Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Cultural Studies, PhD


School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Eve Oishi

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Scott L. Thomas

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Kathleen S. Yep

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2012 Scott P. Tinley


athlete, careers, counseling, culture, retirement, sports

Subject Categories

Counseling Psychology | Social Psychology | Sociology


Few areas of modern sport are as misunderstood in popular and academic literature as that of retired professional and elite athletes. While the subject has been studied, the case of the retiring athlete has yet to be fully explored in a detailed, qualitative, and interdisciplinary study focusing on nuanced contexts affecting the quality of an athlete's exit from sport. Utilizing 3 participant groups--29 elite athletes (16 sports, 18 males, 11 females), 9 professional sport administrators, and 8 sport media journalists--over an 18-month period, extensive semi-structured interviews resulted in 1,436 raw data themes that constituted 13 direct, 3 indirect, and 3 emerging philosophical contexts. Significant direct contexts emerged including health, social support/influence, and preretirement counseling. Unexplored indirect contexts include athlete's relationship with media narratives, corporate sport structures, and consumers. Emerging philosophical contexts included issues of fear, mortality, bodily awareness, and shifting identities. Positive ideology, appreciation, and predisposed conditions such as having realistic perspective, and a knowledge of self were noted. Participant group responses and all 19 contexts were noted for their interdependency. Hypotheses included that socially-constructed and cultural ideas exist about retired athletes and are embedded in perceptions of fame and fortune associated with the role of professional athlete. Results indicated that considerations of micro and macro social processes of athlete commodification (especially immediacy in production/consumption by the corporate sport and media/fan nexus) contributed to the quality of their transition. Cultural narratives and mythologies about athletes-as-heroes--including ways in which the athletes themselves internalize these popular ideas--produce a system in which elite athletes are often unprepared for life after sport. Analysis of the data suggested that role residue and mortality themes were present. A longitudinal portion confirmed the significant affecting contexts and corroborated self-identity factors. However, identity-as-project was aligned with extended transitions and eventual return to emotional satisfaction. Suggestions for reconsideration of retired elite athlete's sociocultural and economic roles were included as ambiguity in responsibility remained prevalent. Significant contributions of the study include application of data that offers behavioral, social, and cultural scientist insight to the transcendent challenges that constitute fluid and emerging human conditions when individuals move from one life condition to another. Additional contributions suggest social costs for disposing of transitioning athletes.