A Cross-Cultural Comparison of the Transition out of Elite Sport- An investigation across the Swiss, Danish, and Polish elite sports contexts (Pillar 5)
Dr. Andreas Küttel
Promotor: Jørn Hansen (main supervisor), Professor, lic.phil., Institute for Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
This PhD thesis investigated the transition out of elite sport from a holistic and ecological perspective. It aims to enhance the understanding of how the national elite sport setting and socio-cultural context influence athletes’ careers and their life after elite sport.
The main question that guided this PhD project was:
How does the socio-cultural context, including the sports systems of different countries, influence athletes’ transition processes out of sport and the quality of the adaptation to the post-sport life?
To answer this research question, former elite athlete answered a online survey about their sports career and the transition process. Furthermore, interviews with stakeholders involved in athletes’ dual career were conducted in all three countries.
In this mixed-method PhD project, the transition of former elite athletes from Switzerland, Denmark, and Poland was compared in terms of preconditions, adaptation quality, and life situation after finishing the elite sport career. A total of 401 former elite athletes completed an online questionnaire for that purpose. Analyses showed that the transition out of elite sport was easiest for Swiss athletes, while Polish athletes faced adaptation difficulties in several areas (e.g., financial, educational).
To investigate further on the influence of the context on athletes´ careers, interviews with experts in athletic dual career were conducted in all three countries. This information supplemented the detailed information and data about elite sport system that the SPLISS study 2.0 (De Bosscher, Shibli, Westerbeek, van Bottenburg; 2015) had collected. Thanks to the agreement I could make with the Prof. Veerle De Bosscher and the SPLISS group, I was granted access to the data in Switzerland and Denmark which served as a secondary data source. Furthermore, I got the permission to use the Overall Sports Policy Inventory Pillar 5 on athletic (post) career support to collect the relevant data in Poland. Results of the comparison between the three countries showed that there are different programs available for combining an elite sport career with education or work (i.e., dual career), and there are different underlying assumptions embedded in these three national contexts about how to support athletes in their elite sport and dual career endeavors.
Applying a cultural praxis, this thesis emphasizes the importance to consider the socio-cultural context when studying athletes’ careers and transitions. Therefore, context-specific recommendations are provided to improve athletes’ healthy development within elite sport and their life beyond.