Successful transition out of elite sport: A cross-cultural comparison

Project: Research

Project Details


The overall purpose of this thesis is to increase the scientific knowledge on the relationship
between the national (sport) context and the transition out of elite sport by examining and
comparing the retirement process of former Swiss, Danish, and Polish elite athletes, as well as by
describing the three contexts under comparison in more detail.
The transition out of elite sport is traditionally approached from a research tradition with roots in
sports psychology and sociology. This thesis employs an interdisciplinary approach and applies
an ecological and holistic perspective on the transition out of elite sport.
Previous research has identified many factors that either facilitate or hinder a successful
transition. These factors include the characteristics of the individual athlete, the transitional
situation, and the characteristics of the pre- and post-environments. Initially, researcher aimed to
find generalizable patterns about the retirement processes of athletes and developed different
models to explain the quality of the transition; more recent attempts emphasize that it is
important to understand the transition in a given context. This thesis aims to contribute to the
existing literature by examining and comparing the transition out of elite sport across three
contrasting contexts, namely Switzerland, Denmark, and Poland, which differ both on macro-
(e.g., cultural dimensions, welfare systems, and socio-economic situation) and meso-dimensions
(e.g., elite sports system, dual career approaches, and the availability of career assistance
The research project is based on two sets of empirical material: (a) a survey with former Swiss,
Danish, and Polish elite athletes from various sports; and (b) semi-structured interviews with
experts working with elite athletes and dual career programs in each of the three countries.
On the basis of a modified version of the framework developed by Stambulova, Stephan, and
Jäphag (2007), which combines previous transition models with the ecological perspective of
human development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), analyses revealed that athletes from the three
countries differed in their precondition for the transitions, their adaptation difficulties, and their
life/job situation after the sports career. Different educational levels and work experience at the
end of the sports career indicated that athletes receive diverse support for their dual career. The
cross-cultural analysis of the dual career environments revealed not only that programs and
opportunities for dual career athletes differ substantially between the three contexts, but also that
the dual career experts expressed divergent values and beliefs about how to support elite athletes.
Typical context-dependent typologies of dual career patterns of elite athletes are suggested.
The findings of this thesis suggest that the national context plays an important role in the
transition out of elite sport, and thus context-specific recommendations are proposed.
Effective start/end date01/10/201301/05/2017


  • dual career
  • career transition
  • athletic retirement
  • cross-cultural


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