Going Pro: Exploring Adult Triathletes’ Transitions into Elite Sport

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Abstract

The transition into elite or professional sport plays a critical role in the overall athletic career (Stambulova, Alfermann, Statler, & Côté, 2009). However, studies of this transition have been conducted almost exclusively with adolescent, student-athlete populations. The purpose of this exploratory study was to develop a contextualized perspective of transitioning from amateur to professional sport as an adult. An interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith, 1996) approach was adopted to explore 7 elite triathletes’ transition experiences. Data were gathered through semistructured interviews pertaining to the change process, the influence of athletic and nonathletic factors, and how these were managed. Five themes emerged: athletic development, social support (sport performance), social support (family and friends), financial resources, and self-identity. This study provides novel insight into the key factors impacting adult athletes in transition and how their experiences differ from those of younger athletes, highlighting the importance of tailored interventions for individuals at different developmental levels. Preliminary evidence is also provided for the relevance of the scheme of change for sport psychology practice (Samuel & Tenenbaum, 2011) for practitioners seeking to optimize adult athletes’ transition experiences.

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