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Going Pro: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Athlete Experiences of Transitioning into Elite Sport

Blything, Sophie (2017) Going Pro: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Athlete Experiences of Transitioning into Elite Sport. Manchester Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

One crucial transition effecting athletes is the transition into the elite level of their sport. The purpose of the present study was to explore the changing social support associated with the transition into elite sport through six athletes’ own lived experiences. Due to previous research focusing on single sporting disciplines, there is a gap in research looking at participants from different sport backgrounds, consequently ignoring the potential effect different access to social resources have on an athlete’s elite transition. Using Wylleman and Lavallee’s (2004) developmental model, the research focused on the third (psychosocial) and the fourth (vocational/academic) layers in order to explore the importance of social support during the transition. Using a phenomenological approach, semi-structured interviews explored the athletes’ experiences of entering into elite sport. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to develop three master themes from the athletes responses: (1) athlete-coach intersubjectivity, (2) shared experience with teammates and (3) simultaneous transitions. The research supports the Morris et al., (2016) finding that the coach becomes the main support for the athlete. The unique finding is the effect that changing coaches has on athletes: it is a necessity to have the previous coach available to rely on for emotional and tangible support whilst the athlete is trying to form a relationship with their new coaches. It is important for both the athlete and coaches to know and understand these findings in order to make the transition easier for the athlete.

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