Journey From Control to Liberation: Exploring Student-Athletes’ Physical Activity Perceptions and Experiences in the Transition Out of Collegiate Sport

in The Sport Psychologist
View More View Less
  • 1 Department of Kinesiology, UNC Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA
  • | 2 Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Science, Messiah University,  Mechanicsburg, PA, USA
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year online subscription

USD  $70.00

1 year online subscription

USD  $94.00

Student 2 year online subscription

USD  $134.00

2 year online subscription

USD  $178.00

There is growing interest in how athletes’ physical activity participation may be impacted when they transition out of competitive sport; however, few studies have examined the process of physical activity transitions in collegiate student-athletes using a qualitative approach. The purpose of our study was to explore student-athletes’ perceptions of, and experiences with, physical activity in the transition out of collegiate sport. Our analysis of transcripts from 13 focus groups conducted with current and former student-athletes (n = 59) suggests that student-athletes experienced a journey from control to liberation as they transitioned into their postcompetitive lives. In this exciting yet challenging transitional journey, participants were faced with navigating newfound autonomy over their physical activity outside of the controlled environment of collegiate sports and were considering the value and meaning of physical activity within a health promoting context. We offer practical recommendations from these findings to support student-athletes in this transition.

Reifsteck (ejreifst@uncg.edu) is corresponding author, https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4358-7051

  • Adler, P.A., & Adler, P. (1991). Backboards & blackboards: College athletics and role engulfment. Columbia University Press.

  • Alfermann, D., & Stambulova, N. (2007). Career transitions and career termination. In G. Tenenbaum & R.C. Eklund (Eds.), Handbook of sport psychology (pp. 712733). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brooks, D.D., Reifsteck, E.J., Powell, S.M., & Gill, D.L. (2019). Moving beyond college sports: Participants’ views of the Moving On! transition program. International Journal of Kinesiology in Higher Education, 3(1), 211. https://doi.org/10.1080/24711616.2018.1489743

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Burke, P.J., & Stets, J.E. (2009). Identity theory. Oxford University Press.

  • Burns, E., Fenwick, J., Schmied, V., & Sheehan, A. (2012). Reflexivity in midwifery research: The insider/outsider debate. Midwifery, 28(1), 5260. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2010.10.018

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Clowes, H., Lindsay, P., Fawcett, L., & Knowles, Z. (2015). Experiences of the pre- and post-retirement period of female elite artistic gymnasts: An exploratory study. Sport & Exercise Psychology Review, 11(2), 421.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Coker-Cranney, A.M., Huysmans, Z., & Swary, S. (2020). The only constant is change: Exploring shifting relationships in sport overconformity through a narrative identity lens. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 11(4), 279291. https://doi.org/10.1080/21520704.2020.1833123

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Giannone, Z.A., Haney, C.J., Kealy, D., & Ogrodniczuk, J.S. (2017). Athletic identity and psychiatric symptoms following retirement from varsity sports. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 63(7), 598601. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020764017724184

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hatteberg, S.J. (2018). Under surveillance: Collegiate athletics as a total institution. Sociology of Sport Journal, 35(2), 149158. https://doi.org/10.1123/ssj.2017-0096

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Heltemes, A., & Larson, A. (2020). Current physical activity, barriers and motivators to exercise among retired female collegiate gymnasts. Journal of Physical Education Research, 7(4), 19.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hughes, R. & Coakley, J. (1991). Positive deviance among athletes: The implications of overconformity to the sport ethic. Sociology of Sport Journal, 8(4), 307325. https://doi.org/10.1123/ssj.8.4.307

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jamieson, K., & Smith, M. (2016). Fundamentals of sociology of sport and physical activity. Human Kinetics.

  • Kerr, G., & Dacyshyn, A. (2000). The retirement experiences of elite, female gymnasts. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 12(2), 115133. https://doi.org/10.1080/10413200008404218

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Maietta, R. (2006). State of the art: Integrating software with qualitative analysis. In L. Curry, R. Shield, & T. Wetle (Eds.), Improving aging and public health research: Qualitative and mixed methods. American Public Health Association and the Gerontological Society of America.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Padgett, D.K. (2012). Qualitative and mixed methods in public health. Sage. https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781483384511

  • Park, S., Lavallee, D., & Tod, D. (2013). Athletes’ career transition out of sport: A systematic review. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6(1), 2253. https://doi.org/10.1080/1750984X.2012.687053

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Park, S., Tod, D., & Lavallee, D. (2012). Exploring the retirement from sport decision-making process based on the transtheoretical model. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13(4), 444453. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2012.02.003

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Plateau, C.R., Petrie, T.A., & Papathomas, A. (2017). Exercise attitudes and behaviours among retired female collegiate athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 29(1), 111115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2017.01.001

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Reid, K., & Dallaire, C. (2019). “Because there are so few of us”: The marginalization of female soccer referees in Ontario, Canada. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 27(1), 1220. https://doi.org/10.1123/wspaj.2017-0031

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Reifsteck, E.J., & Brooks, D.D. (2018). A transition program to help student-athletes move on to lifetime physical activity. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 9(1), 2131. https://doi.org/10.1080/21520704.2017.1303011

