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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Life after sport : the relationship between athletic identity and mental health outcomes after sport retirement Giannone, Zarina Alexandra


Research continues to expand in light of the growing interest in affecting healthy and positive sport career transition outcomes. Theories focusing on athlete transition have helped shape our understanding of the retirement experiences of competitive athletes; however, existing research has demonstrated mixed findings. Whereas some studies suggest that a significant proportion of athletes experience psychological complications upon sport career retirement, other studies have obtained minimal evidence of distress. The present study explored the relationships among athletic identity, mental health and well-being outcomes, and coping, both prior to and after retirement from interuniversity sport. A survey design was utilized with retiring varsity athletes across fourteen different sports at multiple western Canadian universities. Participants were asked to complete the survey approximately one month in to their final season of competition and approximately three months post-retirement. Measures in the survey included demographic questionnaires, Athletic Identity Measurement Scale (Brewer, Van Raalte, & Linder, 1993), Flourishing Scale (Diener, Wirtz, Tov, Kim-Prieto, Choi, Oishi, & Biswas-Diener, 2009), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory Y-1 (Speilberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983), Brief COPE Inventory (Carver, 1997), Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (Radloff, 1977), Satisfaction With Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985), and Subjective Vitality Scale (Ryan & Frederick, 1997). Both descriptive (i.e., means, standard deviations) and inferential statistics (i.e., ANOVA, correlation) were calculated. Results indicated that athletes who had higher athletic identity had elevated depressive symptomology and state anxiety in comparison to athletes with lower athletic identity, after sport retirement. Results pertaining to the impact of coping on mental health and well-being variables, and their relation to athletic identity, were also supported. Particularly, athletes with higher athletic identity were found to use venting and self-distraction coping strategies significantly more than athletes with lower athletic identity, following sport career termination. Findings from the present study inform future research investigations and contribute new knowledge to the sport retirement and athlete career transition literature. With increased understanding of the psychological and emotional experience of retiring athletes, counselling and sport psychology professionals can provide the appropriate support and guidance required for adaptive transitions out of sport.

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