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Career transitions and termination: The experiences of retired professional athletes Jeffrey G. Caron & Gordon A. Bloom Department of Kinesiology and Physical.

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Presentation on theme: "Career transitions and termination: The experiences of retired professional athletes Jeffrey G. Caron & Gordon A. Bloom Department of Kinesiology and Physical."— Presentation transcript:

1 Career transitions and termination: The experiences of retired professional athletes Jeffrey G. Caron & Gordon A. Bloom Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, McGill University ATHLETIC IDENTITY Players described how their identity was heavily centered on being a professional athlete: In the NHL, or for me especially in the American league, you do have some sort of star persona. Youre signing autographs, youre on TV, youre in commercials, youre in the print. Youre identity gets wrapped up in that. And I dont think that its necessarily an ego thing, I just think its more how youre identified with people. So that identity was stripped from me. I had no identity. Who am I? I had to re-invent myself. Am I the brain-damaged, former hockey player that now has to start from scratch and build something? (P1) Its the hardest thing in the world and you lose your sense of identity. Its tough. Especially if you dont have something else to move into. But even if you do, youre known as a hockey player. Youre life, me in (name of city), Im known as a (name of team). Its all Ive ever done. So to quit that one day and have nothing – not a… wake up at 8 in the morning and youre at the rink by 8:30. Youre having your coffee and a set routine that youre used to. Now theres no routine. Its not waking up to … its totally different. Thats the hardest part for me. (P2) EMOTIONAL ISSUES Some players suffered a depression as a result of not knowing how to provide for their families after their playing career was terminated: Went to depression that lasted months. That was 2-3 months where I was down and out. I didnt feel good, Id go and forget everything. Deep depression. Emotional because you think your career is over. Really, I think my wife came home one day and I think I was under the table crying. Thinking that my career was over, it was done. How are you going to make a living for your family? (P2) In addition to suffering a depression, some also experienced thoughts of suicide when their career ended: I thought I was depressed because Im 30 years old, my careers over and I didnt know what to do. I had to retire early so I thought I was depressed. But she (doctor) was trying to get in my head that no, no this could be chemical. This is your brain injured and reacting this way. But I dont hear that when Im in this. I was going on websites and my wife didnt know because when she finally found out she was very scared but I was at the point where Id be driving along and I was thinking just go full speed and hit the wall. Just end it. The pain was unbelievable. I had headaches every day for minimum 3 and a half years. And not just a little headache where you want to take an aspirin, like Im talking I almost wanted to scream. If I had a day off from my headache it was like I won super 7. I was ecstatic. It was amazing it was bright, I could see, I could think. So many times I would just want to end it. (P1) Some discussed experiencing symptoms of anxiety during the transition from playing career to their new career: Anxiety. Absolutely. It was the worst Ive ever felt – that year. I really believe that the stress was a contributing factor too… to use the comparison of having your foot on a gas pedal and everything was going too fast. Everything was going too fast. (P3) Introduction CAREER TRANSITION Initially there were emotional issues transitioning outside of hockey, but eventually these players all began a new job within 12 months of ending their playing career. The transition was ok. It was just the matter of how good was I going to be. Or how quickly can I learn this industry. So, I dont think I have ever looked back and said I made a mistake. That I should have kept playing. So, Ive never had to live with that. Back then my feeling was ok lets move forward, lets move forward, lets move forward. But I dont think I ever really, really looked back and said I made a huge mistake. I dont think Ive ever had any regrets ever about it so letting go of it and moving on in many ways was a blessing because it didnt give me a chance to look back. I think at times, I was so stressed out that I could have easily sat there and said that I made a mistake. But it never really got to that point. I was so busy just trying to physically feel better that it never dawned on me once that I made a mistake and I shouldnt have gone down this path. (P3) A transition in athletics results from one or more event (Taylor & Ogilvie, 2001) that brings about personal and social instability for an athlete (Wapner & Craig-Brey, 1992). Nonnormative transitions in athletics are situation-related, unplanned, and involuntary events, such as a career ending injury (Alfermann & Stambulova, 2007). They are often characterized by symptoms related to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Nonnormative transitions may lead to the most turbulent postcareer transitions for athletes because of