Responses of Elite Athletes to the Negative Consequences of Turning Points During and After Their Sport Careers
Diego De Leo
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The responses of elite athletes to their sport career and retirement turning points and adverse circumstances were central to the thesis. A systematic literature search was conducted in a qualitative approach. A total of 54 current and retired elite athletes as well as 14 industry professionals consented to be participants after being hand-selected. Thirty questions were asked in semi-structured interviews, regarding psychological risk and protective factors for this group. Thematic analysis of the interview transcripts was further analysed by NVivo. The analysis focused on the psychological level and used the literature on stress theory, particularly as formulated by Lazarus and Folkman (1984), as a framework for understanding what was happening in the lives of the athlete participants. Personal factors such as perfectionism and stressors were associated with psychological issues, consistent with the literature. A novel finding is the spiralling of states between positive and negative outcomes, which was best described by analogy with a vortex. Critical turning points often results in an intense and severe downward spiral. The self-perpetuating vortex of upward and downward spirals describes the turbulent transitional period where retired elite athletes reported it took 1-3 years for the balance to be restored with a synergistic spiral of less intense ups and downs.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention.
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