Retirement reasons of former high level competitive artistic gymnasts from Newfoundland and Labrador: a phenomenological study

Stritt, Lukas (2011) Retirement reasons of former high level competitive artistic gymnasts from Newfoundland and Labrador: a phenomenological study. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Young athletes are required to sacrifice increasing amounts of their time and energy in order to excel in the world of competitive sports, and are encouraged to do whatever it takes in the pursuit for excellence. This ‘win at all costs’ attitude has been cited as one of the major reasons for athletes to withdraw from sport (Petlichkoff, 1992). -- Gymnastics is on of the top three sports with the highest percentages of dropouts per total participants in Canada (Butcher, Lindner, & Johns, 2002). The fact that gymnasts are children and adolescents during most of their athletic careers may affect the nature of their sport experience and therefore their reasons for withdrawal. Understanding what gymnasts believe participation in gymnastics will gain and cost them is critical in understanding their decisions to discontinue participation. -- The purpose of this study was to explore, identify, describe, and understand the factors associated with athletes’ decisions to withdraw from the sport of competitive artistic gymnastics in Newfoundland and Labrador. In order to capture the participants’ experiences and to present their subjective perceptions with clarity and meaning, phenomenology was chosen as the study’s guiding methodological orientation. -- Both female (n=7) and male (n=4) participants were former high level competitive gymnasts from NL between the ages of 19 and 29 years (M=23.09, SD=3.26) at the time of the interview. The participants’ gymnastics career lasted for an average of 11.73 years (SD=2.83), with an average starting age of 5.36 (SD=2.11), and retired at an average age of 17.18 years (SD=1.40). -- The participants were interviewed following a qualitative interview guide. All the interviews were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. To analyze and gain a greater understanding of the participants’ lived experiences, an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (Smith & Osborn, 2008) was used to guide the interpretation and analysis of the data gathered. The social exchange theory (Homans, 1958) provided the means for understanding the process associated with decisions to continue or leave competitive sport, suggesting that behaviour is motivated by the desire to maximize positive experiences and minimize negative experiences through social interactions. -- The comprehensive and rich descriptions of the participants’ experiences point to a number of factors that likely contributed to their decision to stop participating in competitive artistic gymnastics. The participants engaged in a personal assessment of the costs and benefits with regards to their involvement. As the participants came closer to their retirement, the perceived benefits became increasingly less important and thus did no longer offset the costs. At that time, being involved wasn’t ‘worth it’ anymore and alternative activities seemed to draw the participants away from the demanding routine of competitive gymnastics. -- The results of this study have many practical implications, indicating that when major participation motives or psychological needs such as developing skills or making friends are not achieved, the costs of involvement exceed the benefits, resulting in sport termination.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 11483
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 96-117).
Department(s): Human Kinetics and Recreation, School of
Date: 2011
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Gymnastst--Newfoundland and Labrador--Psychological aspects; Sports--Psychological aspects; Artistic gymnastics--Newfoundland and Labrador; Competition (Psychology)

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