Career transitions and identity: a discursive psychological approach to exploring athlete identity in retirement and the transition back into elite sport

Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise 10/2013; 5(1):21-42. DOI: 10.1080/2159676X.2012.712987

ABSTRACT Athletes' career transitions have received widespread research attention and have been identified as potentially distressing for athletes. Yet, the transition back into elite sport following retirement, although rare, has not been a focus of research attention. The concept of athlete identity has been widely researched within sport psychology to give insight into the varied experiences of athletes, especially in relation to the transition out of elite sport. Accordingly, identity may provide additional insight into the transition back into competing at an elite level. Through adopting a discursive psychological approach to the examination of 84 newsprint media representations involving athletes and career transitions, the present study aims to explore dominant social understandings around athlete identity and the choices athletes make to compete (or not) in sport. In doing so, the aim is to add to existing literature around athlete identity and gain insight into the social contexts in which athletes choose to transition back into elite sport, as well as to extend the existing discursive psychological literature of sport and exercise into areas of athlete identity, career transition and the media. Returning to compete in elite sport was routinely depicted in media accounts as something that is not chosen, but as driven by emotion, compulsion and a need to play. Such representations of athletes construct their identity as necessarily motivated by emotion and compulsion.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Prevalence of disordered eating is higher in athlete populations than in the general population. This paper explores the socio-cultural context within which athletes are vulnerable to poor health behaviours and potentially poor mental health. Within sport settings, dominant ideals of body regulation and self-surveillance are normalised and leave athletes vulnerable to eating disorders. This paper explores how such ideals and understandings around the body are reproduced within the sporting environment during everyday interactions and how body regulatory practices come to be normalised. This paper draws on discursive psychology, informed by conversation analysis, to examine the news delivery sequences of 40 interactions occurring between elite athletes and sport staff during routine practices of body composition testing taking place in an Australian sport institute network. Through the news delivery sequences of body composition testing scores, practices of body regulation come to be normalised by both athletes and sport staff. Moreover, athletes are positioned as needing continually to improve, thus, (re)producing dominant notions of body regulation as requiring athletes’ self-discipline and surveillance. Discursive practices occurring in sport settings can leave athletes at increased risk of developing unhealthy eating and exercising behaviours and disordered eating. Implications for practice for sport staff are discussed.
    08/2014; DOI:10.1080/2159676X.2014.949833
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Objectives: To understand cultural issues within cultural sport psychology (CSP) research, methodological variation has been advocated. Those interested in carrying out CSP research with a ‘critical sensibility’ are presented with the challenge of deciding what methodology may capture a socially constructed and nuanced analysis of culture, self-identity and experience. In this paper we focus on two qualitative methodologies grounded in social constructionism and their potential for advancing understandings of culture within CSP research: narrative inquiry and discursive psychology. Results: Focusing on what is at the “core” of critical CSP research– cultural praxis – we briefly outline narrative inquiry and discursive psychology, articulate three key convergences between them and discuss how these link with, and build upon, cultural praxis tenets. To further demonstrate the potential of these methodologies for centralizing and expanding understandings of culture in CSP, we next offer distinct methodological contributions of each: autoethnography, conversation analysis, and critical discourse analysis. Conclusion: We close by suggesting that to move beyond theoretical discussions of cultural praxis in CSP, sport psychology researchers might use narrative inquiry and discursive psychology. Doing so allows for more informed and principled methodological choices in CSP research that align with social constructionism, and provides a critical and nuanced analysis of culture, moving forward.
    Psychology of Sport and Exercise 07/2014; DOI:10.1016/j.psychsport.2014.07.010 · 1.77 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Objectives: Increasingly, athletes are expected to undertake tertiary education contemporaneously with their sporting careers. However, to do so may prove difficult and stressful. Exploration of the stressors encountered by student-athletes in combining the two pursuits is limited. There is also limited research examining whether combining the two pursuits impacts upon sporting or educational success. Design and method: A discursive psychological approach was employed, examining twenty interviews conducted with Australian athletes enrolled in tertiary education, exploring how athletes integrated sport and education. Results: Within the interviews, athletes constructed their primary academic goal as to ‘just pass’. Athletes repeatedly presented themselves as sacrificing educational success to integrate the two pursuits. Moreover, athletes constructed accounts of themselves as prioritising sport, but as passive in decision-making around priorities. In doing so, athletes produced accounts that removed their own agency for their sacrificed academic success. The interviewees also constructed time as a barrier to the successful integration of sport and education. In the dataset time was constructed either as fixed, limited and externally controlled, or as flexible and controllable. Conclusions: These alternate constructions allowed athletes to remove agency for poor educational outcomes, or conversely, enabled them to present themselves as successfully able to integrate sport and education. Thus, differing constructions of time were used to achieve different rhetorical ends. Implications and interventions for supporting student athletes successfully to combine sport and education are discussed.
    Psychology of Sport and Exercise 01/2013; 15(2). DOI:10.1016/j.psychsport.2013.10.015 · 1.77 Impact Factor


Available from
May 29, 2014