It is often said that elite athletes die twice, the first time when retiring from their sporting career. For elite athletes who have dedicated their entire lives to their favourite sport, what then happens if sport at the highest level is no longer a part of your life? What if you are no longer an elite athlete? Who are you then?
Elite athletes train extensively for years, and many among them have made huge personal sacrifices to make their dreams come true, such as significant financial investments, leaving their family to engage full-time in their sport, sacrificing friendly and romantic relationships, etc. These athletes rather not think about the fact that there will be a moment in time where they have to quit practicing their favourite sport.
Unfortunately, no matter what the cause is (age, injury of mental burnout), all sporting careers come to an end. What happens with these elite athletes, where their days are no longer filled with intensive training sessions, travelling to compete all over the world, and the adrenaline of the competition at the highest level? Many athletes experience significant difficulties in this transition, as a result of which their well-being is seriously compromised. One of the factors that can hamper this transition is having a strong personal identity as athlete (i.e., an athletic identity), which does not allow any room for other social identities (e.g., being a part of a family, being a partner, having children, etc.).
In this study, we examined the important role of social identities and how they can contribute to preserving athletes' health and well-being, not only during, but also after terminating their sporting career. Awaiting the scientific publication, we are happy to refer you to the preliminary results of this study, presented in this info-graphic:
Haslam, C., Lam, B. C. P., Yang, J., Steffens, N. K., Haslam, S. A., Cruwys, T., Boen, F., Mertens, N., Brandt, K. D., Wang, X., & Fransen, K. (2021). When the final whistle blows: Social identity pathways support mental health and life satisfaction after retirement from competitive sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 57, 102049. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2021.102049