The role of psychological characteristics in managing the transition to university

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Objective:Successfully negotiating transitions between stages of development might determine future success more than how athletes perform within the stages. This process must be based on an understanding of the challenges inherent in the transition and the techniques which best counter these. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of 6 young high-level athletes during the normative transition to university and identify what factors prepared them to cope with the challenges faced. Specifically, investigation focused on the possession and deployment of Psychological Characteristics of Developing Excellence (PCDEs, MacNamara, Button, & Collins, 2010) as skills which have been previously proposed to facilitate progression.Design and Method:A quasi-longitudinal design was adopted and semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of student-athletes (n = 6) and significant others pre and post the transition to university. An inductive and deductive content analysis was conducted following the recommendations of Côté, Salmela, Baria, and Russell (1993).Results and Conclusions:The transition to university was perceived as a process rather than an event, with considerable pre-emptive work taking place in the lead up to the move. Results suggest that, while these athletes experienced transitional challenges consistent with previous literature (Wylleman & Lavallee, 2004), the possession and appropriate deployment of a range of PCDEs allowed them to successfully negotiate these challenges. A case is made to include PCDEs in talent development initiatives so that aspiring elites develop these skills in advance of meeting the key challenges of development, thus smoothing the pathway to success and reducing the incidence of dropout.

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