The junior-to-senior transition in Swedish athletes : A longitudinal study

Sammanfattning: This dissertation project was an exploration of junior-to-senior transition (JST) processes in Swedish sport club athletes based on holistic, developmental, and ecological perspectives. It consists of two multi-level studies covered by four separate articles. The first study is a quantitative longitudinal investigation of athletes’ transitional and personal variables during a two-and-a-half-year period including five measurements times (N = 101). The second study is a qualitative exploration of the JST pathways of four athletes who were also participants of the first study; the athletes’ transition narratives could be related to the previously discovered dynamics of their JSTs.     The first article (1a), presenting study 1, is focused on identifying profiles of athletes in the JST based on some of their personal characteristics (athletic identity, self-esteem, and goal orientation) followed by a description of the JST pathways relevant to their profiles. The latent profile analysis resulted in three athlete profiles. Athletic identity appeared to be a key personal characteristic that influenced the dynamics of the JST adjustment. Different styles of coping strategies were also associated with different JST pathways.     The second article (1b), presenting study 1, is aimed at identifying adjustment patterns in the JST based on athletes’ dynamics of adjustment during a two-and-a-half-year period, and describes the athletes’ demographics, personal and transitional characteristics at the beginning of the JSTs that were related to the different adjustment patterns. The latent profile analysis on athletes’ perceived degree of adjustment provided three profiles with different adjustment patterns (i.e., progressive, regressive, sustainable). Further analyses (descriptive statistics and Cohen’s d) showed that keeping a primary focus on sport (without ignoring other spheres of life), having a strong athletic identity, and a high motivation to reach the senior level were (to different degrees) relevant for both progressive and sustainable adjustment patterns.     The first article (2a), presenting study 2, qualitatively explores two individual sport athletes’ (a male swimmer and a female tennis player) JST transition pathways, emphasising psychosocial factors that were perceived as facilitating and debilitating for the transition process. Narrative type interviews were used, and the holistic-form structural analysis provided a central storyline – a performance narrative – that was common for both athletes and two individual side storylines that were the swimmer’s effort and relationship narrative and the tennis player’s injury and reorientation narrative. Both athletes experienced various crossroads and shared perceptions of the factors facilitating coping (e.g., family, some coaches, elite sport club environment), but their reflections on the debilitating psychosocial factors of their JSTs were more individualistic than their views on the facilitating factors..     The second article (2b), presenting study 2, has the same objectives and the same methodology as article 2a, but focuses on two team sport athletes’ (a male football player and a female basketball player) JST pathways. The football player’s JST path developed into a performance and family narrative, and the basketball player’s reflections on the transition process formed an enjoyment and relationship narrative. The players’ JST paths were lined with different crossroads, and throughout the transitions they perceived the key facilitating persons to be their families (e.g., parents, grandparents, siblings) and teammates, but some of the coaches’ behaviors were perceived as debilitating factors.Major contributions to knowledge in this dissertation project include: (a) considering the JST (longitudinally) as a process involving dynamics and interactions of the transition demands, coping strategies, personal and environmental resources, and barriers influencing the JST outcome; (b) supporting the athletic career transition model in combination with the holistic, developmental, and ecological perspectives as adequate frameworks to study the JST; (c) suggesting that the integrated JST framework supported by the empirical findings can be used in the future research; (d) demonstrating significant variations in the JST pathways and adjustment patterns on the sub-group level (study 1) and also on the individual level (study 2); and (e) providing context-specific recommendations for different levels of the Swedish sport system for optimizing Swedish sport club athletes’ JSTs and supporting their continued sport participation on either the senior elite or the recreational level.

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