Reflections on delivering career transition interventions with professional athletes in the UK

Stephen Mellalieu, Swansea University, United Kingdom

Theme: Burnout and transition out of sport

Program ID: LEC-05A

Presentation: October 2, 2013 3:30 pm - 4:45 pm

Room: Napoleon


Management of the transition out of sport can be a traumatic process for professional and high performance athletes (Wippert & Wippert, 2008). Many do not prepare for retirement and lack the resources to cope, especially when performance aspirations are not met. Although sports governing bodies provide support programs for athletes to prepare for life after sport typical problems with administration include financial difficulties and a low profile of such programs among athletes and coaches (Stambulova, 2010). In contrast to the growing body of literature documenting retirement experiences there is little empirical investigation of interventions to assist performers in managing this transition (cf. Park, Lavallee, & Tod, 2012). The aim of this presentation is to reflect upon an ongoing career transition intervention program delivered by the author as part of a commercial service to professional athletes in the UK. The presentation will begin with a description of the context within which the intervention program is delivered. Next, Stambulova’s (2011) model of assistance in career transitions (ACT) is outlined as the conceptual basis underpinning the intervention program. Seven key facets of the ACT model are emphasized: career planning, lifestyle management, life skills training, identity development, cultural adaptation, crisis-coping and clinical counseling. Preliminary findings and the challenges arising from the initial interventions are then discussed including lack of pre-retirement planning and education, athlete identity and transition efficacy-related issues, financial concerns, the role of social support, and cultural adaptation to the notion of life after sport. The presentation concludes by discussing professional practice recommendations for future implementation of career transition interventions. These include: raising awareness of the need to plan for life after sport, developing an understanding of the cultural context within which the client operates, and establishing effective client-practitioner therapeutic alliances.

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