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Transition out of a career in sports has been suggested as being a difficult and disruptive process for many athletes. An early and enduring identification, familiarity, and preference for the role of athlete may cause its loss to be a significant stressor for the elite, Olympic, or professional athlete. The purpose of this paper is to describe the various aspects of the career transition process in sports, beginning with early identification with the role of athlete and continuing through retirement from active participation in competitive sports. Athletes are often poorly prepared for the off-time event of leaving sports, and traditional theories of retirement may not be suitable. People associated with athletes (coaches, peers, management, family members, and sport psychologists) and athletes themselves need to be aware of the potential for difficulty during their career transition.
P.H.F. Baillie and S.J. Danish are with the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284.