Emerging Athletes’ Transition in Professional Sport: An Existential Multi-Case Perspective

Thomas, Philippa
Lucas, Patricia
Walters, Simon
Oldham, Tony
Item type
Degree name
Doctor of Philosophy
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

I am a practitioner with my own sport related business. My work involves assisting predominately adolescent male athletes progress the early stages of their athletic careers. The role I undertake enabled me to identify a lack of accessible resources to help athletes meet their athletic and personal development needs. This concern applies to the period preceding and during their transition into professional sport environments in New Zealand, with many athletes migrating into international organisations.

This thesis investigates the challenges emerging young male athletes in boxing, rugby league and basketball experienced during their transition in professional sport. The emerging athlete transition commences with talent identification and extends to exit or promotion into senior professional sporting contracts. The transition occurs within multiple phases and environments, including talent development environments (schools/organisations), collegiate programmes, and within semi-professional and professional organisations. An existential lens is applied to examine identity, meaning, freedom and connection, amongst the messiness of sporting events during this transition.

Navigating adolescent maturation alongside the pressures of professional sport, requires coaching beyond athletic abilities to the facilitation of coping capabilities to build self-efficacy, along with athletic and personal development. Given the phenomena of today's modern sporting world, athletes who choose professional sporting careers commonly start in their early adolescence and must exhibit toughness, endurance and intelligence to convert having-a-talent to being-a-talent. This requires commitment and responsibility to the gaining of skill and knowledge, and to the work and actions inherent in this choice. But they cannot do it alone. Using a qualitative multi-case methodology, findings demonstrate the availability and ability to connect authentically with other stakeholders and their environment will enable the young men to perform and develop as athletes as well as individuals. The thesis also demonstrates the importance of collaborative social support relationships in facilitating environments and cultures that enable athletes to thrive in and beyond their lives in sport. Finally, I make some practical recommendations for solutions to better facilitate this transition, following an approach informed by the pragmatic paradigm of this research.

Publisher's version
Rights statement