The retirement experiences of elite female gymnasts: Self identity and the physical self

  • Warriner K
  • Lavallee D
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Abstract

This study explored experiences of retirement from elite sport among a sample of retired female gymnasts. Given the young age at which female gymnasts begin and end their sport careers, particular attention was afforded to the role of identity and the physical self in the process of adaptation. Retrospective, semi-structured interviews were conducted and interview transcripts analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Analysis indicated that retirement from gymnastics engendered adjustment difficulties for six of the seven participants. Identity loss was particularly salient, and for two gymnasts, physical changes associated with retirement were a further source of distress. The challenge of athletic retirement was intensified because the gymnasts had heavily invested in sport during adolescence, a period demarcated for the pursuit of an identity. Furthermore, their retirement coincided with a time when adolescents typically undergo profound changes physiologically. Practical suggestions to facilitate athletes' disengagement from sport are discussed.

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Authors

  • Katie Warriner

  • David Lavallee

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