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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: In pursuit of an identity: A qualitative exploration of retirement from women's artistic gymnastics
Author(s): Lavallee, David
Robinson, Hannah K
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Keywords: identity
Issue Date: Jan-2007
Date Deposited: 27-Aug-2012
Citation: Lavallee D & Robinson HK (2007) In pursuit of an identity: A qualitative exploration of retirement from women's artistic gymnastics. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8 (1), pp. 119-141.;
Abstract: Objectives: This study examined factors that might facilitate or hinder self-identity formation and adaptation to athletic retirement among a sample of competitive athletes. Designs: As adjustment to retirement problems can be pronounced in women's artistic gymnastics due to the young ages at which participants begin and end their competitive careers, the experiences of five former female gymnasts were studied. Methods: Respondents participated in retrospective, semi-structured interviews yielding transcripts that were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results and Conclusions: Results revealed that participants had been encouraged to dedicate their lives to gymnastics and were, as a result, left feeling lost and helpless when they retired. After prematurely adopting an identity based solely on their role as a gymnast, many of the participants knew little about who they were and what they wanted to do with their lives, and were consequently forced to distance themselves from their past in order to establish a new identity apart from gymnastics. For those whose felt a constant external pressure to strive for excellence during their career, this process was particularly challenging and has lasted, in some cases, for the duration of their retirement. Distress can be avoided by engaging in pre-retirement planning from a very young age and subsequently maintaining control of the transition out of gymnastics by reducing participation gradually and finding a meaningful replacement.
DOI Link: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2006.05.003
Rights: Publisher policy allows this work to be made available in this repository. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Volume 8, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 119–141. The original publication is available at

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