the unanticipated change from elite sport to everyday life. Professional athletes who have invested significant time and resources to their sport are more likely to have high athletic identity, and may be more susceptible to a nonnormative transition (Grove, Lavallee, & Gordon, 1997; Ungerleider, 1997). Ungerleider determined that those who based their identity, self esteem, and life satisfaction around their athletic identity had the most difficulty adapting to life without sport. Career termination has been described as perhaps the most significant and traumatic experience encountered by athletes (Taylor & Ogilvie, 2001, p. 672). Moreover, career terminating injuries have caused the greatest amount of emotional and psychological challenges which have caused athletes to experience a more difficult transition to postcareer (Werthner & Orlick, 1986). Furthermore, athletes commonly displayed symptoms such as social withdrawal, fear, anxiety, and loss of self esteem as a result of a career terminating injury (Williams, Rotella, & Heyman, 1998). In some cases, more severe symptoms such as depression, substance abuse, and suicide ideation were reported (Werthner & Orlick, 1986). The purpose of the current study was to understand the career transitions of National Hockey League (NHL) players who retired because of a career ending injury. Participants Three former NHL players who suffered a career ending injury Time elapsed since their last game played ranged from 4 – 14 seasons Method A transcendental phenomenological approach was used Semi structured interviews were conducted with each participant that lasted approximately 60 minutes, in a location of their choosing Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim Data analysis used a modified version of Van Kaams (1966) method Results The results indicated that professional athletes encountered a number of challenges with their career terminating injury. Specifically, athletes discussed the role of athletic identity, as well as the various emotions they experienced during the time of their injury. Interestingly, these athletes reported having a relatively smooth transition into their new careers. Preliminary Conclusions Research on career transitions has focused primarily on Olympic athletes (Ungerleider, 1997; Werthner & Orlick, 1986), while little research has examined professional athletes. This study provides one of the first accounts of career transitions with professional athletes and the difficulties they experienced with a career ending injury. Two findings from this study were consistent with previous research. First, all athletes in this study expressed having a high athletic identity and subsequently experienced a number of difficulties upon retirement (Grove et al., 1997; Webb, Nasco, Riley, & Headrick, 1998). Second, all athletes experienced severe emotional difficulties after suffering their career ending injury(Taylor & Ogilvie, 2001; Werthner & Orlick, 1986). After initial emotional issues, athletes in this study discussed a relatively smooth transition to postcareer, which is unlike previous findings in nonnormative sport transitions (Alfermann & Stambulova, 2007; Ogilvie & Howe, 1982; Williams et al., 1998). This may have resulted from participants being able to acquire employment more easily due to contacts that were made during their professional athletic careers. The current study also alluded to the difficulties of professional athletes losing their livelihood, and being concerned about providing for their families. References Alfermann, D., & Stambulova, N. (2007). Career transitions and career termination. In G. Tenenbaum & R.C. Eklund (Eds.), Handbook of sport psychology (pp ). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. Grove, J.R., Lavallee, D., & Gordon, S. (1997). Coping with retirement from sport: The influence of athletic identity. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9, Ogilvie, B.C., & Howe, M. (1982). Career crisis in sport. In T. Orlick, J.T. Partington, & J.H. Salmela (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5 th World Congress of Sport Psychology (pp ). Ottawa: Coaching Association of Canada. Taylor, J., & Ogilvie, B. (2001). Career termination among athletes. In R.N. Singer, H.A. Hausenblas, & C.M. Janelle (Eds.), Handbook of sport psychology (pp ). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Ungerleider, S. (1997). Olympic athletes transition from sport to workplace. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 84, Van Kaam, A. (1966). Existential foundations of psychology. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press. Wapner, S., & Craig-Brey, L. (1992). Person-in-environment transitions: Theoretical and methodological approaches. Environment and Behavior, 24, Webb, W.M., Nasco, S.A., Riley, S., & Headrick, B. (1998). Athlete identity and reactions to retirement from sports. Journal of Sport Behavior, 21, Werthner, P., & Orlick, T. (1986). Retirement experiences of successful Olympic athletes. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 17, Williams, J.M., Rotella, R.J., & Heyman, S.R. (1998). Stress, injury, and the psychological rehabilitation of athletes. In J.M. Williams (Ed.), Applied sport psychology; Personal growth to peak performance (pp ). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.


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