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The possibility that the experience of retirement from sport may be different from one athlete to another has not been thoroughly examined. The current study offers evidence on the effect of role performance in intercollegiate basketball and football on life satisfaction in the period of adulthood immediately following. The theoretical departure point for this research comes from Kearl’s (1986) analysis of “exits” in everyday life and his assumption that the quality of role performance in the ending phases of a career will influence subsequent well-being. From a survey of recollections, orientations, and current conditions of 426 former football and basketball players, subjects were grouped according to whether they had received some kind of recognition during their last year (e.g., all-league, honorable mention), whether they had started most of the games or not, and whether their career had been cut short due to serious injury. Life satisfaction, as measured by the LSI-A, showed a significant main effect for career-ending injury but not for the other two variables, and there were no interactions. Athletes who had sustained a careerending injury before completing eligibility showed significantly lower life satisfaction than those who had not. Tests for the influence of year leaving sport and continued involvement in sport did not change the result. Thus, the evidence provides mixed support for the quality-of-exit thesis; while good endings may not affect subsequent life satisfaction, bad endings may.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, Boston, November 1985.
Direct all correspondence to Douglas A. Kleiber, University of Illinois, Leisure Behavior Research Laboratory, 101 Children’s Research Center, 51 E. Gerty Dr., Champaign, IL 61820.