial experience as the stress was gone. However also negative as the participant was left uncertain about her identity outside the gymnastics subculture. Important findings were revealed from this study, which can have an impact on future coaching. A key issue that coaches should consider is the importance of athletes having multiple identities, in which coaches should facilitate the formation of. Suggestions for future studies which have arose from this study include the involvement of males, and a comparison of the difference in age when retiring. Key Words: Identity, withdrawal, gymnastics, body
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