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Reifsteck, E.J., Brooks, D.D., Newton, J.D., & Shriver, L.H. (2018). Promoting a healthy post-collegiate lifestyle: An evaluation of the Moving On! transition program for student-athletes. Journal of Higher Education and Athletics Innovation, 1(4), 5476. https://doi.org/10.15763/issn.2376-5267.2018.1.4.54-76

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Reifsteck, E.J., Gill, D.L., & Labban, J.D. (2016). “Athletes” and “exercisers”: Understanding identity, motivation, and physical activity participation in former college athletes. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 5(1), 2538. https://doi.org/10.1037/spy0000046

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Reifsteck, E.J., Janssen, J.A., & Wideman, L. (2020). Self-reported physical activity patterns of former collegiate student-athletes. Journal of Athletic Training & Sports Healthcare, 12(3), 119126. https://doi.org/10.3928/19425864-20190506-01

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Russell, H.C., Tracey, J., Wiese-Bjornstal, D.M., & Canzi, E. (2018). Physical activity in former competitive athletes: The physical and psychological impact of musculoskeletal injury. Quest, 70(3), 304320. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2017.1386114

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ryan, R.M., & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 6878. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ryan, R.M., Williams, G.C., Patrick, H., & Deci, E.L. (2009). Self-determination theory and physical activity: The dynamics of motivation in development and wellness. Hellenic Journal of Psychology, 6(2), 107124.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schlossberg, N.K. (1981). A model for analyzing human adaptation to transition. The Counseling Psychologist, 9(2), 218. https://doi.org/10.1177/001100008100900202

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Simon, J.E., & Docherty, C.L. (2017). The impact of previous athletic experience on current physical fitness in former collegiate athletes and non-collegiate athletes. Sports Health, 9(5), 462468. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738117705311

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Simon, J.E., Lorence, M., & Docherty, C.L. (2021). Health-related quality of life in former Division I collegiate athletes compared to non-athletes: A 5-year follow-up. Journal of Athletic Training, 56(3), 331338. https://doi.org/10.4085/107-20

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, A.B., & Hardin, R. (2018). Female student-athletes’ transition out of collegiate competition. Journal of Amateur Sport, 4(2), 6186. https://doi.org/10.17161/jas.v4i2.6725

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, M.B., Gill, D.L., & Reifsteck, E.J. (2020). An intervention to support collegiate student-athletes in the transition to meaningful lifetime physical activity. Case Studies in Sport and Exercise Psychology, 4(1), 7583. https://doi.org/10.1123/cssep.2019-0038

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, M.B., Reifsteck, E.J., & Gill, D.L. (2018). Moving into an active future: Supporting lifetime physical activity for student-athletes. ACSM Health & Fitness Journal, 22(4), 1015. https://doi.org/10.1249/FIT.0000000000000404

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sorenson, S.C., Romano, R., Azen, S.P., Schroeder, E.T., & Salem, G.J. (2015). Life span exercise among elite intercollegiate student athletes. Sports Health, 7(1), 8086. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738114534813

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stambulova, N. (2003). Symptoms of a crisis-transition: A grounded theory study. In N. Hassmen (Ed.), SIPF yearbook, 2003 (pp. 97109). Örebro University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stambulova, N., Alfermann, D., Statler, T., & Côté, J. (2009). ISSP position stand: Career development and transitions of athletes. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7(4), 395412. https://doi.org/10.1080/1612197X.2009.9671916

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stambulova, N.B., Ryba, T.V., & Henriksen, K. (2020). Career development and transitions of athletes: The International Society of Sport Psychology position stand revisited. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/1612197X.2020.1737836

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Taylor, J., & Ogilvie, B.C. (1994). A conceptual model of adaptation to retirement among athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 6(1), 120. https://doi.org/10.1080/10413209408406462

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Theberge N. (2007). “It’s not about health, it’s about performance”: Sport medicine, health, and the culture of risk in Canadian sport. In P. Vertinsky & J. Hargreaves (Eds.), Physical culture, power, and the body (pp. 176194). New Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Theberge, N. (2008). “Just a normal bad part of what I do”: Elite athletes’ accounts of the relationship between health and sport. Sociology of Sport Journal, 25(2), 206222. https://doi.org/10.1123/ssj.25.2.206

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tracey, J., & Elcombe, T. (2004). A lifetime of healthy meaningful movement: Have we forgotten the athletes? Quest, 56(2), 241260. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2004.10491825

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tracy, S.J. (2010). Qualitative quality: Eight “big-tent” criteria for excellent qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(10), 837851. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800410383121

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Warriner, K., & Lavallee, D. (2008). The retirement experiences of elite female gymnasts: Self identity and the physical self. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20(3), 301317. https://doi.org/10.1080/10413200801998564

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wiese-Bjornstal, D.M. (2009). Sport injury and college athlete health across the lifespan. Journal of Intercollegiate Sports, 2(1), 6480. https://doi.org/10.1123/jis.2.1.64

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 127 127 85
Full Text Views 8 8 4
PDF Downloads 6 6 2