Socio-psychological adaptation upon retirement from professional sports

PhD, Associate Professor O.P. Kokoulina1
PhD, Associate Professor V.A. Ivanov1
PhD, Associate Professor E.A. Lubyshev1
T.V. Buyanova1
S.B. Mavrina1
1Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Moscow

Keywords: professional sport career, crisis, socio-psychological adaptation, psychologist, trainings, elite athletes, retirement from sports.

Background. Sport career may be considered a long-term hard work for ascendance to the sport elite and competitive accomplishments, with the permanent excellence of the professional athletic competencies and skills [1]. Athletes for the most part remain utterly unprepared for the end of their career and leaving the elite sport world. For this purpose, the researchers identify a period between sports career termination and post-sports activity, which can be described as "transitional". Athletes retiring from sports have difficulty overcoming the period of adaptation. Upon leaving the sport of records, a completely unfamiliar and difficult to learn world opens up to them. Once an athlete has got past the main stages of his career, including preparation, start and climax, there comes an equally tense stage - finish [5].

Objective of the study was to analyze the functional status of retired elite athletes, as well as identify the most acute and common problems.

Methods and structure of the study. We used the statistical (polling and questionnaire surveys) and empirical data on the subject, including the scientific study reports and real examples of several specific athletes.

Results and discussion. The analysis revealed the most common problems that professional athletes face after finishing their career, as well as the most effective methods to overcome the crisis period at the end of sports career. Sport implies huge stresses, both physical and emotional, since training alone is not enough to become a professional. It is no wonder that almost every second athlete who has left professional sports cannot to one degree or another adapt to a life without sports. This problem can be solved by means of rehabilitation of retired elite athletes. There are two sides to this type of rehabilitation, the first of which is physiological, the second - socio-psychological. This article will consider the second one.

Research suggests that many athletes (more than 80%) are found to have violations of the adaptation process to a greater or lesser extent. This is expressed in the way they think about themselves, put themselves outside the sports community to which they belonged almost entire life. Frustration and neuroticism are the most common aspects of crises faced by retired athletes. In turn, these phenomena can lead to asthenia, as well as to the development of depressive disorders. Most athletes who have retired from sports do not remain memorable, and this fact leaves a certain negative impact on the hero once-adored by the whole country. In addition, after leaving sports, athletes demonstrate mood swings. Statistics confirms this fact. The studies clearly demonstrate the range of emotions experienced by athletes at the end of sports career (Table 1).

Table 1. The results of study of the range of emotions experienced by the retired athletes, %

Emotions

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

1

Interest

4.5

1.7

2.1

2

Joy

3.1

1.2

2.1

3

Astonishment

4.8

4

4.5

4

Grief

2.4

4.6

3.8

5

Aggravation

1.8

4.9

5.6

6

Aversion

1.3

3.6

2.9

7

Scorn

2.1

3.2

3

8

Fear

3.8

4.5

4.8

9

Shame

2.4

3.5

2.9

10

Guilt

2.5

3.4

4.6

 

Note. Group 1 – athletes with positive experience index; Group 2 – athletes with highly negative experience index; Group 3 – athletes with anxiodepressive experience index.

According to the data obtained, fear, aggravation and, accordingly, astonishment are the most common emotions experienced by athletes. Emotions can be caused by various reasons, among which – sudden career termination, trauma, burnout. Obviously, very few athletes retire from sports on a positive note, having achieved success, since very few manage to conquer the heights of professional sports. This hypothesis is confirmed by the study published in the 2009 issue of Uchenye zapiski magazine, where the types of psychological support were analyzed: financial assistance (85.6%), psychological support (85.8%), legal assistance (36.2%), and medical care (25.0%). Therefore, the poll found that the vast majority of respondents needed financial and psychological aid. Financial assistance is understandable: not all athletes succeed to build a rewarding sports career, and, being outside sports, such people are unable to further realize their potential. In order to understand what aspects of life athletes are most concerned about upon retirement from sports, we conducted a sociological survey (Table 2).

Table 2. The results of the survey “What kind of psychological support would you like to receive?”

Kind of support

%

1

Professional orientation

89.1

2

Correction of emotional instability

60.4

3

Life goal setting

40.8

4

Improvement of interpersonal relations

15.7

5

Promotion of self-confidence

7.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on the survey results, about 90% of respondents would like to be assisted in determining their professional orientation, which once again testifies to the incapacity of former athletes for professional self-actualization. Almost one in three athletes need psychological support related to the correction of emotional instability. This gradually develops into the third type of assistance - life goal setting. Besides, 15% of respondents need to improve interpersonal relations. While in professional sports, a person experiences a very narrow range of emotions, such as excitement about successes, frustration with failures, anger from possible quarrels with the coach. And a natural next stage would be communication problems in the "unsporting" world.

After finishing sports career, athletes not only start to wonder what to do in the future, where to show own abilities and skills, how to make their living now, but also take on a number of responsibilities. Their life style changes completely: daily trainings, competitions and preparation for competitions come to an end. Also, patronage of the club, coach, and constant medical support are terminated [5].

All the above factors are mitigated if retirement occurs in stages. But in actual practice that rarely happens. Elite athletes, as a rule, finish their careers immediately after big victories in order to remain undefeated.

In order to facilitate the socio-psychological adaptation, it is recommended to approach retirement from sports consciously and have real plans for the near future; choose professions that are close to the field of sports; not to refuse any kind of support; participate in public life, various competitions, perform before youth [4].

In recent years, the dynamics of athletes’ social participation has improved. Famous athletes can now be seen not only at large-scale events, but also on TV screens, their life stories are published, and their voices can be heard on various radio stations. The figure illustrates the statistics of domestic releases over 8 years according to the website https://kino.mail.ru. Over these years, the number of motion pictures has increased sixfold, which once again confirms the fact that people are "alive" as long as they live in someone’s memories, as long as they are remembered.

Domestic release dynamics

Conclusions. It is concluded that the following is required for success of the post-retirement socio-psychological adaptation process:

  • due adaptation facilitation mechanisms need to be developed and updated in the national sport system based on comprehensive analyses of the factors of influence on the post-retirement adaptation process;
  • progress of the post-retirement adaptation to new environment shall be tested using a set of the progress rating criteria/ markers;
  • target educational and managerial support shall be provided by the relevant professional communities for success of the post-retirement adaptation process.

References

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Corresponding author: kokoulinaop@mail.ru

Abstract

Sport career may be considered a long-term hard work for ascendance to the sport elite and competitive accomplishments, with the permanent excellence of the professional athletic competencies and skills. The article analyzes a sport career on the whole with the typical errors upon retirement from sports. Many studies have touched upon the adaptation process disorders in this period, including a deep frustration, neurotic reactions, fears, anger, disappointment, disbeliefs and many other mental issues that constitute a typical post-retirement crisis. The article makes a special emphasis on the ways to rehabilitate the retired athletes in critical conditions and help them effectively adapt to the common life upon retirement from professional sports. It is concluded that the following is required for success of the post-retirement socio-psychological adaptation process: (1) due adaptation facilitation mechanisms need to be developed and updated in the national sport system based on comprehensive analyses of the factors of influence on the post-retirement adaptation process; (2) progress of the post-retirement adaptation to new environment shall be tested using a set of the progress rating criteria/ markers; and (3) target educational and managerial support shall be provided by the relevant professional communities for success of the post-retirement adaptation process.