The Adaptation Process of National Hockey League Players

in Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology
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Through adaptation studies in elite sport, researchers can delineate the strategies that amateur and professional athletes employ during career transitions (e.g., promotion, relocation). Fiske (2004) identified five core motives as catalysts to adaptation: understanding, controlling, self-enhancement, belonging, and trusting, which were recently contextualized in sport as a result of one archival study examining the second hand experiences of National Hockey League (NHL) players. The purpose of the present study was to learn about the adaptation process of NHL players based on a first hand data source (i.e., semi-structured interview). A semi-structured open-ended interview guide was utilized to learn about the experiences of four groups of NHL players (n = 11): prospects (n = 3), rookies (n = 3), veterans (n = 2), and retirees (n = 3). There is an indication that adaptation strategies and sub-strategies vary according to the player’s career stage and the challenges related to seeking and maintaining a roster spot. The findings are also consistent with Fiske’s five core motives and earlier adaptation sub-strategies, in addition to uncovering three novel sub-strategies (i.e., understanding one’s performance, distraction control, and trusting player agents). Implications and recommendations are provided for sport researchers and practitioners.

Randy Battochio and Robert J. Schinke are with the School of Human Kinetics at Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. Danny Battochio is with St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. Wayne Halliwell is a professor in the field of applied sport psychology at the University of Montreal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Gershon Tenenbaum is the Benjamin Bloom Professor of Educational Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee.