Retired athletes : when the spotlight dims : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Sport and Exercise, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
The purpose of this study was to; (1) examine the experiences of elite New Zealand athletes during the retirement transition and, (2) determine whether current retirement-related assistance in New Zealand is perceived by elite athletes to enhance adjustment to retirement from elite-level sport. An extensive literature review underlies the study by introducing theories and models related to athletic retirement and examining what is currently known about the experiences of elite athletes during the transition. Semi-structured interviews were used to gather descriptive data from 16 former elite New Zealand athletes who retired within seven years of commencement of the study. Data was analysed using NVivo software and Taylor and Ogilvie’s (1994) conceptual model of adaptation to retirement was used in a thematic analysis of data. This study provided clearer understanding of the experiences of elite New Zealand athletes regarding the retirement transition, and helped to identify whether current athlete retirement-related interventions are sufficient. As well, participants made suggestions for future retirement interventions and/or changes to interventions currently offered. New findings revealed that career/education interventions were available to and highly used by 12 participants who were carded and had access to these interventions. Availability and usage of psychological/emotional interventions was found to be limited or non-existent. Findings that were aligned with or contested previous literature included multicausal reasons led to all participants’ retirements. Participants experienced high athletic identity, high perceived control over their retirement, and retirements that, to varying degrees, were both voluntary and involuntary. Pre-planning was the most prominent resource used and enhanced participants’ career prospects. Furthermore, it was found that most participants had both positive and negative retirement experiences during the transition. Future research could include longitudinal designs, which might provide a more accurate account of athletes’ experiences and perceptions of the retirement transition as they occur, in particular the variables (e.g. athletic identity, social support) encountered.
Athletes, Retirement, New Zealand