Olympic effort adapting to life after elite sport, new study finds

July 9, 2012

While some Olympic athletes excel in their transition into life beyond elite sport others are experiencing problems like disorientation, depression and self-doubt, a new study from The University of Queensland has found.

Dr. Steven Rynne, from the School of Human Movement Studies and colleagues from and conducted the study which found that, while many former Olympians make the transition easily, others found that changing social networks and re-entering the took its toll.

Dr. Rynne said the study involved interviewing forming Olympic who had both trained for and competed at the and the results were surprising.

“Given that Olympians require an exceptional range of characteristics such as determination and patience, one would assume that such characteristics would guarantee success in life after their sporting careers. Our research suggests that this is not always the case,” he said.

“Some characteristics have proved to be useful beyond sport such as organisation and persistence while others proved less useful. Submissiveness, perfectionism, and competitiveness were identified as the most problematic.”

Dr. Rynne said the dramatic shift in daily-to-day activities could be hard to cope with.

“While some athletes thrive in their respective sporting environments and move into other fields with few problems, others experienced forms of disorientation, and self-doubt when transitioning into lives beyond sport,” he said.

“There is generally a quite significant shift in the daily lives of athletes once they retire from competitive sport such as moving into professional work environments or changing their social networks, and this can be hard to deal with.

“This suggests that it is important to consider who and what shapes the development of Olympians and how this can be improved to foster elite performance as well as adaptive behaviours beyond elite sport,” Dr. Rynne said.

The research team was chosen by the International Olympics Council's (IOC's) Olympic Studies Centre Research Grant Programme to conduct the study, titled Preparing Olympic Athletes for Lives Outside of Elite Sport: Towards Best Practice.

“Much has been made of the Olympic ideals and the kinds of people that become Olympians, but few studies had examined this from a socio-cultural perspective with regard to what and how athletes learn on their path to and during their Olympic careers,” Dr. Rynne said.

The findings will provide direction for further research and possible intervention strategies which may help high-performance sports coaches and practitioners better prepare their athletes for elite competition, as well as for life beyond sport.

“This research will contribute to designing sports coaching programs for the IOC, international athletic organisations and postgraduate programs offered by The University of Queensland, School of Human Movement Studies,” Dr Rynne said.

As part of his research, Dr. Rynne will attend the pre-Olympic conference in Glasgow to review the studies.

Related Stories

Smoother sailing for elite athletes

July 6, 2012

When it comes to dealing with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, elite athletes are ‘just like us’, and ‘just like us’ they need help, research from The Australian National University ...

Recommended for you

Can four fish oil pills a day keep the doctor away?

July 7, 2015

Fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements in the U.S. because of the perceived cardiovascular benefits of the omega-3 it contains. However, scientific findings on its effectiveness have been conflicting. New ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.