Posted 26/02/2021 in Category 1

Helping athletes through career transitions

Helping athletes through career transitions

If there is one inevitability for athletes, it is that their career will end. Through their career, they may have many twists and turns, but the finality of the end of one’s career is overwhelming for many. All that the athlete knows and has done for so long is about to change. Instead of going from sport, most athletes are going to another stage of their lives. Fulfilment in sport and life is a choice mostly, so a career planning strategy seems sensible and worthwhile. 

Stambulova presented a five-step career planning strategy for athletes and those working with athletes to manage the transition. With transition, we bring change, or at least change is part of the transition process and how we deal with it depends on the strategies we put in place and the coping structures we build in our lives. The five-step career planning strategy (5-SCP) is a counselling framework to help athletes with career transitions. In the first four steps, the psychologist maps the client’s experiences, current situation, and perceive future. The last step involves integrating past, present, and projected future into a career and life strategy. Career transitions are a process, not an event. The time for one person differs from another. But the planning element is a solid foundation for change.

Transitions are turning points in the lives of athletes. To move from one stage to another, the athlete needs to meet the demands of the change process. Some transitions are predictable (normative) and some are less predictable (non-normative). A predictable transition might be junior to senior athlete. And an unpredictable transition might mean to move clubs or sustain an injury. Our experience in sport tells us that we know most, if not all, the likely predictable and less predictable transitions for athletes but the trouble for athletes is that they are usually much less prepared and can fall into many regrettable pitfalls along the way. Prepare for one’s future is probably the best few hours work an athlete can do every few months, and a sport psychologist can facilitate this work.

Step 1 – Create a framework. In this step, the athlete draws a lifeline from birth to current age. Remember there is a past, present and a future to accommodate in this time line or life line.

Step 2 – Structure your past. In this step, the athlete describes the most important events in the athlete’s life. It can relate to any aspect of the athlete’s life. The athlete can recall and show the sport psychologist the significant events of the athlete’s life.

Step 3 – Structure your present. In this step, the athlete assesses his or her current life. In this section, the athlete evaluates the subjective importance, time and stress associated with the most important spheres of his or her current life. 

Step 4 – Structure your future. The athlete thinks about the events to come in his or her life. We can break these down into 1, 3, 5, and 10-year periods. This step helps the athlete to see future priorities and desired events in a life ahead. 

Step 5 – Bridge the past, present and future. In this step, the athlete is focusing on lessons learned, coping with the past and present and taking the resources into the future. 

The simplest of strategies can help us put together a way of seeing our past, present and future by highlighting our successes, gains and strains. Together, we help move towards a better way of being in the world. 

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Stambulova, N. (2010). Counseling Athletes in Career Transitions: The Five-Step Career Planning Strategy. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 1(2), 95–105.

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